A few weeks back I received this email:
I am a 17 year-old that has been thinking about becoming a Pandeist for the past few days. Currently, I am a Christian and come from a background of Christians. I have read a lot on Pandeism recently and have a basic understanding of it. I share a lot of similar beliefs, but I just have a few questions:
Do you acknowledge the existence of Jesus?
Do you pray?
What do you do as a Pandeist? Do you congregate (as in a church or synagogue)?
If I change to Pandeism, how should I approach my parents about not being a Christian anymore?
If I convert, what is some advice for beginning the conversion from Christianity to Pandeism?
I have answered some of these questions here before, and today I address this one:
If I change to Pandeism, how should I approach my parents about not being a Christian anymore?
Now that is indeed an interesting question. One thing about Pandeism, it recognizes that we each inhabit our own lives, and so each of us knows ourselves (or is capable of knowing ourselves) better than any person outside ourself can. That is indeed one of the very points of our existence, that we each generate our own unique set of experiences, which we (being a part of our Creator) contribute to the whole of the experience of our Universe. You know your parents, possibly better than anybody else in the world; how will they react to one approach or another? What purpose is served by 'approaching' them at all? And indeed in some sense the question ought to be, if Pandeism presents a more logical and reasonable approach, how can I teach my parents about my understanding of Pandeism? How can I bring them around to understanding the logic of the position (even if they are perhaps unable to break faith with the psychologically comforting beliefs of their ancestors).
And as to the question of not being a Christian anymore -- well, is that so? Who decides that? I know some who consider themselves Christian Pandeists on the strength of their faith in the correctness of the peace and love and tolerance taught by Jesus, and not at all in mythic aspects such as the virgin birth, or the resurrection tale, or of casting body-possessing evil spirits into pigs. This descends, indeed, quite directly from Christian Deism, a tradition
which long ago embraced the values and non-mystical teachings of Jesus
. An example, possibly the most famous, was Thomas Jefferson
, an avowed Deist who spoke of 'nature's God
,' and produced for himself the "Jefferson Bible
" -- a Bible from which Jefferson had cut out all reference to revelations and miracles, aspects which he rationally deemed to be later human inventions or incorporations designed only to deify one man, instead of elucidating all men.
No contradiction, no paradox, extends from adopting certain of the values and ideals claimed to have been espoused by Jesus, and yet believing in a deistic theological model. Let us examine this. One of the earliest mentions of Christian Deism dates from 1737, where one Thomas Morgan wrote:
For God, according to these Philosophers, makes and governs a natural World that is capable of governing itself, and that might have made itself as well, had they not pass'd a needless and insignificant Compliment upon, the Creator. But I hope they will mend their Scheme, and compound this Matter for their own Honour, and not pretend to fay, that God has made a necessary World, or a self-existent System of Creatures. Yet this is the philosophical Scheme of Atheism, which its Patrons would fain call Deism, and in which the Christian Jews or Jewish Christians assist them, by joining inadvertently in the fame Cry. But if this be not a fine Scheme of Philosophy, let Christian Deism stand for an odd Sort of Religion, and let the Christian Jews be for ever orthodox, and be allow'd as the only religious Men in the World. It is certain, that if God governs moral Agents at all, he must; govern them by Hope and Fear, or by such a wise and suitable Application of Rewards and Punishments, as the different Circumstances of Persons, and the Ends of Government require. And these Rewards and Punishments must be such as are not the natural, necessary Consequences of the Actions themselves, themselves, since every one must see that this would be no Government at all, and that the Case, in this Respect, must be the very same whether we suppose any rectoral Justice, or any Presence or Operation of God in the World or not. And yet this which is really no Government at all, is all the general Providence which some seem willing to allow. But since those Gentlemen are all deep Philosophers, and above the gross Ignorance of the common Herd, I would here only ask them, What are the Laws of Nature ? What is the Law of Gravity, the Law of communicating Motion from one Body to another by Impulse, and the Law of the Vis -Inertia of Bodies ? Are these natural, essential and inherent Properties of the Bodies themselves, or are they the regular Effects of some universal, extrinsick Cause acting incessantly upon the whole material System, by such and such general Laws and Conditions of Agency?
The moral philosopher: in a dialogue between Philalethes, a Christian deist and Theophanes a Christian Jew. By Thomas Morgan, 189-190, 1737
And then a bare two years later, one John Leland wrote:
This may give the Reader some Notion of this Writer's Candour and Sincerity, and what we are to think of his pretended Regard for Christianity, which in Effect amounts to this: That the Christianity revealed in the Writings of the New Testament is Jewish Christianity; that is, Christianity corrupted and adulterated with Judaism, which according to him is the worst Religion in the World. But the true and genuine Christianity is Christian Deism, to be learned not from the Writings of the New Testament, but from the Volume of Nature, from every Man's own Breast, from the Heavens, the Earth, and especially the Brute Creatures,the genuine uncorrupted Instructors in our Author's Christianity. So that the "Gentlemen that assume to themselves the Title of Deists, seem resolved that for the future they only shall be called the true Christians too. Those that look upon the New Testament to be divinely inspired, and receive it as the Rule of their Faith, and take their Religion from thence, must be called Christian Jews, who only put a strange Mixture of inconsistent Religions upon the World for Christianity : whereas these Christian Deists teach it in its Purity, and in order to propagate pure uncorrupted Christianity they do their utmost to discard.the Writings of the New Testament, that Is, the Writings that give us aft Account of the Doctrines taught by Christ and his Apostles, But since these Gentlemen will not allow; us the honourable Title of Christians, it is but fair that they should leave us that of Free-Thinkers, to which I really think the Advocates for the Gospel Revelation have a much juster Pretension than they.
The divine authority of the Old and New Testament asserted. By John Leland, viii-ix, 1739
Now, firstly I do not mean to at all impugn Judaism
by quoting accounts which suggest it to have 'corrupted' Christianity, for really any
theistic influence is bound to be just as corrupting of efforts to achieve truth through reason. Consider Buddhism
-- the founder of that faith, the Buddha
, denied being at all 'divine' and dismissed the idea of the existence of divine beings who were any more in control of their ultimate reality than man. He would have absolutely laughed at the objectively ridiculous idea that bowing to a statue of himself would be thought to bring about luck for people living many centuries later -- and yet this is modernly precisely what many Buddhists do, venerating the man at the expense of the message, and attributing miracles
resulting from prayer
s to the Buddha. (And, as I have discussed elsewhere, Pandeism accounts for the experience of efficacious prayer
.) And it may seem strange as well to those inculcated with theistic traditions to speak of Deism as an 'uncorrupted' Christianity, but some fundamental ideas remain -- the idea that what we do unto our neighbours, even unto 'the least of' our neighbours, we do to our Creator; not that doing bad to our neighbours is simply condemned, but that we are actually doing it to
our Creator, that our Creator is physically and emotionally experiencing through us all we do, and all that is done to us.
And so Pandeism
leaves room for reverence
for a human Jesus
, even for Jesus as a sort of naturally occurring divine figure, akin to the Buddha as a mystically gifted product of the rational processes of a rational Universe
. And really, it is this view in which Pandeism places a higher veneration on men like Socrates
and Jesus, Mencius
and the Buddha, and more modern men of holy bearing, such as Gandhi
. For it is no great boon to deem a man to be 'God' -- for Pandeism, through logic and reason, explains that all man and all things are equally part of our Creator. It is the knowing of this, and the consequent understanding that we must love and respect each other as the pieces of our Creator we are, which is the most remarkable achievement attainable.
So, taking this back to the original question, are you telling your parents that you are "not being a Christian anymore," or are you telling them that you're simply no longer the kind
of Christian who venerates the mythic aspects of ancient books over their metaphorical import? And, to bring this back to one additional level of depth of thought, since Pandeism teaches that we ought to strive to minimize negative experiences in the world (so far as we have control over them) and maximize positive experiences (all such experiences after all being the experiences of our Creator as well), if such a declaration will lead to grief and conflict, why must you tell anybody especially what reason dictates to be your inner beliefs?