Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette. Hsiao: love within the family (parents for children and children for parents. Yi: righteousness--the noblest way to act in a situation. Xin: honesty and trustworthiness. Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others. Chung: loyalty to the state and authority. --Confucius (Kong Fuzi)

All articles appear in reverse chronological order [newest first].

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I believe the past is relevant, sometimes more than others of course. In most cases we are seeing history being repeated, so it is most relevant.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


This is a collection of notes and information on Deism from a variety of sources. It is not meant as a complete explanation of Deism. -- GlennDL

Deism (/ˈdiː.ɪzəm/ or /ˈdeɪ.ɪzəm/, derived from the Latin word deus meaning "god") combines the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge with the conclusion that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.

Deism (a theological position) holds that

That one does not need more than personal observation of the world around them to realize that there was a creator. That to know God one only needs reason and observation of nature and the laws of nature to see him. That man’s ability to reason, decide, conclude, learn and communicate were gifts from God to be used, not repressed.

That God gave us the ability to reason in order to survive, succeed and fail on our own abilities. That after the creation he left us, with our reason, and nature, with its laws, to continue on without, or with, minimal intervention by him.

That a religion or believe system put forth by a supreme being for all humanity, for any and all practical purposes, would have to be simple, pure, and understandable, not complicated, coded, hard to understand, or hard to abide by.

There is one Supreme God, virtue and piety are the chief parts of divine worship. We ought to be sorry for our sins and repent of them. God’s goodness dispenses rewards and punishments both in this life and after it

  • God exists and created the universe.
  • God gave humans the ability to reason.
  • God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world but rather allows it to function according to the laws of nature (God's laws of nature).
  • Rejection of religions that are based on books that claim to contain the revealed word of God.
  • Rejection of religious dogma and demagogy.
  • Skepticism of reports of miracles, prophecies and religious "mysteries".
Early enlightenment thinkers, under the influence of Newtonian science, tended to view the universe as created and set in motion by a creator being, that the universe continues to operate according to natural law [the creators law], without any divine intervention.

The relationship between "the Creator" and the natural world.

Individual deists varied the above elements for which they argued:

  • Some deists rejected miracles and prophecies but still considered themselves Christians because they believed in what they felt to be the pure, original form of Christianity – that is, Christianity as it existed before it was corrupted by additions of such superstitions as miracles, prophecies, and the doctrine of the Trinity.
  • Some deists rejected the claim of Jesus' divinity but continued to hold him in high regard as a moral teacher (see, for example, Thomas Jefferson's famous Jefferson Bible and Matthew Tindal's Christianity as Old as the Creation).
  • Other, more radical deists rejected Christianity altogether and expressed hostility toward Christianity, which they regarded as pure superstition. In return, Christian writers often charged radical deists with atheism.

Deists hold a variety of beliefs about the soul.

  • Some held that souls exist, survive death, and in the afterlife are rewarded or punished by God for their behavior in life.
  • Some, such as Benjamin Franklin, believed in reincarnation or resurrection.
  • Others, such as Thomas Paine, had definitive beliefs about the immortality of the soul:

“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.”          —Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I

“I trouble not myself about the manner of future existence. I content myself with believing, even to positive conviction, that the power that gave me existence is able to continue it, in any form and manner he pleases, either with or without this body; and it appears more probable to me that I shall continue to exist hereafter than that I should have had existence, as I now have, before that existence began.”    
Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Recapitulation

Contemporary deist opinions on prayer
Many classical deists were critical of some types of prayer. For example, in Christianity as Old as the Creation, Matthew Tindal argues against praying for miracles, but advocates prayer as both a human duty and a human need.

Today, deists hold a variety of opinions about prayer:

  • Some contemporary deists believe (with the classical deists) that God has created the universe perfectly, so no amount of supplication, request, or begging can change the fundamental nature of the universe.
  • Some deists believe that God is not an entity that can be contacted by human beings through petitions for relief; rather, God can only be experienced through the nature of the universe.
  • Some deists do not believe in divine intervention, but still find value in prayer as a form of meditation, self-cleansing, and spiritual renewal. Such prayers are often appreciative (that is, "Thank you for ...") rather than supplicative (that is, "Please, God, grant me ...").
  • Some deists practice meditation and make frequent use of Affirmative Prayer, a non-supplicative form of prayer which is common in the New Thought movement.[citation needed]

Deist terminology
Deist authors – and 17th- and 18th-century theologians in general – referred to God using a variety of vivid circumlocutions such as:

  • Supreme Being
  • Divine Watchmaker
  • Grand Architect of the Universe
  • Nature's God. (Used in the United States Declaration of Independence)
  • Father of Lights. Benjamin Franklin used this terminology when proposing that meetings of the Constitutional Convention begin with prayers.

Deism in history, science, and America.

History of religion and the deist mission:
Deism gained prominence among intellectuals during the Age of Enlightenment (1620-1780)—especially in Britain, France, Germany and the United States—who:

…raised as Christians, believed in one god but became disenchanted with organized religion and notions such as the Trinity, Biblical inerrancy and the supernatural interpretation of events such as miracles.

Most deists saw the religions of their day as corruptions of an original, pure religion that was simple and rational. They felt that this original pure religion had become corrupted by "priests" who had manipulated it for personal gain and for the class interests of the priesthood in general.

  • According to this world view, over time "priests" had succeeded in encrusting the original simple, rational religion with all kinds of superstitions and "mysteries" – irrational theological doctrines.
  • Laymen were told by the priests that only the priests really knew what was necessary for salvation and that laymen must accept the "mysteries" on faith and on the priests' authority.
  • This kept the laity baffled by the nonsensical "mysteries", confused, and dependent on the priests for information about the requirements for salvation.
  • The priests consequently enjoyed a position of considerable power over the laity, which they strove to maintain and increase. Deists referred to this kind of manipulation of religious doctrine as "priestcraft", a highly derogatory term.

As Thomas Paine wrote:
    “As priestcraft was always the enemy of knowledge, because priestcraft supports itself by keeping people in delusion and ignorance, it was consistent with its policy to make the acquisition of knowledge a real sin.”
    —The Age of Reason, Part 2, p. 129

Included in those influenced by its ideas were leaders of the American and French Revolutions.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Advances in scientific knowledge

The 17th century saw a remarkable advance in scientific knowledge, the scientific revolution. The work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo set aside the old notion that the earth was the center of the universe. These discoveries posed a serious challenge to biblical and religious authorities, Galileo's condemnation for heresy being an example. In consequence the Bible came to be seen as authoritative on matters of faith and morals but no longer authoritative (or meant to be) on science.

Isaac Newton's (1642–1727) mathematical explanation of universal gravitation explained the behavior both of objects here on earth and of objects in the heavens in a way that promoted a worldview in which the natural universe is controlled by laws of nature. This, in turn, suggested a theology in which God created the universe, set it in motion controlled by natural law and retired from the scene. The new awareness of the explanatory power of universal natural law also produced a growing skepticism about such religious staples as miracles (violations of natural law) and about religious books that reported them.

In the realm of religion, Lord Herbert of Cherbury believed that there were five common notions.

  • There is one Supreme God.
  • He ought to be worshipped.
  • Virtue and piety are the chief parts of divine worship.
  • We ought to be sorry for our sins and repent of them
  • Divine goodness doth dispense rewards and punishments both in this life and after it

—Lord Herbert of Cherbury, The Antient Religion of the Gentiles, and Causes of Their Errors, pp. 3–4, quoted in John Orr, English Deism, p. 62

Deism in the United States

In the United States, Enlightenment philosophy (which itself was heavily inspired by deist ideals) played a major role in creating the principle of religious freedom, expressed in Thomas Jefferson's letters and included in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. American Founding Fathers, or Framers of the Constitution, who were especially noted for being influenced by such philosophy include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Cornelius Harnett, Gouverneur Morris, and Hugh Williamson. Their political speeches show distinct deistic influence.
Other notable Founding Fathers may have been more directly deist. These include James Madison, possibly Alexander Hamilton, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine (who published The Age of Reason, a treatise that helped to popularize deism throughout the United States and Europe).

Unlike the many deist tracts aimed at an educated elite, Paine's treatise explicitly appealed to ordinary people, using direct language familiar to the laboring classes. How widespread deism was among ordinary people in the United States is a matter of continued debate.

A major contributor was Elihu Palmer (1764–1806), who wrote the "Bible" of American deism in his Principles of Nature (1801) and attempted to organize deism by forming the "Deistical Society of New York" and other deistic societies from Maine to Georgia.

In the United States there is controversy over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians, deists, or something in between. Particularly heated is the debate over the beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
Benjamin Franklin
wrote in his autobiography,

"Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins and Ralph; but each of them having afterwards wrong'd me greatly without the least compunction, and recollecting Keith's conduct towards me (who was another freethinker) and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, tho' it might be true, was not very useful." Franklin also wrote that "the Deity sometimes interferes by his particular Providence, and sets aside the Events which would otherwise have been produc'd in the Course of Nature, or by the Free Agency of Man. He later stated, in the Constitutional Convention, that "the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men."

For his part, Thomas Jefferson is perhaps one of the Founding Fathers with the most outspoken of Deist tendencies, though he is not known to have called himself a deist, generally referring to himself as a Unitarian. In particular, his treatment of the Biblical gospels which he titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, but which subsequently became more commonly known as the Jefferson Bible, exhibits a strong deist tendency of stripping away all supernatural and dogmatic references from the Christ story. However, Frazer, following the lead of Sydney Ahlstrom, characterizes Jefferson as not a Deist but a "theistic rationalist", because Jefferson believed in God's continuing activity in human affairs. Frazer cites Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, where he wrote,

"I tremble" at the thought that "God is just,"

and he warned of eventual "supernatural influence" to abolish the scourge of slavery.

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