Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

The Twin Dangers of Atheism and Deism

with 8 comments

Scylla and Charybdis

449.  All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further than nature, either find no light to satisfy them or come to devise a means of knowing and serving God without a mediator, thus falling into either atheism or deism, two things almost equally abhorrent to Christianity…  They imagine that it simply consists in worshipping [sic] God considered to be great and mighty and eternal, which is properly speaking deism, almost as remote from the Christian religion as atheism, its complete opposite… But let them comclude what they like against deism, their conclusions will not apply to Christianity, which properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in himself the two natures, human and divine, saved men from the corruption of sin in order to reconcile them with God in his divine person.  It teaches men then these two truths alike:  that there is a God, of whom men are capable, and that there is a corruption in nature which makes them unworthy.  It is of equal importance to men to know each of these points:  and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can cure him.  Knowing only one of these points leads either to the arrogance of the philosophers, who have known God but not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of the atheists, who know their own wretchedness without knowing their Redeemer.

Atheism = Knowledge of wretchedness – knowledge of Redeemer = despair and nihilism

Deism = Knowledge of Redeemer – knowledge of sin = self-confidence and works-righteousness

Christianity = Knowledge of sin + knowledge of Redeemer = freedom and truth

Avoid the twin dangers of scylla and charybdis.


Written by Michael Graham

October 1, 2009 at 2:21 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Thank you for the honorable mention. After 40 years of Christianity I have finally found tremendous peace in Deism.

    Looking back, and reading your words, reminds me of the profound faith it took to be a Christian. An unreasonable faith, based on fantasy, fear, myth, prejudice, elementary errors and blatant conflicts presented in the Bible. For myself, it simply got to the point where I could no longer believe in the perfectness of God as revealed through such an imperfect body of literature. No more apologists, no more rationalizing, no more excuses – it’s just wrong. Rather like actually believing in scylla and charybdis rather than their referral as a metaphor.

    Ironically, the mention of Pascal brings to the fore Pascal’s Wager. Would it not be safest to also believe in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Scientology, Buddhism, Judaism, et cetera ad infinitum? After all, they all claim to be the only true path, so we might as well believe them all, just in case. What have we to lose?



    October 1, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    • Deist,

      Thanks for the post. Good thoughts.

      I have always found atheism a bit more compelling of an alternative to Christianity to Deism. Atheism seems to me to be a bit more consistent. Should a God who cannot even effectively communicate him/herself be able to bear the term god. Deism has more explanatory power of how the Universe exists than atheism but I don’t think we could call that being God, as it lacks necessary things we would ascribe to God.

      In regards to Pascal’s Wager: Hinduism makes no claims to exclusivity. Buddhism is atheistic. Scientology is a spiritual Ponzi Scheme. I am not a religious person. I don’t find religion compelling (if we define religion as man’s attempt to adhere to some set of rituals and practices to have fellowship with the divine).

      Pascal’s point concerning Deism is that God is perfect, we have transgressed, and therefore cannot mediate ourselves. The aforementioned religious systems all lack a mediator. Without the God-man there is no reconciliation possible between God and man.

      Deism is making a big comeback. The recent ARIS survey shows this.

      We have a lot to lose if we are wrong. In the Christian case, we risk standing before the court of a holy God with no ability to receive anything but a guilty charge and sentence.

      Michael Graham

      October 2, 2009 at 8:20 am

  2. Deist,

    I would love to hear more about this ‘tremendous peace’ of which you speak. I hear your feelings about the Christian writings and their story, but I would love to know what specifically your deism offers for you to feel peaceful.

    In regards to Pascal’s Wager, it might have carried water in a society such as Pascal’s which knew, primarily, two religions: Christianity or atheism. Granted, there were smaller sects of other beliefs, but for the vast majority you had one of two options. Frankly I find the Wager to be bunk. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1Co 15:19 NLT) Even one in your position, one who finds the Christians writings to be no more than the religious fantasies of a few men (I hope that this sounds simply like a statement of fact, I do not mean to sound derogatory in the least), I think would admit to Paul’s point. If Christianity is false then we’ve added rules and codes, morality and ethic that constrains our taking full advantage of our life in the Now.

    [As an aside, the Apostle is generally talking about the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead as shown in Jesus’ own resurrection. He may have other ideas on the implications of no afterlife to our living morality, but I have the feeling that, based on the centrality of the resurrection to Paul’s theology, the Apostle would reject the whole of the Christian message if the resurrection was a fantasy.]

    Anyway, I would love to hear your perspective. Thanks.


    Graham Buck

    October 2, 2009 at 8:12 am

  3. Yes I have tremendous peace in Deism, as well as joy, liberation, comfort in belief, and profound awe of God’s work. I am no longer shackled by the delusions and ascendancy of a select few people, but can lead a sound and fulfilling life which utilizes, to the best of my abilities, the reasonable wisdom of all human history.

    The fact is, if you were born into a Muslim family, especially within a Muslim nation, odds are overwhelming that you would be Muslim. If not, you would be considered an infidel, heretic, or apostate – with all the emotional baggage that goes with those titles. And much the same can be said of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. If you are an adherent of one, you are heretical to another. Choice of religion is societal, not divine.

    Most people, if fully informed, would look at Scientology as a complete farce. A mind controlling cult that bilks millions of dollars from adherents, created by a science fiction writing madman. Looking at his organization reasonably and objectively, Hubbard’s methods are easily discounted. Those outside the group find it difficult to understand how those inside could have been manipulated into belief. And these same ideals of reason and objectivity can carried over to Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witness, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc.

    Those things considered divine in any given faith will not be found unique to that faith. God, satan, immaculate conception, virgin birth, savior, healing, heaven, hell, miracle, angel, prophet and much more, share a common thread in many faiths. Several of those faiths predate and contributed to Christianity as well as other faiths. I understand that the faithful who read this will feel that their faith is the correct one, and that their holy text is the true word, but there are other compelling faiths which present proof within their holy texts. It is paramount to understand that scripture, in and of itself, is not proof.

    — G.B. said: “If Christianity is false then we’ve added rules and codes, morality and ethic that constrains our taking full advantage of our life in the Now.”

    YES! I want make clear, though, that as a Deist I believe morality and ethics are very important, but certainly not divine. In other words, it’s through Reason we find the answers, not revelation. Religion, in every instance, stifles the progression of man. It makes the world flat (and the center of the Universe), rather then putting a man on the moon. It prays and lays on hands, rather then giving needed medical attention. It credits God for good and bad, rather then discovering bacteria and antibiotic. It rebukes and murders those who lack identical beliefs, rather then finding peace among cultures. It lives in the past, rather then encouraging and embracing the future. After all, if we ambitiously learn new things we might find scripture errant and unreasonable, right?



    October 3, 2009 at 10:35 am

  4. How about pandeism, then? Pandeism proposes that the Creator not only designed but in fact became the Universe — a one-to-one transfer of all of its energy. Why? Because the Creator is not absolutely omnipotent or omniscient at all (there is no reason it should be), rather it is relatively omnipotent (having power over all within its sphere of existence) and omniscient (having theoretical or mathematical knowledge over all within its sphere of existence), but as it is alone in existence and has no localized limitations, it lacks the knowledge of dealing with such limitations. The only way such knowledge can be gained is to exist as a Universe which produces complexity (e.g. life, evolution, intelligent beings who contemplate the obstacle they may not be able to overcome). Pandeism thus accounts for all physical and spiritual characteristics of the Universe (see the YouTube pandeism channel for details).


    October 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm

  5. […] Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism. […]

    • It seems you religious antagonists love to use words that I’ll bet aren’t even in the dictionary–tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism. Well, I guess I’m like Pooh- bear–not many brains. Give me a break –use plain English if you want to impress!

      Barry Saunders

      October 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

  6. LOL – this last comment is funny. Barry is bemoaning antagonists for using “big words” when in fact the post to which he refers was written by the protagonist blog owner.


    May 28, 2012 at 10:05 am

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