Search Results for Deism
Deism is the belief, as exemplified by John Locke, in the reasonableness of Christianity. This belief arose in defense of the idea of God in the face of Newtonian physics.
Deism believes in a creator God while also accepting the importance of natural laws and dismissing the need for organized religion. Also, Deism downplays the element of the miraculous and the idea of divine intervention through grace and spiritual powers within God’s orderly creation.
The theological term “Deist” (a believer in God but not in institutionalized religion) emerged in 17th and 18th century England and France, and is also known as ‘natural religion.’ Most consider the writer Voltaire to be a Deist. And he encyclopedist Diderot characteristically said a Deist is someone who has not lived long enough to become an atheist.
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There are at least three main and possibly interrelated ways of conceptualizing God, as well as three main ways of relating to the deity.
First, in monotheism, God is generally seen as an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good transcendent but immanent (God dwells in creation but is also beyond it) being that created and rules over all of creation (e.g. Christianity, Judaism and Islam).
Some non-Catholics say that the Catholic saints degrade Christianity with a form of polytheism. But this is a misunderstanding. Catholic saints mediate through contemplative prayer, not unlike people living on Earth who pray for one another.
Also, some say the Christian Holy Trinity is polytheistic. But this, too, is a misrepresentation because Christians generally agree that the three persons of the Trinity share a unity of substance which is One.
Meanwhile, some say that the Hindu gods and goddesses are polytheistic. But most Hindus point out that they are manifestations of the Brahman, an unmanifest ground of All That Is.
The third main way of conceptualizing God is expressed in naturalistic pantheism. Here, the forces of nature (and usually the cosmos) are identified with God. Some believe that monotheism and polytheism may coexist within a hierarchy of value. On the individual experiential level, that would mean progressing through a belief in The Many to discovering a (usually described as higher) level of monotheistic worship.
Relating to God
The monotheistic approach to relating to God is aptly described by the Jewish theologian Martin Buber as an I-Thou relationship. This is experienced as a
- feeling of awe
- healthy fear of offending the deity
- keen sense of personal humility
Another way of relating to the deity is seeing oneself as potentially identical to God. This second way is divided into three types:
A third way of relating to God is more about phenomenology, that is, about a person’s unique experience. Michel Henry (1922–2002), for instance, talks about God as the “essence of Life” experienced by the individual. His view of God doesn’t go much beyond that because phenomenologists believe we can’t really know much (if anything) beyond ourselves.
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John Locke (1632-1704) was a British philosopher who had a profound influence on the school of empiricism.
Locke believed the human infant enters the world with a tabula rasa (i.e. a blank slate). Accordingly, we inherit nothing more than physical characteristics and a basic sense of goodness. This makes the mind free and equal among different individuals.
Although this may seem somewhat speculative today, Locke, himself, argued against abstract speculation in favor of recognizing the limits of knowledge through direct experience.
For Locke, we can only know about an object’s “primary qualities” of size, shape and motion. These qualities exist independently of perception. We can never know anything about an object’s “secondary qualities” of color, taste, smell, warmth, texture and sound because these are products of the object’s interaction with our senses–i.e. qualities that don’t inhere to the object itself.
Locke’s pragmatism didn’t close him off to the possibility of God’s existence. In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) he argued for the “reasonableness” of the idea of God.
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The term mysticism has a wide variety of meanings.
In ancient Greece an initiate (mystes) was lead into a mystery, a highly esoteric process where initiates swore to secrecy.
Today mysticism generally refers to surpassing worldly sensations, thoughts and desires, which are temporarily replaced or infused with otherworldly experiences, knowledge or graces.
However, this kind of definition falls short because we also have romantic or nature mysticism.
Perhaps at its highest level mysticism refers to an intimate spiritual relationship – others say union – with God or the divine.
Although not appearing in the Bible or in the writings of the Church Fathers, the related terms “mystical,” “mystagogy” and “mystagogue” explain one’s initiation into the essentially mysterious sacraments of the Christian Church.
It’s often said that Christian mysticism differs from Eastern mysticism in that Christianity emphasizes a relationship between the individual and God, rather than a loss of individuality and absorption into, or total identification with, the divine.
But this difference, in practice, is likely one of degree, character, or perhaps a developmental difference.
There seem to be exceptions, at least on the conceptual level, to a general distinction between the ideas of Christian relationship and Eastern absorption. For example, some Christian saints request in their prayers to be entirely immersed in Jesus’ divine glory. This idea of immersion sounds very Eastern.
To further complicate matters, , even within a given tradition mystics talk of a diversity of realms and numinous experiences. So it seems unlikely that the experiences accessed by mystics within different traditions are identical.
Some writers and pop gurus try to condense different kinds of mysticism into a simple formula, such as “union with the divine.”
In fact, most spiritual seekers usually try to fit very different ideas about mysticism into their own particular belief system.
In my opinion mystics, who always need the adjective of religion they came from while described, did achieved such level of union with divine that does not need religion anymore. Religion needs words meanwhile their level of union does not. » Source
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Monotheism is the belief in only one God as opposed to many gods. Just what this term means, however, varies from religion to religion.
Sikhism is also monotheistic and most Hindus say their religion is monotheistic (the many Hindu gods and goddesses are believed to be partial manifestations of the supreme One, Brahman).
Meanwhile, some question whether the Christian Trinity is rightly regarded as monotheistic, and other important variations to the idea of monotheism are found. As this quotation points out,
Monotheism can involve a variety of Conceptions of God:
- Deism posits the existence of a single god, the Designer of the designs in Nature. Some Deists believe in an impersonal god that does not intervene in the world, while other Deists believe in intervention through Providence.
- Monism is the type of monotheism found in Hinduism, encompassing pantheism and panentheism, and at the same time the concept of a personal god.
- Pantheism holds that the universe itself is God. The existence of a transcendent being extraneous to nature is denied.
- Panentheism is a form of monistic monotheism which holds that God is all of existence, containing, but not identical to, the Universe. The one God is omnipotent and all-pervading, the universe is part of God, and God is both immanent and transcendent.
- Substance monotheism, found in some indigenous African religions, holds that the many gods are different forms of a single underlying substance.
- Trinitarian monotheism is the Christian doctrine of belief in one God who is three distinct persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.¹
The more we study world religions (and not just from books), the more we find that sometimes a particular believer leans toward one definition of monotheism, while other times a believer of that very same religion leans toward another definition of monotheism. An example of this might be found in Catholicism, where St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun seems to include elements of, but is not limited to, pantheism.
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Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was an English physicist, mathematician and alchemist, educated at Cambridge.
In 1665 he developed a form of calculus, an achievement shared with Gottfried Leibniz.
Around 1666 he observed an apple falling in his garden. This prompted musings that lead to his Law of Universal Gravitation.
Newton’s Three Laws of Motion are still taught in just about every high school around the world.
In his studies of light he found that white light contains the entire spectrum. Newton also invented the first reflecting telescope.
Newton also had a slightly unorthodox religious side that many New Age writers are concerned to bring to light. He once said:
Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.¹
And concerning his achievements, he was unusually modest, echoing sentiments found in a popular medieval metaphor:
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.²
Today, pop science and New Age theorists often contrast Newton with Einstein. Newton is sometimes and almost disparagingly said to represent mechanistic ‘old thought’ while Einstein is lauded as the herald of ‘new thought.’ However, Newton was a rare genius whose influence has been profound. And it’s likely that someday another innovative thinker (or group) will come along to replace Einstein’s iconic role as the great genius who revolutionized our way of seeing the world.
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Pagan is an often but not always pejorative term denoting a polytheist or someone who is not a Christian, Jew or Muslim.
During the Middle Ages accused pagans were often lumped together with the idea of witchcraft, and the Christian Church sanctioned successive waves of barbaric torture and killing under the guise of purifying the Earth of the devil and his demons, which included the various pagan deities.
The mistrust of Paganism, however, stems back to Biblical times.
Today the Catholic Church formally accepts all that is from God within non-Catholic belief, but in practice is, on the whole, extremely cautious when dealing with Pagan religions.
Catholics usually say that Pagan beliefs contain elements of “error” but many Protestants – especially Bible-based Fundamentalists – maintain that Catholicism itself has lapsed into Paganism with the belief in a multiplicity of intercessors and the related veneration of Saints (to include the Virgin Mary).
In contemporary scholarly circles the pejorative connotations around the word Paganism are often removed – or apparently removed. Sometimes, however, scholars roundly denounce Pagan belief.
Scholarship, like anything else, does not enjoy a magic banner of pure objectivity. This belief itself could be viewed as a kind of neo-Paganism in that something less than God (i.e. human research and analysis) is artificially elevated to heights it does not deserve.
Peter Gay¹ traces the development of contemporary Paganism to the European Enlightenment and Renaissance, where new ideas and ways of looking at things apparently enabled mankind to deconstruct its dogmatic Christian heritage.
¹See Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (1966).
Pantheism (Greek: pan [all] + theos [God] = All is God) is the belief that God and creation are one. This is also known as naturalistic pantheism, meaning that nature and the cosmos are identified with God.
This cosmology finds expression in some New Age theories that proclaim “We-are-the-Universe.”
The term panentheism refers to God as existing within but somehow grander than creation (i.e. the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). This view is often said to be found in Taoism and Hinduism, as well as the works of Spinoza and Hegel.
But important differences among these perspectives are often glossed over.
The scholar of religion R. C. Zaehner suggests another term, panenhenism, for the belief that the universe is a unified whole without reference to any kind of ‘God.’ Zaehner’s term prefigures semiotic and postmodern concerns to ‘deconstruct’ words like ‘God’ and what they connote for various individuals and groups—e.g. women, visible, invisible as well as outspoken and silent minorities.
To critique the idea of pantheism gets complicated because terms like “the universe” or “nature” may mean different things to different people. For some they’re limiting concepts because they don’t include heaven and hell, as well as all the spiritual powers and beings often believed to reside in these places. Others, however, claim that the words “universe” or “nature” “simply mean “all that is,” which would include heaven, hell and everything else.
The term ‘Theism’ was coined by the Cambridge Platonist scholar, Ralph Cudworth (1617-88), in 1678.
Theism is the belief in a wholly-other creator God, ruling over creation and intervening with Divine presence, power and grace.
Theism is often contrasted with Deism, the belief in a wholly-other creator God who does not intervene after the initial creation of the universe.
» Akhenaton, Atheism, Neo-Paganism, Pagan, Pantheism
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Psuedonym of French satirist François-Marie Arouet, regarded as the harbinger of the Enlightenment.
His work Candide sharply criticizes the philosopher Leibniz‘s view that God created the best of all possible worlds.
In that work the character Dr. Pangloss is a mouthpiece for the Leibnizian view; Pangloss clings to this positive philosophical outlook despite horrendous personal sufferings.
Voltaire himself was a deist, believing in God but only in terms of natural, observable laws. He once said “heaven is where I am.”
He deplored fanaticism, especially that of the masses. In fact, he writes at length about the merits of polite society in contrast to the laboring classes.
There is always, within a nation, a people that has no contact with polite society, which does not belong to the age, which is inaccessible to the progress of reason and over whom fanaticism maintains its atrocious hold…It is not the laborer one should educate, but the good bourgeois, the tradesman.¹
Although Voltaire distrusted the notion of democracy, favoring rule of the enlightened monarch, his satirical political letters earned him a beating and imprisonment for eleven months in the Bastille.
Finding favor, however, with Mme de Pompadour he became historiographer to Louis XV and continued to write voluminously to several notables, rising to become one of the most prominent figures in Europe.
¹ Cited in Norman Hampson, The Enlightenment (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976, p. 160).
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