Hello, my name is Jayson X. I’m an former Eastern Orthodox Christian priest, but now I’m a Deist, philosopher, and writer. I once wrote an article explaining how this happened which is still featured and can be read in its entirety at www.deism.com
Why Would a Orthodox Christian Priest Become a Deist?
All of us have had the experience of heading in one direction and then suddenly realizing that we should go in a completely different direction to accomplish our goal. Perhaps we were rushing to work and realized that we left something important in the house, or perhaps we were heading south on a highway and found out that we had to go north. Those are literal changes in direction, but we sometimes have to make metaphorical changes in direction too. I had to make a major metaphorical change in direction around the turn of the millennium.
Born in 1969, I was raised by a good and devout Eastern Orthodox Christian woman. The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian sect after the Roman Catholic Church, and the two denominations are about 99% the same doctrinally. Like many (if not most) religions, Eastern Orthodoxy arrogantly claims that it alone is the one, true faith. I was raised to believe that the closer a religion is to Eastern Orthodoxy, the more true and good it is. The farther, the more false and evil.
To make a long story short, I graduated from Geneseo State College in 1992 with a B.A. in English and went to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, that fall, with the intent to become an Eastern Orthodox priest. The main reason I wanted to become a priest was to help everyone; and when I say everyone, I mean all life on Earth. My thinking went something like this: Eastern Orthodoxy is how God wants all people to live, so people would be as good as possible if they became Eastern Orthodox. If all people became as good as possible, they would treat everyone properly. If everyone were treated properly, all creatures would be as happy as possible.
At seminary, I met many wonderful people, some questionable people, and one truly evil person. Think Rasputin! I also learned much more about the wider Eastern Orthodox Church and its theology. Some of it I liked, and some of it I did not. In 1995, I graduated with a Masters of Theology and still believed in the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church enough to honestly seek ordination. In fact, I was very eager.
About two years later, I found myself as the pastor of a mid-sized parish. I liked most of my congregation, and some were truly saintly. Yet I could not stop thinking that all of us would be better off if we had a more rational religion—one that was better defined, had far fewer distracting traditions, and strongly focused on love for God through love of all of God’s creatures, especially human beings. In short, I thought that I could find a better way, at least for myself. That is why I left the ministry.
Now I am a middle school English teacher in a public school. Respecting the separation of Church and State, I do not proselytize my students, but I am convinced that one should not base one’s beliefs on an ancient book or some supposedly divine institution. Instead, one should base one’s beliefs first and foremost on one’s reason.
Although one’s reason is imperfect, it is the best way to embrace truth. Embracing truth is ultimately the way to maximize everyone’s happiness. We have to purposefully deal with reality to make it better.
The only option to reason is superstition, and superstition generally leads people away from the truth. The biggest difference between most religions and Deism is that the former are based on superstition and the latter is based on reason.
I am truly glad that I made the switch from Christianity to Deism, despite the very difficult sacrifices involved. I greatly upset many friends and family members, gave up my career as a priest, and did much agonizing soul-searching. However, I traded intellectual slavery for intellectual freedom and hypocrisy for integrity. I also have taken an important step toward accomplishing my life’s goal: to help everyone. I realized that teaching people to base their beliefs on a superstition did more evil than good. So I changed direction, and I now teach people to base their beliefs on reason.
If you are heading in the wrong direction, make a change. And if you are headed in the right direction, keep going. I am talking to myself as much as anyone.
May reason prevail!