Spirituality

How To Overcome The Fear Of Going To Hell

I recently got a question via email from someone who was starting to question her religion, related to my story about How (and Why) I Went From Christian to Atheist, and wanted to know how to overcome her fear of going to hell. [caption id="attachment_2896" align="alignright" width="300"]Are you afraid of going to hell? Are you afraid of going to hell?[/caption] One of the most frightening aspects for me in deciding to abandon my childhood religion was the potential eternal consequences. After a lengthy examination of what I really believed and what I actually thought was true in the Bible, I concluded that the resurrection accounts weren't as compelling as they had been portrayed to me in church. Most likely Jesus didn't rise from the dead. A lot of Christian teaching is predicated on the idea that this miracle is proof that Jesus was the son of God, so that belief promptly went out the window. Modern science has reasonable explanations for the origin of the universe and the emergence of life without the need for a creator God. Although there are holes in our scientific knowledge I could see that being more comfortable with not knowing all the answers to life, the universe and everything could actually be more liberating than religiously answering “God did it” to every question I couldn't answer. While there are many modern-day Christians who believe that Darwinian evolution isn't incompatible with Christian teaching, for me the sheer barbarism of the natural selection process rules out an omnipotent compassionate God from coming up with it. (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago
Spirituality

How To Deal With People Who Offend You

I've woken up this morning, and the world's gone crazy again. Men with guns have killed people who offended them, plus a few other random people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Last month it was my own hometown of Sydney, this month it's another city I love, Paris. [caption id="attachment_2340" align="alignright" width="300"]I am Charlie. So are you. I am Charlie. So are you.[/caption] Social media and the newspapers are abuzz with political leaders and lay people saying they won't cave in to “terrorists” by giving in to fear. Police and military forces have responded, and most of the gunmen and their accomplices are now dead. So are some of the hostages. I feel deeply saddened for the people who have lost their lives, and the families they leave behind. Yet I don't buy the rhetoric that says we won't feel fear because that would just be giving the “terrorists” what they want. To be honest, I feel frightened and powerless when I see people much like myself caught up in hostage dramas and ending up dying at the hands of men with guns who believe their martyrdom will earn them rewards in an afterlife I don't even believe exists. How can I possibly hope to influence the behaviour of people who subscribe to an ideology I don't agree with, following a religion I don't know much about, with a spiritual leader who appears above criticism in their minds? Even within Islam, different sects have a history of killing each other over what appear to me to be relatively minor doctrinal differences (or more likely because they just wanted their land and/or possessions), so the answer doesn't appear to lie there. That said, if the pen really is mightier than the sword, I'm willing to give it a go. (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago
Spirituality

How To Stop The Taliban Shooting Young Women In The Head

I felt appalled this morning to read the letter by Taliban commander Adnan Rashid justifying why Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai had been shot in the head. While the letter expresses some remorse over the shooting, it also goes on to justify the shooting based on Yousafzai's advocacy of freedom of non-religious education for Pakistani women. I felt angry when I read about this. I wanted to do something about the injustice and other dilemmas that arise for me when I read a man's explanation for the shooting of a woman simply for expressing an opinion he disagreed with, and the religious system that was used to justify it. However, I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem: millions of men on all sides going to war over their inability to control the thoughts and actions of other men and women. In this specific case, of one young woman in particular; but it's hardly an isolated incident. The problem is enormous. And in feeling overwhelmed, I felt powerless. Powerless to do anything to help these men in the Taliban. Hang on a sec... powerless to help these men? Why would I want to help the Taliban, when they go around shooting young women in the head? (more…)

By Graham Stoney, ago
Spirituality

Christian Teaching That Can Undermine Your Self-Confidence

I've been thinking lately about how much my self-confidence was undermined by what I was taught as a child in the church where I grew up. Even long after I had abandoned the belief system on a conscious level as an adult, I still felt the emotional effects of having my sense of self eroded and my self-belief undermined. There are some positive aspects of Christian teaching, but these didn't sink in for me as deeply as the negatives. Even if you still believe in the basis of Christianity, I suggest you start questioning some of these Christian teachings which can undermine your self-confidence:

Blessed Are The Meek

Image courtesy sxc.hu

Yeah right. Try telling that to Genghis Khan. Now I'm not suggesting that you should go and invade half of China, but if ever there was a teaching designed to simply appease the masses, this is it. It would be more accurate to say “Blessed is the man who believes in himself and valiantly goes after what he wants in life without attachment to getting it”.

You Were Born Into Sin

The basic notion that we are born into original sin is flawed. The truth is that you were born exactly as nature intended.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago