Category Archives: Deism

Piety is not a goal but a means to attain through the purest peace of mind the highest culture. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Years ago I remember while having a discussion of theology with a group of friends, one in the group referred to himself as a pious atheist. I was taken aback by his comment as piety and atheism were not terms I associated with one another. Piety is most commonly associated with religious belief and practice. Since then I gave this notion a great deal of thought: is secular piety a possibility? This question is worth considering in light of the reality that how one expresses their piety in an increasingly secular society such as Canada has become a contentious issue of late as is evidenced by the controversy surrounding the proposed Quebec Charter of Values (Charte de la laïcité or Charte des valeurs québécoises). The stated aim of the charter is to ensure there is a clear separation of religion and state and that public employees have religious neutrality. What this means is the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols or garb on the job will be prohibited. Continue reading

Let justice be done, though the world perish. (Fiat justitia et pereat mundus.) — Ferdinand I (1503–1564), Hungarian King of Bohemia and Hungary, Holy Roman Emperor 1558-1564

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I took the time to comment on a Facebook thread, the premise of which was, that Western nations should discontinue immigration from the Islamic world. I do not think this course of action is warranted and doubt any government in the Western world would take up such a policy, but what got me thinking was a comment from an individual who believes the difficulties of integrating newcomers in Canadian society, with its official policy of multiculturalism, is divine punishment for what he sees as our having abandoned Christian principles as a society. This belief in divine punishment or retribution or justice is very old and not found solely in Christianity. Though I am no longer a practicing Christian, I admit such thoughts have crossed my mind when I experienced hard times and personal tragedy in my own life. When my four year old Brittany, Juno, succumbed to cancer in 2012, I remember talking to the breeder who sold her to me, asking if there had ever been any incidence of cancer in her dogs at such a young age. She told me no and she was just as shocked and horrified as me by the news. I then asked her “is it something I have done?” “What have I done to deserve this?” The questions were essentially rhetorical, but she answered, saying no, it was not anything I had done and assured me that “God does not hand us a burden He knows we cannot bear.” Continue reading

If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. — C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

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Christianity continues to appeal to me despite the fact I no longer practice the faith. My family was nominally Roman Catholic when I was growing up. I remember attending Sunday mass regularly as a small boy and being enrolled in classes to prepare me for my First Communion when I was in first grade. I never completed these classes as they were interrupted when my father was sent to work in England for two years and my mother, myself and my siblings went along also. I remember learning about Jesus in those early years of my life, that He is the Son of God, that as a child He never talked back to his parents or fought with other children, that He accepted crucifixion for our sins and our redemption. At the time I really had no reason not to believe. I trusted that what my parents and teachers were telling me was true. The two years we resided in England my siblings and I attended a private Christian school, Berkhampstead, in Cheltenham. On the whole I remember this as a positive experience. We had regular religious instruction given in a way that was pleasant and seemed quite reasonable. The best part of school for me at that age was when the teacher read to  us and Bible stories were as engaging as any other collection of tales. Continue reading

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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In memory of my beloved Juno (May 21, 2008 – August 15, 2012)

“Each of us owes God a death.” So I heard Gwynne Dyer proclaim in an episode of his television series War. Death is a reality; it comes for us all. When I was a small boy I did not understand the reality of death. I remember, I must have been three years old and seeing my grandmother with some old baby clothes and toys she said were my aunt Lonny’s. My impression in seeing this was to imagine that people must grow up, then grow back down to being babies again. I asked my mother if this was so and she corrected me, telling me no, people grow, then they grow old and die. She added that nobody wants to die, but everyone has to. I did not really understand what it meant to die and did not give it much thought until I was a little older, maybe five years old when I asked my mother and father “what happens when you die?” They told me “your spirit goes up,” presumably to heaven. I still did not understand and was a little frightened by the prospect, but decided that must be a long way off so I would not worry about it. Continue reading

Tell the Devil to go to Hell

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“Tell the devil to go to hell,” good advice given to me by a priest who heard my confession at St. Mary’s Cathedral when I was a student at Queen’s University and practicing Roman Catholic in the 1980s. My confessor was speaking figuratively, of course. Neither he nor I believed to “tell the devil to go to hell” involves addressing a creature sporting horns, at tail and cloven hooves. The devil in the context of our discussion was a metaphor for mankind’s evils. What my confessor told me is that I should heed the dictates of my conscience in choosing to go good and avoid doing evil. What made me think of this was thoughts shared by Pope Francis in a homily, in which he intimated that atheists are redeemed, that is they do not face damnation, when they choose to do good and avoid doing evil. This raises an interesting point in that I understood that in practicing Roman Catholicism, while it is important to do good and avoid doing evil, redemption and sanctification is granted via the grace of God through faith in Christ. I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic, though not an atheist. I am a Deist. I listen to the dictates of my conscience in trying to do good and avoid doing evil, in effect “telling the devil to go to hell,” and until hearing the news of Pope Francis’ homily, understood, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, I am putting my soul at risk of damnation. Continue reading

I desire not to keep my place in this government an hour longer than I may preserve England in its just rights, and may protect the people of God in such a just liberty of their consciences… –Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

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How often have I heard it said that it is the precepts of Christianity that are the foundation of Western civilization? My typical response when confronted with this claim is to roll my eyes and think “that old chestnut.” This is particularly the case when the claim is framed so egregiously by the likes of Glenn Beck who stated, in referring to origins of the United States, “it is God’s finger that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is God’s country; these are God’s rights. I have no idea what he wants us to do with them, other than protect them, and stand with Him.” (As cited in Tony’s Curricublog) While it is easy to dismiss such claims as stuff and nonsense, it is worth considering the role of religious belief in the growth and development of Western civilization, its transition from the primacy of Christian doctrine in public life to the rise of liberal democracy and the rule of law in the secular nation state, though not in the way many religious folk, such as Glenn Beck, imagine it to be. Continue reading

Why I am not an atheist

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I was for a time a very pious Roman Catholic. I attended mass every day, I said my prayers, I studied theology and accepted the authority of the Sacred Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition. Throughout it all, however, doubt always nagged at me. I remember following the Easter Sunday mass at the Mother House of Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent DePaul (my great aunt Olive was a member of the order), joining in with a priest who was reciting Revelation 11:15 “And He shall reign for ever and ever.” The priest added emphatically that “yes, forever and ever.” “Oh wow, you really believe that” was the first thought that crossed my mind. Doubt was ever present while I tried to practice Roman Catholicism. Some years later at a suburban parish at the Easter Vigil, a woman behind me was pouring candies from a bag into her children’s hands while the priest was busy reciting the words for the lighting of the Sacred Fire. The sound of the candies pouring out of the bag was an annoying distraction and it was following this that seemingly out of nowhere, doubt struck and I found myself wondering “what on Earth am I doing here, do I really believe any of this?” I left the Vigil as I felt it was hypocritical  of me to stay. Continue reading