The Natural History of Religion is a powerful contribution to the deistic controversy; but, as in the case of Hume's earlier work, its significance was at the time overlooked.
Collins, who had created much excitement by his Discourse of Free-thinking, insisting on the value and necessity of unprejudiced inquiry, published at a later stage of the deistic controversy the famous argument on the evidences of Christianity.
Before passing on to a summary of the deistic position, it is necessary to say something of the views of Conyers Middleton, who, though he never actually severed himself from orthodoxy, yet advanced theories closely analogous to those of the deists.
Their sanguinary violence was combined with an anti-religious policy, not atheistical, but inspired by mistrust of the clergy, and by a civic and deistic creed that was a direct outcome of the federations.
His theological position was that of a very moderate orthodoxy, which had been influenced greatly by the philosophy and controversies of the Deistic period.
His sagacity discerned that the rationalism by which Bolingbroke and the deistic school believed themselves to have overthrown revealed religion, was equally calculated to undermine the structure of political government.
On the other hand, Kant's religion is of a type which requires a sort of deistic God, standing outside the world and constraining it into moral paths, or standing outside our moral struggles and rewarding our goodness.
The bitterness of his outspoken invective against the clergy, against all priestcraft and priesthood, was a new feature in deistic literature, and injured the author more than it furthered his cause.
Moreover, the influence of the deistic writers had an incalculable influence in the gradual progress towards tolerance, and in the spread of a broader attitude towards intellectual problems, and this too, though, as we have seen, the original deists devoted themselves mainly to a crusade against the doctrine of revelation.
Blount, a man of a very different spirit, did both, and in so doing may be regarded as having inaugurated the second main line of deistic procedure, that of historico-critical examination of the Old and New Testaments.