When the Atheist examines, denounces, or satirizes the gods, he is not dealing with persons but with ideas. He is incapable of insulting God, for he does not admit the existence of any such being. - G.W. Foote
In my experience there has been much confusion on the meaning of the terms Theism, Atheism, and Deism in modern times. I too often see my fellow Atheists make sweeping criticisms that are built on an honest ignorance of what it truly means to be an Atheist and go so far to throw both Theism and Deism under the same rug. So here I hope to settle the confusion and give clear definitions and examples of Theism, Atheism and Deism.
In order to set up a frame of reference I will start with Theism and move onto Atheism and finish with Deism. Now the source that I am going to use is the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions.
Theism: The Doctrine that there is one transcendent, personal God who freely created all that exists out of nothing, and who preserves and governs it. His governance of the world is said to be manifested in divine providence, and also, in occasional miraculous interventions and in revelations of his nature and purposes. Theism is distinguished from Deism, which denies God's personal governance of the world by ruling out the possibility of providence,miracles and revelation.
Atheism: A position of non belief in God(Note the capitol G as that is a point to the God of Theism as opposed to a little g which is a Deistic god) Derived from the Greek word Atheos, which means "without gods" by extension Atheism literally means " without God" (or more specifically without Theism)
Deism: A proposition that God initiated creation and donated its laws but allowed it to pursue its own course. There is much emphasis on the irrationality of Christian claims and miracles.
Now that I have provided definitions I will now draw distinctions between Theism, Atheism and Deism. It obviously follows that Atheism is the direct antithesis to Theism and therefore is mutually exclusive from one another ; but what about the relation between Atheism and Deism, are they also mutually exclusive or different expressions of the same position?
If we look again at Deism and note what sets it apart from Theism E.G a rejection of divine intervention as expressed through miracles and revelation and any god who has claims of doing as such.
Now if we compare Deism to Atheism, which as I have shown is, by definition, also a rejection of those same tenets central to Theism, then it is clear that since A Deist is one who posses no belief in a Theistic God, and an Atheist is one who posses no belief in a Theistic God then a Deist is an Atheist in practice.
To further elaborate, since to be a Theist, one must accept that God has to some extent revealed himself through revelation and acts of miracles. For Jews its the Torah and the acts of Moses. Christians it's the Canonical Gospels the acts of Jesus. And for Muslims it's the Qur'an and the acts of Muhammad there is of course much more to all of them but I am keeping the as short as possible.
To conclude, there is a reason why no one has ever heard of an "Adeist" since Deism makes no truth claims in regards to the nature of god or the structure of reality. And as such it provides no basis for which to refute a gods existence, as opposed to Theism which is required to make truth claims about reality and the nature of God in order to support its central theme, which is that through revelations and miracles God has revealed himself...and in order for that God to exist then the claims central to its theology MUST have actually taken place. For Jews Moses HAD to speak with God on Sinai...For Christians Jesus HAD to be crucified, for Muslims Mohammad HAD to have taken his flight into heaven to speak with all the prophets that came before him. Again there are many examples I could use but I will end it here.
If anything I hope I have cleared up some confusion on this topic.
Thank you for your time.
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