Deism is a belief in a divine power and a form of unorganized religion. The first deist in England is often thought to be Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who in the 17th century, formulated that a supreme power, existed, should be worshiped, receive offerings of penance, and that a lasting kingdom existed after death. Lord Herbert however eschewed more organized forms of religion and instead relied on reason.
The early deist looked at foundational science and believed the miracles of this world could not have been created without a divine presence. Others had no difficulties believing the concept of evolution, since they did not rely on creation stories from major religions. In fact, almost every believer of this type embraces evolution wholeheartedly since it is considered a reasonable explanation for the way in which people came to be on the Earth.
A deist does not believe that creation exists without intelligent design, however, although the theory of intelligent design may not be an adequate explanation for some people. Some see their conception of a higher power as one that brought creation into being and has then taken a highly impersonal role in human affairs since. Others have a sense that a concept of God may occasionally produce miracles or work in small ways in people’s lives but that these works are not adequately understandable by reason.
In fact, one of the most difficult things to do is to define what a believer thinks, since the foundation of deism is a respect for a highly individualized view on a higher power. Individual views of a God are reasoned out, since almost all people who share this religion believe that reason is the greatest gift of the creator.
Deists have been highly influential in American politics, since many of the founding fathers of the US can be considered part of this group. These include Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, and George Washington is usually also included. Particular emphasis for those who have this belief is the practice of freedom of religion, which allows for individuals to have their own concept of a divine power. Also, the individual is allowed to worship as he or she sees fit.
The modern deist may pray, or may choose not to. Some believe in an apocryphal end of the earth, while others do not. Some believe in the mysterious workings of a divine power that cannot be understood, while others see the supreme power as impersonal. Some argue that a view of an impersonal divine power is tantamount to atheism, or often leads people to conclude that no such power exists.
Since the world does not always function in rational ways, many believe that deism was directly responsible for a disenchantment that led to atheism. Others had their beliefs shaken by the lack of activity by the divine in the face of the many evils on the earth.
Understandably, the deist cannot have a church to attend, since this form of religion means so many things to different people. Some may worship at several churches, or claim valid various sacred texts of many different religions. Those believing in a monotheistic deity often feel that this type of worship constitutes pantheism. The deist probably cares little for criticism, since he or she does not expect others to hold the same conception of a higher power.