deists (dē´Ĭsts), term commonly applied to those thinkers in the 17th and 18th cent. who held that the course of nature sufficiently demonstrates the existence of God. For them formal religion was superfluous, and they scorned as spurious claims of supernatural revelation. Their tenets stemmed from the rationalism of the period, and though the term is not now generally used, the tenor of their belief persists. The term freethinkers is almost synonymous. Voltaire and J. J. Rousseau were deists, as were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

See E. R. Pike, Slayers of Superstition (1931, repr. 1970); G. A. Koch, Religion of the American Enlightenment (1933, repr. 1968).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Deism: Selected full-text books and articles

Against the Faith: Essays on Deists, Skeptics, and Atheists
Jim Herrick.
Prometheus Books, 1985
Hume, Newton, and the Design Argument
Robert H. Hurlbutt III.
University of Nebraska Press, 1965
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Deists"
Popular Free Thought in America, 1825-1850
Albert Post.
Columbia University Press; P.S. King & Staples, Ltd., 1943
The Columbia History of Western Philosophy
Richard H. Popkin.
Columbia University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Deism" begins on p. 437
Religious Liberalism in Eighteenth-Century England
Roland N. Stromberg.
Oxford University Press, 1954
Librarian’s tip: Chap. V "The Definition of Deism" and Chap. VI "Highlights of the Deistic Controversy"
Seeds of Liberty: The Genesis of the American Mind
Max Savelle.
A.A. Knopf, 1948
Librarian’s tip: "Deism" begins on p. 40
Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods: Christian Theology, Enlightenment Religion, and Non-Christian Faiths
Gerald R. McDermott.
Oxford University Press, 2000
FREE! American Philosophy: The Early Schools
I. Woodbridge Riley.
Dodd, Mead, 1907
Librarian’s tip: Book III "Deism"
Joseph Butler's Moral and Religious Thought: Tercentenary Essays
Joseph Butler; Christopher Cunliffe.
Clarendon Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Butler and Deism" and Chap. 2 "Deus Absconditus: Some Notes on the Bearing of the Hiddenness of God upon Butler's and Pascal's Criticism of Deism"
Religious Thought in the Eighteenth Century: Illustrated from Writers of the Period
Unknown, 1934
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Why the True Deist Should not Reject Christianity" by Samuel Clarke
The Growth of American Thought
Merle Curti.
Harper & Brothers, 1951 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "The Spread of Rationalism and Deism" begins on p. 110 and "The Spread of Deism" begins on p. 156
The Enlightenment and Religion: The Myths of Modernity
S. J. Barnett.
Manchester University Press, 2003
Universe as the Interaction of Its Parts with Limitations
Khorsandian, Rostam.
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Vol. 24, No. 3-4, August 2003
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