From Protestant Christian to Being a Deist
by Scott Clark
I was born and grew up in what was Australia's largest inland city. Toowoomba is located about ninety minutes (by car) west of Queensland's capital city of Brisbane. Toowoomba is a small city which was originally settled to provide services to Queensland's rich agricultural region of the Darling Downs. Toowoomba is electorally conservative and dominated by the Christian faith. Originally the town was dominated by a large Catholic cathedral and Anglican cathedral. However, within my life time the Assemblies of God and Christian Outreach have grown in prominence. Coming from a conservative middle class family, education meant a conservative boys only private school and being a Protestant family that meant Grammar. If we were a Catholic family it would have been Downlands.
That said, my parents didn't force their children to go to church beyond our early teens. I stayed on with the church and as I grew into my mid teens I left behind the older conservative Presbyterian faith and moved into the more modern "clap happy" Church of Christ. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I never "Loved The Lord", and as the perfectly natural influx of hormones hit me like a freight train in my teens I began to feel the terrible weight of guilt. As a sixteen year old boy I feared for my eternal soul. I found myself going deeper into the church and trying through all sorts of mental gymnastics to try and make the absurdities I learnt on Sunday fit with the logic and the physical realities I was taught Monday to Friday.
University was even more difficult to try and maintain belief in the teachings of the church and be surrounded by intelligent contemporaries and also be privileged to learn from some of the finest academic minds in Australia. The result was that I began to question and learned from Christian writers and thinkers who tried to reconcile the bible with scientific fact. The result was more questioning, a feeling of failure, feelings of guilt and me blaming all of that on a lack of blind faith in the teachings of the church.
By the time I was thirty I was no longer active in the church and felt free to "worship in my own way". Over the years that followed I found the bible was less a source of support and more a source of frustration. When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer I expected that my mother's faith would sustain her and when the time came her faith and, I reasoned, God would help her through the tough days. When my mother resisted her passing and showed nothing but fear of death I became less convinced that God intervened in our daily lives and though I never doubted that God did exist, my prayers became more prayers of thanks rather than asking for help and my bible gathered dust.
As my thirties progressed I dabbled in all sorts of nonsense and began to wonder if the ancients and their mysticism held the answers only to find "sellers of snake oil" who tried to pass off simple self confidence enhancing techniques as a profound spiritual revelation. Finally God "spoke to me" via The History Chanel. Watching a documentary about the American founding fathers, in particular Jefferson I heard the word Deist. I didn't know what that was and so, as you do in the twenty-first century, I googled the word and found what I initially assumed would be a religious site for gun toting fundamentalists. Nothing could have been further from the truth. As I read further, especially the stories of individual journeys to Deism, I realised I had found what my soul had been searching for since my early twenties. A belief system that embraced fact and did not see scientific fact and belief in God as mutually exclusive. For the first time in my life I wanted to voluntarily "spread this good news"; I didn't feel like I had to anymore. I was no longer living in fear of hell and wasn't out trying to tell people about a man who lived two thousand years ago and was supposed to be the son of God and although we were all sons and daughters of God that this particular man was somehow special and more worthy of that simple title than the rest of us were. Life literally took on a new meaning for me. I began to notice the world around me, the simple pleasures of a chat with neighbours or the smile of a store owner's face when we would say thank you to each other or saying good morning to a complete stranger while I walk my dog. I no longer felt guilty for reading about evolutionary theory and could now "say out loud" yes birds possibly did evolve from dinosaurs and that the fossil records were as close as we can get to a recorded history of that time. I no longer felt bound to try and make the nonsense of Genesis fit the physical reality of the world around me. For me the chains of religion that had shackled my mind were gone and I was determined never to let anyone load me down with nonsense ever again. No longer feeling guilty about questioning led me to a greater understanding of how belief systems develop, how the concept of Satan and hell evolved and that logic really does tell us that "God didn't make me to throw me away." For me that was truly revolutionary and I wanted to spread the word but I also didn't want to be another "Mormon" and "Jehovah's Witness". That is my new challenge - I don't want to see my family and friends roll their eyes as they do when the local "God botherers" start their pre-rehearsed script.
Every Deist who wants to spread the real good news is up against it. We each have to ask ourselves, what special skills do we each have or how much can we comfortably afford to part with to help the cause. That's where most of us can help, we may not be talented advertising writers or talented graphic artists (I'm just an accountant) but we've all got wallets and if each of us opens his or her wallet just a little then the big task of undoing the damage done by revealed religions will appear a lot smaller. Asking for money is never easy, and I am fearful that writing this appeal might make the truly miraculous simplicity of Deism seem soiled with the same slick marketing we associate with TV evangelists (con merchants) but Deists are up against a well practised and well oiled funding machine. A machine that is more than happy to tell people lies about getting into heaven or every dollar given will be repaid one hundred fold. I have recently become a sustaining member of the World Union of Deists and I have also contributed when Bob Johnson made a special appeal - how much is a matter between me and the WUD but it wasn't a lot of money but from what Bob tells me it really will make a difference in telling people that rejection of superstition does not need to mean atheism. It literally does mean what most people already profess - Deism. The fact that you are even reading this means that at the very least you are questioning your spiritual beliefs, perhaps you have been uncomfortable with something a senior cleric has said or perhaps you are just a free thinker who is exploring ideas about God, life, the universe and everything in between. Whatever you are I want you to ponder this. For every dollar you give to The WUD, The WUD guarantees to give you NOTHING. That’s right, nothing that you can't already do yourself - feel good about doing the right thing just because it's the right thing to do. There is no hell for you to buy your way out of. God will NOT strike you down with a bolt of lightening if you don't hand over your credit card details but if you do help financially one day somewhere in the world a child will not needlessly die because his or her parents believe that using antibiotics is an insult to God and shows a lack of faith, or a little girl in Africa will one day grow up and experience a healthy normal sex life as a woman because her parents turned their back on an ancient and barbaric ritual. Deism and free thinking will cast the Bright light of truth on the darkness of ignorance and certainly not today, probably not tomorrow but one day humanity will turn its collective back on the absurdity preached by revealed religion. I personally feel very privileged to be in a very small way associated with the ground floor of this ideal and knowing that the small amount I give each month will over time help free my fellow humans from the oppressive chains of a faith based nonsense which has for far too long controlled people through the use of fear and intimidation. I hope some of you will join me and in a very small way help the cause. Let's all each pick up a little of the weight and not just rely on the efforts of Jayson, Tim and Bob. I didn't intend this to end as an appeal for financial help but after thought provoking exchange of emails with Bob I now fully appreciate just how powerful Deism really could be and I hope to be able to share Deism with the world.
All the very best to you and thank you for reading.