Deism was essentially a transitional worldview in the history of western civilization that all but vanished during the twentieth century. It flourished during the Enlightenment period, when it was thought that through science and human reason, eventually humanity could explain how everything in nature worked--it was all through predictable patterns and cause-and-effect. "God" wasn't needed to explain the weather, magnetic and electrical fields, human physiology, and the movement of the stars, because we ourselves can figure out the laws of nature which govern these phenomena. However, before the theories of Big Bang, spontaneous generation of life, and Darwinism, nobody could explain how nature got here to begin with. "God" was needed as a creator, in order to explain the origins of the material world, but ever since the creation God abandoned any involvement with earth. Once these theories eliminated the need for God at all, deism was replaced by naturalism, form of atheism.
In the last several decades, however, we have seen deism re-emerging as a viable worldview once again, mostly among more educated and scientifically-informed communities. The chief reason for this stems primarily from the arguments of Intelligent Design (I.D.), i.e. the virtually impossible-to-believe statistical likelihood the the intricacies, complexity, and interrelationships that exist at all levels of nature from the subatomic to the astrophysical are the product of random happenings governed by nothing more than mere chance. In addition, scientific research has discovered that neither the subatomic level nor the phenomena of deep space are as predictable or mechanistic as was previously thought. Terminology such as "the laws of nature" or "the laws of science" have given way to terms like "probability theory," "quantum theory," "uncertainty principle" (or "Heisenberg principle"), "string theory," "particle theory," and "chaos theory," and "indeterminacy." In the face of these realities, an increasing number of thinkers recognize levels of reality that resist any mathematical formulas that account for these things satisfactorily. Therefore, a growing number of these people recognize a superintelligence which is necessary to explain the existence of such complex order in the universe. This position has been taken up by those adhering to a very wide range of religious viewpoints and worldviews, including a form of what we might call neo-deism. In the academic communities, these discussions and debates are taking place place daily.
Belief about God
Does God exist?
How do you describe God?
- Creator of the entire universe in all its complexity
- Infinite & eternal
- Uncaring & uninvolved (transcendent)
Is there any kind of spirit world?
- No, other than God
Belief about the world
Is there an overall plan or order behind nature?
- Yes, it operates according to its original pre-determined design and the laws of nature
Belief about humanity
Are human beings different from the rest of nature?
- Humans alone have personhood
- Humans do have an afterlife [most deists still believed in a sort of afterlife]
Where did we come from, & where are we going?
- God created us, then abandoned us—He does not interfere in any way in our affairs
2.1 Beliefs about purpose
What is the overall purpose or meaning of humanity?
- To glorify God by acknowledging Him as Creator
What is the main purpose or highest good for each individual?
- To discover the most efficient & harmonious ways to live, i.e. to be happy
Belief about ethics
How does one decide right & wrong?
- nature shows us what is “normal”
- right & wrong depend on what works best, not on inflexible morals
Is it possible for humans to know truth?
What are legitimate sources of truth?
- Through human reason & research (e.g. science, math, logic, history, etc.)