The following essay was posted in the Positive Deism Forum by one of our members. This is an especially good essay because it so clearly explains what Positive Deism is all about....
As an individual, I would rather be defined and understood by what I am rather than by what I am not. Of course, clarifications may be required but these should follow rather than lead. In truth, this makes sense as you cannot really know me if you only know what I am not. Here is an example using common things that tend to define us:
- Favorite Color - Not Red
- Favorite Hobby - Not fishing
What can be known by these definitions? The answer is not much. This does not help to gain a greater understanding of me as it only lets you know that red is not my favorite color and that I do not like to fish. Not really helpful at all.
Now let me define these things by what I am:
- Favorite Color - Green
- Favorite Hobby - Martial Arts
What can be known by these definitions? The answer is obviously more in the way of defining who I am. Some things may require clarification while others do not. My favorite color really does not need clarification unless someone wants to know what shade of green (forest for those interested). However, martial arts is diverse and more information may be needed so a clarification is in order:
- Favorite Color - Green
- Favorite Hobby - Modern martial arts such as Krav Maga rather than Traditional martial arts such as Karate.
This clarification allows for a greater understanding of what I am. However, there is a problem that develops in all of this and it occurs when I clarify myself by insulting that which I am using to clarify. Here is an example:
- Favorite Hobby - Modern martial arts such as Krav Maga that teach realistic techniques and strategies rather than antiquated traditional martial arts that are worthless and make no sense to study.
This moves beyond a clarification and uses insults to now define what I am and am not. It is unnecessary and useless. I could have stated that while I respect the traditional arts, my needs and desires are better suited towards modern arts such as Krav Maga as they have a focus that I am interested in. This is much more mature and hopefully does not insult.
Unfortunately, in Deism, there is sometimes a trend to define ourselves by what we are not and/or go beyond clarification. Here is an example:
- Foundation of belief - Not Faith
- Basis of belief - Not Revelation
Nothing is really learned here by a person new to Deism. They will walk away with learning nothing of what we are. Here is an example of clarification gone wrong:
- Foundation of belief - Reason rather than a closed minded faith that is based on immature and uneducated viewpoints by uneducated individuals that refuse to see the truth.
- Basis of belief - Nature and Experience rather than so-called holy texts that have no purpose and should be thrown away and schizophrenic revelations based on the ravings of mad men.
This is obviously inflammatory and serves no purpose. Furthermore, the definitions are lost and a real understanding that could have been cultivated is buried under rhetoric. Now, here is the proper use of clarification that I have used:
- Foundation of belief - Reason rather than pure faith
- Basis of belief - Nature and Experience rather than holy texts and divine (special) revelation.
This approach allows for more understanding if required by the individual and at the same time does not insult another faith. How can we demand respect when we do not give respect when it is needed?
Are there times when one will need to use even greater clarifications that may make others angry? The unfortunate answer is yes, but it is not due to purposeful action. If a person asks why you do not believe in revelation and you give an answer, they may become a little angry. It is not your fault if it was done respectfully.
One of the great things about Positive Deism and Dynamic Deism is that we define and give answers about Deism out to those seeking information. They learn that we believe, that for us, we have found the best path to understanding and experiencing God based on Reason.
While this means that we disagree with their belief system, it does not mean that we do not respect it or them. Deism must continue to define itself based on what it is rather than what it is not. This must be done so that others can learn and understand what Deism is and respect is maintained for all involved.
While most Deists follow this view, there are those that do not. They have every right to chose this approach but in my mind it will fail as you do not help another understand you and you point of view if you use insult. Luckily, it seems that most have taken the higher road in defining Deism.
Now, do not get me wrong. If someone attacks you then you have every right to defend yourself and your belief system from such attacks. However, it should use the high road and point out our strengths and our problems with other belief systems but not actually directly insult and attack back.
Remember, use Reason and Respect in all that you think, say and do.