Surviving As A Deist In A Mixed Belief Family
by Jay Boswell
Anyone who can remember American TV shows from the 1970s is probably familiar with the situation comedy series "Bridget Loves Bernie" in which the awkward situations that arose in the daily lives of Bridget, a Catholic wife played by Meredith Baxter Birney, and Bernie, her Jewish husband played by her real life husband David Birney were used as a comedy theme based on a rare marriage arrangement, one which was interfaith or inter-religious. Today, TV families are almost entirely portrayed in a secular manner, and the U.S. population is increasingly becoming more diverse, both in its religious and nonreligious belief systems. Despite the U.S. being founded upon the principles of separation of religion and government, and freedom of worship put forth by several Deist Founding Fathers, and having native inhabitants practicing Earth-centered spiritualism, it was formed by predominately Christian Europeans and is only now rapidly expanding into a citizenry that considers itself Christian as well as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Unitarian, Deist, Humanist, Agnostic, Atheist, and Native American Spiritualist. Many young persons that are getting married in current times are far less concerned than their ancestors about what their spouse's religion is or how different it might be from their own, but for those who consider themselves fundamentalists, and specifically those Christians who adhere to the Bible verse II Corinthians 6:14 - "Don't be unequally yoked", religion will be considered a major factor. Although the following advice is given with couples' relationships in mind, I hope it will be helpful to any individual who is surrounded by a differing majority.
I honestly feel that opposites in small matters attract and can allow the stronger quality of the couples to thrive, such as if one is tidy and the other is not, then their household can be tidy, or if one is good at money management and one is not then as a household they can be good at money management, or cases in which the matters are small such as tastes in music. I believe that large differences can be very detrimental to the relationship such as if one is a country person and the other is a city person, then their cultures will clash. Religion can be another big factor. How can two people with almost mutually exclusive beliefs strive if their lifestyles or what they teach their children clashes? I think the key is in how it arises and in how it is handled. The two situations it might arise is (1) if both persons are different when they first meet and (2) if one person changes his/her beliefs during the marriage or long-term relationship. I can't imagine two fundamentalists of two different religions getting married to each other, so I will address the situation of a Deist finding him/herself in a relationship with a person of a traditional religion and in particular, the situation when a person changes to Deism after being well into a marriage to a traditionally religious spouse such as a Christian.
In terms of handling differences that surface in religious theories/ideals and in conversational disagreements, try to keep the focus as much as possible on as many positive elements that you have in common. Remember that you can moderate your tone without compromising your beliefs. Strive to be optimistic and concilatory in your attitude, accommodating in your practice, and tolerant and open-minded in your views toward other's beliefs, rather than be so critical and restrictive toward them. If you are a Deist, consider saying about yourself like, "I strongly and lovingly believe in God," or practice some generic Theistic language toward the other person like, "I see God working things in your life." Show respect to others by quietly allowing them the opportunity to say dinner prayers, or even better, be willing to lead them in prayer with simple, generic God language, expressed with an attitude of thankfulness and reverence. On occasions of religious holidays, remember that the causes of the celebrations predate the religions. Be mindful of the Christian meaning of Christmas, but realize the season belongs to everyone. For example, in other religions it's the celebration of life and the beginning of longer sunlight in the dead of winter (thus the evergreen trees, holly wreaths, green and red colors, candles, and lights).
If the two practice highly private and personal beliefs and maintain religious tolerance then they will survive their differences fine, but in other situations there will come times for compromising by at least one person such as by attending the other's church for family harmony. I think the key is to maintain sincerity and integrity to oneself and one's own beliefs while yielding to the purposes of the other's church services. It might seem unfair that Deism is not widely recognized enough for traditional religionists to readily agree to compromise and attend a noncreedal church such as Unitarian together with their Deist spouse or partner. Often times it is the Deist who has entered the marriage or relationship by having the same religion as his/her spouse or partner but has since changed personal philosophies or come to identify with Deism and this defection has put him/her into a less powerful bargaining position in the spouse's or partner's view. Over time I honestly believe that the Deist can grow to wield more influence in the religious activities of the couple.
Religion is usually about trying to understand the relationship between God, humans, and the world; following a moral code; and achieving some social and community support foundations. Even a Deist who would naturally find disagreement with church creeds and rituals and tithes could still benefit from the social and moral structure and family harmony that church attendance provides, and church attendance can be successfully practiced without joining the church, sacrificing one's beliefs, or pretending to believe in something that he/she does not believe. It might put a Deist in the position of being closer practicing creeds and rituals that he/she doesn't believe in, but it can still be done in an honest manner. Keep in mind that almost every church member has disagreements about some ideals and practices of his/her church, and this will serve to help buffer the differences of beliefs in which the Deist has to negotiate. A local pastor I admire says, "Let your faith be your own." If you, as a Deist cannot or will not attend the church of your spouse, and your staying home does not provide your spouse with a strong enough example of religious commitment, and if each of you going alone to separate churches does not provide enough family harmony, consider spending your normal church time doing hands-on charity work, especially in a way that your spouse will recognize as exemplary. Another suggestion is to use the time that would be spent in church to visit persons in nursing homes or hospitals.
I would not suggest trying to peel someone away from their established traditional beliefs in order to make a marriage work, but rather demonstrate through example that a person of a different can equal or surpass the other's model of good morals and citizenship. When moral lessons to children are involved, focus on the positive and ethical values that both parents have in common. Keep in mind that ancient stories and scriptures that your spouse might want to teach can still have some wisdom and value to them, especially if you can modernize and apply them properly. There are at least a dozen or two Bible verses focusing on the beauty of the creation, seeking God and purpose, and loving your neighbor that a Deist or minimalist Christian could be comfortable with such as Micah 6:8, Job 37:14, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 7:12, Mark 12:30-31, John 8:32, Romans 1:19-20, Romans 8:28, and Philippians 4:8. If as a Deist married to a Christian, you have to calm family concerns about the afterlife and your eternal fate in a way that is meaningful to them, recite the Bible verse I Corinthians 7:14 - "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
One of my best suggestions for a Deist who is married to a Christian is to consider leaning toward and practicing some simple, generic monotheism, like that portrayed by actor Ralph Waite as character John Walton in "The Waltons" TV series. He put family first, worked hard six days a week, rested on Sundays, did not go to church except for very special family occasions, and gave simple prayers of thanks at mealtime. His TV character was widely admired, and even portrayed on Christian TV networks as a role model. This simple, generic monotheism in practice, coupled with your Deistic beliefs in theory, might be the right key or package that you can use to survive and even excel in a mixed belief family.
Copyright © 2003 Jay Boswell
by Steve Zinn
It has been my experience that most people do not have a feeling of self worth. What I mean by self worth, is a feeling that you are as good as anyone else in the world. This isn't surprising, when all of the commercials showing beautiful people are considered. Or that the "experts" are constantly telling us how dumb we are. Or the revealed religions telling us, that none of us are worthy in the eyes of God.
I suppose it is only normal to feel of less importance than the rich and famous. But being Deists, we don’t have to be a part of the "norms." We are free to examine our paradigms and decide that we are equal to anyone. Obviously, we are not equally endowed by our creator to do some things as well as others may do them. But, we all have our unique abilities, which do make us, equal with anyone else. Just because our unique abilities do not lend themselves to making a great deal of money, or otherwise making us stand out from the crowd, doesn’t mean that we aren't important. After all, I am the most important person to me. Yes, I love my wife and son, and would die for either in a heart beat, still that is only because I think that my life would not be right without them. So it is only my own selfish desires that place others before myself. And that is true of most, if not all people.
Some people will seem to put others ahead of themselves, but this is for the selfish desire of being respected by society. All too many people consider society's, often perverted, sense of another person's worth and take it to heart as the final arbitrator. Society's standards are conditioned into us from the time we start learning how to talk. Society's heroes are forced upon our children by television, radio, and school. Parents will often unwittingly perpetuate authority or "expert" worship. Churches, the revealed religion kind, are maybe the worst at conditioning people so that they feel they are unworthy of life and happiness. For differing reasons, society conditions us with propaganda.
Propaganda can be used for good, but is usually just used to sell something to others, for the benefit of the seller. We all have seen commercials on TV, heard them on radio, and see them on signs all over the place. Politicians sell ideas, so that they can get elected or re-elected. Televangelists sell their concept of religion to whomever they can, so that they can profit and wield power over others. The commercials are good in that they let us know of products available for our use. We recognize that the commercial is a biased view of a particular product. We don't always recognize that the politician or preacher is selling a product too. We should recognize that they are selling us something, and that it just might not be in our best interests. A good intention by the person propagandizing doesn't make it any less a form of propaganda.
We don't have to allow ourselves to be swayed by propaganda. And we most certainly do not need to feel that we are not equal to those hyped images of people portrayed by propaganda. By recognizing that money, possessions, fame, are not what life is about; we can see our own self worth. In the big scheme of things, we don't really consider such things to be of much importance when we recognize that what is really important are our family, friends, health, happiness, and our ability to think for ourselves. As Deists, we have the ability to see past the propaganda and work for those things that really matter to us. Because we recognize no authority as being above our own, we can develop our own ideas and values.
Something else that helps us realize our own self worth, is knowing that God loves us in God's own way. I don't understand it, but I truly believe that God loves us. Not only does God love all of us, but also he loves all of us the same. It may not seem that way by society's standards, but we are all equally loved by God. And, if God loves you, just the way you are, isn't that proof of your worthiness for life and happiness?
Maybe you are thinking right now, or maybe sometime tomorrow, that you don't believe that God loves us. Well, maybe you are right. But that makes you no less admirable. If there is no God, or a God that doesn't love us, we are still equal before nature. The laws of nature effect us all in the same way. Sometimes genetics seem to favor some over others, but it is just nature's way of working. Nature has to try other things to progress, some benefit in some things, some don't. Some benefit in ways that are not obviously evident. Yet, we are still equally effected by nature.
So, when it is all said and done, all of us are truly equal. No one deserves to be put above anyone else in our concepts of others. Not that we shouldn't judge others actions, especially when their actions effect others. But, we should give everyone the benefit of recognizing that they are no less special then us, or more special, for that matter. As long as you treat others with respect, then they will tend to return that respect. And those that don't return the respect still should be shown respect. It shows others how worthy of respect you are. And more importantly, you show yourself how much you are worthy of respect. Especially self-respect, which is another way of saying that you recognize your own self worth.
Don't ever let the propaganda get to you. Know that you deserve to have self-respect. Nature and God teach us that. Deism teaches us, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. Don't let one of Deism's best messages pass you by. Teach yourself, that you are worth as much as anyone else, then feel good about yourself; you deserve it.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Zinn
Some people feel that a freethought philosophy such as Deism offers them nothing, and leaves them in the land of uncertainties, without giving them the equivalent comfort of religion.
What is good about Deism is that it's a truly moderate philosophy. It does not go to any extreme. It doesn't go as far as rejecting any sort of meaning or ultimate reality in the universe, neither does it go as far as claiming with nonnegotiable certainty what God is like, to the point of attributing specific thoughts and revealed texts and descriptions to the Creator, as if only some people are privileged to have such access to the Creator.
The beauty of Deism is in its simplicity. Amidst all the conflicting versions and descriptions of God in world religions, one cannot honestly claim to know much about the nature of the Creator with any reasonable amount of certainty. My God is the mystery that accounts for my existence. That is all I can claim, as a Deist.
Deism gives the best of both worlds. It leaves all the possibilities open for interpreting life and finding your own meaning in it, and fulfilling your role in it, the way you feel is right. And at the same time, you are not restricted by any kind of dogma or blind faith, and you do not have the obligation to blindly trust any source as being divine. Your divine source is your God-given mind.
As opposed to dogmas, Deism truly means that we are all equal. No one is better than anyone else in terms of salvation or damnation. We all have different good potentials with varying degrees based on our own personal behavior and hard work, and none of that is based on what we believe or whether we accept or reject any philosophy or religion.
As opposed to tragic extreme skepticism philosophies, Deism means that there is meaning to life. We know that the universe is designed, and a designed universe by definition was designed for a purpose, for lack of purpose is only the product of randomness. And having that in mind, we know that our lives have a structure, and a role, different for each person. It's our mission to know that role and live it to the fullest.
Deism also means hope. Knowing that the universe and our lives have design and purpose, we have hope that death may not be the end. With courage, one can only accept the Creator's plans for us after death, for no one has been to the "other world". We don't know where we were before birth, and we just might be in for a great surprise at the fulfillment of life!
Copyright © 2002 Logikal
by Jay Boswell
About a year and a half ago a person in a business setting asked me if I had read Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life. I said no, that my understanding of it was that it answered questions from a different viewpoint from mine, and it would probably try to convert you to Christianity in the process. The worker gave me a remarkable response. He said that he was not looking to convert to Christianity, but was looking to borrow as many good ideas as he could find from different places and blend them into something that works for him.
That conversation set me on a course to be more optimistic and concilatory in everything I do, large and small, but especially in areas of religion. I have adjusted my public practice to be more accommodating, tolerant, and open-minded to concepts from other's viewpoints rather than be so critical and restrictive toward them. In relation to Deism, I have encountered some fellow Deists that feel Deism is a complete religion for them. It allows them to follow their own conscience and shapes a rational thinking methodology that can be applied to other areas of life, such as parenting, shopping, or dieting. Others I hear from think of Deism as simply a philosophy about the nature of God, and they seek other principles, sources, or social structures to complete their religious belief system.
For those of you seeking other ingredients to complement or blend with your Deism; here briefly are a few suggestions:
If you are concerned that Deism does not have an ethical behavior guideline, consider blending it with The Golden Rule.
If you are concerned that Deism does not have an avenue to call on God in a personal time of need, consider blending it with generic Theism.
If you are concerned that Deism does not have a feature of redemption and renewal, consider blending it with minimalist Christianity.
If you are concerned that Deism does not have an ancient wisdom background, consider blending it with Confucianism.
If you are concerned that Deism does not have a self-examination or self-discipline component, consider blending it with Buddhism.
If you are concerned that Deism is not spiritual enough, consider blending it with Transcendentalism or Taoism.
If you are concerned that Deism does not express God enough as a life sustaining force active within the universe, consider blending it with Panentheism.
If you are concerned that Deism expresses God in a too assertive manner, consider blending it with Agnosticism.
If you are concerned that Deism does not have a network of churches and fellowships for social support, consider blending it with Unitarian Universalism.
If you are concerned that Deism does not have opportunities to participate in good humanitarian deeds and services, consider blending it with volunteer work in an established charitable organization, or initiate them as an individual.
Don't shy away from the traditional religious language of feeling called to serve a purpose greater than your own needs. I didn't invent this analogy, but consider thinking of God as an electrical wall outlet, and you as the appliance. The outlet is always there waiting for you to tap into it and energize your life. Regardless of your specific leanings, be passionate about your beliefs and aim to serve your fellow humans; teach them and help them in whatever ways you can.
Copyright © 2006 Jay Boswell
I Can't Help But Feel ...
by Peter Hilbig
That there is a master plan behind our universe.
That the seeming randomness of evolution hides a brilliant intrigue.
That the billions of years preceding humans were to prepare for humans, and to illustrate God's timelessness and attention to solid foundations.
That revealed religions and their histories serve to illustrate how God should not deal with us, even in the event that the stories have truth.
That freedom of thought, not unquestioning obedience, is God's objective.
That the bloodthirsty law of the jungle is there to teach us a better way.
That life is to be appreciated as well as enjoyed.
That we are here to learn everything we can about living together, both as individuals and as societies.
That we must learn this without God telling us it is so.
That death has many purposes, including that we understand and experience finality ourselves.
That death is not actually final, but the path we must all take to the next chapter.
Wrong? I hear you say. Maybe, but it's reasoned around making sense of our history and current stage of social evolution. It also gives reasoned hope to those who need it and a way of thinking positively about a subject which is deemed morose or pessimistic in modern times.
Is this reasoned faith or wishful thinking? Please feel free to pick it to pieces.
Copyright © 2006 Peter Hilbig