The Ancient Creed of MTD
Charles Featherstone found this literary description of a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist. I’ve taken the name of the character out of this passage:
If you had asked [N.] what his religion was, he would have answered in sonorous, Boosters’-Club rhetoric, “My religion is to serve my fellow men, to honor my brother as myself, and to do my bit to make life happier for one and all.” If you had pressed him for more detail, he would have announced, “I’m a member of the Presbyterian Church and naturally, I accept its doctrines.” If you had been so brutal as to go on, he would have protested, “There’s no use discussing and arguing about religion; it just stirs up bad feeling.”
Actually, the content of his theology was that there was a supreme being who had tried to make us perfect but presumably failed; that if one was a Good Man he would go to a place called Heaven ([N.] unconsciously picture it as rather like an excellent hotel with a private garden), but if one was a Bad Man, that is, if he murdered or committed burglary or used cocaine or had mistresses or sold non-existent real estate, he would be punished. [N.] was uncertain, however, about what he called “this business of Hell.” He explained to Ted, “O course I’m pretty liberal; I don’t exactly believe in a fire-and-brimstone Hell. Stands to reason, though, that a fellow can’t get away with all sorts of Vice and not get nicked for it, see how I mean?”
Upon this theology he rarely pondered. The kernel of his practical religion was that it was respectable, and beneficial to one’s business, to be be seen going to services; that the church keep the Worst Elements from being still worse; and that the pastor’s sermons, however dull they might seem at the time of taking, yet had a voodooistic power which “did a fellow good—kept him in touch with Higher Things.”
Know who this is? Charles tells you. Sure seems like MTD is not some perversion of American religion, but rather is American religion.