Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Closer Examination: Maple's Belief System, Deism

At the turn of the eighteenth century, a new idea began popping up in the New World: freedom. This radical idea stemmed from many sources, such as excessive tax and no representation in parliament for America, but one of the building blocks was the new religious thinking. Deism began to gain popularity and Benjamin Franklin, a founding father with true influence on the fight for independence, used deism as a base for his growing beliefs in freedom.

The gaining popularity of deism was a drastic change from the strict belief systems, such as with the Puritans. Deism is the belief that God created the world, but is no longer directly involved in the things that go on within the world. God was like a watchmaker: once the watch was created and wound up, He had little to do with the watch anymore. Deism also holds that nature is the source of spirituality, and that the individual is in charge of his or her own faith. As Benjamin Franklin put it, a deist’s mind is his or her church. Deism allowed people searching for a greater good to be comforted by knowing that they controlled their own destiny, not some god who was all-powerful. Deism made organized church unnecessary and focused on the individual for the concentration of faith. In addition, it made free thinkers of the settlers in America, free to think on things like independence and freedom of government on their own terms and not those of an organized church.

An example of a Deist thinker, Benjamin Franklin would someday become one of the most respected and celebrated men in history. He found many faults in organized religion and therefore, attempted to remove himself from it. His autobiography shows the amazing logic-based journey he took in his own mind to come to grips with his belief system. In the course of such a logical argument, he stumbled upon his own bases for belief.
I grew convinced that Truth, Sincerity, and Integrity in Dealings between Man and Man, were of the utmost Importance to the Felicity of Life, and I formed written Resolutions, (which still remain in my Journal Book) to practice them ever while I live. Revelation had indeed no weight with me as such, but I entertain’d an Opinion, that tho’ certain Actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them; yet probably those Actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own Natures, in all Circumstances of things considered.

He discovered, by searching the church that was his mind, that truth, sincerity, and integrity are virtues vital to life. Franklin showed a Deist’s learning of religion in the earliest stages. Furthermore, Franklin goes on to begin to apply his discovery to everyday life and problems. Franklin demonstrates the powers that Deism provided for free thinkers: the ability to reason through faith, and the freedom to make one’s own mind. Franklin was clearly a Deist as can be seen in his description of his beliefs in his autobiography. “...I never doubted, for instance, the Existence of the Deity, that he made the World and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable Service of God was doing Good to man; that our Souls are immortal; and that all Crime will be punished and Virtue rewarded wither here or hereafter...”. Deists took their beliefs from the original and organized religions, but made them more free and open to interpretation. Franklin rarely attended church, for he believed that by using Sunday as his day of studying, he was enriching his church within his mind. A focus on free thinking allowed for educated minds which led to a dissatisfaction with the affairs of state in America.

Through the free nature of Deism, colonists in America such as Benjamin Franklin began to think logically about their situations. In retrospect, Deism allowed the growing revolution to flourish in men’s minds and hearts by building a church of the mind and letting each man control his destiny.

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