Where Does the Knowledge of Right and Wrong Come From?
Recently in a discussion with a member of one of the revealed religions this was the question she asked. The angle being that our morality itself comes from God and hence that proves the existence of God and hence it proved her version of God exists. Now even if we take this view that “morality comes directly from the creator” that doesn’t do anything to prove the existence of any specific version of God.
This is actually a new question for me, just when I had thought I had heard it all now religion isn’t being defended as a keeper of ethics but the source of ethics.
I personally find this preposterous. I can put together a group of people that have no faith as we use the word in any God, true agnostics or even atheists and most will still have a pretty decent morality even if they were raised by and spend their time with others of the same view point.
Yet recently I have actually heard the argument from this woman that all law and morality has their roots in the Judeo Christian tradition. Got that? All “just law” is based on Judeo Christian ethics. As if those the native Americans who had never heard of such things had no law, morals or ethics until we came here and desavageized them. Yes I just invented a word!
While this point for me is a non starter I do think the question of simply, where does morality come from, is an interesting one.
We should ask why do we have morals and ethics and is that unique to humans? Do any other creatures show kindness and concern for others beyond basic parental instinct?
Well, I know of one verified true story where a pilot whale was being a bully to the smaller dolphins at a marine park. The trainers got an idea, they drained the tank to where the whale was safe yet stuck and stranded. The water was only about 3 feet deep. The dolphins could swim no problem while the whale cried out. I am pretty sure the “language” of pilot whale and bottle nose dolphin are quite different but the sound of terror and stress is pretty universal.
Now the dolphins had the upper hand and could have tormented their bully but they didn’t, instead they swam around the whale and actually tried to comfort it. When the water was put back the whale ceased being a bully. This showed that first the dolphins chose to aid the whale even though it had bullied them. And more impressive the bully having been stressed and afraid then comforted by the dolphins was able to understand what happened and express what we can only see as gratitude to the dolphins.
Now dolphins are smart I grant you and do have a sort of language but they ain’t humans and have no where close to the comprehension of humans. We certainly know they haven’t read the bible or the Torah. I also don’t think they have “profits” that talk to god, do they? Yet this behavior is something we can only describe as one based on a kind of morality!
In the Wild this is a Sign of Aggression.
Though less evident we see it in dogs that aid or defend their owners in ways that are not fitting with the dog’s normal behavior. While most stories of “hero dogs” are exaggerated forms of Yellow Journalism, dogs do exhibit this behavior, they even learn “human manners”.
Have you ever seen a dog grin? It is a clear expression of being happy, in the wild with dogs that don’t know humans and other wild canines like wolves, dingos and coyotes the animals will sometimes behave his way but never when face to face with another animal. Bearing the teeth is a sign of aggression, even in a “grin”. Yet dogs that live with humans learn that this is not aggressive and not only don’t see humans smiling as non aggressive, they accept if from other dogs.
Now you may say the dog thing is minor, but it some ways it is more impressive than the dolphins. This response of bared teeth means danger and aggression is hard wired into the canine brain, yet even dogs taken from the “wild” as pups quickly adapt when raised by humans.
It isn’t morality in and of itself, it is actually an expression of etiquette. To have etiquette, one must first have a morality of sorts to have any concept of adapting to the etiquette of another being.
There are many examples of cooperation with animals that you have to see as somewhat moral. When I got my first flock of geese I had always heard they were cooperative more than other birds. That as they mate for life there is no real need for conflict, but I was not prepared for some of the behaviors I have seen. When my geese were small and just began to swim, since we have no ponds we provide them stock tanks and kiddie pools. One day one goose was in the pond the other trying to get in and managed to do so.
Now the tank was pretty crowded and the last goose in had its foot extended back behind itself. It wasn’t in pain or anything they can bend this way and do so frequently. But it could not manage to pull in its foot. I was about to go motivate him a bit when I saw something I would never have believed. One of the other geese looked its brother, cocked its head, considered the issue and then gently as a goose can do used its beak to help the other one by pulling his foot into the tank. A simple tiny honk honk was exchanged.
Another time I was at a zoo, a young orangutan was playing and its mother got bored and decided to move elsewhere. It was a really great zoo and nice habitat and she swung across a gap easily. The young one tried to follow and could not and started to call out. The mother thought about it, went to the gap, spanned it with her incredibly long arms and legs and formed a body bridge. Rather than carry her child across it she became a bridge and let the little one clime across her, then went on to sit in a tree and think about whatever it is orangutans contemplate. This wasn’t just raw protective mother instinct it was a decision to not only help but to teach at the same time, and the child clearly learned.
Now I am not making a case that any animal has the higher morals of a human, just that they have some level of concern for one another and even at times for members of other species and that they act in a way to render aid or comply with etiquette of the same, that folks is morality. Now this doesn’t prove or disprove that morality is something of what we could call a “gift” from the creator, simply that it isn’t the product of religion.
Where do you think morality comes from? Is it simply how humans have come to survive, a mere product of evolution? Is it just innate to life and the higher the life form the higher the ability to develop a moral code of sorts? Or is morality simply the result of understanding, empathy and compassion for other beings? Or is it a product of evolution but as part of what some call “intelligent design”?
Jesus was Robin Hood? Read on, it doesn’t mean what you likely think it does.
I was asked in a comment recently what the “Deist View of Jesus” is? Like many questions I really can’t answer that for anyone but me. Asking what a Deist thinks of Jesus is like asking what a scientist thinks about the origin of the universe. The number of answers you get may be damn close to the number of folks you ask.
There are people that call themselves “Christan Deists”, they believe in Jesus the man and his message, see him as a profit of the creator that actually broke away from organized faith. The problem I see there is Jesus did claim to be not only the son of God in the bible but also to the door by which man gets into heaven. Now some Deists simply dismiss this, point to the lost Gospels and say, but I don’t believe that. They believe in Gnostic Christianity where Jesus is just one example and say we should ignore the things added to the canonized Gospel and simply see the message of Jesus as the way to live.
I personally feel most of such people are trying to cling to a shred of their Christian heritage because it comforts them, if so fine, there is no harm in it. I also think many are in very tight families where “church” is a big deal. They just can’t walk away, it is too hard. It results in being ostracized and frankly harassed as those you left behind try to save your soul and drag you back in. So they embrace Deism and when required to participate with family religious activities they are able to tolerate it. Most such people eventually walk away all together and become what is known as a “Christmas and Easter Catholic” in the Catholic Church. They go when the torment of family exceeds their desire to resist.
Then there are true Deists that just really embrace the morality of the Judeo Christian faith. Thomas Jefferson was one such Deist. He created the “Jefferson Bible”, which was the Gospels with all the miracles, claims of deity and such removed leaving only the basic teachings of Jesus. He did so because his claim was that basic Christian ethics were the finest example he knew of in the world. But Jefferson was not a Christian. So we have Deists that associate with Christian teachings but they are not Christians.
This isn’t really anything unusual when you think in context. For example I am a huge fan of much of the teachings of the Buddhist faith. I derive a lot of wisdom from it and read about it. It helps me frame my view of the world. I have a deep respect for Buddhists, but I am not a Buddhist and don’t believe their religion, I just value their way of viewing life. I am certainly not a vegetarian! I also love the history and lore in the Pagan faith. The duality of the God and Goddess makes sense to me more than one god that looks like well, King Neptune! I love the way Pagans understand the earth, I really love the “holy days” how they are seasonal and frankly as a guy that grows a lot of my own food, very useful. But I am not a Pagan.
I think many of us in the Deist world view most faiths this way. If there is a reason we are particularly harsh on main stream Christianity it is well, it is two reasons. The first is most of us were beaten over the head with it as we come from that background. The second is that we seldom see a Buddhist knocking on our door to tell us about “detachment” and interrupt our football game on Sunday. Nor do Pagans walk up to us say at a mall, hand us a tract telling us about a new temple and then ask to publicly pray over us. If you think the encounter at a store is a stretch, I live in the south and in the bible belt. I have had this happen three times in my life. I DO NOT appreciate it, when someone starts praying over me and following me around with raised hands in a public place.
These are the things that make us as Deists be unfair to the Christian tradition compared to our view of other faiths at times. But that doesn’t really answer the question does it? Well again different Deists have different opinions about Jesus the man we hear about in the bible. Here for example are two totally different views, both written by Deists at Deism.com presented side by side…
Did Jesus Exist
In the first one we have a take that yes Jesus existed and probably thought he was god. The 12 apostles were real and devoted in spite of the fact that Jesus was just a man. The resurrection is explained mostly this way. Mary Magdalene was nuts (as anyone described as having 7 demons would be by today’s standards) but the other apostles believed her because they wanted to. The reason Jesus looked different after the resurrection was because he was someone else. I personally think this is certainly possible.
In the second the take away is Jesus never even existed, there is no real historical record outside the bible and likely the whole thing was just made up. I think this is also possible but less likely so, then the above.
For instance we know for a fact Paul existed, there is record of that. Seems Peter was also real, generally people like this have to have someone to believe in or they won’t allow themselves killed for their faiths. So Peter and Paul likely were basing their beliefs on something or someone. These men and other members of this sect were motivated enough to spread the word. Authors wrote the books we call the Gospel in the names of such people and a new faith was created.
In Christian schools of thought though we get the illusion that these books were written soon after Christ died. Yet we know the earliest estimate of the Gospel of Mark, which is the oldest known gospel was written about 66-70 CE. The best guess for the year of the crucifixion as described in the bible is 29 CE. That is 37 years and all the other gospels came after that. Can we put that into some perspective for a moment.
Today it is 2014 and 37 years ago it was 1977. Let us say you are old enough that you were a young man in 77 say in your mid 20s and you had a good friend named Jessie and you and Jessie ran around together and did a lot of cool and crazy stuff. Now years later you are known to have been a friend of Jessie, he is now dead and famous and people want to know exactly what happened at some of the things you did together. If you then tried to write down say 1974-1977 as to your journeys with Jessie to the level of detail in the bible, how accurate would it be? Now this would be if you really were Jessie’s friend.
What if instead tons of stories about Jessie were being told for all those years. Things he said were written down and many things someone said he said. Now you know the name of one of his friends that is also dead and gone or perhaps went off and found a new life and just wanted to forget about those crazy old days. But you are able to write as him and the government will say you are him, you now assemble this montage of information into a story, how accurate is that? This is the origin of the new testaments of the bible folks.
And this leads to what I believe, Jesus was Robin Hood! Heck the title got you to read this long right, now we finally get to it.
Now look I am not saying Jesus robbed the rich and gave to the poor or that he came back in tights and miraculously split arrows! No I am saying the origin of the myth of Jesus is likely similar to the myth of Robin Hood. There was no one man that was Robin Hood. Old Mr. Hood is an amalgamation of several real people and a bunch of completely made up fiction that have been combined into a series of stories. This is the bible as a whole and certainly to me how we ended up with Jesus as we know him today.
There was likely a charismatic guy that Peter and the other apostles knew that got himself executed. Doing that wasn’t hard at the time. Peter and the boys likely believed in him, enough to die for him, this proves nothing magical, history is full of people that did such things. There were many such messiahs though at the time and putting something one did or said in the name of a better known name was common. I mean this is why we have the last gospel written in about 90 CE. That is 61 years after the death of Jesus. It is possible that some of the apostles made it that long but very unlikely, if they did how much do you trust the memory of a 90 year old?
So as the story grew, actions, deeds and words of many of the Jesus like figures were combined. Completely fictitious components we added to comply with “prophecy” and astrological components came in like the number 12. Yes there are 12 tribes of Israel but you do realize that there are 12 months right? Anyway in the end we have an astrological literary hybrid of the story of one man, that is likely the story of several real men and plenty of things there were simply either made up or modified gossip! Hmm, never thought of it but gospel and gossip seem quite similar as words don’t they?
Now if you want to debate me, specifically as an offended Christian, please realize I have a right to my opinion, and that is all this is. It is when I examine history in context and consider human nature and the desire of government and religion to control people the most likely explanation. I can’t prove my theory and really don’t see the point in trying. Based on what I believe as a Deist it doesn’t matter if I am wrong at all. My view of the Bible doesn’t change my choices in my life or my personal faith. So whether Jesus never existed, was a real man that was made into a God figure or is as I say a hybrid of several people along with total fiction and literary license, has no long term implications for me.
I do think it is an interesting idea to explore though. And when I do I am left with this simple opinion. Who was Jesus? Well, he was Robin Hood.
As I begin this post I want to make something clear, if you are an atheist I have no desire to convert you from atheism by force of will or even with logic. I provide my views on Deism and other beliefs for those that have interest in it. I simply am examining all belief systems here, atheism is in fact a belief system, in fact I consider it a religion. A religion that believes in chance and mechanics vs. spirit.
Personally I feel that the question of why some people choose to believe in nothing, is an interesting thing to examine. The reality is about 16% of the total world population by best estimates are not affiliated with any religion at all. Yet only 2% are actual atheists as in they believe in no higher power, no creator or architect of the universe. So even the vast majority of “non believers” still believe in some sort of a “God” like intelligence. That would be 14 of 16 or 7 out of 8, simple math says that is 87.5% of NON BELIEVERS are still not atheists.
One must only conclude than that the atheist is not just a minority but a statistical anomaly. I personally think as a Deist this is because as we are part of the creation we intrinsically know there is something more to the universe than mechanics and random chance. The atheist therefore has to override this inherent knowledge and apply a certain logic to do so, almost like the fictitious Vulcan does with emotions in the fantasy world of Star Trek. So that leads to the question of why?
Let me start out with a concept that should pacify the atheist I have thus far offended, it could simply be because they are right. The reality is we don’t know that God exists, we have surmised it so as Deists solely via logic and our examination of the universe and the creation. As Deists there is no risk of hell for lack of faith, so we must be open to the possibility however so slight, that we could be wrong. I don’t think I am wrong, but no believer in any faith, including atheism thinks they are wrong, if so they would not believe what they do. So let us just say, may be it is because they are right, but if not, then why?
I would say it is a direct reflection of the failure, lies and deception of revealed religions. Like I said yesterday, atheists are generally intelligent, very much so. Some of my favorite people and most intelligent contemporaries are atheists. So when such people are told if you do X you go to hell but you can do X and if you say certain words and believe certain things you go to heaven, well they know that makes zero sense. When they see churches taking money from people and claiming to do “Gods work” frankly it makes them sick.
When they see people denying not just components of but the entire concept of evolution they see it as denial of fact, and frankly it is. When fossils are explained by some fringe members of Christianity as “God creating the illusion of age to test our faith”, they see it for the madness that it is. When they are told God destroyed all life with a flood, they know it is nonsense because it makes no sense to kill a child for his parents deeds and know that no just God would do such a thing. Just keep the list going, it is why so many of us left organized faiths, walked a path that eventually led us to Deism.
So why do atheists walk strait past the simple belief in a higher power of some sort all the way to the concept of “there is no God, there is no higher power, things are what we see and nothing more”. I think many are so sickened by the twisted components of religion they simply throw out the baby with the bath water. They want it all gone from their lives, no more fake guilt, no more lies, no more period, they just want freedom and see any faith as a false burden or a false promise.
I think though many don’t realize Deism exists, what it is or understand it as an option. When I speak to most atheists I find first that most are really agnostics, they doubt the existence of God, if pressed though they do not 100% deny the possibility of a higher power, very few actually go that far. They realize just as I do that since we don’t actually know, that any of us including them, could be wrong. Yet even if they have heard of Deism, they don’t understand what it is or how it benefits someone.
I’ve been asked questions like, “so what does a Deist have to do”?
To whit I have simply responded, “a Deist believes in a higher power, an intelligence that is behind the design of the creation, that is all they don’t have to do anything, it is something you believe, not something you do”.
Another question is often “so what happens to bad people when they die”?
I simply say I don’t know but whatever it is it is likely not much different than what happens to a “good person”. I figure either we simply return our energy to the creation or we have a consciousness, I am not sure which. If we don’t it doesn’t matter, if we do likely a “bad person” would end up with some sort of self assessing but there is no fires of hell, no gates of heaven, just what ever is, well, is.
Discussions like this with atheists never leads to instant conversions, and frankly unlike many on fire born agains for us that isn’t the goal at all. It is just a logical discussion of belief. I’ll tell you what though, 9 times out of 10 these answers are not what the atheist expected, most have never even considered such as an option before. Which always leads me to ask, if you have never considered something before, why would you just write it off? Would you do so with any other compelling and interesting or important part of life? The answer to those questions are almost always, “you shouldn’t” and “no”.
I mean in short, I think many choose atheism for the same reason we choose deism. Organized faith simply makes no logical sense when fully examined devoid of programmed belief systems (benevolent brain washing). I just think quite often, the atheist is simply not aware that a choice in the middle exists. That one can believe in a higher power, a creator and not have any religious obligations and not be required to throw logic to the wind.
I just don’t think most have ever considered that faith is not a binary code, where 1 is religion and 0 is no faith at all. That there is an option that accepts that so many things in the universe are so perfectly designed that something must have done it or frankly it must be something in itself, that one can acknowledge higher existence without defining it or worshiping it.
For God to exist doesn’t require that it need or even desire our worship, I think most atheists don’t even consider that.
But again, I could be wrong.
I do, I genuinely pity atheists. Now mind you an atheist is generally a lot easier to have a discussion with about life than a born again full on evangelical by a long shot. They tend to be rational people, and most tend to be in my view “good people”. As honest as most if not more so. Most “keep the commandments” though they don’t say it that way. They respect their parents, don’t steal, don’t want what you have at your expense, they don’t murder, etc. Now they don’t keep the Sabbath or worry about “the lords name in vain” but hell, those things do not apply to their beliefs so why would they. My point is simply that beyond the overt religious components of most faiths, most such people are ethical even in the eyes of a person of a revealed religion.
Most atheists I know are also dramatically intelligent people. Many are highly successful in life and in general happy and optimistic.
So why do I pity them? In simple terms it is the lack of a sense of wonder. When I look at the stars, I know full well scientifically what they are, giant balls of gas, nuclear fusion reactors, nothing more in reality. Yet the dreamer in me understands that the very essence of that star, the same dust that makes up that star, also makes up my body, your body and the very earth itself. The difference for the Deist in seeing this fact which many atheists acknowledge by the way is its meaning.
To me this means so much more than galactic recycling of matter, it is also the recycling of energy. In fact I personally see the lines between energy and matter as blurred, and while science is now confirming this, it takes some level of “faith” to truly extrapolate what that means. When I see a leaf I don’t just see a photosynthetic solar panel, I see the marvel of life itself. To the atheist the universe seems mechanical, where the Deists and even the religious see it as energetic.
There is also what is next, to the atheist there is nothing next for the living when we die. You are dust, worm food, gone forever. I have written before about afterlife so I won’t go deep here but I do believe something happens, I don’t know what, I just know in my very being something does. Do we remember our lives, I don’t know, may be, may be not. We may simply become energy and only imprints of our prior life remains in the energy, just the raw information. Or we may remain in spirit far more like revealed religions believe. I really do not know, but the fact that something of our lives remains in some way, matters to me.
There is just part of humans I feel that is connected to the creation and when one cuts that off, something inherently human is then cut off from the individual as well. I feel I was made to be part of the creation, to be a co creator with it in my own tiny small way. Just like you were, atheists can’t comprehend how this is possible, we are too small to matter they say, one person doesn’t matter to the universe, in fact man doesn’t as a species. When we are gone the universe itself will not even miss us.
Let me put it this way, I feel all living beings that see, hear, perceive, wonder at, participate in the creation are very much, “the eyes of God”. It is with this wonder that I study science, nature, history, etc. I don’t sit around praying or believing that one say God will save us. I don’t wait for the day I die with anticipation of heaven, nor do I feel hell but I do marvel at the creation and its wonder and simply feel that is lacking for the atheist.
In my next text I will discuss why I personally feel many become atheists and why they feel it is the right choice.
I think this has a lot to do with how you define the word mysticism. The dictionary does so as…
- 1: the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics
- 2: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight)
- 3 : vague speculation : a belief without sound basis
- 4: a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power
Looking at each as a Deist and asking if I believe in such things for me goes as follows
- Can one experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics? Answer – Yes to varying degrees, one doesn’t need to “talk to God” or “hear God speak” for this to occur. There are many wondrous things in the world, many that we can explain that are still wondrous. A person that takes time to connect with, examine, meditate over, etc these things often develops greater insight. Many “mystics” may be scam artists, but that doesn’t devalue a connection to something beyond what you usually have. Experience this and you know it is real, that is all I can say.
- Do I believe that one can attain direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality through subjective experience (as intuition or insight). Answer – Well if it stopped at only “direct knowledge of God” I would say no. As a Deist I know and experience God in his creation as part of it. I don’t think anyone has a direct line to the creator, I think largely that would ruin our experience of life on earth. But yes I do think we can find spiritual truth and a greater understanding of reality via reflection and simply being open to things existing that we don’t yet fully understand. That energy is wondrous and we don’t fully understand all the ways our energy and the energies around us can interact yet.
- Is vague speculation : a belief without sound basis something for a deist? Answer – No, not at all, Deism is based on logic an reason and experience. There is no room for a belief without sound basis.
- Do I believe there is a way for us to attain a direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power? Answer – As a deist I first seek knowledge and I will fess up, I had to look up ineffable, it is defined as, “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words“. This gives me pause! Because again many things are subjective. This could mean things like levitation and seeing the future. I find these things largely nonsense. But it could also mean, simply something so special that you can’t really explain it, a perfect moment in the creation where you feel all is right, you know who and what you are and time is meaningless. Something that even when you explain it, no one can really understand it. I have had such moments hunting and fishing, in a garden, on the side of a mountain. They are rare and they are special and if you never had one, I can’t explain it to you.
It gets interesting when we actually examine concepts deeply instead of dismissing them out of hand doesn’t it? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you need to believe what I believe to be a deist or that some how I am better off than you because I do understand these things and make them part of my life. There is no official you are in or out committee when it comes to deism. We all experience the creation in our own way with free will.
For me though a life that denies the mystical in the ways that I describe above isn’t what I personally want. I love the way the sun glimmers on grass in the morning before the dew is driven off by the sun. I understand fully the science behind it, that doesn’t do a thing to deny its beauty. Frankly the science is a miracle of sorts! We know scientific law, we know how light is refracted, how humidity and temperature work together but that makes the effect no less stunning. I marvel as much at the parts of the creation I understand as I do at the parts I have yet to understand.
With this open attitude I have lived my life now for about 10 years free of the shackles of any “faith” or the obligations assigned to it. It has a been a great way to live and the most fulfilling 10 years of my life.
This Question is Deeper Than You Think It Is?
Let me start out by saying I get what I mean and what most proclaimed Deists mean when they say, “I am a Deist”. The self declared Deist largely rejects all organized faiths, such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Frankly if you want to discuss religion with me you will be just as likely to prove a point by quoting a X-Men comic as the Bible or the Qur’an. So don’t take my question here or my answer the wrong way. My hope is to help those who are examining Deism simply understand the core of what it means to be a Deist.
So here is my premise to you. Anyone that believes in a single God or a singularity of thought and energy for that matter is in essence a Deist, just not necessarily what the modern term has come to mean. A Deist is a person that believes in a Deity of some sort, a God, a singularity, a source, a creator, a great architect of the universe, the sum of all consciousness, etc. Now in the modern Deist movement there is more but let us first stop there. Let us simply ask do most people who call themselves Christians, Jews, etc. believe in such a thing, the answer is yes of course they do.
When we move into faiths like Buddhist and Hinduism with multiple Gods you might be tempted to point out that and say, well Deism sounds like monotheism and that is clearly in conflict with a “multiple Gods system”. Frankly though no it isn’t, such faiths always end up with a singularity eventually. Concepts such as the origins of the Gods themselves lead you there. Even in Pagan duality the masculine and the feminine, aka the God and Goddess the reality is both are seen in the end as a single source with duality of manifestation.
Now look you can nit pick technicalities above but if you are a Deist you are not bound by any of these faiths or traditions so you should be able to examine them with out emotional attachment. The simple premise here is that most people of any “faith” first and foremost believe in a Deity or group there of, said group though has a single origin in the end. I simply point to this and say, all belief in such things creates an origin in Deism for all faiths.
True it tends to go wrong from there. Yet if we understand this origin than leaving behind a faith we have been mostly brainwashed into becomes much easier for many people. As a former Catholic I can tell you by my late teens I had fully determined the church was in my view full of shit. I in effect believed in nothing they they were telling me was true. Yet as certain things came into my life such as sexual relationships there were fleeting moments of guilt. I would catch myself and simply realize that I did not believe this programming but understood it was still in me.
Now frankly I am one of the most strong willed people I know. I will fight to the last breath for a person in need, I live my life on my terms and always have. So today looking back over 20 years ago and remembering these tinges of guilt, I have to wonder what it is like for people less strong willed, less rebellious and frankly less intelligent then I am. If the last part sounds arrogant I apologize, I do have a very high IQ and it places me far into the top 2% of the population. So I am simply acknowledging this as something that will effect a person’s ability to reason and break free of programming.
So as a self declared Deist for over a decade now I often talk to people that want to “let go” but struggle. I often wonder why and I think this may be the place it leads to, we who believe in anything beyond the phyical world in a sense are all Deists. If you read this blog you likely have questions, you may not accept my answers but they help you find your own right? Just the very nature of knowing that there is a God no matter how you personally define God, leads to some level of a need to understand.
I think this basic belief is coded into us. It is why almost all people of the world have some sort of a religion, spirituality or faith. Atheism is a very modern invention and I believe it is mostly a direct rebellion against religion’s attempt to control society and the many contradictions and frankly ridiculous contentions that all revealed religions have. Most people won’t make the leap to Atheism because in their hearts and though their reason they know there is something beyond ourselves. Again I think it is mostly hard coded into our being, we know because we are all a part of the creation, so an echo of the creator is within us all.
So that longing is filled with what ever faith most of us are born into. If we are not born into a faith, it is filled by what ever the prevailing evangelism around us turns out to be. In that faith we find answers, we find community, we find structure and we find acceptance. Many of us though also find a murderous God, nonsensical claims, ridiculous rules and many things that clearly don’t add up. So we depart from one faith, often to another only to find the same results. Eventually many people just sort of believe in their faith but don’t practice it. This is very true of both Christianity and Judaism.
I think many more people would be open to Deism or find it easier to accept if they simply understood all of this that perhaps it is the Deist in them, who has attached itself to a religion. That it has done so because it has a need for something beyond the phyical world. That their faith of choice was simply what happened to be available and fit best for a time. So to any with this struggle let me say.
- Deism makes no demands of you, if you think something in wrong and your former faith also says so, don’t do it, no one will judge you on this side of things for that. We would only ask that you set said social convention for yourself, not for others.
- Deism has one real rule, do no harm to others. We believe this though reason and enlightenment not due to fear of punishment. Do not fear that leaving behind an archaic faith will lead to a life of evil deeds. Likely you are a good person because that is simply who you are intrinsically. It is also likely that you understand harming others is not only wrong but in the end does you equal or worse harm, that this is simply how the universe and therefore society works.
- There is no need to “convert to Deism”, it isn’t an organized faith, there are no “police”, no one gets to tell you what Deism is, you discover this in time. Deists communicate with others, present ideas and use reason and logic to form their own moral codes and conceive of answers to big questions. Most see life as a wondrous journey. In this journey metaphorically you may want to go see the Grand Canyon and I the Beaches of the Gulf Coast. We can discuss what each experiences but I have no desire to drag you to Florida and you have no need to insist I go to Arizona. We may both choose to do so with each other or perhaps visit on our own or with others at a later time.
I hope this makes sense. Being a Deist is simply a choice when it comes to base your life on logic and reason while acknowledging something beyond what we can see. That the creator exists but isn’t marking down demerits. There is indeed a creator but he/she/it is not a murderer of children. An understanding that free will is just that, free will. We come here largely by choice, we live by our own choices and we are free to explore with a limitless idealism. We are also free to limit ourselves with religions, self loathing, etc. It is up to us, most Deists just think the creation is so marvelous we don’t need to be limited at all, as our knowledge evolves our limitations fall.
We know there is something more, some just accept that and enjoy the creation and their lives from there. Some ask and examine deeper questions. Some are very “spiritual” and others academic. The common bond is only that something beyond what we understand exists and that logic and reason tell us that. As to how we let that knowledge impact our lives, well we think free will is exactly that, freedom to choose for ourselves at the individual level.
Could getting everything you ever wanted and more really make you miserable? Is that even possible? May be?
This post orginated as a comment in response to a reader of a previous post called, “What Do Deists Think Happens After We Die“. You can see the question here and my response to it here. This is really a great subject to explore so I figured I would expand my response into a full post.
When it comes to what death and the other side are like, I can only theorize based on those who have had NDEs and returned. Their accounts though as I blogged in the past must be seen like a person from another planet telling you what America is like. Further that person from another planet was dropped into a large Airport and didn’t really fully understand what the beings walking past them were saying and only met a few that talked to them. They also only saw America by looking out the window and were only there for a few minutes.
If you asked this being upon their return to their own world what was earth like, they would have a pretty good idea. If your world knew of a place called America and this airport had been say JFK Airport in New York they would also have some really accurate perceptions of America. Most words would have been in English, likely TVs would have been on focused on American News, products and services that are sold to Americans would be there. You could see out the windows and know America at least in parts of it has lots of water, rivers, oceans, etc.
Many impressions though would be very inaccurate. Some things this being might have considered to be almost magical might turn out to be mundane if they stuck around for a while. On the other hand some things they wouldn’t even bother to notice at first might prove to be amazing if they had a longer visit to experience things. Some of those things might even change the way the thought about their own existence forever. What would that be, well we don’t know, in this thought expirment we are on the other side of the experiment, are we not?
So let’s flip it now with the previous concepts in mind. Some believe the afterlife is anything we choose. That we are like some version of Star Trek’s Q once we cross over. They say in the afterlife or “next level” we can have anything we wish, create any reality and go to any space or time. This is possible but not exactly what I think. I believe that as limited as we are at this plane of existence there are likely some limitations at the next and so on and so forth. I also believe beings such as us might become truly bored if we were so unlimited and bound by absolutely nothing. In this way I feel if the afterlife is really wholly unlimited we would likely indeed create a new place to go to, a new challenge for ourselves. We might even erase many of our memories from past experiences to make the challenge more enjoyable and learn more from it.
There is an old episode of The Twilight Zone that this makes me think of. I am talking the old black and white series Rod Serling did in the 50s. A conman/gambler/thief dies and ends up with a guide. He is still on earth and everything looks the same. He is told he can have anything he wants, a prime suite in the hotel, girls, food, money, the best clothes money can buy anything. Women swoon on him, every pull of the slot machine is a jack pot, etc. He enjoys this life for a while then gets bored. The guide suggests perhaps he misses his old profession as a thief and that perhaps he could rob a bank or something like that for excitement.
He gets excited but realizes it won’t be real. He asks the guy, “is there a chance I could get caught”, to wit the guide replies “sure anything you want”. The guide even pulls out a pad and pen to get the details just right. You know like what percentage of chance that you get caught, get shot and injured, etc. It’s a set your own parameters type of thing. Again ANYTHING HE WANTS. This conman now realizes it is all too easy, it isn’t real, he hates this “heaven”. The episode ends with him saying to his guide, “This is a mistake, I don’t belong here, send me to the other place, I don’t belong here”. The guide goes into a maniacal devil style laugh “where do you think you are, this is the other place”.
The irony is there may be a lot of truth to that. Not in a hell but that beings such as us may enjoy “games” way to much to be free of all limits for long. That could be a case for reincarnation or just a case for the fact that we might create other worlds, challenges and levels for ourselves.
Think about a video game you might enjoy playing and imagine you found a cheat code that made you unstoppable. If it was something you could do a few times at critical points of the game it might be fun and cool. If it were permanent, how quickly would it go from cool, to boring to, “I don’t enjoy this at all any more”.
Personally, I am not a gamer but I know enough who are to know that once a gamer really beats a game it becomes boring is cast to the side and replaced with a new challenge. I do enjoy playing darts for instance and while I get really excited when I do it right and drop 3 bulls in three throws or nail a “ton 80″ on rare occasions it is the challenge that does this. I am sure if I could put darts into a board as perfectly as I choose every time with no effort it would be cool for a while. Yet other then to make a few bucks playing competitively I don’t think the game would do much for me for long.
Likely I would stand further from the board, get a board with smaller areas or something, or just find a new game. Most of us played tic-tac-toe as a kid. First you play with no strategy and if you have an opponent doing the same it is fun, then you and your opponent quickly learn a few techniques and it gets more fun for a bit. Sooner or later you both learn a few rules of the game such as if X marks corner O should mark center, etc. Soon every game ends in a tie. Or if you play someone who doesn’t know the rules, every game can indeed be won, both are as boring as shit though are they not.
Next thing you know you are outside playing tic-tac-toe bean bag toss because that adds a layer of challenge and skill and perhaps then you are on to horse shoes or something totally different. The key is for most of us if we truly master something simple we are done and on to something next. It takes something complex to hold a master with it for long.
Chess or music for instance have infinite layers to explore, so some people do dedicate their entire lives to them. The same with say dancing, writing stories, playing a sport at the top level, etc. Yet what if none of this challenged us? You could write and know more then Shakespeare did in his entire life in a millisecond. You could write and play more beautiful music then Bach with your mind and it would be heard as you thought it up. Nothing was beyond you, no challenge existed at all, everything was perfect you even got the Crown in Heaven you were promised in church.
How long before you said, “man I have got to do something to have some fun” and dove into some sort of “game” you created for yourself and created limitations so that you would enjoy it? Such is found in many things in life and I believe that pattens that repeat are often constant patterns.
Those of you that have never considered this angle before might try reading Illusions by Richard Bach. It is a good first step into many of these concepts and a fun easy read you can get though in about an hour or so if you choose to. It is also a fun story that is good to just read as such and the author is quite creative in the way he weaves permission into the narrative for you to not believe a thing he has to say if you don’t want to. Those of you who know what the “Master’s Book” says at the end, know what I am talking about.
Some Questions Require an Open Mind if an Answer is to be Given.
Let me say right up front this question actually pissed me off. It wasn’t from a person interested in Deism it was from a Christian who was angry that I had the damn nerve to be a Deist in the first place and choose it over Christianity. Frankly it wasn’t really a question it was more a demand…
Why is Deism Superior to Christianity!
As though I owed it to him to justify my choice, so much for free will! The truth is I believe Deism speaks for itself and it is a choice, I have no desire to convert anyone from anything to Deism. If any group is out there I most want to reach it is the atheist who I feel is missing out on so much and I know most have become atheists due to people like the guy that asked me this question. They feel religion is so unbelievable that atheism is the only answer. Most do not even know that there is such a thing as Deism or what it is. Those people I hope do at least learn there is a middle ground but I also respect their choice.
Christians though I have no desire to convert because it is generally difficult to even discuss faith with them. They tend to want to quote bible verses and don’t get something that is so important for them to understand in talking with a non believer in their faith. If you are a Christian please pay attention to this, I am not being offensive I am just trying to help you understand a fact
“When you quote the bible to people that don’t believe in the bible you are no more likely to convince them of something then if you quoted something from a Harry Potter book”
Again I mean no disrespect we just do not believe what you do, your book has no power over us and using it is pointless with us. You can chant John 3:16 for a hundred years and it won’t “save us”. I don’t object to debate with an open minded Christian but man is it more productive for both of us if they understand the above, sadly most don’t and next thing you hear is “But in Romans 1 we are told” and they just don’t get that we don’t care what it says, you might as well say to us, “but Dumbledore said to Harry” because it will mean about as much to us. We may see wisdom in some of it but we also find wisdom at times in things like a comic strip or a TV commercial too.
The person who asked me this question and demanded an answer was coming from this twisted view point. It would not matter what I said he would have never been happy so I simply didn’t respond. I have no desire to convert this man to Deism at all. He was looking for a fight and I simply didn’t give him one.
My view is Christianity is full of reasons in its own book to doubt it as the “divinely inspired word of God” hell the comparisons between Jesus and the Egyptian God Horus should give anyone pause, you can see them here. God testing a man by asking him to kill his own son? Stoning people to death for sin? The only man worth saving in a city was willing to give his daughters to a crowd and allow them to be raped? I am such an evil, vile piece of crap that Jesus took my place on the cross because that is what I deserve? God who is all powerful and wise killed everyone in his own creation because he was angry? God who is perfect is jealous? It goes on and on. Most Christians that want to debate non Christians are well versed in this stuff and convince themselves they are right, they call it faith.
I don’t bring up these issues to convince anyone who believes in the Bible in spite of them of anything. There is no point to that, I only point out that they exist and any Christian with a conscious will eventually find them in their own hearts. Some are so addicted to their faith they will accept nonsensical answers as fact and move on, others will begin to truly examine them though and it is indeed why many choose to leave what ever form or a Church they are part of. It is for such people only that I will answer this question.
Further I must add, I am not answering it in the way I would answer why is one football team better then another. I can analyze players for that, build a case, use their past records and make an impartial judgement based on known facts. In religion much isn’t known, it is about belief even for a Deist, much of what I consider to be true is based on what I believe based on logic and reason. For that reason I can’t say that Deism is superior to any faith for anyone but myself. These are my personal top ten reasons I feel Deism offers me more then Christianity ever could, if you don’t agree that is your choice and I honor your right to it.
1. Deism isn’t guilty of the false promise of free will. Christianity says you have free will then instantly says you have rules to follow. Not rules that you are guided by based on your own logic and reason but rules written for you in a book based on oral tradition. I truly have free will as a deist and that I consider a gift of my creation.
2. The God of Deism has never killed a child, hardened a heart, wiped out all life on a planet or sentenced anyone to an eternity of suffering for not doing what he wanted them to. In short as a Deist I at no time have to make an excuse for a judgmental, jealous, malicious and murderous God.
3. The God of Deism doesn’t consider any group of people based on race, creed, sexual orientation, etc. superior to another. In other words my god isn’t a bigot.
4. My God doesn’t require worship, why would anyone want such a thing, specifically a perfect being?
5. My God doesn’t judge me he/she/it trusts that I am capable of doing that myself.
6. The God of Deism has never resulted in a crusade, a witch burning, a holy war or death of anyone simply because they had a different belief.
7. The God of Deism doesn’t let me blame my failings on a mythical Satan which he himself created.
8. The God of Deism has never gambled on the fate of a human being with an adversary such as he did with Job. The Deist god doesn’t gamble with human suffering for his own agenda.
9. The God of Deism allows for a duality of the creator meaning possessing both masculine and feminine attributes. There is no way a male entity could be all knowing this entity would have to have feminine attributes as well to understand its own creation. In other words my God isn’t a male chauvinist.
10. Most importantly Deism doesn’t claim to have all the answers, there is no guarantee of what happens when we die, how humanity will or will not fail to adapt to the future. The end isn’t written, as a Deist I know I am literally a co-creator with God, that my actions as small as they seem are actually creating a future that is of yet unwritten. I know that I am responsible for more then just myself but yet I am free to choose how I help, who I help and why I do so it up to me. There is no get out of jail free card and no opportunity to say anything doesn’t matter because in the end we expect God to show up and establish a perfect kingdom anyway.
Again this is what I believe, personally. I am sure someone like the guy that asked the original question will show up here at some point and be offended by this and try to save me or others from my line of thinking. Just know you are free to believe what you want to, I wrote this not to change your mind but for the person who has already decided that they no longer will follow dogma and myth and is now exploring for answers outside of revealed religions.
A Gift of Fear? No Thanks I will Pass!
I like many that come to Deism have a catholic background. There is a wonderful sense of mystery inside Catholicism if you can get past the guilt, false fears and superstitions and I think this is why so many former Catholics become Deists.
I say this to point out I do not resent all of my Catholic upbringing despite what I am about to say. I want to tell you a story, unlike many myths this one is true and the details as accurate as the 29 years of time separating me from them will allow.
One day in our religious portion of the school day we were learning about the Seven Gifts of the Holly Spirit which are,
- Fear of the Lord
Now at 11 years of age I wasn’t exactly hip on the whole piety thing, after learning what it was but I understood why we would be told it was a virtue. On the other hand understanding, wow yea, I want that, so much I wanted to understand! The others too except for one, “fear of the lord” seemed like pretty great stuff. So given understanding was first I asked the teacher to help me understand why I should fear a God that loves me. Not just loves me but loved me so much he sent his son to die for me. I mean I don’t know about you but that sounds like a guy I should trust and never fear.
So I asked simply why I should fear a God that loves me that much. She did her best to talk around the issue but I wouldn’t let up and I would not accept “because it says so in the book” so the teacher got mad because she had no answer and sent me to the principal. The principal to be fair was kind and understanding. Once she realized I wasn’t sent out for bad behavior that the teacher just basically said I can’t get you an answer so go see someone perhaps that can help you. For once I was being disruptive without harsh discipline, may be this would pay off!
She also had no real answer for this question and didn’t even try, she sent me back to class and promised to have the Monsignor (senior priest at a church) talk to me later. When that happened, the Monsignor kindly lectured me on the wisdom of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit etc but he had no real answer either. He tried an end around and said “John if god showed up right now, in front of us wouldn’t you be afraid”. I asked him if I would know it is in fact God and not some ghost, if I would really know it was the Lord himself, he said yes. I thought he was going to fall over when I said very confidently “well then no, I trust God”.
In the end I was reminded the first item on the list was understanding and that it would come in time with prayer and study and reflection. That is was good of me to ask such questions but for now I would have to have faith in God and trust his teachings. I let it go, I knew I had made my case. The answer was oh I understand it but I can’t explain it just accept it.
There is a proverb “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”. Proverbs 9:10. This is the root of this “gift” of fear.
In my 40 odd years I have gone from Catholic to Baptist to Methodist to Deist and only Deism can answer this question I asked 29 years ago and no one could answer inside any church. The answer is, you shouldn’t and it isn’t a gift!
So I have written my own version of this proverb, “The release of any irrational fear including of your own creator is the true beginning of wisdom”. Frankly if anyone wants to provide me with a gift, I will skip any that include fear.