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(dē`ĭsts), term commonly applied to those thinkers in the 17th and 18th cent. who held that the course of nature sufficiently demonstrates the existence of God. For them formal religion was superfluous, and they scorned as spurious claims of supernatural revelation. Their tenets stemmed from the rationalism of the period, and though the term is not now generally used, the tenor of their belief persists. The term freethinkers is almost synonymous. Voltaire and J. J. Rousseau were deists, as were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.


See E. R. Pike, Slayers of Superstition (1931, repr. 1970); G. A. Koch, Religion of the American Enlightenment (1933, repr. 1968).


Deists believe in the existence of a God, a supreme being, but deny the revelations claimed by organized religions and are content to follow what they maintain is a common sense approach to spirituality. A Deist believes that nature and reason reveal the design of a creator throughout the universe.

Frequently accused of being atheists, Deists counter such criticism by pointing out that they believe in God as an eternal entity, whereas atheism teaches that there is no God.

Another charge leveled by conventional religionists is that Deism is a cult. Deists answer this indictment by emphasizing their teaching of self-reliance. Deism cannot be a cult if it teaches its adherents to question authority and to use reason at all costs.

The Deist definition of God can perhaps be glimpsed in the following quotation from Albert Einstein: “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

References in periodicals archive ?
Once he has argued that Spinoza has a deist conception of God that undermines traditional morality, Velthuysen then makes an even more crucial point.
Although raised in the Calvinist environment of New England, young Benjamin was exposed at an early age to the writings of renowned English Whigs and deists, John Locke and Joseph Addison.
Humphrey Prideaux, The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet, with a Discourse annexed, for the Vindicating of Christianity from this Charge; Offered to the Consideration of the Deists of the Present Age (London: William Rogers, 1698).
Christians, unlike deists, believe that God miraculously intervenes in his creation, but our essential commitment is to God's intervening in human history; in human experience; and, above all, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus--not to God's intervening in nature as such.
The result was a major controversy that involved the established Anglican Church, any number of sects and, of course, skeptics like the Deists, who would exploit the controversy to disparage the Divinity of Scripture entirely.
Catholics, Unitarians, atheists, Methodists, Deists, and Evangelicals
Instead, like the mechanistic God postulated by Deists, he expects it to run smoothly by itself, "like an old Swiss watch that he had wound and left ticking" (53).
It's full of ignorance, mean-spiritedness, and a resurgent anti-intellectualism that is so strange, considering our Founding Fathers were rational deists who appreciated learning.
In contrast Amsterdam sustained a heterodox culture, where skeptics, deists and atheists issued seditious, anti-religious tracts to undermine and demystify customary sentiments, faiths, habits, and opinions.
For example, the most influential American founding fathers were Deists, not evangelical Christians.
The first viewpoint is that of the Deists, who claimed that there is evidence that there is a God who created the universe, but God left the world to function on its own without God's further involvement.