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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Deism Without Religion   Tue Feb 10, 2009 4:27 pm

EUPRAXOPHY

Is Deism a religion? Should it be? Can Deists establish a viable church? How can a Deist church avoid the pitfalls of religious institutionalism?

These questions keep coming up in our discussions, but the dialog eventually fades away into the background, leaving them unresolved. Some Deists are more motivated than others to formalize the abstract philosophy of Deism into a practical religion of Nature's God. But those same queries have been addressed by others with non-mainstream, alternative religious views. So maybe we donít need to re-invent the wheel to make a Deist fellowship roll along smoothly.

I just came across a book I read 12 years ago, while I was still wearing Agnostic, Skeptic, and Secular Humanist labels : LIVING WITHOUT RELIGION*, by philosopher Paul Kurtz, who is best known as one of the founders of CSICOP, and the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. In the book he espouses a new term to replace the old, backward-looking concept of religion. His neologism to describe the theory and practice of Humanism is "Eupraxophy" : eu (good) + praxis (practice) + sophia (wisdom). He interprets the term to mean, "good conduct and wisdom in living". Specifically, it is intended to provide guidance for humans trying to live without God, and without Religion.

With some minor adjustments, though, Eupraxophy could also serve the needs of Deists, who are trying to live without a traditional, intervening God, and without arbitrary, ancient religious traditions. After denying that Humanism is a religion, Kurtz says, "it does not make spiritual or sacred claims about the nature of reality". Instead, it is a "Life Stance" or Worldview that serves many of the same purposes as religion, but without the necessity for faith in God, or submission to the authority of divinely ordained leaders. And I can live with (out) that.

As far as I can tell, Deism is essentially Humanism with a slightly different understanding of Nature, including the super- and human- varieties. Perhaps we can adapt the Humanist un-religion into a Deist Eupraxophy. What do you think?


* http://www.prometheusbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=35_31&products_id=517
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stretmediq

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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Tue Feb 10, 2009 5:02 pm

That's almost the exact discussion we were having in a group at the UU "church" I go to. I think I'll bring up your post next time. Thanks! Very Happy
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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Tue Feb 10, 2009 6:08 pm

What is religion, at its essence?

It is culture - and humans cannot help but be cultural.

Even those who seek to keep Deism unreligious, a simple philosophical modality, seek connection to others of the same opinion.

Humans are innately driven to collectivize. There is no escaping it.
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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:59 pm

Uriah wrote:
Humans are innately driven to collectivize. There is no escaping it.

Resistance is futile! You will be absorbed into the collective. pirat
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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Wed Feb 11, 2009 12:22 am

Kurtz says, "The term Secular Humanism has thus been introduced to distinguish it from Religious Humanism".

I suspect that Religious Humanism is practiced by some members of the Unitarian churches.

Perhaps, in this thread, we need to distinguish between individualist Secular Deism and collective Religious Deism.

Kurtz continues, "The question I wish to address in this book is whether it is possible to adopt an a-religious or non-religious approach to life and still find human life to be full of conviction and inspiration".
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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Wed Feb 11, 2009 11:25 pm

Kurtz acknowledges that independent-minded freethinkers are usually reluctant joiners. But he recognizes that without some collective institutions, isolated humanists will remain on the fringes of mainstream society. So he proposes to establish "Eupraxophy Centers" [led by Eupraxophers] to satisfy human social needs without falling into the power trap of religious institutions. He goes on to outline some of the functions of such a "center", such as Ethical Education, Counseling, Rites of Passage, Creative Renewal and Fellowship, etcetera. But no preaching, and no sacred rituals.

From my own experience though, I suspect that his "Eupraxotheques" would be dominated by aggressive Atheists. So live-and-let-live Deists might feel marginalized. And besides, that hoity-toity name would never appeal to non-academics. He suggests other names, but none of them sounds quite right for a Deist congregation. The term "church" has too much baggage in my opinion. But my pensive alternatives are not much better. So how about calling the Deist social center The Link---or De-Link? Instead of going to Church, we can go to Link. [religion = link + back] Or instead of a Cultural Center, call it a Memetic Center [meeting of minds].

Please! Let's not call it a Deist Church. I'd prefer almost anything else--even the generic term Meet-Up. We need a strong, meaningful new name for a new institution, for a new era. Come to think of it, we might be better-off to have no single, official name. Just local clubs with local names. But there goes the larger unity again. Forget it! I ain't joinin' no institution by any name.

OK, I'm ramblin' here. So I'll just quit . . .
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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:47 am

I agree, instead of starting a Deist Church, we should start a club of sorts. And maybe we could make this club open only to those with select Deist knowledge, those who believe in and use the powers of reason and logic.

We could incorporate the use of mathematics, and geometry, as well as the philosophical history from which we gained our own insights. It springs to mind that the science and art of Architecture would be an exceedingly appropriate venue for this. We could then also tie our origins back to some mysterious epoch in time where architecture and art were considered divine sciences. Like, say, ancient Greece and Egypt. Coupled with all this we could create a set of elaborate rites that pantomime religious ceremonies, but incorporating our esoteric philosophical and mathematical knowledge instead.

Then we could have a secret handshake to!

What do you guys think?

Laughing
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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:03 am

Why what a wonderfully original idea!!! Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:05 am

Gnomon wrote:
From my own experience though, I suspect that his "Eupraxotheques" would be dominated by aggressive Atheists. So live-and-let-live Deists might feel marginalized.
I agree.

And "Deist Fellowship" works for me. It could be designed in a manner similar to the Transcendentalist clubs of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thoreau.

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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:50 pm

Quote :
Then we could have a secret handshake to!

I like it! But I'm not so sure about the ritual that involves daggers and riding goats. Very Happy


Seriously though, we could learn a lot from the Masons. I read their secret handbook, MORALS and DOGMA, and their worldview sounds like a combination of Deism and Mysticism. But as the Masons and Kabbalists can attest, in-group secrecy---with its implied superiority---will beget out-group animosity, and persecution; leading to the need for even more secrecy.

As an Architect myself, I'm not averse to worshiping the Great Architect of the universe. Wink
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Paul Anthony

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PostSubject: Re: Deism Without Religion   Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:02 am

Gnomon wrote:

Seriously though, we could learn a lot from the Masons. I read their secret handbook, MORALS and DOGMA, and their worldview sounds like a combination of Deism and Mysticism. But as the Masons and Kabbalists can attest, in-group secrecy---with its implied superiority---will beget out-group animosity, and persecution; leading to the need for even more secrecy.


Masons - and Rosicrucians - trace their lineage to the mystical "mystery schools" of ancient Egypt. However, the Masons morphed into a "gentlemen's club", so I wonder how much of the mysticism has been retained. Voltaire was a Mason, and they attempt to claim Benjamin Franklin as a member, based on the flimsy evidence that he once met with Voltaire at the Masonic Lodge in Paris. Personally, I think it more likely that they met there because McDonald's hadn't been invented yet.

Anyway... the last thing we need is more secrecy! Most people have never heard of Deism, and many who have heard the term are woefully ignorant of its meaning. My local AMORC chapter (Rosicrucians) has been trying to expand its membership by inviting people to meetings - and then not telling them anything about us. confused

If we are intent upon expanding the membership, we would need to come to some sort of consensus on what it means to be a Deist. This forum is evidence of just how unlikely that is! So, I could see us creating a local group, but whenever someone inquired about us, we would offer as many explanations as we had members.

Let's face it. We are not the sort of people who could be categorized as "of a like mind". Not that I'm complaining! It is our differences that make discussions so enlightening.
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