deism(redirected from Deisists)
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a religious and philosophical view widespread during the Enlightenment. According to this view, god, having created the world, takes no more part in it and does not intervene in the natural course of events. Thus, deism is opposed not only to theism, with its fundamental notion of divine providence and the continuous relationship between man and god, but to pantheism, which mingles god in nature, and to atheism as well, which in general denies the very existence of god. Deism appeared with the idea of natural religion, or the religion of reason, which was in opposition to revealed religion. Natural religion, according to the teachings of the deists, is common to all men and represents the norm for all positive religions, including Christianity.
Deism developed first in Great Britain. The father of English deism is considered to be a 17th-century English philosopher, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who developed the concept of a religion of reason (Treatise on Truth, 1624). Thinkers of diverse schools—both idealists and materialists—adhered to this philosophy, deism being for the latter, in Marx’ words, “no more than a convenient and easy way of getting rid of religion” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 144). Deism reached the highest point in its development in the first half of the 18th century. British deists included J. Toland, who saw nothing in Christianity but moral teaching; A. Collins; M. Tindal; A. Shaftesbury; and H. Bolingbroke. In America, T. Jefferson, B. Franklin, E. Allen, and T. Paine were prominent deists. J. Locke’s position was near that of the deists. The view expressed by D. Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) that religion springs from fear and hope made the assumption of an inactive creator-god unnecessary. Voltaire propagated the ideas of deism in France, whereas J.-J. Rousseau came close to the deist philosophy. The French materialists of the 18th century criticized deism. In Germany deism spread on the soil of philosophical rationalism (G. W. von Leibniz and G. E. Lessing). The ideas of deism were interpreted in an original way in I. Kant’s work Religion Within the Bounds of Pure Reason (1793; Russian translation, 1908). In the late 18th and early 19th century deism spread among progressive Russian thinkers (I. P. Pnin, I. D. Ertov, A. S. Lubkin, and some of the Decembrists). On the whole deism played a positive role in the development of free thought in the 17th and 18th centuries; later, it lost its progressive significance.
In contemporary bourgeois philosophy deism does not have independent significance, but it is adhered to by many scientists, who see in the regularity and orderliness of the world proof of the existence of a creator.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Izbr. proizv., vol. 2. Moscow, 1952. Pages 97–99.
[Orbinskii, R. V.] “Angliiskie deisty 17 i 18 stoletii.” Zapiski Novorossiiskogo un-ta, 1868, year 2, vol. 3, issue 1.
Rogovin, S. M. Deizm i David Ium: Analiz “Dialogov o estestvennoi religii.” Moscow, 1908.
Voronitsyn, I. P. Istoriia ateizma, 3rd ed. [Riazan, 1930.]
Lechler, G. V. Geschichte des englischen Deismus. Stuttgart, 1841.
Sayous, E. Les Déistes anglais et le christianisme … (1696–1738). Paris, 1882.
Torrey, N. L. Voltaire and the English Deists. New Haven-Oxford, 1930.
Orr, J. English Deism: Its Roots and Fruits. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1934.
Schlegel, D. B. Shaftesbury and the French Deists. Chapel Hill, 1956.