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Opinion Relays Edition

Voices of religion: Deism

Protzmann is a first-year philosophy major and can be contacted at kevin.protzmann@drake.edu.

Whenever I tell people that I am a Deist, most give me a confused look. This is understandable. Deism has never tried to imitate organized religion. It has no sacred texts, worship centers or institutionalized rituals. Public awareness of this doctrine is quite low, limiting the number of people who profess Deism.

I employ the word “god” quite often, but I am not referring to the Judeo-Christian God. Many belief systems use “Supreme Being,” “Higher Power,” “Grand Architect of the Universe,” “Prime Mover” or simply “the Creator” to avoid confusion with other religions. This is one of our fundamental beliefs. The God we believe in is not at all similar to the God of the Abrahamic religions.

Unlike the theistic religions of Christianity, Islam or Judaism, Deists believe the existence of God is known through reason. Observations of the natural world, inductive and deductive reasoning, and philosophical argumentation are the primary methods with which the Deist concludes that God must necessarily exist.

I accept the metaphysical necessity of God’s existence through the philosophical arguments proposed by René Descartes and Thomas Paine. Other Deists, such as scientists, may believe that God exists by concluding that the complexity and perfection of the universe are best explained by a supreme architect of some kind. In the end, we all conclude that there was something behind the existence of the universe rather than nothing, divorcing us from Atheism.

We reject the notion of divine intervention by God on the grounds that such actions would defy both reason and natural law. We do not believe in a God that watches our lives or takes part in the universe, merely a power that put the universe in motion, akin to a flicking of the first domino of a series.

In keeping with our shared belief of skepticism and individual reason, there are various divisions within Deism. For instance, some believe that God created the universe with the natural laws designed so mankind would have the capacity to understand God’s creation.

Others believe mankind is merely the byproduct of natural laws rather than the intent of them. Some believe one’s mind lives on past physical death, whereas others reject immortality. Some believe acting morally is in line with some higher virtue the natural law commands, while others reject divinely inspired morals.

In the end, it is up to the individual to decide with his or her own reason. We are not without a form of spirituality; however, we can partake in spiritual joy by studying the movements of the cosmos or the complexities of the biological world without losing our ability to reason.

Though there are few who openly profess Deism, I have no trouble believing it while living in a faith-based majority population. I have never felt discriminated against or prejudged by anyone, though this is probably because most people do not realize that Deism exists.

People should be aware of the religion. It is a set of beliefs that define the worldview of select individuals, such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, who all professed Deism.

Many people’s beliefs parallel those of a Deist, they simply aren’t aware there is a name for it. Anyone is more than free to investigate further into this philosophy and join us in our beliefs.

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2 Comments

  1. Bob Johnson April 25, 2011

    Thanks for your excellent article! Deism has much to offer individuals as well as society. Here are many articles from people who’ve evolved into Deists explaining the journey: http://www.deism.com/whydeism.htm

    It’s great to see Deism is reaching more and more people!

    Progress! Bob Johnson
    http://www.deism.com

  2. Kevin Protzmann April 25, 2011

    Mr. Johnson,

    Thank you for your words of support. I was already familiar with your work in establishing the World Union of Deists before writing this article. If you don’t mind me asking, how did the man responsible for rekindling the official Deist movement come across my article the day it was published?

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