It’s taken me quite a while, but I think I can finally say this: I’m not a Christian. If I had to identify with a religion, it would be deism. Of course, my Christian friends and family will likely be angry, sad, or otherwise upset about this. But let me explain.
Deism is, simply put, a belief in the existence of a god who created the universe and now remains uninvolved, letting the universe follow a natural course according to the structure built into it. In addition, deism involves a rejection of the claims of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that their holy scripture is a revelation from god.
I like deism because it is based on reason. It is totally rational, and does not ask for any sort of blind faith in concepts that aren’t compatible with the reality we know. It promotes freedom, altruism, and knowledge gained by honestly seeking the real truth. It allows us to see every person foremost as a fellow member of a humanity created by god, and traveling the same path of life alongside us, instead of as “believers who are on the right path” or “unbelievers who need to be converted because they’re wrong”.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I am opposed to Christianity or everything it teaches. I think Jesus could’ve been a real person who lived a long time ago and taught quite a few great things. I even think that it’s possible he was a manifestation of a god, or given power by a god, perhaps as an attempt to reconnect with his flawed creation. But seeing as there are strong reasons to distrust the authority of the Christian bible, knowing who Jesus was for sure is impossible, and even if he was the manifestation of a god, I can’t be convinced that the claims he supposedly made were actually made by him.
What do I mean about distrusting the bible? A blogger named Neil Carter, an atheist who was for decades a rather devout Christian, wrote an excellent post about Six Testable Claims of the Christian Faith. The outcome of using your god-given reasoning on the Christian bible, if you’re honest with yourself, is that it can’t be trusted as a source of absolute truth. Try his prayer challenge, if you dare, and see if you can honestly prove that the promises of the bible are true.
If the bible is unreliable, then its claims about the afterlife are suspicious, since it can’t be an infallible product of omnipotent inspiration. It’s only a creation of men, who know nothing of the afterlife since they have no way to observe or test it rationally. This is not to say that the bible is worthless; it certainly has a lot of value as many books do, even if its content can’t be taken as absolute truth.
Religion has, throughout history, constantly been bloated with more and more additions by its leaders, typically intended to control the laypeople and give said leaders more power and money. Consider the Catholic church of several centuries ago, and the Protestants who split from it out of a desire for freedom and a simple religion that didn’t involve buying salvation. Ever since, even Protestant denominations have heaped their own requirements onto their religion. You might be surprised how many Christians today think that if you simply believe homosexuality isn’t a sin, then you are going to hell.
The purest form of religion should, I think, do away with any paradoxes, mysteries, and convoluted or irrational requirements for “salvation”. Pure religion should be straightforward and logical, focused on the betterment of humanity and the rest of god’s creation. The author of the biblical book of James said it well, when he stated that pure religion is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.
A pure and good religion should not be self-focused, as most modern Christianity is, on what you must do in order to make yourself feel morally better and get into a paradise afterlife. It should be as Jesus often modeled it: love and compassionate aid for the poor and outcast, and a bold resistance to hypocritical and overbearing religious leaders who attempt to ensnare the vulnerable in their self-serving nets of dogma.
The ultimate force that defines belief is the innate human capacity for logical reasoning. Any idea, religious or otherwise, that asks you to disregard reason stands opposed to the only source of understanding you have. If god directly gave you the ability to reason, it should be followed above any book that claims to have come indirectly from a god. So this is why I am following in the mental footsteps of people like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Albert Einstein, and many more brilliant men who saw the flaws in popular religion but also saw strong evidence for the existence of a god.