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Deism also met with vicious persecution in England, where blasphemy was punishable by forfeiture of civil rights, fines, and even imprisonment.At least two prominent Deists were imprisoned for expressing their blasphemous opinions: Thomas Woolston (16701733) was sent to prison in 1729 and died there; Peter Annet was fined, pilloried, and imprisoned to hard labor in 1764 at age seventy.
An excellent nineteenth-century account of British Deism is to be found in Leslie Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, vol. A detailed account of Deistic thinkers is presented by J. Robertson in A History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern, vol. Perhaps the two most classic works on religion by thinkers identified above as Deists are Barukh Spinoza's Tractatus theologico-politicus (1670), translated by R.
Deism was most prominent in England, the only place where it approached the status of a movement.
Among its best-known representatives were Lord Herbert of Cherbury (15831733), author of Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730), often described as "the Deist's Bible." The powerful influence of English Deism is attested by the sizable number of attacks on it by the orthodox, including not only Stillingfleet, but also Richard Bentley, Charles Leslie, Samuel Clarke, and (most famously) Joseph Butler in his Analogy of Religion (1736).
How was it that a man who was little short of a failure in his native country became acquainted so rapidly with the most prominent figures in the Colonies, even becoming a friend of theirs in many cases?
How can one account for the quickness of his ascent and the suddenness of his glory?
Thomas Paine’s close associations with famous Freemasons in America, England, and France have not only frequently been taken as evidence that he was a Freemason himself, but have also been seen as explaining his sudden rise to literary and political prominence after arriving in the American colonies from England.
His writing of an essay “On the Origin of Free-Masonry” several years before his death has similarly been interpreted as proof that he was a committed member of the fraternity.Often used pejoratively, it was also sometimes worn as a badge of honor.The first known use of the term occurs in the Instruction chrtienne (1564) of the Calvinist theologian Pierre Viret: "I have heard he is of that band who call themselves 'Deists,' a wholly new word which they would oppose to 'Atheist.'" In its principal meaning, deism signifies the belief in a single God and in a religious practice founded solely on natural reason rather than on supernatural revelation.The former often accepted Christian revelation precisely because it accords with natural or rational religion and sometimes advocated allegorical readings of scripture in order to secure this agreement, while the latter often disavowed any "mean esteem" of Christian scriptures and expressed admiration for the inspiring way in which the truths of natural religion were presented in them.Further, there is no sharp line separating Christian Deists and orthodox Christian theologians (such as Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus) who maintain that some parts of Christian doctrine can be known by natural reason.This is seen, for example, in the tendency of some American Masonic Grand Lodges to publish informational brochures that have placed Paine on the roster of famous Freemasons.