The Theistic Deity and Atheism Defined

Eric Steinhart here. I’ve been asked to clarify my terms, and it’s good to do so.  As a philosopher, I always try to use terms in their most precise and specific senses.

The Theistic Deity.  The theistic deity is a transcendental person who acts in the universe.   The theistic deity is a being (it is not beyond being); it is maximally perfect; its main perfections are that it is all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing; as such it is a rational moral agent, and therefore it is a person; the theistic deity is transcendent in the sense that it exists apart from any universe it creates; the theistic deity is active in the sense that causally interacts with things in the universes that it creates.    (You can even find this as the specific sense of “theism” in the Wikipedia article.)

The Christian God is a specific type of theistic deity.  It is distinct from both the Judaic and Islamic versions of the theistic deity (which are for instance non-triune).

There are lots of concepts of the divine in the West that are non-theistic.  The Platonic Form of the Good is non-theistic; the Plotinian One is non-theistic; the deities of the Western mystical tradition are non-theistic; the deity of Spinoza is non-theistic; the deity of deism is non-theistic; the deities of pantheism and panentheism are non-theistic; the deity of Tillich is non-theistic.  And (as I’ll argue) the deity of Wicca is non-theistic.

Atheism.  I use “atheism” in its most precise and specific form: an atheist denies the existence of any theistic deity.

And I’ll note that these are very close to the definitions used in writers like Dawkins and Stenger.  Stenger distinguishes between the theistic deity (he refers to it as “God”) and non-theistic deities (he refers to them as “gods”).

Other posts in the series so far:

Atheism and Wicca

The Wiccan Deity

The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis

The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy

On Atheistic Religion

Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism

Atheistic Holidays

Criticizing Wicca: Energy

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.