Honestly it is a fair question for the non Deist to ask. If Deism makes so much sense why are there not more of us? To me it comes down to a few things. First there is no way to use Deism as a system of control, so it doesn’t benefit the State or any “church” it only benefits the individual to encourage Deism. While it would certainly benefit mankind as a whole that is not the type of “benefit” I am speaking of.
We also have a marketing issue, how many people out there say things like, “I believe in God but not religion”, all of those people are Deists they just don’t know that they are. Perhaps our biggest issue though is because we lack lore, we lack stories and stories are the best tool any marketer has. We examine all of this and more today.
Today we look at the concepts of Pantheism, Panentheism and Pandeism and beyound that I will tell you why I tend to think like a Panendeist if there even is such a thing. I go into why I feel we should not really look at these as individual faiths, rather as philosophies within the larger Deist umbrella.
I will also discuss a bit about why I feel most people are actually Deists, even if they don’t call themselves that, how a Christian for instance is a Deist with a theism attached to their Deism. I also talk about telling others about Deism and growing our movement with a “soft evangelism”.
Remember you can Subscribe to this Podcast on iTunes or on Stitcher Radio or get them all on Youtube.
Today I tell a bit of my own journey to Deism, how I was raised Catholic, left that church and later became a Methodist. How all along the way I never truly believed in main stream revealed religion and how though a lot of study of spirituality I became spiritually homeless, with no name for what I was. Eventually a chance encounter led to the word Deism.
I also discuss “the point” of Deism, which I have found both members of revealed religion and agnostics/atheists tend to question. Basically if God doesn’t judge you or get involved in your daily life why bother? To many Deists this question may seem ridiculous but for those who are new to the concept I can see why it would come up.
Deism is usually described by non deists as a believe that God is like a clock maker, meaning he simply created the universe and walked away with no concern or further involvement. While there are a few Deists who feel this way the vast majority are far more spiritual in nature.
While we tend not to believe in miracles or a God that alters the world because we pray for something, we do acknowledge both our own spirits and the spirit that is God. To blanket Deism as the belief that God is like a clock maker to the universe is both a disservice to Deism and the Deist view of God.
Today we examine the spiritual side of Deism and reveal that indeed, reason and logic are not exclusive from spirituality and wonder.
In the first episode I simply tell you who I am, a little about what this podcast will be like and start to answer the complicate question of what is deism. I will also tell you about my path and how I came to find Deism.
As always I have to answer this from my perspective, not all deists. Deists are as diverse as any group bound by a common idea can be. Remember there is no such thing as “Deist Catechism”, to teach you what you are supposed to believe. There is no “Deist Creed” you say to prove your worth as a deist. There is no place with your name on a roll that can be removed and excommunicate you from deism. Deism is a free choice and a simple belief that there is a conscious creator. Some see this deity as a single being, some a total of all consciousness and many other versions. The only commonality is of course that we believe there is some creator to all that is.
So the question would be for me, do I have a relationship with God as a deist. My first instinct is to answer it as a former Christian. I was a leader and teacher in a Methodist church. Though I was raised Catholic I never really believed in a lot of catholic doctrine. Yet they did a good job of programming me and when I met my soon to be wife I was fine with “Catholic Lite” as I called Methodism. I also had discovered radio preachers and did a lot of driving, I became well versed in scripture and remember teaching people about “developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”.
I did a lot of teaching and counseling and was considered very wise for my young age. I had a great command of the bible both old and new testament and was good at explaining it. The problem is I was just going though the motions, I didn’t in my heart really believe it, at all. I would pray and it was just like well nothing really. Like a ritual for the sake of the ritual. I had no real relationship with God, Jesus or Buddha or Allah or The Great Pumpkin or whomever. It was empty words.
If I am to answer this question that way, I would say no, I don’t have a personal relationship with God in the way many Christians quest for such a thing. I never did and based on my view at this time I never will. However logic dictates you define a word before you say if it applies to you or not. So let us define relationship…
Relationship (noun) – the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
There are other definitions but that is the primary one, so using it, yes indeed I have a relationship with the creator, the question now becomes more accurate. It becomes in what particular way do I connect with God?
In that there are many ways I have a relationship with the creator. The most obvious is I am a product of the creation. Further as I believe the creator is connected to all things, we are connected energetically and so is every other being and object I observe. God is everywhere and in every thing.
Some might say that is skirting the question but it is simply what is and it is not as the game show says “my final answer”, just an answer. I am also connected to God and interact with God in my interactions with his creation. When I observe a beautiful sunset, marvel at the stars, work with animals or sit quietly on a mountain top, I am interacting with God.
Of course I believe so is everyone else, the Christian, the Hindu, the agnostic, the atheist, everyone. The other side though is they may or may no be aware of it. Right now you are in a relationship with microbes, in fact your body holds almost as many bacteria as human cells. It doesn’t matter if you knew that or not, you are in a relationship with them.
To me a personal relationship with my creator means that unlike the person that doesn’t know about the relationship, I do and I am presently conscious of it. When I see a sunset, I don’t think “oh look God painted it” or when I hear thunder, I don’t think “God is mad” or “God is bowling”. No, I am fully aware of the science as to how light interacts with the atmosphere and how electricity displaces air in a column. But I am also aware of the fact that the creator is responsible for everything that is.
So I marvel not just at the beauty and the power that science can explain, nor just the ability of a human to observe and appreciate it, but of the creators beauty as the conductor of the symphony of the universe. The three working together, science, creation and observation are my trinity. To me that is not only a personal relationship but one far stronger then when I claimed Jesus as my personal savior, ate small stale crackers and drank a small sip of wine.
Today I prefer to have a glass of wine, good bread, a bit of cheese, sit on the side of a pond and watch geese, ducks and the sunset. When I do I marvel at all of it. I marvel at the way rennet curdles milk, yeast converts sugar to alcohol, how geese pair bond and baby ducks know what to do on day one.
I am sure some will read this that are of the Christian belief who will tell me I am wrong. The atheists will do so as well. In the end, we can all manage our own relationships in our own ways, we call that freedom. But to be true to myself, I can neither profess to believe that which I do not believe, nor to not believe that which I do.
A common meme right now is that unlike Isalm the Jewish and Christian faiths have evolved. That even though these faiths were used to justify some pretty horrible things, you know stoning people to death in direct accordance with the law for crimes such as disobedience to a father and other such things we just don’t do that any more. No more inquisitions, no burning or hanging witches and scorers, no more death or prison due to what they call blasphemy, etc.
Okay then I think I have a fair question to ask….
If the bible (old and new testament) are the actual word and commands of God himself, why would the faiths based on it need to evolve?
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad they did. I mean many things I say every day could have gotten me killed just few hundred years ago. Oh please dear friends let that sink in deep. Very, very deep. These two faiths have killed people for thinking and saying things that simply disagree with them. Yes they don’t do it today, but when they did do it, they were absolutely following their book.
Now sure at times they may have gotten things wrong, or someone may have embellished a bit to see to their own agenda, but in the end, the book says what the book says.
Oh what, Jesus and the woman brought to him you say? Oh I see he said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and everyone left right there? That changed it all you say? Really so Christians your bible then, it starts with the Gospel of Matthew right? You got rid of all that old testament stuff then right? No? Um, why not?
Oh, I see Jesus also said, “I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it”. Well, well, so it is all still in place? No. Just parts of it? Okay which parts, okay so no one is to be gay married, I see, what about eating shell fish and pork though, that is okay right? Yea this makes perfect sense.
So you are saying that Jesus left a list somewhere saying you can do this now but not that, this is still wrong but don’t stone people for it, just lock them up or deny them rights etc.? Wait, that doesn’t exist? Okay, one more honest question then….
Where exactly does all your bullshit come from, in picking and choosing what is and isn’t still in force from your own bible, which you claim is the unquestionable and 100% accurate, will of God almighty himself?
Okay so here is my answer to why religions like Christianity and Judaism have evolved, they had to, period. They had to so that they could keep up with humanity’s evolution. As people began to realize how horrible it was to force people to believe as they believed, it was something else that evolved. It is human rights that have evolved, not the faiths themselves. They still have the same doctrine, the same rules, the book didn’t change, nor has the adherents belief in said book.
And this is my point when I say that I personally don’t believe in the bible or the God claimed to be the ultimate author of it. To me if God wrote a book, his followers would not have to apologize for it a few thousands years down the road, talk around parts of it and pick and choose what to and not to comply with.
I would suggest to fully understand this you watch a TV Series called, The Bible Rules by the History Channel, it is fascinating. You do begin to understand the logic, even when quite twisted of such rules. The goal of the Hebrew people to remain set apart while living as nomads searching for a home. The primary goal being to not be amalgamated into other cultures. You also realize very quickly, this would not be how God would work.
These are rules written by men, to control other men, authored in the name of God to convey authority upon the commands and justification for punishments.
Even if God had these harsh rules in place to keep his people together, you would think one of the profits after the nomadic life was over would have said, “okay guys God said stop stoning people for minor crimes, you can have some bacon now and hey if you want hook up with the locals, just tell them how great our God is and he will do the rest”.
No, that never happened and while Jesus did counter some things he didn’t counter them all. And when he countered them he did so as the Son of God meaning he had the authority to do so, not us, not a TV preacher and not a council of cardinals.
Personally I liked Thomas Jefferson’s approach to the bible. He tossed out the entire old testament, he removed all the miracles and such things from the new testament and left nothing but the core morality of the words of Jesus. He while not believing in Christianity himself stated at that point, “this is the finest assembly of ethics ever created by man”, and he wasn’t talking about himself. This book is called The Jefferson Bible and members of our congress were given a copy up until the early 1900s.
Jefferson saw the Christian writings as they were meant to be seen, a code, not a literal story, of how to treat each other, the truth that we are all sons and daughters of the creator and should treat each other as family. Frankly I think that if God did write the book, he’d of just said that, in like say Chapter One.
Yes the truth is religion evolved because it is fundamentally flawed when compared with basic innate human rights, rights we all share as created beings. I don’t personally feel the creator would botch things up bad enough with his chosen religion for it to require evolution in order to keep pace with his own creation.
*Note the author of this article believes in evolution and simply sees it as a creative process of God. To the author “God” is the singularity of all consciousness, time, energy and matter in the multiverses. Not some guy with gray hair on a throne. This should put his closing remarks in context.
As a Deist you might think I would respond to this with who cares, and on some levels you would be right, on others not so much. Recently a person emailed me about a comment that I made, that comment was as follows,
“Most Christians think saying God damn, is taking the lord’s name in vain, it isn’t, not even close. Sadly most christains don’t seem to understand the faith they are so devoted to. However, the belief that God Damn is a sin and offensive is so ingrained in modern people, I tend to not say it, in any sort of public speaking, just because I don’t want to upset people.”
I should point out to put this in context, I will when called for use words like shit and asshole in public speaking. To me they are perfectly valid words. It is funny though, many would prefer I didn’t but simply accept it but wow, say “God damn” and you’d think you had spit on a baby and punched an old lady in one move. Why? It breaks a commandment. Well lets put aside the same people break commandments all the time and just ask, does it even.
I say no, here I will lay out a simple case for that fact. Keeping in mind that I am not bound by the bible as a Christian chooses to be, I still know it well from my youthful Catholic indoctrination and my service later in life as a lay minister in another faith. With that in mind, let me say the reason saying God Damn isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain is it simply isn’t biblical at all, there is no biblical case to be made for it.
I will answer what does taking God’s name in vain mean from three persepctives…
- The typical modern Christian
- The informed biblical Christian or Jew
- To me personally as a Deist
The Typical Modern Christian
To such people it simply means to say the word God or Jesus or any other “official name” for God at the same time you say a profane word. All good and well but can you show me a list of profane words in the bible? A list of words God says, “thou shall not say these words”. Nope you can’t. So the entire concept of what is and what is not a profane or bad word is subjective to current society. Any good bible believer knows that God does NOT WORK THAT WAY.
In the bible God is clear in his commands and they do not change simply because society has. Only God himself or Christ his son can change such things or say, “what I really meant was _______”. We may even accept the word of a profit who was told something by God, but man, you don’t just say, well today this means something different.
The truth is there are no profane words, there are profane concepts which can be described with words. So first and foremost damn isn’t a “bad word”. Have you noticed how many people find damn to not be offensive until you put God before it? Next the bible doesn’t claim that to use a specific word with God’s name is to take his name in vane. I pretty sure if that was the intent it would say so, clearly and plainly, given God even gets down to details like what to do if one man’s ox gores another.
That said modern Christan believe this for one simple reason, it is what they were taught to believe and with no attempt what so ever to verify the meaning of a self imposed law they simply choose to.
The Informed Biblical Christian or Jew
These folks understand the commandment because they understand the larger context of the Jewish Law and Jewish Customs of the time of the writing of the Torah. One much understand almost everything in the law was not just a code of conduct but an attempt to set the Hebrew people apart from all others. This at a time of tribal and nomadic living. Almost every law, is counter to what everyone else was doing at the time.
This included the concept of monotheism, or one God. While this actually has roots in Egyptian culture (among others) at this time almost all cultures the Hebrew people had around them professed to have many Gods. So the one God called his people not only to worship him, but to be set apart. So now we must ask what others did with their God’s names. What they did was speak for them, on their behalf and make edicts on said behalf. Such as, “I proclaim by the name of Baal that we will win this war”. Of course the same was said by the other side, “I proclaim in the name of Isis that we will win”. Problem was neither Isis nor Ball had said a thing about this.
In essence these cultures claimed that their God’s wanted things for them and proposed to speak on their behalf. Not just priests or kings either, in small home temples the same was done with the idols of the day by individuals. Worse yet it was seen as clearly one God was stronger than the other if say Baal’s side won, Baal was the greater God.
So the command to the Hebrew people was simple, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR GOD and YOU WILL NOT TEST YOUR GOD AGAINST OTHERS. Simple no? In fact the bible at times says God led his people into slavery and into losses when they turned away from him. When you see this context it is clear what God is saying when he says, “do not take my name in vain”.
It means I am not a God of sorcery or a God to be commanded by my people. I am in charge, I know what will be and why it shall be and you are to trust me at all times. You don’t speak for me or on my behalf unless you are repeating what I have written or told to you though my profits (and later though my son). This is it guys and gals. This is a biblical understanding of the commandment.
In this context the statement God Damn is more a prayer then taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is a request, to make it a sin, one would need to say something like, “I proclaim that God will damn, ________”. There by choosing to speak for God, vs. imploring God to damn something. In other words many Christians actually break this commandment, not when they pray in God or Jesus name, but when they declare that X will occur or Y will not, simply by invoking the name of God.
In this context you see that “God bless” can be just as bad biblically as “God damn”. God bless Uncle Steve is perfectly fine, but I declare in the name of God that Uncle Steve will be blessed, is taking God’s name in vain. This commandment is all about intent, not words current society have placed on the list of bad words.
To Me As a Deist
You might think to me that this all means not a damn thing, on one level you are correct. I don’t believe in a God that judges his children, sends them to hell, tells them to kill other people in his name or anything like this. I do however see wisdom in this concept, though I see it as a natural law of energy vs. a law to be obeyed by command.
You see as a Deist I have one and only one thing I claim to know about God, it is only that “God Is”. That God exists, period. Nothing more and nothing less. Is God a person type God a being you would see as a man? I don’t think so, but I don’t claim to know. To me God is the single creative force that writes the symphony that is our known and unknown multiverses. When you truly understand physics you see math, matter and energy as what they are, patterns of music.
Somewhere in this music and everywhere in this music is God. How exactly that works I don’t know. God could be anything from a singularity of thought and consciousness or perhaps something akin to “the force” from the Star Wars movies. I don’t know, I don’t need to know and I can’t at this point in my evolution know and I am okay with that.
That said what this all means, what the fact that “God Is” means is wisdom of God is inherent to all people. We all have a connection and in forming religions we often find morality that is positive and laws that are if nothing else good advice. Many would point to a lot of bad things too, like stoning people for saying the wrong thing. While I agree that doesn’t change the good from all faiths.
Even something many today balk at like Jewish diet restrictions made a LOT more sense in the desert, with no sanitation to speak of, no running water and no refrigeration. I see the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain the same way, though more relevant to me personally than keeping kosher.
The commandment means to me what it means to anyone that interprets it biblically. Don’t presume to speak for God or tell others what God will or won’t do, because you don’t know what God really wants or what God is going to do or not do. God Is, be at peace and worry only about what you feel you should do in this world based on your relationship with God.
So do Deists have a relationship with God? Sounds like a topic for another post on another day!