We have been unable to find a reliable estimate of the number of Deists in North America.
In fact, an accurate estimate is impossible to obtain because any public opinion
poll result is heavily influenced by the way in which questions are asked:
If a pollster simply asks what people's religion is, they will return a
miniscule estimate of the number of Deists in the country.
If a pollster delves into the precise nature of the subject's belief about
God, they will probably obtain an number of Deists that is many
The ARIS study estimated that there were 6,000 Deists during the year 1990, rising to 49,000 in
2001. 1 They listed Deism the fastest growing
religion in the U.S. -- in terms of percentage growth -- with a 717% increase over 11 years. The next highest
percentage increase was among Sikhs at 338%. Unfortunately, there are two
problems with this massive telephone survey:
Many Deists would have identified themselves as Freethinkers,
Humanists, persons of no religion, secularists,
etc. There might even have been persons with Deistic beliefs
who registered as Atheists on the basis that they
don't believe in a personal deity actively involved with humanity and the
An alternate way of estimating the number of Deists:
Public opinion polls on religion typically rely on each person to define
their religious affiliation. Thus they all greatly underestimate the number of
believers in Deism. However, there have been two exceptions:
2005/2006: The Baylor University religion
survey was conducted during the winter of 2005/2006. They concluded that most
American adults hold one of four views of God as defined by their understanding
The degree of God's engagement with humans and the rest of the
The degree of God's wrath -- how angry he is towards human sin and how
willing he is to punish transgressors.
The Baylor study found that those Americans who believed in God had four very
different understandings about his nature. The researchers found that Americans
are divided among believing in a
Type A (Authoritarian) God,
Type B: (Benevolent) God,
Type C: (Critical) God, and
Type D: (Distant) God:
The study found that 24.4% of the population believed in a Type D or
Distant God who exhibited both low engagement and low anger. They
God as a cosmic force who created the universe and the natural laws by which it
runs. He is not seen as interacting much with the world and does not judge or punish
humans. This is close to a definition of the God of Deism that many Deists could agree
This would imply that over 70 million
American adults are Deists, even though the vast majority of them haven't the
foggiest idea what "Deism" means.
A larger percentage of west coasters, Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants,
Jews, men, persons with higher educational attainment, and persons with higher
income believe in this type of God than does the average American.
2008: The ARIS study was repeated. This time, they asked for people's
belief about God. They found that:
Only 70% of
Americans believe in a personal God. This contrasts with the over 90% values
that are often misreported by the media.
12% are either
Atheists (do not believe in God's existence) or
Agnostics (do not know whether a personal God exists).
Deist. They believe in a higher power but not a personal
God even though the vast majority have never heard of the term. 2
Apparently, between 12 and 24% of the adult population of the U.S. believe in
the principles of Deism. There is a massive untapped resource here! A Deist
evangelist who is skilled in publicity techniques might make millions of dollars, like some of the evangelical
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"American Religious Identification Survey," The Graduate Center of the
City University of New York, 2001, at:
http://www.gc.cuny.edu/ This is a PDF file.