From Lutheran to Seventh Day Adventist to Christian fundamentalist to Deist
by Brian Eldridge
Like many of my fellow Deists, the spiritual journey which brought us to
our current beliefs has been a gradual process marked with trials and
triumphs. My journey is best told by starting from the beginning,
providing the reader with a bird’s eye view of the process which has
spanned over 40 years, the process of becoming a Deist.
Many of us were born into the religion of our parents; as such, I was baptized Lutheran. Along with the rest of my family during those years, I was active in the church and remained so until my 20’s. Church attendance, confirmation, youth group, and teaching Sunday school were all a part of my religious repertoire. Immersed in conservatism – socially, politically, and religiously – my opinions on a myriad of issues were formed from what we believed was taught in the Bible, for instance, homosexuality is a sin, liberalism erodes the moral fabric of society, individual expression should be moderated, sex outside of marriage is wrong and sinful, don’t trust your own intuition, we are fallen sinners deserving of eternal torture for being born into the human race unless we are “born again”, etc. Ah, the doctrine of original sin… what a horrid thing the church teaches to impressionable, innocent children! Yet, wanting to please God and parents, I adopted these teachings, unaware of the psychological damage that was taking place inside my head.
In college, I met a professor who was a devout Seventh Day Adventist. He provided Bible studies during an afternoon break between classes. His teaching influenced me, and I was eventually baptized into the SDA church. The baptism, however, was premature. The more I studied SDA doctrine, the more I realized that I was not in agreement on a number of foundational tenets. Parting with the SDA church was as simple as no longer attending the Saturday services. Following my experience with the SDA church, I began attending Calvary Chapel – a non-denominational mega church. Hip, upbeat music, cool pastors wearing trendy clothes, and a modern twist on the Bible were alluring to me. Looking back, I find it curious that these hugely popular non-denominational churches trip over themselves and go out of their way to be as cool and relevant as possible to modern sensibilities. But all in all, the effort amounts to the same old Bible dressed up in Giorgio Armani jeans. Several years went by, and although my narrow-minded and intolerant beliefs were the same, something was different. There was the beginning of a subtle shift in thought. My thoughts were becoming more open and objective, moving me to consider alternative points of view. But the struggling objectivity was silenced by doubling-down on my staunch Christian conservatism.
It was the mid 90’s when for the first time I worked side by side with a gay colleague. This marked the start of a major turning point, the beginning of a cascade of re-thinking things in the Bible and what I was taught to believe. This colleague, my supervisor, wasn’t the perverse sinner described in the Bible and from the pulpit. Instead, he was a very kind man, hardworking, and pleasant. I loved working my shift when he was in charge, and I came to really like him. This instance was one of the first when I clearly saw a disconnect between what the Bible said, and what I observed in the world around me. I began to see that when I looked up from my Bible, I experienced a reality different from what it described. I branched out and began reading books authored by liberal theologians, such as John Shelby Spong and Marcus J. Borg. Spong and Borg presented a liberal perspective that was refreshing! I was excited to learn different points of view on issues that I had formerly been convinced that I already knew the “truth”. Dabbling outside of the Christian fundamentalist camp, the gates were opened to a world of new, fresh outlooks. This may have been the first time that my God-given reason, unencumbered, was genuinely put to use. I was thinking objectively, independently, as an autonomous individual apart from the evangelical collective. The experience was, and still is, liberating.
Diverging from my Christian faith to ultimately become a Deist was a slow process spanning many years. Like so many people, I thought that my choices were limited – to remain in a “revealed” religion, become atheist, or settle with agnosticism. Yet, I was convinced that there must be a philosophy, a set of ideas and convictions, which resonated with me. While exploring spiritual topics online several years ago, I happened across deism.com. I was delighted to know that there was, indeed, a name for the beliefs I embraced: Deism! With hope and encouragement, I delved into the fascinating content of deism.com and read books authored by Deists. Deism resonated with me – it made complete sense. The more I learned about the simple beauty of Deism, the more I realized I had found a spiritual anchor. Deism enjoys perfect harmony with our God-given reason. Lifelong learning is a virtue, and unlike the “revealed” religions, Deism encourages the use of the mind. I share the belief of Albert Einstein when he aptly stated, “That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”