Dear David Barton, the term "deist" is code for Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry. A majority of the founding fathers were masons. The 18th century enlightenment was driven by those who saw the "light" of freemasonry; the architects of the bloody French revolution derived their inspiration from the "light of Masonry. This fact is repeated on the majority of Masonic web sites and in publications.
The term "deist' also delineated the relevance of Christ in the order of things for the Elightenment crowd. Take the Christ out of Christianitiy and you have the Enlightened secular Europe that is now flushing itself down the toilet of Islamic Jihad.
Funny, My dictionary, and everything I heve ever read previously defines a "Deist" as one who has a firm, reasoned belief in God.
Deist - From Deity which is synonymous with GOD.
IMHO, this article, while interesting and may add some impetus to the argument of the USA being "A Christian Nation" , is based on a highly flawed premise.
I had always understood a deist to be one who believes that God is the Creator and is watching the Great Drama of Humanity unfold (and judging us according to the roles we choose to play), but does not actively intervene in the activities of humanity.
In other words, one who believes that he isn't entitled to use the excuse "It was God's will" every time something untoward happens to him.
Bump for your opinion...
I think David Barton is guilty of selective reading.
I have studied Paine's writings in depth. Especially the
New Age of Reason, parts 1 and 2, wherein Paine roundly
blasts christianity, and does in fact and in word declare
himself a deist.
I usually believe what a person says about himself.
For example, in an 1831 letter to Willam Short, Jefferson wrote
"Abstracting what is really his [Jesus] from the rubbish in which it is buried [the New Testament], easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers [Matthew, Mark, Luke, John], and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill ... The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent moralist [!] and the rescuing it form the imputation of imposture, which has resulted form artificial systems, [these artificial systems Jefferson footnotes as "the immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, ... the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, &c."] invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestly [father of Unitarianism] has successfully devoted his labors and learning."
Mr. Barton and his ilk, however sincere, produce and perpetuate myths founded on sloppy scholarship which yield careless (if not slanted) assertions.
As Christians we are obliged to speak the truth in all circumstances. The Cause of Christ is not helped when overzealous conservative writers seek to "return the nation to its biblical foundation" by doing what they so often charge liberals with -- rewriting history. The facts are what they are. The words and deeds of the leading men of the American revolution are readily accessible to any one who will take the time to search them out.
Thanks and may the Lord over us all bless you for posting this article..
Sophistry. What this writer did was IGNORE the dictionary definition of deism, which follows:
Main Entry: de·ism
Pronunciation: 'dE-"i-z&m, 'dA-
Usage: often capitalized
: a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe
The Deists were not atheists at all--which is the theme around this article is built. It is suspect from the third paragraph on as a result.
Deists did not deny the existence of a Creator. In fact, they believed in God as the watchmaker, creating the universe but only occasionally intervening to amend the natural laws He penned.
From http://www.rain.org/homeschool/history/religious-history/religion-us-history-deists.html, the first link appearing you look up "Deism."
The term "Deism" originally referred to a belief in one deity, as contrasted with the belief in no God (Atheism) and belief in many Gods (Polytheism). During the later 17th century, "Deism" began to refer to forms of radical Christianity - belief systems that rejected miracles, revelation, and the inerrancy of the Bible. Currently, Deism is no longer associated with Christianity or any other established religion. Then, as now, Deism is not a religious movement in the conventional sense of the world. There is no Deistic network of places of worship, a priesthood or hierarchy of authority.
Deism was greatly influential among politicians, scientists and philosophers during the later 17th century and 18 century, in England, France Germany and the United States.
Early Deism was a logical outgrowth of the great advances in astronomy, physics, and chemistry that had been made by Bacon, Copernicus, Galileo, etc.
It was a small leap from rational study of nature to the application of the same techniques in religion.
Early Deists believed that the Bible contained important truths, but they rejected the concept that it was divinely inspired or inerrant.
They were leaders in the study of the Bible as a historical (rather than an inspired, revealed) document.
Lord Herbert of Cherbury (d. 1648) was one of the earliest proponents of Deism in England. In his book "De Veritate," (1624), he described the "Five Articles" of English Deists: belief in the existence of a single supreme God
humanity's duty to revere God
linkage of worship with practical morality
God will forgive us if we repent and abandon our sins
good works will be rewarded (and punishment for evil) both in life and after death
Other English Deists were Anthony Collins (1676-1729), Matthew Tindal (1657-1733). J.J. Rousseau (1712-1778) and F.M.A. de Voltaire (1694-1778) were its leaders in France.
Many of the leaders of the French and American revolutions followed this belief system, including John Quincy Adams, Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison Thomas Paine, and George Washington.
Deists played a major role in creating the principle of separation of church and state, and the religious freedom clauses of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.
But here is an opposing view that some of those named above may be named a bit too hastily (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel02.html):
"Deism" is a loosely used term that describes the views of certain English and continental thinkers. These views attracted a following in Europe toward the latter part of the seventeenth century and gained a small but influential number of adherents in America in the late eighteenth century. Deism stressed morality and rejected the orthodox Christian view of the divinity of Christ, often viewing him as nothing more than a "sublime" teacher of morality. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are usually considered the leading American deists. There is no doubt that they subscribed to the deist credo that all religious claims were to be subjected to the scrutiny of reason. "Call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion," Jefferson advised. Other founders of the American republic, including George Washington, are frequently identified as deists, although the evidence supporting such judgments is often thin. Deists in the United States never amounted to more than a small percentage of an evangelical population.
Nonetheless, the question is, why is there such a haste to deny that any of these men were Deists? Deism is essentially dead as an organized religion, not least because it was dead as an organized religion to begin with. But this outright lying about what is accepted as truth by most historians (that "notable Founders" Jefferson and Adams were believers in this sect)--why? There are plenty of fundamentally religious forebears to choose from without making them up! Is it so galling to find that there were founders who were not only NOT fundamentalist but were rational Christian thinkers!?!?
I feel like I'm reading the Christian version of an activist homo site, but while they go back in time to point out homos, this goes back in time to debunk Deists.
Why do so many people feel like they have to have dead allies to have a good cause? There weren't many who believed Jesus was the Son of God before He walked the Earth, but it didn't stop the disciples from believing in Him. And millions of anti-Semites walked the Earth before Hitler rose to power.
Just having allies doesn't make you right. However, having made them up does make you wrong.
I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature.
So far as I can make out what he's saying is that he (Jefferson) is a true Christian and that the theologians and expounders of orthodox Christian dogma are not. It's a bit confusing what he means by the "vicious ethics and deism of the Jews," but I don't think one can use this quote to maintain that Jefferson was an orthodox Christian. And that's the problem: what some considered to be "true Christianity" might be very different from Christian orthodoxy as understood by the churches.
In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.
Note the last few words, which indicate that Jefferson's idea of Christ and Christianity was very different from the orthodoxy of the churches.
I don't think anyone can argue that most of the founders were deists. Then as now, self-proclaimed freethinkers were a minority. But the atmosphere of 18th century philosophy and religion were quite different from that of the 16th or 19th century. There was a strong enlightenment component to both religious faith and secular thought in the late 1700s(though defining what enlightenment means in this context could be tricky), and certain key founders had more deism or freethinking in their thought than the average American of the day. Just where Christianity began and ended was much less clear for Washington or Jefferson, Adams or Madison than it would have been for an earlier or later generation. An ethical or cultural Christianity didn't always extend to complete acceptance of orthodox dogma for some of the most prominent of our Founders.
Both sides in this controversy want to claim the Founders or Framers as being wholly in their corner. Learning to recognize that they weren't all wholly orthodox or wholly atheist can be the beginning of wisdom in this question.
I learned this in grade school in the early 50's. I am constantly amazed at the left's denial that this is a christian nation and their endless use of the phrase, "Separation of Church and State" as though it is part of the Constitution.
3) Thomas Paines belief? OK. He said...there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies. [Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason] Hardly one to quote on the deep religious conviction of the Founders.
4) Sure none of the founders fit the STRAWMAN definition of Deist put forward; however Franklin said in his own autobiography that he was a thorough Deist.