America’s Religion of Deism
Americans have always been a fairly religious people, but not always in the way people commonly think.
For example, the English colonists, during the 17th century, were pretty strongly Christian; from Anglican to Puritan, Protestantism was the norm. Catholics were only barely tolerated in some colonies, and forbidden in most. By the 18th century, many English colonists had moved away from Christianity, embracing the unofficial Enlightenment creed of Deism, which is the idea that there is a God, but that he is only revealed to us mainly through nature, science and human reason. By the time of the American Revolution, scarcely 17% of the colonial population was affiliated with any particular church or religion. These 18th-century Deists had respect for the remnant Christian culture of their time, namely because they recognized that some kind of organized religion was necessary for the stability of society, but they didn’t see all the trappings of Christianity as necessary to those who were “enlightened” enough to abandon them. Many of America’s founding fathers secretly admired the Catholic social principles needed to form a secular republic that might actually work, but could not openly admit such a thing, due to lingering hostilities toward Catholics in the colonies. The formation of the United States, while based in a remnant Protestant culture and built on Catholic ideas, was heavily influenced by Deist thinking, as is evidenced in the writings of Thomas Jefferson, including the Declaration of Independence. The 19th century, however, was marked by a return to traditional Protestantism in the United States, in what is commonly referred to as the Second and Third Great Awakening, and this influence continued well into the 20th century. If the United States was not founded as a Christian nation, it certainly became one between 1776 and 1950. Of that, there can be no doubt. Technically speaking, Americans are still far more religious now than they were at their nation’s founding.
From the middle of the 20th century onward, religious sentiments in the United States shifted again. While Marxist atheism took a strong hold in Europe, Russia and Eastern Asia, the West saw a modest incline in the number of atheists as well. Here in the United States, the number of Atheists went from about 0.5% to a whopping 3%, which is hardly noticeable really. That number has remained nearly unchanged in 30 years, fluctuating between 2% and 4% depending on who’s doing the survey. The average is 3%. That’s hardly a number any of us should worry about, but what atheists lack in numbers they make up for in noise. They like to flood Internet blogs, forums and chat rooms with their comments. They mock Christians and their beliefs. They file lawsuits against municipal, county and state governments for religious symbols on public property. They have a legal stranglehold on the public school systems. (All of these are Marxist tactics by the way.) For such a small percentage of the population, they absolutely demand to be heard, and they have no problem using everything at their disposal to make sure they are.
Modern atheists like to point to recent declines in church affiliation as a triumph of atheism in American society. Indeed, the very word “atheist” is bantered around casually by young people these days, who have no religious affiliation whatsoever, and obviously don’t understand what the word really means. These are referred to as the “nones” because they answer “none” to the question of religious affiliation in surveys. However, when you really dig down into what these people actually believe, you’ll find out that they do believe in “a God” of some type, but they just don’t think it’s the God of Christianity or the Bible.
Yes, you read that right. The majority of “nones” today, who casually banter the word “atheist” in reference to themselves, will admit that they do believe in “a God” of some kind. If you ask them if this is the God who created nature and the universe, they will almost universally say “yes.” If you ask if characteristics of this God can be known by human reason or science, again they will almost universally say “yes.” I submit to you that what we are witnessing unfold in the United States right now is not the triumph of atheism, but rather a return to colonial-style Deism. It shouldn’t surprise us really. Americans have been down this road before. A large number of English colonists in America were Deist in the 18th century, and this century was sandwiched between two devoutly Protestant era’s in the 17th and 19th centuries. In abandoning Christian churches, Americans are simply going back to what they know as familiar to them — Deism.
Deists don’t put an emphasis on communal religion. They generally have no temples or houses of worship. It’s always been very much an individualist religion. Today, however, Deism takes on some of the trappings of modern psychology, earning it the more complex title of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” or “MTD.” Nevertheless, it is still “Deism,” and so I will frequently refer to it simply as that. Just keep in mind that when I speak of modern Deism, I’m talking about MTD.
Now the creed of MTD, or modern “Deism,” is fairly simple, and almost universally agreed upon informally. It basically goes something like this…
- A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- This God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught by most world religions, which are basically all the same.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- This God is not involved in one’s life except, maybe, when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- All good, nice and fair people go to “heaven” (whatever that may be) when they die.
- Bad, mean and unfair people probably just cease to exist when they die.
A growing number of Americans are leaving Christianity and becoming Deists (MTD) in the 21st century, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of this trend reversing — yet. Atheism is dying around the globe. To survive, atheism must use means of intimidation and coercion, to get people to give up their natural belief in some sort of a God or gods. During the 20th century, Marxism was that method of intimidation and coercion. Today, they use mockery, social-media attacks, intimidation, slander and whenever possible — coercion. One would think that if atheists really believe what they said they do, they would just laugh off religion and go fishing or something. I actually know a couple who are just like that. When they say they’re atheists, I believe them, because they behave exactly as one would logically expect them to — aloof toward religion and carefree in life. But the majority of atheists don’t behave like that. Often, they’re on a “crusade” or “jihad” of some type, as if they’ve got something to prove. It’s probably because they know the number of true atheists is really very small, about 3%, and that seems to bother them. The overwhelming vast majority of “nones” we see in religious surveys are not “atheists” at all, even if some call themselves that. Atheists don’t believe in God, but most “nones” do. They just don’t believe in the God of organized religion.
If we’re going to re-evangelize the West, we have to understand who our primary target audience is. The “nones” are overwhelmingly Deists not atheists. We don’t need to spend a whole lot of time arguing for the existence of God. Most “nones” already believe a God exists. They just don’t believe he’s the God of the Bible. Too many Christians spend way too much time trying to prove God exists with arguments about “First Cause” and “Pascal’s Wager,” which are all good arguments by the way. There is a reason why, however, I’ve only dedicated one page of this blog to them (see here). It’s because the atheist argument against the existence of God is irrelevant. There just aren’t enough of atheists to really matter. Atheists have their product and nobody’s buying it. Just 3% of the market share, after hundreds of years in business, isn’t much to brag about. Rather, we Christians should be spending our time focusing on who God is, not on proving whether or not he exists.
In focusing our arguments on proving the existence of God, we are narrowing our outreach to just 3% of the population. This is a group of people who likely won’t listen to us anyway. Marxist atheism, built entirely on coercion, is dying around the world. Western atheism is nearly irrelevant and always has been. Very few people in this group will ever listen to us. Don’t waste your time with them. Move on to more fertile ground.
Most “nones” are Deists, so that means they believe in some kind of God, and most will tell you it’s the God of Nature, or the Creator God. Beyond that they won’t say who “he” or “she” is, or even if gender can be properly assigned to this Creator God. When I encounter a “none” who calls himself an “atheist,” I’ll usually ask: “So do you really believe there is absolutely no God at all, whatsoever? Or are you more inclined to say there probably is a God of nature, just not the God of the Bible or organized religion?” Almost always, at least 9 times out of 10, the “none” will respond by choosing the latter. At this point I’ll inform him that he’s not really an atheist then, because atheists don’t believe in a God. Rather, he’s a Deist, and he’s in good company with many of America’s founding fathers, and a good number of famous scientists. You would be surprised to learn how many of these people readily accept being called a Deist, but will admit they’ve never heard the word before.
When dealing with Deists, the Christian should focus not on proof of God’s existence, but rather demonstrating that the God of Nature, or Nature’s God, has visited humanity by taking on human flesh and becoming one of us. This takes you right to the core of the gospel without wasting time and energy on explaining why God exists (they already accept that). Tell them the claims of Jesus must be thoroughly examined, for the only records we have that Jesus even existed are those that also record he said he was God. Proving that Jesus is God is the starting point with today’s Deist “nones.” We do this by using the “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” argument. I explained this in my essay entitled Jesus Christ is God.
Once you have established that Jesus Christ is God, the only thing that remains it to show that Jesus Christ (God) founded only one institution — The Catholic Church. I did this in my essay Jesus Christ Founded the Catholic Church.
The number of actual atheists in the West today is extremely small. This is especially true in the United States. The glory days of atheism were in the late 1800s to the late 1900s, and this was mainly in the Soviet Union, parts of Europe and the Far East. Atheism is dying today, and it’s dying fast, right alongside Marxism. As communist countries collapse, coerced atheism collapses with them. What’s replacing it is Islam, Christianity and Deism. In the West, particularly in North America, Deism has always been a spiritual ideology to fall back on. It’s what most Americans are familiar with. The same could probably be said of most Canadians too. When most people leave Christianity, they don’t usually go atheist. Only a small few do that, about 3% actually, and many of them usually spend the rest of their lives trying to convince others to do the same. Rather, when most people leave Christianity, they usually go Deist, and in North America (especially the US) that type of Deism is MTD. These folks don’t usually go on “crusades” or “jihads” to convince others to join them in Deism. Rather, they focus on themselves in the classical Deist fashion, trying to improve their lives and seek personal happiness. Deists usually don’t have a problem with Christians. They just can’t see why Christianity is so popular, because they don’t understand the claims of Jesus or the historical proof behind them. So remember that the next time some atheist points to the “nones” as a sign that atheism is winning. It’s actually Deism that most of these “nones” identify with. It’s just that most of today’s “nones” don’t know the word “Deism” or what it means.