Deism - Wikipedia
Antony Garrard Newton Flew was an English philosopher. Belonging to . by recent scientific discoveries" and that "the argument to Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it". DEISTS, a class of men whose distinguishing character is, not to profess A third class, wherein we meet with the names of Shaftsbury and. It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in existence - difficult enough to think of how a deist God comes into existence, and even . It is very good that Wikipedia also gives a page to "Internet Meme".
He believed in biblical prophecies, but rejected the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation as irrational.
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The implications of Isaac Newton's physical theories of mechanics, which treated the universe as if it were a machine built by a creating god yet running on its own principles independent of the interference of the creating god encompassed much more than physical change and movement. Drawing on Newton's description of the universe as a great clock built by the Creator and then set in motion, the Deists among the philosophes argued that everything—physical motion, human physiology, politics, society, economics—had its own set of rational principles established by God which could be understood by human beings solely by means of their reason.
This meant that the workings of the human and physical worlds could be understood without having to bring religion, mysticism, or divinity into the explanation. The Deists were not atheists; they simply asserted that everything that concerned the physical and human universes could be comprehended independently of religious concerns or explanations. Philosophical foundation of Deism[ edit ] John Locke — [ edit ] John Locke 's ideas supplied an epistemological grounding for Deism, though he was not a Deist himself.
He also believed in Christian revelation but he held that reason should be the ultimate judge of all truth. Revealed truths, which rested on indirect proofs from reports in Scripture and tradition, were less certain than things known directly by reason. He rejected certain Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, which in his judgment failed to meet the test of rational coherence.
But, he regarded himself as a Christian because he accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah foretold in biblical prophecy; he had no difficulty in admitting the miracles ascribed in the Bible to the prophets and to Jesus. Locke led Deists to build an epistemology upon empirical foundations. John Toland and other English Deists were extremely influenced by his beliefs. These ideas were adopted by Charles Blount in and Herbert's notion of natural religion and innate truths served as the grounds for English Deism until its decline in the middle of the eighteenth century.
John Locke provided a new epistemology for Deism based on empirical foundations while keeping an open mind to matters above reason. In the seventeenth century an alternative position was put forward in England by Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
He maintained that revelation was unnecessary because human reason was able to know all the truths requisite for salvation. In this list he included three primary truths: God, according to Lord Herbert, had implanted in the human soul from the beginning five innate religious ideas: John Toland — [ edit ] Toland is best known for his famous work, Christianity not Mysteriouswhich was much influenced by John Locke's Essay Human Understanding.
Embracing Locke's epistemology, Toland asserted reason is the "Foundation of all Certitude. Every one experiences in himself a Power or Faculty of various Ideas or Perceptions of things: Of affirming or denying, according as he sees them to agree or disagree: And so of loving and desiring what seems good unto him; and of hating and avoiding what he thinks evil.
This belief informed Toland's philosophy of nature.
He argued that all parts of the universe were in motion. Additionally, motion was part of the definition of matter and was, therefore, an aspect of its nominal essence. Lockean and theological commitments explain Toland's peculiar reading of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica, which has long attracted interest from historians of science. A theological motivation for Toland's worldview sheds new light on the underlying assumptions of his natural philosophy and on English Deism more generally.
Indeed, it was Toland who invented the word, 'pantheist', and it was quickly taken up by his associates writing in French but living in the Netherlands. In contrast to the providentialism and, in some cases, the Deism of the moderate, Newtonian Enlightenment, the radicals postulated pantheism — or another commonplace term, materialism - and it horrified the liberal exponents of the new science who invariably brought their influence to bear against them.
Eighteenth-century materialism had many origins and faces. One version, heavily indebted to a heretical reading of Descartes, emphasized the mechanical and self-moved properties of matter; another, that is here called pantheism, emphasized the vitalistic, spirit-in-matter qualities of nature and tended inevitably to deify the material order.
The name to be most obviously associated with the deification of nature is of course, Baruch de Spinoza, resident until his death in in Amsterdam.
With debts to both Toland and Spinoza, the latter philosophy belonged to the radical coterie whose history we are tracing. The main thrust of the book is to reject religious mysteries. Collins starts his approach to the issues of religion and reason along the same lines that Locke does. He defines reason as "that faculty of the Mind, whereby it perceives the truth, Falsehood, Probability or Improbability of Propositions".
Thus he accepts Locke's definition of knowledge.
He also distinguishes in the way Locke does intuitive, demonstrative and probable truths, and treats claims about revelation as probable propositions that largely derive from testimony. Perhaps one diversion from Locke is that Collins distinguishes between two different kinds of probability. The stronger kind resembles demonstration but the connection between ideas is merely probable.
The weaker kind of probability is testimony. Collins' position is that a person is not expected to believe anything that is not comprehensible by the human intellect.
French Deists[ edit ] French thought from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment is considered to have been permeated with anti-religious views that began as deism in the sixteenth century by Pierre Viret and culminated as atheism in the eighteenth century by Voltaire and Rousseau. French Deism was anti-religious and shaded into atheism, pantheismand skepticism. France had its own tradition of religious skepticism and natural theology.
But deism is not a compact system nor is it the outcome of any one line of philosophical thought. For some the belief in future rewards and punishments was an essential of religion; some seem to have questioned the doctrine as a whole; and, while others made it a basis of morality, Shaftesbury protested against the ordinary theological form of the belief as immoral.
No two thinkers could well be more opposed than Shaftesbury and Hobbes; yet sometimes ideas from both were combined by the same writer. Collins was a pronounced necessitarian; Morgan regarded the denial of free will as tantamount to atheism.
And nothing can be more misleading than to assume that the belief in a Creator, existent wholly apart from the work of his hands, was characteristic of the deists as a body.
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In none of them is any theory on the subject specially prominent, except that in their denial of miracles, of supernatural revelation, and a special redemptive interposition of God in history, they seem to have thought of providence much as the mass of their opponents did. Shaftesbury vigorously protests against the notion of a wholly transcendent God. Morgan more than once expresses a theory that would now be pronounced one of immanence. Toland, the inventor of the name of pantheism, was notoriously, for a great part of his life, in some sort a pantheist.
And while as thinkers they diverged in their opinions, so too they differed radically in character, in reverence for their subject and in religious earnestness and moral worth. The deists were not powerful writers; none of them was distinguished by wide and accurate scholarship; hardly any was either a deep or comprehensive thinker. But though they generally had the best scholarship of England against them, they were bold, acute, well-informed men; they appreciated more fully than their contemporaries not a few truths now all but universally accepted; and they seemed therefore entitled to leave their mark on subsequent theological thought.
Yet while the seed they sowed was taking deep root in France and in Germany, the English deists, the most notable men of their time, were soon forgotten, or at least ceased to be a prominent factor in the intellectual life of the century. The controversies they had provoked collapsed, and deism became a by-word even amongst those who were in no degree anxious to appear as champions of orthodoxy.
The fault was not wholly in the subjectivism of the movement.
A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Deists
A theology consisting of a few vague generalities was sufficient to sustain the piety of the best of the deists; but it had not the concreteness or intensity necessary to take a firm hold on those whom it emancipated from the old beliefs.
The negative side of deism came to the front, and, communicated with fatal facility, seems ultimately to have constituted the deism that was commonly professed at the clubs of the wits and the tea-tables of polite society.
But the intenser religious life before which deism fell was also a revolt against the abstract and argumentative orthodoxy of the time. That the deists appreciated fully the scope of difficulties in Christian theology and the sacred books is not their most noteworthy feature; but that they made a stand, sometimes cautiously, often with outspoken fearlessness, against the presupposition that the Bible is the religion of Protestants.
They themselves gave way to another presupposition equally fatal to true historical research, though in great measure common to them and their opponents. It was assumed by deists in debating against the orthodox, that the flood of error in the hostile camp was due to the benevolent cunning or deliberate self-seeking of unscrupulous men, supported by the ignorant with the obstinacy of prejudice.
Yet deism deserves to be remembered as a strenuous protest against bibliolatry in every degree and against all traditionalism in theology. It sought to look not a few facts full in the face, from a new point of view and with a thoroughly modern though unhistorical spirit. It was not a religious movement; and though, as a defiance of the accepted theology, its character was mainly theological, the deistical crusade belongs, not to the history of the church, or of dogma, but to the history of general culture.
It was an attitude of mind, not a body of doctrine; its nearest parallel is probably to be found in the eclectic strivings of the Renaissance philosophy and the modernizing tendencies of cisalpine humanism. The controversy was assumed to be against prejudice, ignorance, obscurantism; what monks were to Erasmus the clergy as such were to Woolston.
Yet English deism was in many ways characteristically English. The deists were, as usually happens with the leaders of English thought, no class of professional men, but represented every rank in the community.
They made their appeal in the mother tongue to all men who could read and think, and sought to reduce the controversy to its most direct practical issue. And, with but one or two exceptions, they avoided wildness in their language as much as in the general scheme of theology they proposed.
French deism, the direct progeny of the English movement, was equally short-lived. Rousseau, though not an active assailant of Christianity, could have claimed kindred with the nobler deists.
Even in the Roman Catholic Church a large number of the leading divines were frankly deistic, nor were they for that reason regarded as irreligious. None the less it is unquestionable that in the period preceding the Revolution the bulk of French thinkers were ultimately deists in various degrees, and that deism was a most potent factor not only in speculative but also in social and political development.
Many of the leaders of the revolutionary movement were deists, though it is quite false to say that the extreme methods of the movement were the result of widespread rationalism. In Germany there was a native free-thinking theology nearly contemporary with that of England, whence it was greatly developed and supplemented.
Among the earliest names are those of Georg Schade —J. Basedow —the educationist, Johann August Eberhard q. Bahrdt, who regarded Christ as merely a noble teacher like Moses, Confucius and Luther. The compact rational philosophy of Wolff nourished a theological rationalism which in H. Reimarus was wholly undistinguishable from dogmatic deism, and was undoubtedly to a great extent adopted by Lessing; while, in the case of the historico-critical school to which J.
Sender belonged, the distinction is not always easily drawn—although these rationalists professedly recognized in Scripture a real divine revelation, mingled with local and temporary elements. Outside France, Germany and England, there were no great schools of thought distinctively deistic, though in most countries there is to be found a rationalistic anti-clerical movement which partakes of the character of deism.
Their experiments must have rigorous controls to eliminate spurious effects. And statistical analysis eliminates the suspicion or at least measures the likelihood that the apparent effect might have happened by chance alone.
Paranormal phenomena have a habit of going away whenever they are tested under rigorous conditions.
Why don't the television editors insist on some equivalently rigorous test? Could it be that they believe the alleged paranormal powers would evaporate and bang go the ratings? If a paranormalist could really give an unequivocal demonstration of telepathy precognition, psychokinesis, reincarnation, whatever it ishe would be the discoverer of a totally new principle unknown to physical science.
The discoverer of the new energy field that links mind to mind in telepathy, or of the new fundamental force that moves objects around a table top, deserves a Nobel prize and would probably get one. If you are in possession of this revolutionary secret of science, why not prove it and be hailed as the new Newton?
Of course, we know the answer. You can't do it. You are a fake. Yet the final indictment against the television decision-makers is more profound and more serious. Their recent splurge of paranormalism debauches true science and undermines the efforts of their own excellent science departments. The universe is a strange and wondrous place.
The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudo-scientific charlatans. The public appetite for wonder can be fed, through the powerful medium of television, without compromising the principles of honesty and reason. Faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, "mad cow" disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.
I think that the appetite for mystery, the enthusiasm for that which we do not understand, is healthy and to be fostered. It is the same appetite which drives the best of true science, and it is an appetite which true science is best qualified to satisfy. The reason Smolin's idea is interesting is that it may answer the challenge, "The universe is too good to be true. It looks like a put-up job. But Smolinian selection cannot account for the fact that our universe is specifically congenial to life, or to intelligent life, or to us.
My negative conclusion would break down only if life itself is in the habit of engineering the spawning of daughter universes. As far as I am aware, this hasn't been suggested, but it is, I suppose, a theoretical possibility that daughter universes are generated as a consequence of the fooling around of highly evolved physicists. More generally it is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science's turf, restricting itself to morals and values.
A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference.
Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims. But I do now think it may have been incomplete. There is perhaps a fifth category, which may belong under "insane" but which can be more sympathetically characterized by a word like tormented, bullied, or brainwashed.
Sincere people who are not ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn, almost in two, between the massive evidence of science on the one hand, and their understanding of what their holy book tells them on the other. I think this is one of the truly bad things religion can do to a human mind.