A tribute to my Mother
As I enter the seventh decade of my life I look back on all the people that have been a part of it. There were many: some long-time friends, many, many casual acquaintances, work-mates, close female relationships, family relationships. By far the most wonderful person was my mother. She had a handful putting up with this wretch of a son writing now. She loved life, loved her family, loved her Christian God; and she was loved and respected by all around her. She worked hard to raise a family of three boys, her house was always fresh and homely, the garden tended with loving care, she had a full-time… Read More
A tribute to my Mother
As I enter the seventh decade of my life I look back on all the people that have been a part of it. There were many: some long-time friends, many, many casual acquaintances, work-mates, close female relationships, family relationships. By far the most wonderful person was my mother. She had a handful putting up with this wretch of a son writing now. She loved life, loved her family, loved her Christian God; and she was loved and respected by all around her. She worked hard to raise a family of three boys, her house was always fresh and homely, the garden tended with loving care, she had a full-time job and always had time for voluntary work with her church. When trouble arose the remedy was to put the kettle on for a cup of tea and a heart-to-heart; never a flaming row.
A Tribute to my Grandmother
Born in 1886, one of twelve children, she married a Royal Navy seaman and bore him six children. One died at five years of age from diphtheria. She became a widow at 39 and finished raising her children alone. Her husband was so treasured there was going to be no-one to take his place and she lived alone for the rest of her 84 years once her family was all grown up. She was so much like my mother in so many ways but I only have memories after she was nearly 70.
Can you really sum up people’s lives in a paragraph? The grave my grandmother bought that contains the remains of her young son and husband and other family members claimed her in 1970 and has now sunk below ground in what is destined to become a city park.
My mother expressed a wish to have an angel over her grave and my brother granted that wish in beautiful taste: a kneeling angel with head bowed in prayer. The plinth bears an inscription that we hope creates smiles in her graveyard:
“To family close, but oft afar,
Her character and strength shone like a star,
With noble ideals, sacrifice she would,
And nobody made a better rice pud.”
That was erected in 1986, and since then around twenty graves have sprung up immediately around hers, all containing young children and infants and most topped with a little angel. It is in Shepton Mallet in the south-west of England.
My daughter and I spent three days last year cleaning the severely weathered white marble to its original condition. It is a beautiful tranquil location on the side of a hill and one to which I make a pilgrimage each time I’m “home”. My ashes may go in there one day.
But in Time
All will be forgotten. My family never made the history books, and what if they did? What good does it do them now they’re dead, gone, non-existent. Only a temporary memory while a few of us are left alive. We are given the precious and, at times, exquisite gift of life and then, all too soon, the gift is taken back again. Each of us in turn will succumb to the Grim Reaper and be annihilated as if we never existed.
For what? For some Deity’s entertainment? Nothing to do except watch the billions of daily live soaps that occur on this tiny planet?
It doesn’t make sense. And if Deists are distancing themselves from Atheists in trying to make sense of existence then this is one major area that needs attention.
The Beauty of Death
You can’t get away from it, death is very practical and useful here on Earth. Imagine the alternative! It’s totally unthinkable to live this corporeal existence for eternity, even if we were perfect specimens. We are programmed to survive and to strive to enjoy life as much as possible, but eventually the body wears out much the same as a new outfit. Death teaches us so much: we learn to value life, to value loved ones, to take care of one another, to appreciate youth and good health….so many good lessons.
But what use good lessons if they are doomed to be deleted along with us? What is the long-term benefit if there is no long term? It takes a lifetime of experience to learn to value these things; they are not the kind that can be appreciated by learning at a school desk. Each generation has to go through the same “school of knocks”.
The History of Belief in an Afterlife
Ever since Man acquired the ability to reason death he has come up with various ideas regarding an afterlife. A billion Christians believe in some sort of “heaven” for our departed souls. A billion Hindus believe we are reincarnated as another animal in a never-ending cycle of birth and death. Buddhists believe we can escape this toilsome cycle by ignoring life’s material pursuits and become gods. Man has always conceived of something going on beyond the scenes we perceive; firstly because of the programmed desire to survive, but more importantly to make sense of an otherwise senseless cycle of temporary lives. The Atheist answer makes most sense – that there is not, nor was there ever, any sense. But how many of us are satisfied with that?
Evidence of Afterlife
There are plentiful accounts of Near-Death- Experiences (NDEs) but I am not going to delve into them. I find them unnecessary and perhaps a hindrance to reason on this issue. My approach is reasoned faith.
In recent years of scientific and medical progress much has been written about defeating the “disease of ageing”, extending life-expectancy in pursuit of immortality. Is this our species’ destiny? Is it desirable? Would we enjoy it? Would it be practical to spread immortal humans amongst the stars? Would we be happy? A million questions, and there would still be accidental death stalking us.
Secrets of the Universe
Man is gradually shedding the superstitions acquired through ignorance. The universe is virtually unchanged since we arrived on the scene and has always being crying for us to delve into and expose her secrets through detective work. She is very rational, abiding by invisible eternal laws which govern immutably. She challenges us to discover truths which in earlier times were deemed impossible. Her origin and limits seem to us to be impenetrable, but we soldier on in search of answers. She is an eternal mystery, a jig-saw puzzle with an infinite number of pieces. Each generation fits a few pieces more but we are still far from the end. The story of this quest for truth is in line with the stories which human beings regard as the perfect story:
The Perfect Story
Once upon a time……introduction…….trouble……disaster…..triumph…..and they all lived happily ever after. Sound like a fairy tale? Of course, but it is the course of every great book, movie, tale, detective story, whatever. Everything turns out right in the end. The story of the universe should be no different, and the story of each player on the stage. In real life evil often triumphs, but that is never the end of the story. Evil always eventually gets its just desserts even though it takes centuries or millennia to bring her to her knees. That is the story of progress.
Where the World’s Religions went Wrong
There is no other word for it – they cheated! Instead of sticking to a well-reasoned basis for belief in something after death, they jumped the gun and claimed supernatural communication from beyond. The founders of the religions were exalted to god-like status and their words claimed to come from a god or a god’s agent. The process is simple and transparent. The founder works on the basic strong belief, dwells upon it, embellishes it, exaggerates it and comes up with a conclusion that goes way beyond reason into fantasy. To top it off, the fantasy is interpreted as divine inspiration. Followers of the founder add their own embellishments and the founder achieves god-like status….and the masses are sucked in generation after generation. It takes a great deal of soul-searching to break free.
Don’t Hate Religion
The world’s religions have brought hope to billions who otherwise would have none. It is not for us to judge too harshly, nor to bring condemnation. But we can learn where they went astray. We can learn by their mistakes and we can learn from their triumphs as well. It is up to us to provide a sound alternative that delivers equal hope for those who question their religion. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Back to Basics
Despite great leaps in scientific knowledge our universe still holds many secrets. But we can see her secrets, when exposed, are all very rational – often surprising, perhaps, but still subject to reason. The greatest step in understanding took place in the 19th Century with the advent of the Theory of Evolution. We must bear in mind this was not afforded to the founders of the world religions. At first glance this evolutionary process appears to be random and mindless, but when we examine it more closely and look at the results over the eons we can see that it displays a sublime beauty and elegance that cries out for the Author to step up to the podium. The old ideas of individual Creation of each species by an industrious deity are outclassed to the nth degree by evolutionary principles. And principles they are! And we are called upon to put these principles under the microscope to see if they display the hallmarks of intent and purpose. Most Deists believe they do.
The Theory of Evolution is a biological theory: it applies to all life-forms. Now the question is: “Is there purpose for life?” We cannot tackle this question head-on so we must apply a little lateral thinking. For instance, much has been made by Creationists about the complexity of the eye. They say that this could not have just evolved. That is not the point. Instead we should ask ourselves the question: “Is there purpose for the eye?” And the answer is a resounding “Yes, so we can see”. If we take this approach when examining all life-forms and their make-up we can see that every item displays purpose and usefulness for the phenomenon we call life. The biology disciplines continue to excel in unravelling the mysteries which on first inspection appear to be random, but subsequently prove to have purpose.
We can use these discoveries to extend by implication. It is very reasonable to say: “There is every indication that there are purposes to life, but as yet we can only speculate wildly what those purposes might be”.
At this point we need to pause and reflect on who or what could be behind that purpose. Still again that is a complete unknown that is open to speculation – more information needed. What we can say, however, is that our lives are very precious to us as are our relationships with others close to us and if there is purpose to life then these must be core principles as far as human life is concerned. There is no good reason to assume that the coldness we perceive in the evolutionary process extends to the intent behind it. Any law is by necessity cold and impartial but that does not mean that the law-maker is so. Outward appearances can be very deceptive.
Is the universe there primarily to support life?
One would think so. It certainly has no use if there is no consciousness to observe and enjoy it. No sense in rocks and gases and blazing suns only. It seems only sensible that the rise of life and consciousness must be seen as the original intent if there were any at all. By extension it would seem that intelligent life such as us humans must have been on the agenda too. How else would any part of Creation look to the vastness and wonders? Thus we begin to see a larger picture in the intent behind the evolutionary process.
Summary so Far
We can observe the joys of life and the necessity of death. We perceive life as being the objective of this universe and that there is likely some purpose for life even it is solely to bring happiness into it. The gift of life is taken away by death and that seems a pointless exercise for the individual. As much as we might enjoy life it ends in oblivion. That seems utterly cold and senseless. Is there some essence of us that survives death?
This Precious Life
If the primary intent behind the universe was to bring forth life and intelligence, then that has been a long patient journey from the Big Bang. Billions of years went past before the first spark of life occurred and billions of years thence to the present day. That is a whole lot of groundwork! We cannot declare that humans are the crowning glory of life-forms but we can say we are the pinnacle so far on Earth. Our history is bathed in bloodlust and we still have a long way to go till our different societies can live together harmoniously. Physically and emotionally we have not evolved much as individuals, but our societies have. Through this we have learned the sanctity of individual human life. It just makes sense that the importance of life is not just confined to humans, but also is implicit in the intent behind the universe. It is just waiting for us to discover its secret. We still have a long way to go before we discover just how important this precious life is.
If it was so, so important for life to arise then it follows that it is so important that death should not triumph over it. Survival is our primary mandate, the major principle behind evolution: not only as a species, but also as an individual. If this principle is by divine mandate then we cannot dismiss some sort of afterlife as being merely wishful thinking. There is substance behind our observation that our short lives should have a purpose other than just to procreate. And a purpose that involves us individually and personally rather than just as a collective whole. If this is so, we then have the grounds for life making sense. But let us not then go off into flights of fantasy of what the afterlife entails, but just leave it as an open reasoned faith in there being another adventure in store for us.
Immortal Atom, Immortal Energy
Until quite recently Man observed the total destruction of matter by fire. It was not known then that it was merely chemical change, not utter destruction. Even in an atomic reaction matter is only converted into energy. Both matter and energy are interchangeable but as a couple they are immortal. When we die our bodies’ components are retained. The life force is gone, memories are gone, individual personality and loves and thoughts are gone. What happens to them? We cannot say, but it is well to remember our forefathers’ ignorance of fire. Who can declare with certainty that all is lost?
A medley of perspectives from a joint effort of the members of Positive Deism.
Who benefits from being a Deist? The Deist? If the answer to that question is "yes", does Deism then have relevance in society? If the answer to that question is "no", then why Deism? What behaviors and actions should one expect to observe in those who call themselves Deists? What difference does Deism make? These are the questions we ask ourselves. We do not wish to become bogged in the mire of destructive criticism and boring supposition. Instead, let us follow the example of great leaders of our past who have inspired us as thinkers, doers, and constructionists. We should remember that many of these great leaders were Deists.
What is a Deist Bible? The Christian Bible is static, and so are almost all other sacred texts. Deistic beliefs are dynamic. They grow as we accumulate more knowledge. A Bible claims to be the sacred word of God. The Deists I know consider nature to be the word of God. It is the only Bible we need or hold in reverence. There is virtually nothing upon which all Deists agree, so how could there be a single book that all Deists would recognize as their Bible? I think that a Deist Bible must be an individual work or compilation, although it would be helpful to many to have a form or structure to help the owner organize her or his thoughts. But a Deist Bible must be dynamic, ever-changing, always growing.