Religious Deism - definitely religious but very different from modern/secular deism

Religious Deism - definitely religious but very different from modern/secular deism According to Peter Gay in his book Deism: An Anthology, “The best known Deists....were talented publicists, clear without being deep, forceful but not subtle…”. He also said that “By the 1730s, nearly all the arguments on behalf of Deism….had been offered and refined” insisting that “It had all been said before and better...”.

Religious Deists would tend to agree with this statement. However, Religious Deism is not classical deism of the 18th Century nor modern secular deism. Nonetheless, what is written here about Religious Deism is clear and forceful but without the depth and complications of a treatise from a traditional philosopher or theologian – which we hope makes it more accessible. And, it is also a considerably more logical, non-contradictory and therefore better theology with greater potential for traction than the “theology” that classical deists offered the American founding fathers. This classical deism of the past and secular deism of today, though noble efforts to find the truth about God and our existence, do not offer viable theologies, truly religious alternatives, or reason-based hope like RD offers. In fact, like atheism, both classical deism and secular deism were and are essentially anti-religious or at least areligious while Religious Deism is, as its title suggests, unapologetically religious in nature. Religious Deism fills this void by being on one hand religiously-focused and hope-filled while also being incredibly clear and reason-based, something that revealed religions, secular deism and atheism cannot offer. These characteristics and differences are further explained in different sections of this website.

Secular Deism vs Religious Deism

Several points of the Religious Deist Creed would probably be accepted equally by classical deists, modern secular deists and Religious Deists alike: the existence of one God, an open search for the truth about God, skepticism about the validity of the Bible as the word of God or of Jesus but accepting adherence to basic Christian morality and principles, and that praying to God is both ineffective and misguided. However, the rest of these points have religious and theological elements that classical or secular deists would not embrace or accept, points which are the defining differences between these two very different movements.

  1. Secular deism holds that there is proof or evidence that God exists but many secular deists will not or are reluctant to describe God as all powerful and benevolent. Religious Deism holds that reason dictates that God exists and that God is all powerful and benevolent, and that that empirical evidence for the existence or non-existence of God is unnecessary and potentially misguided.
  2. Secular deism does not believe that there is a place for “faith” in anything while Religious Deism recognizes that some things cannot be explained by empirical evidence or even reason and that “faith” can be employed to help fill in these exceptional gaps as long as said “faith” does not violate the principals of reason or present us with contradictions.
  3. Secular deists are either areligious or anti-religion accepting their beliefs not as religion but as a personal philosophy. On the other hand, Religious Deists have a religious salvation theology and accept their beliefs in a religious context.
  4. Most secular deists believe that revealed religion is and has been historically flawed and negative for humanity, holding anti-clerical beliefs and disdain for revealed religion, with some secular deists having open hostility especially for Christianity. While Religious Deists are equally skeptical about the revealed aspects of most organized religions, they recognize that despite these religions´ fundamentally flawed theology, they and their priests/leaders are fundamentally good in nature despite past historical errors in judgment and action. Religious Deism searches for ways to actively interact and coexist with these revealed religions. Essentially, RDs refuse to throw the baby out with the bath water, believing that religion in and of itself is not the problem, it is the revealed aspect of some religions that is the problem, and really only in their theologies.
  5. While most secular deists are deists, some are theists (belief in divine intervention on Earth) while all Religious Deists accept divine intervention on Earth as being irrational based on empirical personal and historical experience and reason.
  6. Most if not all secular deists do not believe in an afterlife because they cannot prove it exists empirically and therefore they believe that they should not make it part of deist beliefs or considerations. Religious Deists hold that employing reason and understanding the basic nature of God and what God is not, we can determine that an afterlife and a reckoning must exist. As a result, the afterlife “agnosticism” of secular deists does not afford them the hope that Religious Deists have of the definite belief in an afterlife and potential for a union with God in heaven. In this same vein, Religious Deists hold that there will be some kind of a judgment of our actions and inactions on earth while secular deists don't hold to this belief because afterlife is outside of the scope of their theology.
  7. Secular deists like Unitarians maintain that beliefs about God should be personal and promote that in reality there is not a true religion or theology. As a result, they are by their nature relativists. Religious Deists insist on the absolute importance of family and parenthood, the importance of trying to create heaven on earth, the evils of relativism, the existence of absolute truth and the importance of establishing and following a creed without contradiction, based on reason and not on revelation, that they accept as the closest thing to the truth that we can know about God and our human existence.