I believe that theism is a specific case of deism, because theists do believe in a god, like deists do. They just also go further and believe that this god is a personal god and does miracles, answers prayers, etc. So, then, is theism a specific case of deism, or different from it?

  • Compare Deism with Theism. Sep 22, 2023 at 17:47
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    Not on the most common usage. Deists question divine revelation and God's active involvement with the world, which is incompatible with traditional forms of theism. However, both terms are vague, and "theism" is sometimes used as an umbrella term for belief in deities of any kind. On that meaning, it is deism that is a special kind of theism.
    – Conifold
    Sep 23, 2023 at 4:09

2 Answers 2


As Conifold and Brian have pointed out, historically the order is reversed. However, conceptually, you are actually correct (relatively, at least): as Kant worded it, the deist believes in a God, the theist in a living God, and by fleshing out the phrasing (even if with but one more word!), the reporter of theism does render a more specific term than the reporter of deism simply-put would.

Now, I qualified my desire to confirm your suspicions by that word "relatively," so I would add that the two descriptions, "A God who is not occurrently active in the world," and, "A God who is so active," are perhaps not necessarily more or less general than each other. There's some naive Occam's-Razorism to the inactivity case, granted, so one might compare the deist to someone who believes in an empty set but no full sets (so to speak), but then is an empty set more general than any full one?

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    thanks for this
    – user67675
    Sep 23, 2023 at 23:02
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    Very compelling argument! At first, I assumed you were wrong, but as I kept reading, it clicked and makes perfect sense. +1
    – Hokon
    Sep 24, 2023 at 0:57
  • I should like to add that, as far as the historical context goes, I thought maybe the Zurvanite evolution of Zoroastrianism might be at least a latter-day deism that generalized over some theism. Yezidism, which appears to have somewhat preceded Zoroastrianism altogether, however, might be a very deep example of deism-before-theism, so to speak. It's not clear to me that this is so, but it would merit some investigation, for the sake of the OP poster's question that is. Sep 24, 2023 at 4:41

I would reverse that, and say deism is a subset of theism. Theism is closer to compulsory law, whereas deism is more advisory. The founders of the USA were self-proclaimed deists who believed in a creator whose law was above any statutory law. That is, rights do not originate from government. Government exists primarily to protect the rights of the weak from violation by the mighty.

John Locke, "Two Treatises of Government"

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