“The Deist God”
Seventy-five years ago, you crawled out of a warm and protective chamber. You came unwillingly, literally kicking and screaming, as you had a very bad feeling about the world outside. This was to be a world of pain, death and regret.
Now, in your dying breaths, you are forced—humiliated and prodded—to consider the cliched question of “Was it all worthwhile?”
You curse the God you knew, either for being impotent, arrogant or at the very least rude. He brought you into this world without asking and is now taking you out of it, without the slightest concern for your discomfort.
When you finally meet God, you shudder, shaking what used to be your fists, and asking him why, if he is the loving father figure biblical scripture suggested, he permitted all this suffering. To believe in God is to believe in suffering. The death of innocents. The pain of children. The triumph of evil.
And God answers you in a majestic, booming voice, sounding nothing like your father, your mother, or your manager. “All I am guilty of, all for which you can judge me, is for giving you life. The suffering is what you created. I watched your world unfold just as you did. I cried for you. I cheered for you. You answered all of my questions.”
God gave you life. And now you are faced with an even heavier question: what does anyone owe anyone? What do you owe God? What does God owe you? Life is the virus, life is the payment, life is the product, life is the basic unit of energy.
Love is the side effect. Hate is the evolution. Emotion is the unintended. The world you know is all part of the show.
It is only human nature to ascribe human qualities to a God. We live in a world, discovered by a human, and in a universe measured by earthly terms. Hence, we think of God only in human archetypes. In our dizzying emotional peaks, God becomes everything we need.
- God is the father we had, or always wanted
- God is the mother that was there for us through thick and thin
- God is the bastard who left you to die
- God is totalitarian despot spreading hate
- God is an empty idea and an imaginary friend, one that you needed, so that you could reach maturity and enlightenment
- God is a big question mark, making the journey of life a worthwhile investigation
- God is an animal, which justifies the animalistic behavior you crave
- God is greater than your thoughts, justifying your restraint in life
God is all things to all people. It is only human nature that we stubbornly prescribe human terms, human pronouns and human philosophy to a being that, by all scriptural and evolutionary logic, has nothing to do with the world we inhabit.
The opinion of the deist is a slightly different approach than traditional faith, atheism or agnosticism; namely that God created, saw and abandoned. It ties in perfectly with the pre-Flood scriptures in Genesis that suggest the human world, at its peak decadence, was too vile for God to save. It also ties in with the godless perspective, since God allows suffering mainly because he/she isn’t there.
Deism is separated from atheism because an observational and “rational” perspective of the natural world. An objective perspective could reveal that the universe was designed by something, something like an all-powerful creator, or perhaps a slightly less potent “higher being” with advanced creative abilities. (Thus, we also read legends of ancient aliens visiting Sumerians and giving them higher technology)
The term rational is not to imply that deism or belief in higher beings is “sane”, but that it is human nature to rationalize the appearance of something with creation. Thus, both warring sides (the godless vs. the god-loving) have an explanation for the “beginning.” Human nature demands that we find a beginning, middle and end, because that mirrors the cycle of birth, life and death.
Deists believe that God is either absent in human affairs or only occasionally active. A moderately active God, far too busy creating other worlds to be one’s personal savior, is a particularly disturbing human archetype. This would imply that the fast-paced, commercial world we loathe is, in fact, the closest system we have to understanding God’s point of view.
The deist rejects prophecy and miracles, as they would imply personal intervention, and quite frankly, something less than justice. After all, who is God that he/she should pick warring sides, football teams or certain individuals over more deserving alternatives?
The deist asserts that there is a “Supreme Architect” but that he is absent to the extent that he does not try to influence the universe by intervening in human affairs. This is also called the “Clockwork Universe Theory”, which suspects that God merely set a mechanical-like universal clock in motion, and that the laws of physics have since taken over. To intervene now would be to upset the delicate balance of everything.
The origins of deism originated in the Renaissance and in the “age of enlightenment”, as this was the age where science was born and ancient religious institutions were questioned. However, it could be proposed that deism was merely a modernization of Greek mythology, a historical and religious perspective that suggested Gods were humanlike and sinned and plundered like the worst of us.
Curiously, early deists saw organized religions of the day as corrupt institutions of one “original and pure” religion that was at one time rational. The priests were to blame, as they distorted truth and facts for their own personal gain.
The Death of Deism
Perhaps at one time, the idea of deism was a radical belief, as these bold questioners lived in a world of strong religious conviction. Asking if God cared, preceded the notion of asking if God existed? Deism declined heavily since the age of enlightenment, and historians like Peter Gay (Deism: An Anthology) fault the intellectual caliber of leading deists who could not really expand upon simple beliefs.
Rather than accuse deism of failing, most historians suggest that deism merely divided into a number of other movements, religions and perspectives. Atheism, Unitarianism, Pantheism and Free Thinking resulted from the remains of groundbreaking Deist ideas.
Deism still exists in “modernistic” form, and attempts to combine classic deist philosophy with relatively new scientific knowledge. The World Union of Deists still exists today and defines modern Deism as “the recognition of a universal creative force greater than that demonstrated by mankind, supported by personal observation of laws and designs in nature…and with the rejection of claims made by individuals and organized religions.”
At the heart of deism, we see a longing to assert God, or some sort of powerful non-human being, at the center of creation. Ironically, one could argue that even deism itself is still a human archetype—perhaps the absent parent that we long to know and believe in; an idealistic notion that would make the journey worth the pain.
After all, classical deism is defined by the lack of a personal relationship with God. Deists believe that God created the world and set it in motion but refrained from involving himself/herself in it. Instead, God gave humanity the tools they needed to create their own paradise.
Modern Deism and Deist Philosophy
Modern deists even today reject the notion of a personal God—an idea usurped with a vengeance by emerging Methodists and Fundamentalists who emerged from the age of enlightenment—claiming that God is transpersonal, meaning he transcends what we know as a “personal human relationship.”
Conveniently, the Deist God can also rationalize why there are apparent contradictions and inconsistencies with knowledge we receive about God—not to mention the ideal notion that “every religion” is right. Indeed, deism, appeals to people who wish to separate God from the church, and the miracle of life from traditional religious dogma.
Unfortunately, neither classical or modern deism succeeds in providing human beings redemption for a confusing and disturbingly short life span. Instead, we long for solace, explanation and hope of another life somewhere, someday. Of course, an everlasting journey doesn’t appeal to most of us, as evidenced by the fact that reincarnation in almost every religion stops at some point. What we desire most is that protective, sphere-like cave of inactivity where nothing can harm us and life goes on. A womb of Nirvana.
And deists everywhere applaud that nameless, unseen and irresponsible parent for choosing life.
The Late Mitchell Warren is the author of “The End of the Magical Kingdom”, a political and religious satire taking place in a faux-Disney universe.