I have grown up with “faith” from as early as I can remember. It was understood that God existed; that was assumed rather than explained. My parents believed it; the church believed it; almost everyone I knew believed that God existed, even though the exact details of God and our relationship with him may not have matched. I have more memories of God and church than I do of anything else in my life right through to adulthood. In fact, there was never an explanation given, nor did there need to be, of God’s existence and his interaction with us until I went to college. Suddenly, it became paramount to give “a reason for the hope that was in us.” That’s what seminary was supposed to be.
While the concept of defending one’s faith makes sense from a religious perspective, I always wondered why it was necessary. To paraphrase Voltaire, one of the greatest Deist thinkers, we do not need to believe that God exists, the very world in which we live is evidence that there is an intelligence in this universe and that it is so great we cannot comprehend it. I see evidence daily of this power, from the moment I get out of bed I am amazed at the complexity of life and how it could have been formed. That is God.
But I am not at all afraid to admit that I have faith, even after leaving the tradition of my family and the faith upon which I was raised. You see, I have no need for a system of religion to tell me that there is a supreme being who made me and all that I observe in the physical realm. And it is just as evident to me that there is a realm, one that I cannot see with my eyes, that operates in tandem with our conscious existence. I do not believe that science will ever reveal the details of this dimension, despite great strides that have been made in the physical sciences.
There is nothing to fear in this kind of faith. It is not dependent on the stories told by mere mortals to give fantastical explanation to the events we see in the present, as well as, the distant past. My faith is not in fables, but in the gracious hand of God that I can plainly see and feel every time I walk out my back door, or look into the eyes of my children. It is right there in front of me; it swirls around me with every step I take.
I can readily place faith in a chair as I sit on it, but need not have faith that I can draw my next breath. There is nothing I can do to prolong my own life. If my lungs cease to function, or I get hit by a truck on the freeway, my life will then be in the hands of my creator. Do you see the difference?
Faith does not have to be blind: as in the person who accepts a teaching merely on the word of another. We would expect that a judge would not believe the accused because he says, “I didn’t do it.” Nor is the word of a suspect taken who claims to have been elsewhere on the night of the murder, but his claim is put to the test by corroboration. So, we cannot simply take a book of stories and assume their truth without some actual evidence that those who wrote them had a factual basis for their assertions. A thorough investigation must be undertaken to lend credence to what we say is truth.
For example: even the idea of a heaven and hell, where saints and sinners will be consigned once leaving this plane of existence, cannot be taken on word alone. It is a matter of faith, and that of a blind faith in the words of unknown, ancient authors. The claim itself is bald enough, but more so with the lack of corroboration and the inability to confront the claimant face-to-face.
In court, this called cross-examination. It is the ultimate tool to catch the witness with the facts of the case. What is real? That is what investigation helps us to determine. How can we have faith if we cannot first distinguish between fact and fantasy? One is under no obligation to accept the authority of another when there is no solid, physical evidence, no reason to place faith in that person or group of people. The very idea of authority is preposterous, considering that it gives to other, fallible humans, a right that we refuse to take for ourselves!
Again, I turn to our own justice system for support: there is no witness afforded the luxury of having their testimony accepted simply on the basis of their own oath. If their word contradicts all evidence to the contrary, it must and will be thrown out of that court. It is a lie when it is so contradictory.
Where religion and her books of revelation are concerned, that which is contradictory to every sense of the minds of men must be examined in the light of reality, and when found wanting, thrown into the fire and forgotten. It does humanity no good to believe that a man walked on water, or that this God destroyed all that he created save one, special family to start the course of nature afresh from that point in history.
Faith in superstitions is not true faith, for there is no basis on which to accept those tales that are told. There is no reason to accept the story of a man who receives secret tablets of gold and who only has the gift to interpret what is written on them. It is no faith that believes a man who claims to have had a conversation with God. God may in fact speak to any one of us… mano-a-mano, in a matter of speaking. This is simply what the spirit of the recipient receives from his or her creator. It is personal, and nothing that comes to an individual can be authoritative (i.e. a revelation) to another simply on the word of the first. Such claim is, and has been, the cause of much license and justification for a world of evil. Many the atrocity has been committed by those who claim the divine authority to do what none would dare to do without that same (alleged) authority. Even Adolf Hitler claimed that his authority was divine in origin.
Most religions even claim that nature itself attests to their deity, yet I see nothing in nature that leads me to believe what these systems of belief have to preach. Any teaching that violates my God-given reason, also violates the God who gives it. I cannot have faith that the same God who created me and claims to love me would consign my soul to eternal torture for refusing the edicts of those whom I have never met; that millions have believed, and even my own parents who raised me in love… I cannot accept that horror.
Faith tells me that the God who gives me life neither desires to snuff it out for exercising my reason, nor violates that reason with precepts that imprison my morality and will.
This is the plain truth of Deism: God is, and that is all. There is no other truth, outside of what is. All that exists is evidence for that one truth. I am evidence, and you are evidence, of the plain truth that God is. I was not created to own you, and you were not created to own me. We occupy a tiny space in the immense cosmos, here for such a short time to share a common purpose and place.
God has not created us to dominate our world, but to work in harmony with it by the use of our limitless knowledge, ability, and potential. While words like Deism and God often connote religion and a blind sort of faith to the average mind, we simply mean that something or someone greater than us makes all life as we know it possible. And, again, that is where Deism begins and ends. There is no system of belief, no book of teachings, and no doctrine to learn and understand. Our minds are our books and reason is the instrument of finding our way in the world. It finally occurred to my mind that higher education for the purpose of teaching doctrine was contradictory. If we are made in God’s image, then we must have it within ourselves to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.
The freedom that that revelation afforded my mind was more incredible that the “knowledge” that God had sent his son to die on a cross to “atone” for my “sins” so that I could be “right” with God… the one who had condemned me in the first place for the “failure” of the “first parents”. It is truly a mind-boggling belief that God would create us just to kill us for what someone else did! That is no justice at all.
In fact, that is exactly the justice that Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others have exercised for centuries, in the name of god, to suppress their rivals. It is the cause for the Crusades, and countless other atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion. Reason begs for a better world! And Deism delivers. None of us are rivals, competing to be right. We are all members of the human family, under God, charged with the great responsibility to nurture one another with the same love that brought the universe into existence.
What do you see when look up into the starry sky? Is it competition? Is it hatred and violence? Or do you see what I see? Do you see harmony and order? Do you see a vast panorama that is waiting to be discovered and appreciated? Deism says that all of that was put there for our benefit- to wonder and discover. That is why we study it; not to be in awe of God, but to be in awe that it is all OURS. We have great minds so that we can find out and do great things. Science is a tool to learn how to better exist on this plane. It is the only life we have; it is the only existence we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt. What lies on “the other side” is for God to know. Have faith that he knows what awaits.