Perhaps the most popular propagandist of deism was Voltaire, who had many disciples, and his only serious rival was a set of books — the Famous French Encyclopedia edited by Denis Diderot.
Deism promoted reason and rationality over faith. Revealed religion was seen as nothing less than a scheme to exploit the ignorant. The primary weapon aimed at the church was "truth." "We think that the greatest service to be done to men," said Diderot, "is to teach them to use their reason, only to hold for truth what they have verified and proved." Debate was difficult at best, for Deists only scoffed at those who allowed their arguments to be drawn from authority, revelation, miracles, or tradition embodied in the Bible or the church. These were simply not "reasonable". While in England several men wrote effectively against Deism, the most effective being Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752), in the end Deism collapsed from its own weaknesses. It was based on a false optimism. It had no explanation for the evils and disasters of life. Because the laws of nature were clear and unalterable, deists assumed that man’s moral choices drawn from nature were also simple and unchanging, but in time this view proved untenable.
[tags]BlogRodent, church-history, ChurchRodent, Deism, Denis-Diderot, history, Joseph-Butler, Voltaire[/tags]