There seems to be a lot of debate on this matter. It is true that, in a classical sense, Deism would not be considered a religion. However, this position is somewhat unfair in the grand scheme of things and has led (at least in part) to its omission from various religious studies. Consider this: religion is a particular system of faith and the belief in and worship of a deity. Most true Deists would then agree that Deism is, by definition, a religion. But why?
Does Deism have a system of beliefs and hold a strong belief in a deity? Absolutely. Is that deity worshiped? Absolutely, just not in a way that some in organized religion might recognize. “Worship” is merely the expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. Deists definitely have this.
The term “religion” is often confused with “organized religion.” This is also known as institutional religion, where the belief system and related rituals are systematically arranged and formally established by some authority. This practice is sometimes called “dogma.” Dogma is a belief or set of beliefs laid down by and taught by an authority (such as a church) as incontrovertibly true. Therefore, the critical distinction would be that Deism is NOT considered organized religion; but it is a religion nonetheless.
It is safe to assume that you have probably never seen a Deist church. This is because Deists generally do not believe in church or the need for a certain type of building used explicitly for public worship. You would also be hard-pressed to find a Deist willing to follow a religious authority. Furthermore, there are probably not enough of us to fill such a facility anyway.
Still, some Deists might attend a church outside of their faith. There are a number of different reasons for this, and they will often vary. That being said, for example, you might see a Christian Deist attend a Unitarian Church for the sake of fellowship. You might find another Deist who will attend a church for council or research.
Some Deists simply oppose the idea of the church altogether. The reasons for this vary from simple to complex. A simple example might be disagreeing with giving money to the church. An example of the complicated might be that God created the universe out of energy and matter. Everything in the universe is made up of the same thing. Moreover, perhaps God is a part of that universe in some form. Therefore, the universe (and everything in it – including humans) is essentially made up of the same stuff. As a result, perhaps God truly is inside all of us, so why would we need to go to a building?
As a whole, Deists do not believe that a designated building is an appropriate place of worship, in great part because it is man-made. Instead, worship is often more internal, with and during an examination of the natural world. This can, and often does, take many forms. Some Deists will find that a walk through a park is most appropriate, or perhaps in a study behind a book while learning something new. Sometimes it is simply to ponder the universe and our place in it while watching a sunset or gazing up at the stars. However, this may often depend on the type of Deism being practiced, and the variation depends largely on the needs of the individual. In Deism, there really is no wrong way to worship.
To clarify: Deists do have a strong belief system about God and express reverence and adoration for the same. Just because it does not happen in a church does not mean it is not a religion, and does not mean worship does not occur. Additionally, just because there is no authority directing everything does not mean it lacks some system.
Be sure to read up on the various types of Deism by reading “Different Types of Deism: A General Outline.”
Source: Robertson, David. Reason, Religion and the Trinion Contradictions: Second Edition. United States: DMR Publications, 2017. Print.
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