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Are you an atheist, religionist, deist,

fideist or ????
By
Dr. Anthony G. Payne
Apparently we Americas spend a great deal of time thinking about and change our religious and
spiritual beliefs and practices. One telltale example: Many theists are embracing deism. Here is
what Wikipedia had to say about this:
The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) survey, which involved 50,000
participants, reported that the number of participants in the survey identifying themselves as
deists grew at the rate of 717% between 1990 and 2001. If this were generalized to the US
population as a whole, it would make deism the fastest-growing religious classification in the US
for that period, with the reported total of 49,000 self-identified adherents representing about
0.02% of the US population at the time.[15][16]
Along the same line, during a For Good Reason podcast on The Search for Quantum
Consciousness, physicist Victor Stenger touched on a Baylor University survey that revealed
that 40% of people who identify themselves as Christians basically do not believe in a God who
plays an active role in the universe (13m:47s into the podcast). Dr. Stenger makes the point that
these folks sound like deists.
The rise of deism and the Christian identification with it in principle if not in name, tells me a lot
of believing folks have taken the time to ruminate on whether or not there is sufficiently
compelling evidence to believe God is actively playing a role in their lives like answering
prayers, performing miracles and such. 4 of 10 Christians in the Baylor survey appear to have
concluded that God is on holiday. This is one way to for religionists to reconcile what goes on in
the world and is attested to by scientific findings with ones particular brand of faith (Of course,
one can jettison faith altogether, which is what Dr. Stenger has done and advocates in his books
God: The Failed Hypothesis and "Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for
Cosmic Consciousness".)

Now, while believers may be increasingly leaning toward a deist stance on God, it is unlikely the
great majority will decide the Almighty simply doesnt exist and never did. Of course, what
believers have to be careful of is making claims concerning Gods actions or motives that can
be tested using the tools of science or refuted using demonstrable or deducible facts informed
by logic. For instance, religionists who insist there was a worldwide flood that a man named
Noah and his clan rode out in an ark run into monumental problems such as a lack of evidence
for a global deluge in the geologic record, not to mention the fact the energy released by what is
described in scriptures would have resulted in oceans so hot as to constitute a de facto lobster
pot in which everything living including those in the ark would have boiled to death, et cetera
(There is, however evidence of a local flood in Mesopotamia about the time the incidents
described in Genesis were supposed to have occurred.) And if an evangelist declares a dying
cancer patient healed, this is testable insofar as doctors can put the healing to the test using
modern day scanners (One doctor who did track down 23 people who were declared healed of
terminal diseases during services conducted in 1967 by evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman found no
evidence to support this.)
Putting aside biblical and extrabiblical claims of the miraculous which can be examined and
either confirmed or found wanting -- there is a host of very dark chapters in history such as the
reign of Hitlerism-Nazism in Germany (1933-1945) and its wicked fruit (especially the
Holocaust) that have profound implications for Gods role in human affairs, suggesting to many
believers that either God is or was on holiday or just isnt around at all. As a boy I mulled this
over and came to the tentative conclusion that God was not necessarily absent from human
affairs, but had simply assumed a more subtle role in lock-step with our ever increasing ability to
run our own show. Of course, as our control over nature and each other increased and our
tools and weapons became more sophisticated and powerful the greater our potential became
for doing both great good or great evil. The choice ultimately rests with us, of course, though we
are told (in the Tanakh, Christian New Testament and Quran) that humankind will not be
allowed to fully extinguish its own flame.
To my delight my boyhood spin on theodicy was independently arrived at by many others,
including scholar David Birnbaum who fleshed it out (1989) on a scholarly level in a delightfully
insightful book titled "God and Evil: A Unified Theodicy/Theology/Philosophy"
Obviously matters of faith lacking testable claims amounting to convictions and beliefs in the
absence of evidence -- cannot genuinely be settled either decisively or conclusively. Often, one
mans truth is another ones heresy. And treatises on theodicy like the one I came up with as a
boy could as easily be accommodated by some forms of deism as it could conventional or
orthodox religions.
Even belief in God amounts to a commitment in the absence of evidence. Atheists and
agnostics can and have trumped Judeo-Christian apologetics using a body of powerful evidence
and logic. I would urge my fellow religionists to face up to this and consider embracing polymath
Martin Gardners fideist spin on God (which could also be applied to many aspects of faith
including certain dogmas, doctrines and such.) This is ably captured in a comment made by

famed illusionist and champion of skeptical thinking, James Randi, on Gardners passing at age
ninety-five (95):
Yes, Martin was a fideist, and he defended that belief in his usual calm, direct fashion.
When I questioned him on the subject he told me that he had no really good evidence to support
his belief, but that it simply made him feel better to adopt it. He said that I and other
curmudgeons had far better evidence for our convictions, but that he just felt more secure in
his acceptance. He admitted easily that he could not convincingly argue his case That
was Martin, and I love him for being Martin..
Mr. Randis comment in its entirety can be found by clicking this link
I am not here to dictate what people believe or not. Im here to rock a few boats that could use
some rocking. Religion is one of these. But rocking this boat doesnt mean telling folks what to
believe or how to express their faith. Rather, I relish sharing ideas, information and lines of
thought that at least some believers might find useful in terms of helping better reconcile their
convictions and beliefs with what science and history has revealed about our origins and nature.
And this, my friend, brings me to the purpose of this particular article: Namely, to pass along
something which I believe will serve this purpose for at least a few believers reading this thought
stream --THE SACRED EMERGENCE OF NATURE by Ursula Goodenough and Terrence W.
Deacon (The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science)

Copyright 2011 by Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

FURTHER READING IN RELIGION/SPIRITUALITY


Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus
by Dr. Robin R. Meyers
The Ancient Roots of Christianity: A Native Americans Look Through Christianity by
my fellow Choctaw Nation Tribal member, Rainbow Eagle
The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the mysteries of the Hidden Messiah by Michael L.
Brown, Ph.D.
The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal Laws by Michael Ellias Dallen,
Esq.
Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist? by Dr. A. G. Payne
Heart of a Missionary by Dr. A.G. Payne
Why We Believe What We Believe by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman
2011 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.