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Limits of Deism

Posted by on Jul 11th, 2010 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

By Yousef Drummond

“Whosever obeys the Messenger, has indeed obeyed Allaah” (Surah An-Nisa 4:80)[1]

“Hence the doctrines which he [Jesus] really delivered were defective as a whole, and fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, and often unintelligible”[2].

Francis Bacon, David Hume, Isaac Newton, John Locke, John Toland, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson.  Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, of men who are classified according to religious belief as Deists.  According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, deist philosophers believe in a God based on reason alone, or religious truth through the process of human reason, without appeal to revelation[3].  In other words, these men supplanted revelation with human reason.  Another term for “Deism” is “Natural Religion”.

Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, an influential American psychiatrist and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence concerning the "historical Jesus", gives us several important reasons why these men, who are by all accounts are pantheons of modern Western civilization, converted to the deist philosophy and rejected, wholesale, Christian revelation as foretold in the Holy Bible.  By all accounts it seems that Jefferson, like other deistic philosophers before him, believed Jesus (peace be upon him) was not armed with a complete moral code, or prophetic Sunna, while a prophet here among the Jews.  

One significant reason is that throughout the centuries, beginning with the reign of Emperor Constantine, who single-handedly marshaled his vast empire under the “banner” of Christianity, the true “historical Jesus” is now defaced and distorted.  To date no one has an accurate description of how Jesus (peace be upon him) lived on a day-to-day basis[4] . One author declared: “Christianity began with the belief in One God and was then corrupted, and the doctrine of the Trinity came to be accepted”[5] .  Desiderius Erasmus, an influential Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest and theologian who criticized popular Christian beliefs of his day, had this to say on the decline of the Church:

“The ancients philosophized very little about divine things…Formerly faith was in life rather than in the profession of creeds…When faith came to be in writings rather than in hearts, then there were almost as many faiths as men.  Articles increased and sincerity decreased.  Contentions grew hot and love grew cold.  The doctrine of Christ which at first knew no hair-splitting came to depend on the aid of philosophy.  This was the first stage in the decline of the Church”[6].

Much has been said about the triumph of the European Enlightenment as it pertains to the formation of the modern world relating to natural politics and social organization.  Little is said about the utmost revulsion these men felt about the conclusion that the “true historical Jesus” is no more.  The detailed life and teachings of a Messenger of Allah (Subhanahu-wa-Ta’ala) is a significant pathway to a revealed religion, or monotheism.  Jesus (peace be upon him) was a prophet who opened the way to the Seal of the Prophets[7], Muhammad (Salla-lahu-alihi-wa-salam). The Messengers of Allah (Subhanahu-wa-Ta’ala) all preached the Unity of God, and obedience to His Law, or Shar’ia[8].     

Deist philosophers then became “men without religion”.  Faced with no extant traces of a “historical Jesus”, an intractable dilemma, they turned to Roman Laws and human legislation, rather than to God’s Laws.  This subsequently paved the way for the separation of Church and State.  The political state became embroiled with the policies of the Church, and all Church policies related to political matters had to be expunged from the machinery of the political state.  

It is important to note here that Islam is now viewed as a “religion without men”.  One elderly Muslim brother who hailed from England, who visited the Muhammadi Masjid in Elmont, New York, a few weeks ago, told me that more than 50% of “professed Muslims” do not practice the faith with sincerity, and many do not even maintain the five daily prayers.  He asked me why this is so.  I didn’t have an accurate answer for him, but I suggested that for most of us human philosophy (mainly, the doctrine of “materialism”) is now the pre-eminent guide for moral conduct.

The Scottish philosopher David Hume paved the way for modern philosophers to formalize a moral code that all rational persons should embrace.  His writings suggest that he was disgusted with the “mental phantasies” associated with Christianity as it relates to Greek philosophy.  The medieval view of Christianity is replete with pictorial images of Demons, Witches, Angels, etc.  Muslims believe in the Unseen, but stops there; we believe there is absolutely no need to “materialize” the Unseen with statues, drawings, etc., but Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy banished in toto all mental references to the “supernatural”.

Deist philosophers base their belief in God on the orderly design of Nature. They reject revealed religion because it suggests a violation of Nature’s Laws.  Deist philosophers reject what is now termed “supernatural”.  They reject all notions of Prophet Hood.  They view the “ideas” of Prophets (peace be upon them all!) as similar to the ideas of other men, namely, but not exclusively, the ancient philosophers, whom Erasmus pointed out believed in “life rather than profession of creeds”. 

Deist philosophers must postulate the “orderly design” of Nature by postulating an “impersonal” God.  They view God as a “great mathematician” who created the Universe and somehow “stepped away from it”, thereby allowing the Universe to “run its course”.  It is as if this “Author of the Universe wound up this clock” that is the Universe and stepped away from it.    

Moral codes associated with modern nation-states are based on human legislation alone and carefully crafted according to Natural Law.  Natural Law is in accordance with Deism, or “natural religion”.  Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, etc., are in agreement with this view of human legislation, and these men are grouped as the “English Deists”.  Besterman, however, suggests another kind of deist:  those who felt God created the world without providing men with moral laws[9].  

We now come to a distinction between “natural moral conduct” and “moral conduct”.  The former is in alliance with Nature’s Laws, while the latter is based on sentiment or feeling, “or anything else”.

To this “anything else” we can include the occult sciences, such as witchcraft, etc!.  This is another discussion altogether, and I am certainly not a scholar on the subject.  We must refer to Muslim scholars on this particular issue, and we must flee when confronted by them!

The “French Deists”, as they are called, reduce religion to feeling, or the human passions.  One of the most celebrated of the French Deists is Voltaire, who castigated the hierarchy of the Catholic Church with vehemence by exposing the material mischief of church authorities on society and referred to Muhammad (Sallahu-alaihi-wa-salam) as a “false prophet”[10].  Voltaire based  his view of deism on Chinese concepts of politics and philosophy, and he subscribed to Epicurean philosophy, whose adherents dabbled in pleasure “in the most pagan sense of the word.”[11]  Some time ago his play, “Fanaticism”, or “Mahomet” was cancelled due to Muslim anger at the derogatory characterization of Muhammad (Sallalahu-alaihi-wa-salam). 

If the “English Deists” appealed to “rational” moral conduct based on Nature’s Laws through human reason, the “French deists” appealed to the “irrationalism” of the human passions, thereby casting a skeptical attitude towards human reason.  Some scholars say the “French deists” cannot distinguish themselves from atheism and pantheism. 

Here is the limit of Deism:  it is a philosophy that denies Prophet Hood and denies God as being Intimate with His Creation and with man himself.  Deism offers no spiritual guide to human conduct.  Alllah’s (Subhanahu-wa-Ta’ala) Messengers (peace be upon them all!) is the only guide to exemplary moral conduct - the prophetic Sunna - that points to Allah’s (SWT) Eternal Guidance.

The writer is a recent revert to Islam and can be contacted at:  hd72201@gmail.com

 

 


[1] What is Sunnah? [the best guidance is the Sunnah of Muhammad(s.a.w.)]

http://islaamnet.com/whatissunnah.html

[2] Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush, with a Syllabus.  Washington, Apr. 21, 1803.

http://www.sullivan-country.com/deism/htm

[3] List of deists.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deists

[4] Ata’ur Rahim, Muhammad (1991).  Jesus Prophet of Islam.  Tahrike Tarsile Qu’ran, Inc., pg. 17

[5] Ibid, pg. 9

[6] ibid, pg. 15

[7] Ibid, pg. 4.

[8] Ibid.

[9] An Examination of the Inducements of Voltaire.  An Honors Thesis (ID 499) by Carol Bolyard. 

http://www.bsu.edu/libraries/virtualpress/student/honorstheses/pdfs/B66_1981BolyardCarol.pdf

[10] The Religion of Voltaire: He was an atheist, anti-Semite, hated Islam. 

http://www.sullivan-country.com/z/voltaire.htm

 

[11] Boyard, pg. 5

 

 

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