Religions 1 -
Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Religions 1 - Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Propositional Religions 2 - Intro,
Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism,
Propositional Religions 4 - Shintoism,
Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism
Propositional Religions 6 - Babism
and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism
Propositional Religions 7 - Neopaganism,
Propositional Religions 8 - Mysticism
Propositional Religions 9 - Mysticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism
Introduction | Section 1
| Section 2 | Section
Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism are ideologies, which we
have grouped together because of two very basic similarities
that they share with Agnosticism. First we will define these
three ideologies. Then we will discuss these similarities
that have led to their inclusion in this category.
"Deism - At times in the 19th and early 20th centuries,
the word Deism was used theologically in contradistinction
to theism, the belief in an immanent God who actively intervenes
in the affairs of men. In this sense Deism was represented
as the view of those who reduced the role of God to a mere
act of creation in accordance with rational laws discoverable
by man and held that, after the original act, God virtually
withdrew and refrained from interfering in the processes of
nature and the ways of man." - Britannica.com
"Deism - The belief, based solely on reason, in
a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming
no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena,
and giving no supernatural revelation." - The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.
"Deism - The belief that God has created the universe
but remains apart from it and permits his creation to administer
itself through natural laws. Deism thus rejects the supernatural
aspects of religion, such as belief in revelation in the
Bible, and stresses the importance of ethical conduct. In
the eighteenth century, numerous important thinkers held deist
beliefs." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English
Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
"Deism - (1682): a movement or system of thought advocating
natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the
18th century denying the interference of the Creator with
the laws of the universe." - Merriam Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary, Tenth Edition
As can be seen in the definitions above, Deism is a religious
worldview with two fundamental beliefs at its core. First,
Deism holds that the universe was created by God. Second,
Deism holds that the God who created the universe ceased to
interact with the universe after the creation event. Consequently,
while Deism admits the existence of God, Deism also rejects
the possibility of miracles and divine revelation or communication
The next ideology that we have included in this section is
"Pantheism - (1732) 1: a doctrine that equates God
with the forces and laws of the universe." - Merriam Webster's
Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition
"Pantheism - name used to denote any system of belief
or speculation that includes the teaching "God is all, and
all is God." Pantheism, in other words, identifies the
universe with God or God with the universe...There is
nothing separate or distinct from God, for God is the universe...Noteworthy
among the religious forms is Hinduism, in which the only
reality, the supreme unity, is Brahman." - The Columbia Encyclopedia,
Sixth Edition. 2001.
"Pantheism - the doctrine that the universe conceived
of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God
but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested
in the existing universe. The cognate doctrine of panentheism
asserts that God includes the universe as a part though not
the whole of his being." - Britannica.com
It is interesting to note that Hinduism is listed as a form
of Pantheism. We will cover Hinduism in a later section of
this study. For now the important concept to note is that
Pantheism holds that God and the universe are one and the
same. This is distinctly different from Deism, which holds
that God is separate from and ceased to interact with the
universe that he created. We will cover the similarity between
these two momentarily.
Lastly, we have also included Naturalism in this category.
"Naturalism - (ca. 1641) 2: a theory denying that
an event or object has a supernatural significance: specif:
the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account
for all phenomena." - Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary,
"Naturalism - in philosophy, a position that attempts
to explain all phenomena and account for all values by means
of strictly natural (as opposed to supernatural) categories.
The particular meaning of naturalism varies with what is opposed
to it...Some, like Comte and Nietzsche, were professed
atheists, while others accepted a god in pantheistic terms...later
thinkers of all schools have placed emphasis on unifying
the scientific viewpoint with an all-encompassing reality.
This amalgamation of science and an overall explanation
of the universe in naturalistic terms is the source of
much of contemporary philosophic thought." - The Columbia
Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.
"Naturalism - in philosophy, a theory that relates
scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings
and events in the universe (whatever their inherent character
may be) are natural. Although naturalism denies the
existence of truly supernatural realities, it makes allowance
for the supernatural, provided that knowledge of it can be
had indirectly—that is, that natural objects be influenced
by the so-called supernatural entities in a detectable way...Naturalists
simply assert that nature is reality, the whole of it.
There is nothing beyond, nothing "other than," no "other world"
of being." - Britannica.com
In our previous series of articles entitled, "Atheism vs.
Theism," we have disproved Atheism and so we will not spend
any time addressing Atheistic versions of Naturalism here.
What we are primarily concerned with in this article is the
extent to which Naturalism can act as a theistic worldview,
particularly through Pantheism as noted in the excerpt above.
Since Naturalism fundamentally denies all supernatural events
and instead asserts, "that scientific laws are adequate to
account for all phenomena," we can see why Pantheism by its
very nature tends to reject miracles as well. Since Pantheism
holds "that there is no God but the combined substance, forces,
and laws that are manifested in the existing universe," we
can see why Pantheism quite inherently denies the occurrence
of the miraculous due to the fact that miracles, by definition,
tend to require the suspension, alteration, or reversal of
the "forces and laws that are manifested" normally in the
natural world. Thus, for Pantheism and Naturalism, miracles
are self-contradicting because they are claimed to be the
supernatural work of God while at the same time violating
the natural laws that are inseparably equated with God himself.
This idea is articulated most famously by Philosopher David
Hume who expresses the following Naturalistic proof against
"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as firm
and unalterable experience has established these laws, the
proof against a miracle from the very nature of the fact,
is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly
be imagined." - A Brief Guide to Beliefs, by Linda Edwards
(Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, copyright
2001, p. 61.)
"Miracle - David Hume, a British empiricist
and a skeptic, in the chapter "On Miracles" in his
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding argued that,
given the general experience of the uniformity of nature,
miracles were highly improbable and that the evidence
in their favour was far from convincing." - Britannica.com
And here we arrive at our first similarity between Deism and
Pantheism. Because both of these ideologies believe that all
the events in the natural universe occur through the natural
laws of the universe, both Deism and Pantheism deny the occurrence
of supernatural or miraculous events. This in turn, leads
us to the second similarity between Deism and Pantheism, which
is also a similarity that they share with Agnosticism as we
have discussed already above.
Like Agnosticism, Deism and Pantheism are conclusions derived
as a result of an assessment of the evidence.
How does one know that God "abandoned" the universe after
creation, allowing "his creation to administer itself through
natural laws" without any supernatural intervention on God's
part, as Deism teaches? According to Deism, no one could arrive
at such an idea through divine revelation, since Deism denies
all divine revelation. So, either this is just an unwarranted
assumption or Deism must be a conclusion reached AFTER an
assessment of the evidence.
And if Deism is a conclusion reached AFTER an assessment of
the evidence, then like Agnosticism, Deism cannot be used
as a basis for judging the evidence during the assessment
process. To use Deism to discount evidence during the assessment
process is a clear case of circular reasoning since that would
involve using a conclusion of an assessment as a premise in
the assessment that leads to this very conclusion.
Pantheistic Naturalism is similar. How does one know that
"all phenomena" are "accounted for" by "scientific laws" and,
therefore, that there are no supernatural events such as miracles?
This, too, would have to be a conclusion that is reached AFTER
examining the evidence, including reported miracles. To dismiss
all reports of miracles based upon the conclusion that there
is no such thing as a miracle is circular reasoning because
it requires that a conclusion concerning the reality of miracles
functions as a criterion for assessing the truth about miracles.
Or we could ask, how does one know that God is the same as
the universe including the forces and laws of the universe,
as Pantheism teaches? Given that within Pantheism, God is
in all of us since we are all part of nature, one might argue
that this knowledge comes to us simply by virtue of our being
part of nature and, therefore, being part of God. But if this
is the case, then why isn't this "knowledge" apparent to all
of us? Why is there disagreement? But more to the point, such
a suggestion constitutes an appeal to inward or subjective
knowledge rather than to outward or objective, rational proof.
And so, for those of us who want to decide what is true based
upon a rational analysis of objective evidence, Pantheism
would have to be rejected the minute that it becomes impossible
to verify it by objective evidence or analysis.
Additionally, it is also interesting to note that the validity
of Deism and Pantheism is completely detached from any historical
figures or events. While we may be able to historically verify
important figures in each of these two worldviews, those figures
and the events of their lives do not provide evidence that
their views are correct. For example, one of the excerpts
above noted that Comte and Nietzsche were (atheistic) Naturalists.
But, the fact that we can historically verify the existence
of these men and the events of their lives in no way indicates
that their observations about the universe are correct. This
is because there is no connection between the historicity
of the lives of these figures and their claims about the universe.
So, despite the historicity of leading Deists or Pantheists,
there is no historical evidence that can support or demonstrate
the accuracy of their beliefs.
Furthermore, because Deism and Pantheism deny supernatural
events, what evidence can they offer in support of the accuracy
of their claims? Deism and Pantheism can, by their very nature,
only point to naturally explainable phenomenon as evidence
for their claims. So, the only way for Deism or Pantheism
to be proven true is if an assessment of the evidence reveals
that there are no legitimate miracles. But since Deism and
Pantheism are necessarily conclusions that result from an
assessment of the evidence, we must absolutely refrain from
using Deism and Pantheism as a reason to discard miraculous
claims while making an assessment of the evidence. Instead,
we will have to let the evidence speak for itself, without
the interference of Deism or Pantheism to discredit it.
The result of this short section is identical to the conclusion
of our discussion of Agnosticism earlier on in this study.
If all of the suggested evidence is found to be unsatisfactory
based upon its own merits, then a Deistic or Pantheistic conclusion
may be justified. But if evidence is found that is satisfactory,
then we will be not be able to reach a Deistic or Pantheistic/Naturalistic
conclusion. Instead, we will have to believe and conclude
what the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence requires,
even if the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence
requires the belief in the existence of a supernaturally interactive
God that is distinct from the natural universe.
(NOTE: Agnosticism and naturalism are often coupled
with or accompanied by humanism. Though humanism may have
a very religious function for its followers, Humanists are
typically defined by a lack of concern for supernatural spiritual
concepts such as the existence of God and other issues, which
theology deals with that go beyond the natural world and natural
experience. For this reasons, Humanism, like Agnostic Theism,
Pantheistic Naturalism, and Diesm, is substantiated or invalidated
only by performing an evaluation of the available evidence.)
One final issue before we proceed with our examination of
the available religious views is the issue of faith. Some
might argue that the issues of God and religion are a matter
of "faith" rather than fact or rational analysis. In this
case, faith is meant as a subjective or personal motive for
accepting the reliability of a particular religious view regardless
of external information or evidence. It is used in contrast
to the standard that we have been applying, which requires
a reasonable assessment of objective evidence in order to
determine the reliability of a religious view. Persons who
use faith in this manner and suggest that religion is a matter
of faith may even think or imply that this definition of "faith"
is expressed in Christianity and the New Testament. But this
is wholly incorrect.
This is not how the Bible uses the term "faith." The Bible
records that though Abraham believed God's Word before the
proof came, God did prove Himself to Abraham by giving him
a son in his old age just as He had promised. Abraham was
not expected to accept some idea of God without proof or evidence.
The Old Testament presents that Abraham had many evidences
to substantiate what God had told him.
Moses was not only given miraculous evidences by God during
their discourse at the burning bush, but Moses offered miraculous
signs to both the Egyptians and the Israelites to demonstrate
that his message was from God. Similarly, in the New Testament
Jesus Christ is reported to have performed a great number
of miracles, not to mention the resurrection, all of which
are presented as proof of the accuracy of his teaching. Likewise,
the early Christians were able to offer evidence to the Jews
and the Gentiles that their teaching was from God by means
of previous scriptures and ongoing miracles.
At this point, we are not using these reported miracles as
proof for Judaism and Christianity. Such topics will be tackled
later on in our study once we delve into our analysis of religious
claims and the evidence for them. Right now, what is relevant
is simply that "faith" for the early Jews and Christians was
based upon demonstrable facts. Faith, in the New Testament
was a matter of trust, particularly of trusting God's promises.
Faith, in the New Testament, was not a blind faith nor was
faith defined as the concept of believing without evidence.
And we will discuss this more later, including the extent
to which early Christians appealed to the verifiable nature
of the proofs that they were offering.
So, while it may be suitable to some to suggest that religious
faith means accepting something as true without reasonable
and objective evidence, neither the New Testament nor the
authors of this site take that "groundless" approach to determining
what is true. Instead, we advocate that truth should be determined
according to the most reasonable interpretation of the available
evidence. We will now begin that reasonable examination of
the evidences by taking a look at the available belief systems
Analysis of Relgions
Propositional and Evidentiary Religions
Now that we have dealt with Agnosticism, Deism, Pantheism,
and Naturalism and established that the conclusions of these
views cannot and should not be used to assess or object to
any possible evidence, we can move on to our examination of
various religious views.
We will divide our examination of various religions into two
categories. The first category we will call Propositional
religions. The second category we will call Evidentiary religions.
Each group is named for the means by which potential followers
are asked or expected to accept the validity of the truth
claims of a particular belief system.
For purposes of clarity it is easier to define the second
group first and then define the first group by contrasting
it to the second. The second group, which we named Evidentiary
religion, includes belief systems, which offer objective
evidence to support their claims. They ask their potential
followers to accept the validity of their truth claims based
upon an appeal to objectively verifiable evidence that they
offer as proof of the accuracy of those claims.
An example of an Evidentiary religion would be Christianity's
appeal to the resurrection of Jesus as proof that his teachings
are accurate and should be accepted. It should be noted, that
while the evidence offered by these types of religion often
takes the form of appeals to the miraculous, this is not always
the case as will be seen momentarily with Islam, which is
also an Evidentiary religion.
By contrast Propositional religions are those belief systems,
which ask their potential followers to accept the validity
of their truth claims without offering objectively verifiable
evidence to validate those claims. Thus, they remain mere
propositions. This is not to say that Propositional
religions do not attempt to offer any evidence for the validity
of their claims, just that the evidence that they offer is
not objectively or historically verifiable. Rather, religions
of this type depend upon personal or subjective experience
as the means of validating truth claims.
(Note: Agnosticism, Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
can be considered Propositional Religions.)