- Historically, a term referring to the doctrine of ‘natural religion’ emerging in England and France in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, according to which while reason (particularly the argument to design ) assures us that there is a God, additional revelation, dogma, or supernatural commerce with the deity are all excluded. Supplication and prayer in particular are fruitless: God may only be thought of as an ‘absentee landlord’. Leading deists included Herbert, John Toland (1670–1722), whose Christianity not Mysterious (1696) was an influence on Berkeley, and Anthony Collins (1676–1729), as well as Shaftesbury and, arguably, Locke . The belief that remains is abstract to vanishing point, as witnessed in Diderot's remark that a deist is someone who has not lived long enough to become an atheist.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.