Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Rise of Deism???


After years of public debate about "The Rise of Christian Fundamentalism," then "The Rise of Islam," then "The Rise of Atheism," are we are about to confront "The Rise of Deism?"

Steven Waldman, the Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet, makes that case in his new piece, Deism - It's Back!

Inspired by the new Trinity College study on religion, Mr. Waldman writes...

When historians refer to some of the Founding Fathers as "Deists," it's as if they're talking about an extinct philosophy, like alchemy or phrenology. Very few Americans go around describing themselves as Deists.

Perhaps that ought to change. A new study reveals that a rapidly growing number of Americans hold the belief system that used to be described as Deism...

Barry Kosmin, one of the authors of the study, points out that an earlier study that looked at Nones as well as those who did "affiliate" with a religion found that 12% were Deistic. That would make Deists bigger than all of the aforementioned groups combined, and one of the largest spiritual groupings in America]

And that's if you use a pretty narrow definition of Deism. In my book, Founding Faith, I argued that even the so-called Deists of the 18th Century were a bit more religious than we think. Both Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin believed that God intervened in history. A recent study by the Pew Religion Forum, revealed that 35% of Nones pray weekly or daily.


Mr. Waldman's book looks very interesting, and I've added it to my Amazon Wish List.


Also, just for the record, I don't consider myself to be a "Deist," because - as Mr. Waldman points out - most Deists believe that God "created the universe and its laws but then receded from the action." Needless to say, that doesn't leave much room for a personal God, and I do believe in a personal God.
However, I'm glad that the Founding Fathers - who are usually labeled as "Deist" - also, apparently thought that "God intervened" in human affairs and "were a bit more religious than we think."


3 comments:

Chuck said...

Todd:

the general public still thinks the Founding Fathers were church-going devout Christians. Most who care to know about these things know that they were Deist for the most part. To me though, Deism has always been just a hop-skip-and a jump from atheism. After all, why would God make all of this and then just drop out?

Also, I've always wondered, what's the point in believing in God if he *isn't* personal? I agree with your point on that.

Todd White said...

Chuck: "the general public still thinks the Founding Fathers were church-going devout Christians."

TW: I agree. But that's all the more reason to try to educate them.

Chuck: "To me though, Deism has always been just a hop-skip-and a jump from atheism. After all, why would God make all of this and then just drop out?"

TW: I agree. He wouldn't. Which is a good argument FOR a personal God.

Chuck said...

"TW: I agree. He wouldn't. Which is a good argument FOR a personal God."

Or, for no God at all. Thus the age-old argument. Yes, Deism is just a compromise. I say Shit or get off the Pot.