One of the most common conceptions about the deists is that they believed in a watchmaker God who never performed miracles because he governed the world through immutable natural laws. This supposed disbelief in miracles is the foundation for the common idea that the deist God was remote, cold, and unloving.
This view of the deists is easy to believe if one starts from the vantage point of our recent intellectual situation. At least before Buddhism and New Age spirituality became live options for many Westerners, our culture was polarized between the Christians and the scientific secularists. On one side were the Christians with their belief in a God who was concerned for people and sometimes helped them through miracles. On the opposite side of the modern intellectual landscape were the atheists or the scientific secularists who believe in an uncaring universe with immutable natural laws. The deists are seen as a middle ground in this story. They are the halfway station in our cultural evolution as they have a God but one that is not active in the world or helpful to people because he only works through immutable natural laws.
This way of looking at the deists looks at them from the wrong angle: it looks at them from the vantage point of our recent intellectual situation. A much different picture of the deists emerges if we look at them in their cultural context. The deists saw themselves advocating a spiritual or religious worldview with an active God who was involved in people’s lives.