The place is a warm summer evening in New England and a cloudless sky has
allowed the stars to shine at their brightest. Two little boys of 10 are stretched out
on the grass looking up at the twinkling spectacle of stars displayed before them.
There is silence for some time and then the first boy speaks, “Do you feel it,
“Feel what?” the second boy replies .
“Don’t you feel you’re a part of what we’re looking at, Wayne?”
“Nah, you’re crazy, Chuck.”
That was in 1936 and I’ve never forgotten that night, that place, that time or who I
was with as well as that short conversation. It was on that night that I became a
Deist but had to spend 81 years alone in the wilderness before I realized what I was
and what we all should be. As Paul Harvey would say, and now, the rest of the
I was born on, June 21, 1926, a Monday, at 7:30 AM, to be exact. As they
say, the Roaring Twenties. I was dearly loved by my parents, however, there were
complications that may have had something to do with the direction my religious
life took in later years. My father worked for F.W. Woolworth, Five & Dime stores
as a store manager, which caused him to relocate numerous times in his career, in
fact, we moved 19 times before I was out of high school (that equals 11 different
schools). Religion was also involved; I was dunked in a Baptist church when I was
10, sprinkled or what ever they do by the Methodists, Congregationalists, and
Presbyterians in following years, and as a result I was never quite sure what I was
or believed and some years later I had a similar incident when I went into the Army
during WWII, it was my first Christmas away from home (can there be anything
more alone than being alone on Christmas eve?), I tried to get into the Protestant
Service but it being full I ended up in the Catholic Service and later, alone, I sat
down on the curb and cried. For those brief moments I really felt loneliness.
In 1954 I was married in a United Presbyterian church. We settled down and
raised 3 children, two boys and a girl, and since there was no United Presbyterian
church in our town we settled for the Presbyterian Church.
I don’t know how average we were but we always said grace at dinner,
attended church every Sunday and celebrated all religious holidays. My three
children all attended college and my oldest son became very active with the Inter-
Varsity Christian Fellowship and even went to work for them for a period after
graduation until he went off for his PhD.
By 1980 my life had changed, I had a good job but I tended to drink quite a
bit and there were scenes between my wife and I about my drinking to the point
where we started sleeping in separate rooms. One Saturday morning she came into
my room and said, “I’m leaving you,” and walked out. We settled our legal affairs
and she was gone. Soon after, my company transferred me to the home office.
With a new environment my drinking slowed down but didn’t stop. I joined
a singles club and met a very fine widow lady. She had a neighbor who invited us
to a Saturday night party and that night I really overdid it. When I woke up I was in
her house. For a minute I was really lost. She walked into the room and I said,
“What happened?” She asked, “you don’t remember?” I said, “No.” She began to
tell me all the things I had done Saturday night and— that did it. I needed help.
The next week I found a Presbyterian church and went in. The minister said,
“are you a member here?” I said “no” and he said, “I can’t help you because you
don’t belong to this church.” I tried another church and got the same answer.
Christian forgiveness! At that moment, for me, organized religion went out the
window but now I really felt alone.
I was telling my lady friend my woes and she said, “When my husband felt
that way he used to read a book and he would get all pepped up.” She left and
returned with the book and handed me Tom Paine’s, “The Age of Reason!”
Now, careful, don’t jump to conclusions. The result was not what you think.
I did not all of a sudden become a Deist but I suddenly realized that what happened
to me was in my hands, not the hands of God and if anything was going to happen
it would be my doing and not God’s. Right then and there I said, NO MORE
LIQUOR! and that was in 1981 and I haven’t had another drop of liquor since.
In the early years with my company I had a supervisor that I have never
forgotten as you will see later. He was compassionate, sensitive and tolerant, never
raised his voice and was always willing to spend a minute or two talking to you.
One day when the occasion seemed right, I said, “John, you seem to be such a
pious man,” He just nodded his head, so I asked, what religion are you? “Bahai,”
he answered, and I said that’s interesting and that was the end of the conversation. I
had no idea what a Bahai was but if that was the type of person they produced I
Days became weeks, weeks became months, etc, etc, etc, but I managed to
always have “The Age of Reason” tucked away in some place special wherever I
lived and every once in awhile I’d pick it up to deepen my belief that “God gave us
reason and not religion” but I never thought of finding out more about Deism than
what I knew. I was too busy.
Being single with my company seemed to be an added attraction for them
because when they needed someone in a hurry they could always call on me, no
family to move, etc, and so I travelled a great deal. My last port of call turned out
to be the Far East. Being in the Far East can be intoxicating (no pun intended) but
after 4 years I was beginning to feel a little antiquated, uninspired and to be honest,
just plain worn out. I’d gone everywhere, seen everything I wanted to see but what
do you do at 65 after 30 years with the same company? You RETIRE! And so I did.
I retired to Portsmouth, NH.
I was working as a volunteer with AARP in New Hampshire when one of
my colleagues asked me if I would like to buy a nice home in Florida. New
England is great for the summers and fall foliage but winter? So, I went down and
looked at the home, nice, so I bought it. Then serendipity played her hand. I was
driving home one afternoon and happened to turn my head to the left for a moment
and in a small mall was a sign on a building that said, “Bahai Meeting Center.”
Well, I hadn’t seen or heard that name for many years so when I had a chance I
turned around and drove back. The place wasn’t open but the sign on the door said
there would be a meeting in a week. Of course, I thought of John, my old
supervisor, and here was a chance to find out what the Bahai religion was all about.
Promptly at 7:00 PM I knocked at the door and was greeted by a very
pleasant woman who said, “You don’t have to knock, just walk in you’re welcome
anytime.” I was escorted around and introduced to all those present. Everybody
was extremely cordial and friendly. I stayed about an hour and left but not without
a few pamphlets. I felt quite overwhelmed by so much affability.
When I got home I sat down and started on the pamphlets and what really
got my interest was the summary list of some of the Bahai teachings: Unity of
God; Unity of religion; Unity of humanity; Unity of diversity; Equality between
men and women; and on and on. Boy, was that lofty and I thought I’d like to really
look into this. It took me one year to decide to become a Bahai, and another year to
understand the administration of it all and that was when I knew that the Bahai
religion was not for me or, anyone else for that matter, so I left. What was I really
looking for? I had to find out. What’s it all about?
For the next 5 years I spent most of my time reading books on the evolution
of religion, philosophy, the great writers of the 16th and 17th centuries and on and
on, about 40 books. I even became a member of other religions, a Buddhist for a
year, the Humanists for 2, and when it was all over I came up with what I thought
my answer was — there were no revealed religions that I could see that weren’t
promulgated by the hand of man, not God, just like the Deists said. So what was I?
At this point I was an atheist! It was then that I went back to my book, “The Age of
Reason,” and now it made perfect sense, once I accepted the concept that there had
to have been a Creator to make it go and where do you find that Creator, he can
only be found in REASON & NATURE! I wasn’t an Atheist, I was a Deist!!!!
Now it’s time to bring this long chain of events to a triumphant close. No,
the boy doesn’t get the girl but the man finds the answer to “what’s it all about?”
It’s having the knowledge that: 1. There is a God who created the universe; 2.
miracles do not occur; 3. “Deism is a Unitarian concept of God that involves the
denial of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.”
Three years ago, at age 88, I was diagnosed with stage 3 COPD-severe
emphysema along with heart failure coupled with my bladder cancer so, my oldest
son told me it was time to come home and after 20 years I left sunny Florida and
returned home to New England and now I live with my son and wife and have the
pleasure of seeing many family members who visit quite often but more important,
time to find out what being a Deist is all about.
The place is a warm summers evening in New England and a cloudless sky has
allowed the stars to shine at their brightest and a 91 year old man is stretched out in
a lawn chair on a grassy spot looking up at the twinkling stars displayed before him
and knowing that he is a part of it all (stardust) because he’s a Deist and, Wayne,
that’s what I felt 81 years ago.