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Gnomon
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PostSubject: The Point of Deism   Sat Dec 27, 2008 9:42 pm

This is an exchange from the Deism forum on Beliefnet:


Quote :
What Is The Point Of Deism?


So while I think Deism would be a good way to describe my beliefs, I also don't see how it differs, practically, too much from atheism. A god that's far away is little different from a god who doesn't exist.


Originally Posted by RevKeithWright :
<< The difference between a far away God and no God at all is the same as you coming from the DNA of your great-great-great-grandfather (no influence in your life right now, yet he existed) and you simply appearing out of thin-air. There are huge differences in what you observe to be no differences at all. >>


Do you feel like a cosmic orphan, or a proud descendant who can trace his ancestry back to the beginning? Does that worldview make any material difference in your life? This question reminds me of why Atheists often refer to the "arrogance" of Theists, and Deists. They don't seem to realize that all of us are equally children of God---bastards and scions---or orphans of Mother Chance. Either way, we are all cast adrift in the same boat. The only difference is in our attitude toward our predicament.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:18 am

Gnomon wrote:
This is an exchange from the Deism forum on Beliefnet:
Quote :
What Is The Point Of Deism?
So while I think Deism would be a good way to describe my beliefs, I also don't see how it differs, practically, too much from atheism. A god that's far away is little different from a god who doesn't exist.
    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ~Albert Einstein

I view Deism as a category of belief. It's point is that of a descriptor.

Gnomon wrote:
They don't seem to realize that all of us are equally children of God---bastards and scions---or orphans of Mother Chance. Either way, we are all cast adrift in the same boat. The only difference is in our attitude toward our predicament.
I agree. My objective world view isn't all that different from an Atheist's world view, how I subjectively label that objective world view is very different however.

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:06 am

Aaron wrote:
Gnomon wrote:
This is an exchange from the Deism forum on Beliefnet:
Quote :
What Is The Point Of Deism?
So while I think Deism would be a good way to describe my beliefs, I also don't see how it differs, practically, too much from atheism. A god that's far away is little different from a god who doesn't exist.
    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." ~Albert Einstein

I view Deism as a category of belief. It's point is that of a descriptor.

Gnomon wrote:
They don't seem to realize that all of us are equally children of God---bastards and scions---or orphans of Mother Chance. Either way, we are all cast adrift in the same boat. The only difference is in our attitude toward our predicament.
I agree. My objective world view isn't all that different from an Atheist's world view, how I subjectively label that objective world view is very different however.

Ditto.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:04 pm

Deism is not, and in my opinion, should not be a collective religious practice. Instead, it should be viewed as a personal philosophical worldview, similar in some ways to the ancient Greek Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics, or to the early followers of the Buddha, and other religious teachers---before their condensed insights became watered-down into formal religious traditions for mass consumption. Of course, Deists may join associations to provide social services similar to traditional religions. But as Deists, they should remain freethinking individualists, with no over-riding commitment to any narrowly-focused human organization---political or religious.

David Suits, in an article* entitled, An Epicurean Ideal, said: "It may be true that most Epicureans were mediocre citizens, but it was not their intention to participate in civic affairs. The purpose of the Garden [of Epicurus] was simply to show how personal happiness can be achieved. It was to be achieved not by trying to create a utopia, nor by reorganizing society, but rather by reorganizing a person's knowledge and beliefs---which is to say, by giving the person instruction in philosophy".

Suits explained the core concept of Epicureanism thusly: "The ultimate goal for Epicurean philosophy was ataraxia, which is peace of mind, or tranquility---characteristics of a life which percieves no serious problems. Ataraxia requires above all the removal of certain very disturbing fears found in most people and most cultures : fear of the gods, fear of the afterlife, and fear of death".

Regarding the fear of gods, he said, "Epicurean gods were not to be feared, because they could do nothing to you. They could not even know about you. The gods were rather to be emulated: the gods remain undisturbed, and that is precisely what we ought to strive for".

I believe that Religion has a valid role in human societies. But Philosophy also has a necessary function in human culture. The point of religion to serve the collective interests of a specific social group with regard to internal relations. Likewise, the point of Politics is to provide for the collective interests of a specific social group regarding relations with other social groups. But the point of a Philosophy, such as Deism, is to serve the individual interests of the people who form the foundation for Religious and Political groups, and hence have the most general, but diffuse, impact on society-at-large.

Deism, particularly Panendeism, is a timely philosophical worldview suitable only for a few individuals in a society. Usually it's the older & wiser people---who have the depth and breadth of experience with "what is"---who form a clear and detailed opinion of "what ought to be". It's those rare individuals who then pass-on their wisdom to the masses indirectly via one-on-one contacts. Those constantly argued and updated ideas are then disseminated to society-at-large in the form of Religious and Political instruction. Philosophy-for-the-masses is like steak, chewed by the mother and then fed as pabulum to the baby. Elitist ideas can be made palatable for the egalitarian consumer of ideas, but must not be forced down their throats.

There is no clear, hard line of distinction between Philosophy and Religion, Politics, or Science. But it seems that the closer you get to simplified mass understanding, the farther you get from the wholistic truth. Perhaps Deists, and others on the philosophical leading-edge, should be content with their role as lonely outsiders on the periphery of society. Eventually, we can hope, some of those in the daily fray may get the counter-intuitive point of Deism: it's not to save the world, but to enlighten individuals.




* Philosophy Now, Nov/Dec 08,
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:59 am

Gnomon wrote:
Deism is not, and in my opinion, should not be a collective religious practice. Instead, it should be viewed as a personal philosophical worldview, similar in some ways to the ancient Greek Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics, or to the early followers of the Buddha, and other religious teachers---before their condensed insights became watered-down into formal religious traditions for mass consumption. Of course, Deists may join associations to provide social services similar to traditional religions. But as Deists, they should remain freethinking individualists, with no over-riding commitment to any narrowly-focused human organization---political or religious.
I want to believe differently, but so far, I find that there is something about Deism that naturally makes creating churches extremely difficult. I don't think it's a matter of "should". I see no reason Deists should not join together in fellowship to share their hopes and aspirations, to raise their children among other similar freethinkers, and to work towards common goals alongside people who share their vision for the future. But these discussion forums seem to be as organized as contemporary Deists choose to be, so "should" doesn't really enter into the equation. Even Atheists and other freethinkers sometimes form churches. The North Texas Church of Freethought seems to be a vital and viable organization that has been around for over 14 years. But not Deists. The most famous recent example of a real attempt to form a Deist church with national ties was pretty much a disaster. Strong freethinking personalities tore the organization apart.
Quote :

David Suits, in an article* entitled, An Epicurean Ideal, said: "It may be true that most Epicureans were mediocre citizens, but it was not their intention to participate in civic affairs. The purpose of the Garden [of Epicurus] was simply to show how personal happiness can be achieved. It was to be achieved not by trying to create a utopia, nor by reorganizing society, but rather by reorganizing a person's knowledge and beliefs---which is to say, by giving the person instruction in philosophy".
The Stoics felt philosophy was simply the way you should live your life. Every person should be a philosopher. The trouble with this notion is that most people have to work hard to survive, and there is not a lot of time left over for the study of philosophy.
Quote :

Suits explained the core concept of Epicureanism thusly: "The ultimate goal for Epicurean philosophy was ataraxia, which is peace of mind, or tranquility---characteristics of a life which percieves no serious problems. Ataraxia requires above all the removal of certain very disturbing fears found in most people and most cultures : fear of the gods, fear of the afterlife, and fear of death".

Regarding the fear of gods, he said, "Epicurean gods were not to be feared, because they could do nothing to you. They could not even know about you. The gods were rather to be emulated: the gods remain undisturbed, and that is precisely what we ought to strive for".
The Stoics strove for eudaimonia, the state of happiness that is the result of a well-lived life. They felt that living a moral life was the way to achieve eudaimonia, and virtue came from living according to nature. They believed strongly in natural law. Pleasing the gods was only a small part of their beliefs. Living according to your nature was paramount. They divided things into categories: things within your control and things outside your control. Stoic sages only concern themselves with things within their control. Trying to deal with things outside your control leads only to frustration, so you accept these things.
Quote :

I believe that Religion has a valid role in human societies. But Philosophy also has a necessary function in human culture. The point of religion to serve the collective interests of a specific social group with regard to internal relations. Likewise, the point of Politics is to provide for the collective interests of a specific social group regarding relations with other social groups. But the point of a Philosophy, such as Deism, is to serve the individual interests of the people who form the foundation for Religious and Political groups, and hence have the most general, but diffuse, impact on society-at-large.
Epictetus taught that learning about philosophy is not so important compared to living one's philosophy. Deeds, not words, are what are important. Otherwise, philosophy is empty. I agree that religion and philosophy overlap, but to me philosophy should have more to do with how we live our lives, while religion should pertain to the spiritual, what lies beyond, what is greater than self. I believe what you describe as "religion" in your definition is closer to the definition of "church". We can pursue exactly the same philosophies, but have quite different religious views. But despite what Epictetus taught, I see philosophy today as an academic pursuit. The "real" philosophers are in educational institutions, and others dabble. Philosophical points of view area argued using reason and logic. Philosophers don't live their philosophies; they write about them and argue about them. Religion then becomes philosophy as a way of life (since philosophy is not lived, it is only talked about and written about). Following this line of reasoning, if Deism is a philosophy, because it has no tenets or dogma and doesn't tell you how to live your life, then Deism is pretty much an academic pursuit, something to be argued about, but of little practical use.
Quote :

Deism, particularly Panendeism, is a timely philosophical worldview suitable only for a few individuals in a society. Usually it's the older & wiser people---who have the depth and breadth of experience with "what is"---who form a clear and detailed opinion of "what ought to be". It's those rare individuals who then pass-on their wisdom to the masses indirectly via one-on-one contacts. Those constantly argued and updated ideas are then disseminated to society-at-large in the form of Religious and Political instruction. Philosophy-for-the-masses is like steak, chewed by the mother and then fed as pabulum to the baby. Elitist ideas can be made palatable for the egalitarian consumer of ideas, but must not be forced down their throats.
To be honest, this paragraph reads like an elitist pointing fingers at others and calling them elitist. I do, however, agree with a number of your observations. Deism is a reason-based faith, and doctrine-based faith has much broader appeal. It is certainly easier and more efficient to have people think in groups than to have them think as individuals, especially if your goal is to control their behavior.
Quote :

There is no clear, hard line of distinction between Philosophy and Religion, Politics, or Science. But it seems that the closer you get to simplified mass understanding, the farther you get from the wholistic truth. Perhaps Deists, and others on the philosophical leading-edge, should be content with their role as lonely outsiders on the periphery of society. Eventually, we can hope, some of those in the daily fray may get the counter-intuitive point of Deism: it's not to save the world, but to enlighten individuals.
Ultimately, there is more to life than enlightenment. Saving the world is also a worthwhile pursuit. How we live our lives is important. How we can be better people, heck, how we can be good, even how we define "good", is more important than being enlightened. Deism as philosophy alone, leaving out the religion part, can be pretty empty. I'm not sure it passes the "so what" test. What good is it? To me, arguing philosophy is interesting, like playing some intricate and challenging game, but it is also a practical waste of time unless I do something with it. Philosophy can enable us to classify everything down to the nth degree. But then what? Classical Deism didn't throw out all the religious stuff. Some contemporary Deists have thrown out nearly all the religious stuff. When Deism is only philosophy, I think that asking "so what?" then becomes a valid question.

I have heard Classical Deism described as the religion of elite English and American gentlemen. Fair enough. But transforming Deism by removing the religion part and turning it into the personal pursuit of enlightenment for modern amateur philosophers is not necessarily that much of an improvement.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:33 am

Good points.

I don't personally view Deism as a philosophy. Rationalism is a philosophy. Deism is a category of belief.

If you want to start a church, Deism is too broad a category to start with IMO. It would be like trying to start a church that embraces the beliefs of all Theists. There's just too much variety of opinion to please everyone.

IMO if one wants to start a Deist church it needs to be at the level of a specific religious belief like Integral Panendeism, Taoist Pandeism, or perhaps Process Panendeism. These are more focused beliefs that a group of people can easily design a life practice around.

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 2:27 pm

Quote :
I don't personally view Deism as a philosophy. Rationalism is a philosophy. Deism is a category of belief.

I was referring to Deism as a broad, general, worldview*, like Monotheism, rather than a specific, name-brand philosophy, such as Stoicism or Epicureanism**. Under the heading of Deism we could list several sub-categories of belief : Skepticism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Existentialism, Humanism, and so forth. And under those sub-headings, we could rank countless other variations on a theme. I view Deism as one of the few fundamental categories of belief, such as Monotheism, Polytheism, Animism, Atheism, etc.

It's that amorphous generality that makes Deism too loosely-circumscribed to serve as the defining doctrine of a church or social institution. Panendeism, however, may be specific enough to serve as the raison d'etre for a loose association of freethinking individualists. Deists who put their emphasis on Skepticism or Empiricism might join collaborations of scientists. Those who are most concerned with Existentialism or Rationalism could join together with others of similar concerns. But as soon as you focus exclusively on one part of the Deist worldview, you must neglect some of the other aspects. And just as we see in religious organizations, specialization leads to fragmentation and dissention. That's why I prefer to view Deism as a wholistic worldview instead of a particularistic religion.



* Worldview : belief system about how the world works, and why it works as it does.

** Epicureanism might be classified as an early form of Deism, where the existence of divinity was taken for granted as a feature of Nature, but not something to be feared or worshiped.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:41 pm

Gnomon wrote:
Quote :
I don't personally view Deism as a philosophy. Rationalism is a philosophy. Deism is a category of belief.

I was referring to Deism as a broad, general, worldview*, like Monotheism, rather than a specific, name-brand philosophy, such as Stoicism or Epicureanism**. Under the heading of Deism we could list several sub-categories of belief : Skepticism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Existentialism, Humanism, and so forth. And under those sub-headings, we could rank countless other variations on a theme. I view Deism as one of the few fundamental categories of belief, such as Monotheism, Polytheism, Animism, Atheism, etc.

Yes, we've had similar discussions before about mapping the various categories of deistic belief and I agree that there is something to it. I disagree however that Deism is a "worldview" in and of itself. IMO people with a certain rationalistic worldview or more likely to be attracted to the meme "Deism", but Deism itself is not a worldview, it's a belief that's based on a certain worldview.

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 5:19 pm

Quote :
IMO people with a certain rationalistic worldview or more likely to be attracted to the meme "Deism", but Deism itself is not a worldview, it's a belief that's based on a certain worldview.

I think we have a minor technical, semantic disagreement within a general agreement of meaning and intention.

"Deism" is merely a convenient label that I use to identify my idiosyncratic worldview (I could just as well call it Informationism). By that I mean, the worldview came first, and the label later*. I have probably been a Deist for many years, but I didn't think of myself as such until recently. As a longtime Agnostic, I didn't believe in a God of any kind, but I made allowances for the possibility of such an entity within the vast scope of my ignorance of how and why the world is what it is.

As my general worldview became deeper and broader, I began to see a single unifying theme to everything. My belief in God (the core of that theme) is still pretty weak compared to the Christian concept of Faith**. But a fairly detailed image of that mysterious entity is now emerging from the partly filled-in puzzle of the Cosmos. In that sense my faith in my worldview gets stronger every day.

* Wiki:
A> The rejection of revealed religion – this was the critical aspect of deism.
B> The belief that reason, not faith, leads us to certain basic religious truths – this was the positive or constructive aspect of deism.

For me, belief in A & B came first, and belief in a deity emerged as a consequence of those axioms.

** If I was ordered to renounce God or die, I might have to think about it for a while. scratch Think Whistle


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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:03 pm

Okay, I understand where you are coming from now. Smile

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:44 pm

Quote :
The most famous recent example of a real attempt to form a Deist church with national ties was pretty much a disaster. Strong freethinking personalities tore the organization apart.
My experience along these lines was with the virtual religion known as Universism.

Quote :
The trouble with this notion is that most people have to work hard to survive, and there is not a lot of time left over for the study of philosophy.
I make a distinction between "philosophy" and "Philosophy". I don't think the average working person has any need to be a Philosopher in the professional or academic sense. But they do need to learn as much about the big questions and proposed answers as possible. I am the son of an 8th grade, working-class father, and I have no formal training in Philosophy. But I do try to find the "spare" time to build a reliable map of Truth to serve as my personal guiding worldview.

Quote :
We can pursue exactly the same philosophies, but have quite different religious views.
That's exactly why I don't see Deism as specific enough to serve as the core of a formal religion. The neo-African holiday of Kwanzaa could very easily be a component of a Deistic religion, but I doubt that many people of European descent would be comfortable with such deliberately non-European traditions. In my view, a general philosophy or worldview could be serviceable for all of humanity. But a particular religion is so closely tied to history, ethnicity, and tradition, that sectarianism is almost inevitable. Let me hasten to add though, that I see human culture evolving in a direction (like Star Trek???) that could eventually make some form of Deism acceptable as a global, cultural worldview.*

Quote :
if Deism is a philosophy, because it has no tenets or dogma and doesn't tell you how to live your life, then Deism is pretty much an academic pursuit, something to be argued about, but of little practical use
That's another reason why a non-dogmatic worldview like Deism is unlikely to find popular support as a religion of the people. Again, at the risk of sounding elitist, the masses seem to need anthropomorphic imagery and storyline myths upon which to ground their pragmatic doctrines stipulating how one should live his life**. As you said, "Deism is a reason-based faith, and doctrine-based faith has much broader appeal". Hence, a reason-based "faith" is necessarily elitist, in the sense of a small, rational aristocracy, paternalistically pandering to the proletarian tastes and emotions of the "common" folk.

Quote :
When Deism is only philosophy, I think that asking "so what?" then becomes a valid question.
That's exactly why I think Deism per se is more suited as a personal philosophy of life, than as a motivating faith to serve as a catalyst for saving the world. However, a deistic Humanism*** could very well fill the need for a compelling rationale for social change.


* As a matter of fact I have come across some fundamentalist Christians thinkers who claim that Deism is already the de facto state religion of the US, and especially of Europe. That's not really what I had in mind.

** In deference to my non-elite upbringing, I have begun to weave my own myth of origins, with implications for the meaning and purpose of life. Perhaps, at some appropriate time in the future, that myth---or something like it---could serve as a doctrinal foundation for a deistic religion of some kind.

*** Perhaps informed by the notion of God as the whole of which each human, animal, and plant is a part.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Thu Jan 08, 2009 10:03 pm

Aaron wrote:
Good points.

I don't personally view Deism as a philosophy. Rationalism is a philosophy. Deism is a category of belief.

If you want to start a church, Deism is too broad a category to start with IMO. It would be like trying to start a church that embraces the beliefs of all Theists. There's just too much variety of opinion to please everyone.
If one categorizes Deism as broadly as category of belief, I would agree. How an interested group of people defines Deism would determine whether there was enough commonality of interests.
Quote :

IMO if one wants to start a Deist church it needs to be at the level of a specific religious belief like Integral Panendeism, Taoist Pandeism, or perhaps Process Panendeism. These are more focused beliefs that a group of people can easily design a life practice around.
Classical Deists often embrace very similar beliefs. To many, especially at first, Classical Deism is Deism.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Thu Jan 08, 2009 11:29 pm

cclendenen wrote:
To many, especially at first, Classical Deism is Deism.
Yeah like Louis from the Sullivan County website. That guy's something else. silent

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Fri Jan 09, 2009 12:19 am

Gnomon wrote:
Quote :
The most famous recent example of a real attempt to form a Deist church with national ties was pretty much a disaster. Strong freethinking personalities tore the organization apart.
My experience along these lines was with the virtual religion known as Universism.
That was effectively the end of the United Deist Church. Ironically, Universism did not survive either. Herding cats is hard.
Quote :

Quote :
The trouble with this notion is that most people have to work hard to survive, and there is not a lot of time left over for the study of philosophy.
I make a distinction between "philosophy" and "Philosophy". I don't think the average working person has any need to be a Philosopher in the professional or academic sense. But they do need to learn as much about the big questions and proposed answers as possible. I am the son of an 8th grade, working-class father, and I have no formal training in Philosophy. But I do try to find the "spare" time to build a reliable map of Truth to serve as my personal guiding worldview.
I guess my problem is with Philosophy then. I see philosophy as useful only if it can find its way into some practical use. I don't see too many Philosophers living according to their Philosophies. And if a philosophy doesn't provide something to live by, then it is just a curiosity.

Quote :

Quote :
We can pursue exactly the same philosophies, but have quite different religious views.
That's exactly why I don't see Deism as specific enough to serve as the core of a formal religion. The neo-African holiday of Kwanzaa could very easily be a component of a Deistic religion, but I doubt that many people of European descent would be comfortable with such deliberately non-European traditions. In my view, a general philosophy or worldview could be serviceable for all of humanity. But a particular religion is so closely tied to history, ethnicity, and tradition, that sectarianism is almost inevitable. Let me hasten to add though, that I see human culture evolving in a direction (like Star Trek???) that could eventually make some form of Deism acceptable as a global, cultural worldview.*
Question That was quite a paragraph. I have NO clue how Kwanzaa could "easily" be part of Deism. My own opinion of Kwanzaa is not very politically correct, and I'll leave it at that.

But now I am drowning in semantics. We had this religion vs. philosophy thing going, plus belief system thrown in by Aaron. That's three ways of categorizing Deism already. Now the term "worldview" joins the party. You seem to be using it as a synonym for "general philosophy", but I am not sure.

Quote :

Quote :
if Deism is a philosophy, because it has no tenets or dogma and doesn't tell you how to live your life, then Deism is pretty much an academic pursuit, something to be argued about, but of little practical use
That's another reason why a non-dogmatic worldview like Deism is unlikely to find popular support as a religion of the people. Again, at the risk of sounding elitist, the masses seem to need anthropomorphic imagery and storyline myths upon which to ground their pragmatic doctrines stipulating how one should live his life**. As you said, "Deism is a reason-based faith, and doctrine-based faith has much broader appeal". Hence, a reason-based "faith" is necessarily elitist, in the sense of a small, rational aristocracy, paternalistically pandering to the proletarian tastes and emotions of the "common" folk.
Hence? There is a lot of distance between saying doctrine-based faith has broader appeal and asserting that reason-based faith (which you place in quotes for reasons I don't understand) is necessarily elitist. I don't know how you got to this conclusion from the premises stated so far. I can't find a reason for a "hence" in there. And I don't know that I am looking for Deism to become a "religion of the people". I am only suggesting that it may be possible to institute a Deist church of some sort, not that Deism displace Christianity or something.

Quote :

Quote :
When Deism is only philosophy, I think that asking "so what?" then becomes a valid question.
That's exactly why I think Deism per se is more suited as a personal philosophy of life, than as a motivating faith to serve as a catalyst for saving the world. However, a deistic Humanism*** could very well fill the need for a compelling rationale for social change.
"Saving the world'? Sometimes I think we are having different conversations. I never felt we ever really finished addressing Deism as philosophy vs. religion, but we have somehow taken a journey through religion of the people, Star Trek, Kwanzaa, saving the world and a compelling rationale for social change. This one post has introduced a good half dozen new trains of thought, some of them quite interesting, but I don't feel like our conversation has produced much but a lot of words. Let me table all this other stuff for a bit.

Again, I stated that if Deism is just a philosophy, it doesn't pass the "so what" test. Deism does not suggest how you should live your life. It has no prescribed moral code. It does not suggest how to live in harmony with your fellow man. It doesn't do anything useful if it is just a philosophy. But in response you say that's exactly why you think Deism per se is more suited as a personal philosophy of life, than as a motivating faith. That statement is a non sequitur to me. How can Deism be a personal philosophy of life if it has no prescription on how to live your life? As a religion, Deism can suggest that you look to nature, especially to human nature, to find guidance on how to live, but I see that as a religious point of view than a philosophical one.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:01 am

Quote :
Deism does not suggest how you should live your life. It has no prescribed moral code. It does not suggest how to live in harmony with your fellow man. It doesn't do anything useful if it is just a philosophy.

That to me that is a key paragraph.
I have what I gather is a classical approach to deism in that God exists but doesn't intervene.

So here's the big difference between deists and atheists, at least in my thinking.

Atheists also believe that there is no intervention by a higher being. And they conclude therefore, that there is no God.

Deists also believe there is no intervention by a higher being. But they don't necessarily conclude that this proves there is no God.

If, then, there is a God, albeit one that doesn't intervene.

Then there would be natural corollaries flowing from the presence of a God, even one that doesn't intervene.

And if one were to logically conclude what these corollaries were then I think it would definitely lead to logical conclusions of how one should lead their life, and to a moral code, and it would have an impact on living one's life in harmony with his fellow man.

To wit, if there's a God, then instant karma may not get you as John Lennon suggested in this life, but karma will catch up in the long run (i.e. beyond this life).
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Fri Jan 09, 2009 10:09 am

cclendenen wrote:
But now I am drowning in semantics. We had this religion vs. philosophy thing going, plus belief system thrown in by Aaron. That's three ways of categorizing Deism already. Now the term "worldview" joins the party. You seem to be using it as a synonym for "general philosophy", but I am not sure.

Not to be pedantic but I view Deism as a category of belief, not a belief system. Religion is a belief system.

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:27 pm

Quote :
Again, I stated that if Deism is just a philosophy, it doesn't pass the "so what" test. Deism does not suggest how you should live your life. It has no prescribed moral code. It does not suggest how to live in harmony with your fellow man. It doesn't do anything useful if it is just a philosophy. But in response you say that's exactly why you think Deism per se is more suited as a personal philosophy of life, than as a motivating faith. That statement is a non sequitur to me. How can Deism be a personal philosophy of life if it has no prescription on how to live your life? As a religion, Deism can suggest that you look to nature, especially to human nature, to find guidance on how to live, but I see that as a religious point of view than a philosophical one.

One of the most interesting things about this forum is how we can agree on a fundamental fact of life---there is a deity---and politely disagree on the precise definitions and implications of related concepts.
“Here is the beginning of philosophy : a recognition of the conflicts
between men, a search for their cause, a condemnation of mere
opinion....and the discovery of a standard of judgement.”
----Epictetus (Roman philosopher, circa 100 AD)


Philosophy*, with a little "p", is not a specific doctrine or belief system; it's a rational method for determining what to believe. I use the term in the original Greek sense of a love for abstract Wisdom---as opposed to a love for physical things and worldly pleasures. [We are ruled by the things we love] When I refer to a "personal philosophy" or "worldview", I'm talking about an individual's understanding of how the world works, and how one must behave in order to get along in that particular, personal "Reality". The "so what" follows inevitably as the general theory is applied to specific situations. For a single person, there is no need to decide in advance how to deal with every little moral crisis---the Golden Rule will suffice. For collective social groups though, moral laws are decided in advance by lawyers, priests, and scribes.

I don't feel the need for an authoritative Religious doctrine to tell me how to run my individual life; but some people apparently do. For me, Deism is an integral part of my current worldview. It's my understanding of the mechanics the Cosmos. But each of us will interpret the implications and ramifications of that general understanding according to his personal experience. My behavior emerges instinctively and spontaneously from my worldview (my belief system). In a social situation though, that every-man-a-law-unto-himself attitude can lead to anarchy.

That's why formalized, authoritative belief systems have grown up around the personal philosophical worldviews of various religious founders, leading to the crazy-quilt of religious sectarianism we see in the world. Like idealistic Deist church founders, each of those sect leaders sincerely believed that his own system of Faith was the final word on how to live and survive in the world. So I must ask---sincerely, not cynically---which of the various interpretations of Deism will govern the Deist Church?

To answer your question : << How can Deism be a personal philosophy of life if it has no prescription on how to live your life? >> A Faith system does indeed "prescribe" how one must live his life. A Belief system determines how one freely chooses to live his life.** That's why I put "faith" in scare quotes.


* FWIW here's an essay I wrote long ago on the topic of personal philosophy :
http://home.mindspring.com/~johne84570/Philosophy_Personal%20Definition%20%2001-09-09.pdf

** personal Belief versus collective Faith :
http://home.mindspring.com/~johne84570/Belief%20vs%20Faith%20031305.pdf
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:14 am

Quote :
I guess my problem is with Philosophy then. I see philosophy as useful only if it can find its way into some practical use. I don't see too many Philosophers living according to their Philosophies. And if a philosophy doesn't provide something to live by, then it is just a curiosity.

I asked, "what is the point of Deism?", because I have been puzzled by that same apparent weakness. Some Deists seem to think that Deism must have some great mission in order to justify its existence as a philosophical concept, or a generic category of belief. But an illuminating analogy would be to ask, "what is the point of Monotheism?" By itself, a belief in a single deity has no point, no goal, no mission. It's only when the general worldview is combined with some specific emotional issue that it becomes a collective motivator for group behavior---what we usually call religion, or politics.

What is the emotional issue that would unite Deists to rally around a leader or institution or vision in order to change the world? For Communists it was the ideal of an egalitarian utopia. For NAZIs it was the dream of an Edenic Aryan Fatherland. For many Christians, the point is to get to heaven. For others, the point is to make this world a better place, while they wait for Jesus to return.

I have noticed that those who call themselves "Freethinkers" are typically negatively-motivated. They feel like a minority persecuted and oppressed by the dominant, faithful, Fundamentalist religious fanatics. Hence, their primary mission is to restore the constitutional separation of church and state. Beyond that narrow political goal, they are hardly united on religious or political issues. Some are Liberal, some Conservative, some Libertarian. Some are Atheists, some Agnostics, some Wiccans.

As I see it, the point of Deism is to provide a comprehensive worldview from which we can derive practical personal axioms to live by. If we could all agree on a single engraved stone tablet of 12 axioms, the world would probably be a better place. But I don't see that happening in my lifetime. Until it does, Deism will serve as my own personal, private religion, and I invite you to do the same. Beyond that, I can only say, "G*d's Will be done".

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
----Karl Marx (1818 - 1883), Thesis 11


Your idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours alone. The more the idea is yours alone, the more freedom you have to do something really amazing. The more amazing, the more people will click with your idea. The more people click with your idea, the more it will change the world.
----Hugh Macleod, How To Be Creative: 2, 08-22-04


I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.
----Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:43 pm

I want to thank everyone who contributed to this thread. I have much to think about, and if I'm not careful, I may even have learned something.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:04 am

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I see no reason Deists should not join together in fellowship to share their hopes and aspirations, to raise their children among other similar freethinkers, and to work towards common goals alongside people who share their vision for the future.
I agree. And I'm sorry if I sounded cynical or pessimistic about the idea of a Deist Church. Those who have children to raise probably feel a strong need for the intimate social services that are better provided by religious institutions than by secular governments.

But I haven't yet found a common core to serve as a hook to hang a cohesive, positive, dynamic Deist group on. Queen Qaab*, on another forum, sincerely asked "what are the advantages of Deism, etc", with the implication of Atheism as the standard for comparison. Other than the tenuous personal satisfaction that I felt closer to the Truth---but who doesn't?---I couldn't think of any special advantage of Deism over Atheism. Some suggested a closer connection with Nature---but Naturalism, Pandeism, and Wicca also offer that feeling of Oneness with the trees. Some proposed better understanding of Self---but introspective religions like Buddhism are way ahead of us on that one. None of these non-theist alternatives can offer anything nearly as sexy as Salvation, or answers to prayers, or special divine favors, though. So what would distinguish a Deist Church from a Unitarian Church or a UFO cult?

I'm still open to suggestions. But my only offering at the moment would be to start a secular Social Club* instead of a Religious Church. Like the Lions or Elks, all you need is some common outlook on the world, and a willingness to wear funny outfits. I don't think there's any need to develop strange rituals and secret handshakes, like the Masons, though. Give it an innocuous name, like The We Club, or The Free Association. On second thought, almost any name will sound exclusive to someone. Oh well.


* I now see that she had posted a poem in one of the early Deist Alliance Newsletters. But I didn't know at the time that she had been that close to Deism.

** Wiki : A club is an association of people united by a common interest or goal. A service club, for example, exists for voluntary or charitable activities; there are clubs devoted to hobbies and sports, social activities clubs, political and religious clubs, and so forth.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:18 am

Gnomon wrote:
...
But I haven't yet found a common core to serve as a hook to hang a cohesive, positive, dynamic Deist group on.
And I submit that you are in such a group right now.
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Wed Jan 14, 2009 2:32 am

Queen Qaab? - haven't thought of that old curmudgeonly-poetess in a few years. Glad she's doing well.

Does Ranger Dave hang out there? I might have to go troll him for old times sake. lol
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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:19 am

Uriah wrote:
Queen Qaab? - haven't thought of that old curmudgeonly-poetess in a few years. Glad she's doing well.

Does Ranger Dave hang out there? I might have to go troll him for old times sake. lol

Actually Queen Qaab passed away about a year ago. The question about Deism was one of her last posts.

Ranger Dave is still kicking around but not on the forum Gnomon is referring to.

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:30 am

FYI...

It looks like Zorger decided to put a link up to the old Spiritual Humanism Forum Archives.

http://www.spiritualhumanism.org/phpBB2/index.php?sid=8222c1bf0acf8052bda3c5f7c051b152

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PostSubject: Re: The Point of Deism   Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:10 am

Aaron wrote:
Uriah wrote:
Queen Qaab? - haven't thought of that old curmudgeonly-poetess in a few years. Glad she's doing well.

Does Ranger Dave hang out there? I might have to go troll him for old times sake. lol

Actually Queen Qaab passed away about a year ago. The question about Deism was one of her last posts.

Ranger Dave is still kicking around but not on the forum Gnomon is referring to.

May she rest in Peace. Kind of makes me sad, I was quite fond of that grumpy woman. Crying or Very sad
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