Deism is a belief that God initially set natural laws in motion but has done nothing more.
In other words, this is the belief that God started everything and then left it alone. This belief rejects the divinity of Jesus.
This philosophy became popular in England during the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, and some of the founding fathers of the U.S. were self-described deists. Thomas Paine espoused deism and popularized the term in his book The Age of Reason. Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography,
- Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.
Thomas Jefferson did not label himself as a deist, but he rejected the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus and certainly was not an orthodox Christian. Jefferson produced an edited version of the Gospels, later known as the Jefferson Bible, which contained only the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus and omitted third-person accounts of his life, and particularly, the miraculous events.