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One of the new blogs I discovered via the Non-Profit Blogger list was Steel Snowflake by Paul Wilke. Steel Snowflake is a collection of “long-form essays on topics in the humanities.” I quickly fell in love with the site and the content within.

The post that really captured my attention was Thomas Paine’s Totally Reasonable Deism for an Unreasonable World. This article is wonderfully written and resonated with me, as I once proudly called myself a Deist and I guess, I am once again.

I grew up in a Christian family. We weren’t regular church goers, but God was front and center in our lives. As I developed into my teen years, the thought of spreading the word of God appealed to me. I was patient and felt like I had a good understanding of the Word. I had begun a sort of informal book club with my friend Anthony, where we would read various inspirational books (usually those by Max Lucado) to discuss and dissect. He came from a Catholic family, and I was non-denominational, so it made for some fun back and forth.

Things changed once I began working and encountering more adults in my life. At the time, I was living outside of Memphis, Tennessee in the Bible Belt. There was a joke that folks used to say, when you move to Memphis people ask three things: What’s your name? Where are you from? and What church do you go to?

Isolated from outside influence and church politics, I was content. I felt good about my path and felt that each day I grew strong and stronger in my faith. But then as I started getting more questions about what church I attended, I also started getting more comments like, “Well, if you are in church, you’re going to burn.” or “You need to come to my church, because we are the only ones that believe in the true Word of God.”

I tolerated this for a year. This constant chipping away at my faith. I was told I was wrong, damned, and everything in between. Then one night, and I’ll never forget it, I finally snapped on a woman who had been pestering me at work. I told her I wasn’t sure what denomination I was and that I’d go home and research denominations and get back to her on what I believed.

I thought I’d spend one night in front of the computer, but it ended up being six weeks. I thoroughly dug into every denomination and all I came back with was more questions and no solid answers. So, despite every fiber of my being telling me I was doing wrong, I decided to research some different religions. That took me down a rabbit hole I never imagined and when I finally popped my head back up, my faith was completely shaken.

I reached out to my closest religious friends with my concerns and questions, but they were all close to my age (around seventeen) and it’s not like they had been through this before. Most of them had been born and raised in the church and had never thought outside of those walls. The more questions I asked, the less they wanted to do with me. And one by one, they begin exiting my life. Only one girl tried to help. She spoke to her pastor and her father and even brought me a copy of “More Than a Carpenter” but there wasn’t much she could do. She didn’t have the answer I was looking for.

My concerns and shaken faith were only made worse by the exiting of my friends. I was hurt and isolated and it made me bitter. Then as I finally accepted the fact that I no longer believed, I had to deal with years of the fear of Hell lingering over me. It was depressing, scary, and seemed to shatter my entire world. And I dealt with all of that alone.

It was a slow process transitioning from thinking about ministry to not believing, but when all was said and done, maybe a year or so later, I accepted that I still believed in a Creator, just not the divinity of Christ nor the Bible itself. I’m not sure what I was researching online at the time, but I ran across a quote by Thomas Paine, “God exists and there it lies” which I’m not 100% is an accurate quote or even something Thomas Paine wrote.

The name Thomas Paine triggered a memory of a small paragraph from my high school history book, and I remember he was one of the Founding Fathers. The man who wrote Common Sense, a pamphlet that stirred the masses and helped trigger the push for democracy. I learned that after he did his work on founding a new nation, he turned his attention to the church and began poking holes in their beliefs.

Deism was the belief he had, the belief that God exists and created the universe but does not intervene in affairs. It seemed like a rational belief that fell in line with how I was feeling. I made a couple of internet searches and found a few Deist websites, including Positive Deism, which consisted primarily of a web forum at the time.

Through this forum, I was able to connect with folks, many who had also left the Christian faith, and were looking for an accepting and comforting environment. We had great conversations, share our stories, and discussed how Deism influenced the way we lived.

I discovered that the founder of the site, lived nearby in Memphis and we decided to have the first Positive Deism meet up. We met two or three times to discuss our beliefs in person and I even design a cover for his modern interpretation of The Age of Reason. Somehow, I still have a photo from these meetings, but it’s rather small.

Deism helped me feel okay with my decisions. It gave me some peace in my life and allowed me to reset and get back on path for happiness. I will say, my lack of belief continued to slide after a couple of years, and I got more involved with angry atheists online. Thankfully, I met Jimmy, my co-blogger over at Middle-Aged Fat Kids, and his belief and respect for individuals helped me re-write the stories I was telling myself about religious people and allowed me to let go of some of that anger. I transitioned to agnostic and focused more on my studies in Buddhism.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been kicking the tires with faith once again. I accepted that once again, I do believe in a Creator, but I struggle with the stories within the Bible. I’ve been working at it from a few different angles, but the one that I’ve learned about faith is you can’t force it. It’s got to be a natural progression or else it’s not authentic and that’s absurd.

So, as I was reading Paul’s post the other night, it occurred to me that I find myself in the same place I found myself twenty years ago. Still leaning into more of an Eastern philosophy while trying to balance a rational thought about God. It’s interesting how life comes and goes in cycles at times, and once again, the acceptance that I’m a Deist brought some peace to me.

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