Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Deist (Latin Deus, God), a term now usually applied to those who believe in a God, but deny miracle or supernatural relation, and especially to a series of English writers beginning with Lord Herbert of Cherbury (died 1648), and comprising the second Lord Shaftesbury, Antony Collins, Matthew Tindal, Mandeville, Toland, Chubb, and Thomas Paine (died 1809). Their opinions and treatment of religious subjects varied greatly. Lord Herbert of Cherbury believed that the idea of God and moral principles were innate; Lord Shaftesbury, in polished language, exalted natural religion and its professors at the expense of Christianity; Toland and Collins treated the Scriptures as forgeries; Tindal argued that they were genuine in substance, but mere documents of natural religion ; Mandeville held that morality was simply based on self interest, and argued that "private vices were public benefits." Doubtless the movement owed much to the philosophy of Locke. Though a decided believer in Christianity himself, his empiricism and his strenuous insistence on the claims of reason were pushed farther than he intended by the Deists. But the tendency of the age was strongly opposed to "enthusiasm" and mysticism in religion, and Deism is an extreme expression of this opposition. Much can be learned about it from the Alciphron of Berkeley (who, however, was strongly biassed against it); while, amongst others, Leland, the German historian Lechler, and Leslie Stephen (English Thought in the Eighteenth Century) have dealt with the movement historically.