I had never heard this name before. I came across the term while discussing philosophy with my boyfriend during breakfast. I found out that Deism is the name you give to the fact that you accept that God exists, however questioning his involvement with mankind and all its religious system. Why have I started this subject at all? I do not know but it turned up to have been a very clarifying one because that morning, for one reason or the other, I found out I was something else other than an agnostic. And agnostic is not the same as deist. Agnostics believe that the mere thinking where God exists or not is a pure waste of time.
I was never in denial that I was a religiously inclined person. Well, I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost ten years (1987-1996). The Bible (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures) was my chief study tool. It meant to me more than a simple ritual of learning piano played songs or watching some kind of one-man-show while a crowd would carefully listen. So early in my life, it meant already by then, a way of life, a complete system of laws and regulations which I sincerely believed to be true. Could I only follow them, no matter how hard or tricky they seemed, I would reach bliss, if not here, then in the next life.
After leaving the Witnesses for reasons other than lack of faith, I started to question some of their doctrines. Leaving the group was no easy task in itself but it opened my eyes so that I could check everything I believed in so far. I did not know that their doctrines were so deep-rooted in me and that I was still following them even when I was leading a completely different lifestyle. A few of the things I questioned about were:
1- Did miracles really happen? Did Eve talk to a serpent? Did a mule really talk to Balaham? Did the sun really stand still under Joshua’s orders? Did Elijah fly in a chariot of fire? And other things for that ‘special’ effect.
2- Why do I have to live my whole life waiting for Armageddon to come, only based on prophecies of earthquakes and wars? And if so, why right in my turn?
3- Should I resign myself to dying instead of accepting blood transfusion in case of an accident?
4- Should I really look for other people in their houses and try to convince them of how convinced I was of my beliefs?
5- Should I live the rest of my life with the same group of people, unfortunately not including fine ‘non-Witnesses’ I knew only because they were ‘worldlings’?
6- Was I closer ‘my God to thee’ only because I was wearing suit and tie, I went three times a week to meetings, preached to others (field service as they called), went to conventions and assemblies?
If God exists, then he knows better than anyone else who I am and how I feel. Will God be more satisfied if I pretend I am someone else? Hardly! I would not be happy myself if someone who reportedly does not like me, acted as if he did. I would ask myself why he is doing that. God would not do any differently, would he? So, I concluded that God, or Jehovah, as the Witnesses call him, would be happier if I willingly professed to believe that he exists with all my heart, regardless of what my life looks like. This kind of faith, though not noised abroad, is true and sincere. I would rather have this than dressing up as a good boy to show other people something I do not feel, I am not and never really existed.
On the other hand, I do not feel comfortable with ‘theories’, like the Big Bang. I find it difficult to admit that a simple ‘explosion’ in the universe made all planets revolve around the sun and organized all other solar systems in the space with such a mathematical precision. Much less so that this explosion started life on Earth and that such a rudimentary form of life turned into the man we are now: intelligent, flying from continent to continent, communicating with each other through the distances. All the other things that walk hand in hand with the miracle of life as the man’s wonderful ability to see in colors, how our internal organs function so perfectly, how a child is conceived, how a beautiful and colorful flower just blossoms just cannot simply be the result of an explosion.
Science still discuss if the man has ever really been an ape or not. Nobody knows why we all speak different languages. And why are we so different from one another at all, I mean, black, white and yellow? While science will only mumble a few words every time these and other questions are asked, I would rather believe in a Creator. Not that I am proud of this resolution but more because I don’t see any other answer in the long run. I keep my mind open as I do not want to be ‘agnostic’ again, just another one who believes it is impossible to find the answers to these questions, which actually would be a very convenient attitude.
And eaxactly because I don’t want to have that convenient attitude, I joined I group of 1000 people at the Facebook who somehow consider themselves to be deist. The club’s preview picture is a logo of a pyramid with its upper side cut off from the lower side, and above the following words IN NATURE’S GOD WE TRUST. The club’s name is simply ‘Deism’ and I guess there must be other 10 clubs here in the Facebook but I do not understand why so many different ones. Didn’t we all conclude the same thing about God? I wonder why don’t the few deists (including the ones who found that out last week) unite and make one real big group so that we can keep in touch with many more people, each one expressing what they think and how they feel, assuming that there are not many of us out there, interested in our new-found beliefs?
I have been reading Thomas Paine’s ‘Age of Reason’ (1793), the bible of Deism since last week by my iPhone. If you have a GSM like iPhone, you may read it in English by simply downloading the Stanza application.
Paine was a politician but also a writer in his time. However, his book would shock many people I know in modern Europe. Find below a short passage from Part 1’s chapter 4, Of the Bases of Christianity which reads about Satan. I found it particularly hilarious the part which he calls Eve’s conversation with a serpent tête-à-tête, mostly because this book is 236 years old:
…The Christian mythologists, after having confined Satan in a pit, were obliged to let him out again to bring on the sequel of the fable. He is then introduced into the garden of Eden in the shape of a snake, or a serpent, and in that shape he enters into a familiar conversation with Eve, who is no ways surprised to hear a snake talk; and the issue of this tête-à-tête is, that he persuades her to eat an apple, and the eating of that apple damns all mankind.
After giving Satan this triumph over the whole creation, one would have supposed that the church mythologists would have been kind enough to send him back again to the pit, or, if they had not done this, that they would have put a mountain upon him, (for they say that their faith can remove mountain) or have put him under a mountain, as the former mythologists had done, to prevent his getting again among the women, and doing more mischief…
…They (Christian mythologists) represent this virtuous and amiable man, Jesus Christ, to be at once both God and man, and also the Son of God, celestially begotten, on purpose to be sacrificed, because they say that Eve in her longing had eaten an apple.
But I prefer to keep my mind open and trying to understand his own reasons. Basically Paine criticizes the Bible and everything and everyone mentioned in it. His book has two parts. The first part I have finished. The second part is about the New and the Old Testaments; I am excited about it and I want to go on further with an open mind, what means: I may agree with Paine as well as disagree. What I do not want is to have my mind brainwashed by other people’s ideas , not even Paine’s but I do want to stay open for advice and by doing so, giving my own beliefs and ideas a stronger basis. All I’m doing actually is trying to bring my own statements with the deist ideas as the Wikipedia shows:
Deist statements and my own::
1- I believe in God but I practice no religion in particular.
Couldn’t agree more. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.
2- I believe that God’s word are the nature’s and universe’s laws and not the so-called ‘holy’ books written by men in doubtful circumstances.
I have a great respect for the Bible, I must say. I still find it difficult to refuse the whole book at once. Am I less deist because of that? But this is me, I refuse everything that looks too extreme now.
3- I like to use reason to think of the possibility of other dimensions but never accepting man-made doctrines.
I like to think of the existence of other dimensions. If ‘using reason’ means something like ‘never seen, I don’t believe’ then it takes a little longer for me to use ‘reason’. .
4- I believe that the religious ideals should try reconciling with science and not contradicting it.
For sure. But just the same, science has not succeeded yet in, for example, finding a cure for AIDS among other things. I ask myself how far science knows and if I should take it always as the last word in what I should believe or not.
5- I think God is more easily found outside a religion than inside it.
Not inside, not outside. God is only to be found after we find ourselves. And he is there, in our bedroom. He is almighty and omnipresent, right? But going to a physical place like a church or a Kingdom Hall may work for some people, they feel better connected there and that must also be respected.
6- I enjoy the freedom of looking for a kind of spirituality that satisfies me.
Sure thing. That’s why I am a deist now..
7- I prefer creating my own principles and personal values by means of a logic reasoning than accepting ideas imposed in ‘holy’ books or by religious authorities.
Looks like question 1..
8- I am a free individual thinker whose convictions have not been made up by tradition or other people’s authority.
Exactly as with anybody else. I’m not special, nor sagacious. You are simply what you feel. It’s natural. Comes from inside out, as natural as nature itself.
9- Religion and State shouldn’t mix in my opinion.
Most people, deist or not, will agree with this. I never understood, anyway, why can a political party call itself ‘Christian’. Regardless of whether you are Christian or not, everybody should fight for their rights as citizens but never for the fact that he is a Christian, like that were some kind of privilege in itself..
10- I would rather be a rational or spiritual being than a religious one.
I got your point. I am a rational being in every case. I think, therefore I exist. Spiritual and religious are names I am still trying to find out what they actually mean. And that is the reason why they are here discussing about deism, atheism and theism, anyway..