Last time I covered my departure from Christianity; now I’ll talk about my conversion to Deism.
Actually, “conversion” is kind of a strong word; Deism is a lot more like a philosophy than a religion, i.e., there are no rituals, no holy books, no churches, no specific moral requirements. In fact, a lot of Deists don’t agree with each other on everything, due to the understanding that every person must use his reason to identify truth.
Deism was the “religion of the Enlightenment,” the period in Western civilization when human reason began to gain prominence as a source of knowledge and truth. Deists believe in God (as the Creator, or Prime Mover), but don’t find sufficient evidence that he ever revealed himself through “special revelation,” such as holy books, prophets, or other “inspired” information. They believe that God reveals himself equally to all people through his creation (the natural world) and through human reason, which he also gave us. Deists believe that God reveals his moral will to people through our reason and common sense, although our specific moral beliefs (like our languages) vary depending on our culture and history.
As a Deist, I believed that God’s moral requirements were fundamentally to love your neighbor. I was no longer enslaved to an endless list of arbitrary rules that seemed to be added to all the time. I had peace about the afterlife for the first time; instead of dreading a judgment day that could send me to hell, I trusted that God would treat me justly, in light of my actions and motivations. (Note: not all Deists believe in an afterlife; opinions vary.) I was able to interact with people not based on an artificial divide of “Christian/non-Christian,” but by viewing them as individuals, with strengths and weaknesses and good and bad motivations. I saw people as having both the capacity for good and for evil, which was formed by society and by the choices of their own free will. I didn’t feel that I could judge anyone, because I couldn’t know how God had revealed himself to them, or what their understanding and motivations were.
For the first time in a long time, I was at peace with myself and with God. The fear and guilt went away, and it was as if life had opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
Next time: why I started exploring Catholicism