Recipe For Making This Deist:
1. Place an innocent, creative, curious and intellectually gifted young child into the world in 1970.
2. Throw in a backdrop of Vietnam, terrorism, IRA, crooked politicians, social unrest and general chaos in the news and on TV every night.
3. Add a mother who was battered by her first husband as a young woman and retreated into religion instead of getting help from a psychologist (because psychologists are ungodly and worldly, and we aren’t supposed to engage in the things of this world).
4. Counter that with a solid father with a steady temperament, a love of learning, a curiosity for the natural world, and a few general beliefs about God that he kept to himself but shared with his daughter when he knew he was dying.
5. Add a generous sprinkling of supportive, loving teachers with degrees from the 1960’s and their feet firmly in the counter culture who encouraged gifted children to learn, think for themselves, and ask questions about everything and anything.
6. A Sunday school teacher tells this mother, now divorced and remarried to a religious man educated in a bible institute back east, that she’s ‘concerned’ by some of the questions this child is asking and recommends that she be placed in their new Christian School for guidance. (Can we say ‘indoctrination center’ anybody?) This child stands out like a sore thumb and does academically very well – and keeps reading the ‘wrong’ books and asking questions.
7. It’s the 1980’s now. Pat Robertson and Tammy Faye Baker, Ronald Reagan, and the Religious We’re Right You’re Wrong are influencing government. Watching this from the ground is a generation of teenagers with a name – Gen-X. We are fed up and disillusioned and not sure what to do about it.
8. Public high school has teachers who teach things like psychology and further forays into Sam Clemens. A teacher asks this student what her questions have been and this student answers honestly. The teacher advises looking into Transcendentalism and something called Deism and suggests some authors. She puts a quote in this student’s yearbook: ONE’S MIND, ONCE STRETCHED BY A NEW IDEA, NEVER REGAINS ITS ORIGINAL DIMENSIONS. (Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.)
9. Church Youth Rally, 1985. A former pop star pianist turned evangelist calls the buttons and pins on our jean jackets idolatry and says that our music is chock full of devil worship – even U2. As others stand up in tears and leave their buttons at the altar, this young woman stands up, walks right past the youth pastor and his wife, and leaves to sit in the lobby until it’s over. It’s the last straw.
10. She graduates in 1988 and moves out. She quits attending church, goes to college, gets a job and suddenly understands the Logical Song by SuperTramp. She feels lost, detached, unanchored. This begins a search for finding out what she truly believes and where her place is in this world. She finds solace for a while in Dan Millman and Ram Dass, and is encouraged by Joseph Campbell. She rediscovers her love of philosophy and re-reads Marcus Aurelius, where she finds a quote that really brings it home: “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” Something about this sinks in and it becomes her motto, but she still searches for a while.
11. She’s in her early 40’s now and hasn’t been able to find a place where her beliefs fit, save for the Unitarian church. She’s been an interfaith chaplain since 1999 and has since read more than she can even remember. And it’s like the rest of a thinning fog has been cleared and there’s sunlight. She embraces this Deism and undergoes treatment for RTS (Religious Trauma Syndrome) to help her better handle the backlash that she experiences from her family and a couple of now former friends. She still feels the sting of this every Easter and Christmas and her mother and siblings are still Pentecostal Evangelicals – some of them pastors.
What Deism Has Meant to Me?
I feel free. I no longer have the mantle of perceived sin and guilt put upon my being by puritanical ancestors and religions made up by old men who wanted to control them.
My biological functions are a scientific wonder, not something that as a woman I am supposed to associate with a curse from a talking snake and an angry god. I am not property and I have rights.
My money is my own; 10% of my hard earned wages no longer goes to ‘convert’ those ‘poor heathens’ in Africa/China/Wherever.
I have a mind that is free to explore, question, expand and investigate. I admire and enjoy philosophy and science, even when I don’t always grasp it completely. God’s natural laws are a wonder to behold.
We are indeed on a path less travelled…but a path well worth traveling.