Deism is backPosted by PH
Deism is back. This is a very interesting development. There are political ramifications, I suppose. We know that some have pushed the idea that the America’s “founding fathers” were Christians. And by “Christians” they usually mean people who hold the same beliefs as contemporary American evangelicals. The topic of evangelicalism in America is way beyond the scope of our course this semester. But what is interesting is that as “everybody” knows, most of the founders were in no way “evangelical” in today’s sense of the word. This isn’t to say that there was nothing like evangelicalism in the colonies at that time. There was. We’re just focusing on the founders.
Most “everybody” knows that Jefferson (you can’t get more “founder-y” than Jefferson!) was a deist.
Well, it looks like deism is making a come back in American society. (Andrew Sullivan offers his views on this here.) It’s a fascinating development, really. Personally, I think it is evidence of two things. First, there’s a genuine lack of religious education among people who would consider themselves “religious” in the institutional sense that James avoids. Second, I think it speaks to an acceptance of the reasonableness of religious belief among people who would not call themselves “institutional” believers. In other words, just a generic, non-religionist, “ordinary” (whatever that is!) American. [Sorry: a-MUR-can.] What this means is that a lot of folks who are not affiliated with any organized religion are not atheists. They’re actually deists.