Tag Archives: Religion

Can you handle reality?

I came across a photograph of an emaciated, defenceless infant being cruelly stood upon by a man. One foot was planted on the child’s neck and the other on his pelvis. The boy appeared to be alive, judging by the expression of agony on his face. I don’t want to share the photo because I think some will find it unbearable. So I will settle for putting an image in your mind with words.

But I must ask myself (and so should you), what does this picture tell me about REALITY? It says that the world is a wild animal park, that there is no one “above” looking out for us, that a successful life involves some degree of pure luck, no matter how much effort we put into it.

I could tell myself that there’s a God who cares for me, but I know I’d be lying. If God values my life and happiness, why does he not value this child’s? I could tell myself that it’s not God’s fault; the evil was done by the man crushing the boy. But I’m deliberately forgetting that God is all-powerful, because I love him and want to let him off the hook. Who am I kidding?

The next time you thank God for his blessings upon you, spare a thought for this child, and ask  yourself why you don’t hate God. I don’t hate him, because I know he is an invention. I choose not to believe in a divine parent, because reality teaches his absense. This is only unclear if we bury our heads in the sand. I prefer a life without comforting illusions, because those illusions only work until they are tested by reality. Sometimes reality is comfortable and sometimes it is horrific. To believe that God orchestrates it all is to make God a monster.

No. The world is a wild animal park; it’s that simple. Any genuine and lasting spirituality must be grounded in reality, not in wishful thinking. Initially, it may feel like staring into an abyss, but if you look hard enough, you’ll eventually find treasure. I wish I could explain it all with a handy anecdote, but real spiritual insight is a lot harder than “Believe in me”. Reality invites you to gaze upon her without averting your eyes. That’s as good as starting point as any, but can you handle it?

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Who or what is God?

Discussing the idea of God from the perspectives of monotheism (God is a being), pantheism (God is the universe) and atheism (God is the Big Bang singularity). What light does modern science shed on this age-old question, especially in light of the motion of galaxies and the nature of energy?

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The quiet death of free speech

Before you watch my video below, I recommend you watch this one first (particularly the last minute or so). Recent drama between YouTube users “dprjones” and “VenomFangX” is a prime example of how one person can strip another of his freedom of speech for a year, while the world cheers, oblivious to what they’re really approving.

Do we really want to build a world where everyone has to watch their every word, for fear of reprisal? Do we want to regress to the era when religion dictated what we could and couldn’t say? No? Then let’s stop denying others the freedom to speak.

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The real meaning of Christmas Day

It’s common knowledge that Jesus wasn’t actually born on 25 December, but the true significance of this date is not often spoken of within Christianity. It is a pagan celebration of the rebirth of the “sun” on the winter solstice. It’s no accident that the Church applied this date to Jesus.

Recommended viewing: Zeitgeist: The Movie.

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The spiritual experiences of my Christian days

Here’s a look at some of the more intimate moments of my Christian life, the spiritual experiences that appeared to be God’s supernatural involvement in my life and proof of Christianity’s validity. How do I look back on those experiences, having now rejected my faith? Watch and see.

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Unmasking the nature of reality

[A Christian friend recently asked me, “What is it that you believe now?” Tough question to give a short answer to. I could say, “I believe I am everything that exists, experiencing a state of separation from the full magnitude of what I am.” Or I could say, “The universe is holographic in nature, like the Star Trek holodeck or The Matrix.” I’ve tried those kinds of answers and I’ve seen eyebrows raise in an expression of bewilderment that seems to communicate, “How on earth did Darryl go from believing in Christ to this bizarre nonsense?” For what it’s worth, I’m going to try and guide you step by step into my headspace.]

What is the true underlying nature of reality? What is my place in it? Does my life have meaning, or am I a cosmic accident? Are the answers to these questions found in religion, or is science where the real enlightenment lies? Is it even possible to know? What chance do I have of finding out? And where the hell do I even begin?

The first step is a willingness to unlearn what you’ve been taught, or more appropriately, what you’ve been conditioned to believe all your life. With hundreds of belief systems on Earth, the chances of you inheriting the right one, by virtue of geographical placement, are miniscule. If you were born in America, is Christianity true by virtue of the number of people around you who believe in it, or the number of times its ideas are repeated to you? If you were born in Iraq, is Islam true for the same reasons? Look around the world and you will find countless differing religions, each one confident of its superiority over all others, one generation indoctrinating the next. The thing that so few people dare to do is to step outside of the zeitgeist – the spirit of the age. But it’s what you have to do if you want to discover the real truth. No belief should ever be so sacred that we are not permitted to look critically at it and assess its worth.

The zeitgeist is not only religious in nature, but also infiltrates the arena of science. Science is concerned with what is definable and measurable. It’s all about weighing evidence and making rational deductions. When there is no evidence for something, it will not become a scientific fact. That is why science has little or nothing to say about ideas like God, or the soul, or the afterlife. And that’s fair. Those things seem to be outside the scope of measurement. I would guess this is why many scientists are atheists. They have decided that if there is no evidence for something, then they have no business believing in it. But therein lies the trap. Absence of proof is not necessarily proof of absence. And although science prides itself on making no assumptions, the entire discipline hangs on one colossal assumption – that the physical universe is the cornerstone from which we do our thinking. Matter is what matters. But if we’re willing to look closely at the presuppositions that shape our thinking, we might discover that we’ve been making deductions using the wrong set of presuppositions – that we have been unwary victims of the zeitgeist. One of the most important things I figured out was that the proper starting point for rational thought is not observation of the physical universe; first and foremost, it is observation of our own self-awareness, as I will attempt to show.

Having unlearned (or at least temporarily shelved) everything taught or imposed upon me by science and religion, I begin with the knowledge that I am a conscious being. I am self-aware. Let’s not even assume that I am a body. First and foremost, I am self-awareness. It appears that I have eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear. Five senses in total, allowing me to receive information from outside of myself. But already I’m making too many assumptions. Do I really see with my eyes? No. On closer inspection, my eyes receive information, convert it into electrical signals, and pass these to the visual cortex at the back of my brain. I see with my visual cortex, experiencing a bright world of colour and motion inside the absolute darkness of my skull, which no actual light can penetrate. If I pick up a pencil, I feel the pressure of it in my fingers. But I don’t, really. The nerves in my fingers transmit signals back to my brain, and my brain tells me that my fingers are touching something. Meanwhile, my eyes relay signals to my brain, showing me visual information about the object I’m touching. The principle to remember here is that you cannot get beyond your brain in order to prove the existence of the physical world. All the information is second hand.

Perhaps you think it should be taken as a given that the physical universe exists, by virtue of the rich and repetitive nature of our perceptions. But let’s remember that every night in bed we experience a five-sense environment in our dreams. Dreams are so lifelike that we usually believe them to be real for the duration of their experience, yet they have no physical substance. When we are awake and when we are dreaming, it is our consciousness that does the perceiving, not our physical senses. In truth, when we awake, we simply have no way of knowing whether we are connecting to a real physical universe, or merely a longer dream – one whose rules are more concrete, perhaps because it is a dream-world held together by the collective unconscious of the all those who share it. Either paradigm is possible, and neither provable.

We are perceivers and we can never get past our perceptions to discover the actuality of the universe. You can look out of the window and say, “The grass is green.” Are you sure? Did you ever consider that a cat or a lizard might see the grass in a different manner, since the structure of their eyes are quite different from a human’s. What right have I to say, “The universe really is the way I see it,” when I am perceiving the universe through the machinery of my body. Consider the bat, which is almost blind and much more reliant on a form of radar. Or the dog, who experiences an exotic realm of smells that we humans can barely imagine. Bodies are biological machines that perceive the universe in differing ways. The grass is only green when the body-machine interprets the data it receives in a certain manner.

We cannot be certain what the actuality of the universe is; we can only see it through our own particular lens. We can’t even know that the universe is genuinely physical in nature. Consider the analogy of the modern videogame. We can take part in adventures across city-sized maps, with amazingly detailed roads, buildings, and countless nooks and crannies for exploration. We can make our game character turn his head in any direction and watch the real-world laws of geometry playing out in two-dimensional space on the flatness of our television screens, beaming out texture, light and shadow. Once, I had a moment of clarity when I stood on a hillside, gazing down through the trees at a lake and a castle on the opposite side (in a game, that is). It was a picturesque scene, and in the real world it might have made me reach for my camera. And I thought, “No one else has stood on this precise spot and looked down the hill at this exact angle. Not even the game’s creators. The game is just too vast.” It struck me as profound that something so artistic – something that was just for me in this moment – could spring to life from nothing more than a rapid series of mathematical equations being processed inside my computer. In videogames we experience an interactive world of sight, sound and touch – a limited but spectacularly detailed facsimile of the physical world. The big question, then, is this: if we mere mortals are able to create this 3D experience inside a computer, have we any business assuming that our universe is truly 3D in its deepest essence, in its actuality? The three-dimensionality of a videogame is nothing more than binary ones and zeros flowing through electrical circuits, and yet the laws of physics in a game are as solid and dependable as the laws of physics in the real world. A game’s vistas, although not nearly as detailed as the real world, use the same mathematics of geometry, the same understanding of light and shadow. Put simply: the universe is made of mathematics.

Some people simply will not enter into this manner of thinking, because it seems repugnant that the universe should be telling us fibs about itself. But this is exactly what has already happened and continues to happen. Without any knowledge of astronomy and geometry, we started off believing the Earth was flat. Why? Because our experience told us it was flat. The human form is so tiny in relation to the magnitude of the Earth that we have no conscious awareness of moving over a curved surface as we go from place to place. Only when we started getting our heads around geometry, and noticing things like how the stars travel up the sky as we move towards them, could we begin to deduce that we were sitting on a big ball. When a cat sees its reflection in a mirror for the first time, it thinks it is looking at another cat, one that mimics its every move – until it learns to see through the lie. We’ve invented the hologram – images that stand out from their photographic paper screaming, “I have substance!” Yet wave your hand through one and there’s nothing there. The key question is whether you want to trust your experience or try to see the bigger picture.

The universe lies until you figure out the lies. Its purpose is not to tell you its innermost secrets. Its purpose is to provide consciousness with an experience. It is up to us to probe its nature, except most of us have been doing so from the wrong standpoint. We’ve assumed that it’s all real, when that realness – that three-dimensionality – may be nothing more than a stream of data, a matrix, a frequency to which our consciousness is tuned. Is Betelgeuse six hundred light-years away from Earth, or is it sitting right next to us, just another point on the data stream?

You may ask, “What difference does it make which view I take? Life is the same either way.” On the contrary, life is vastly different. If we use the physical universe as the cornerstone of our rational thinking, we can easily lose sight of the importance of our own self-awareness. When you look in at yourself from the outside, through the eyes of science, and you begin to understand the brain, the tendency is to explain away your own consciousness in purely physical terms – as if your consciousness is little more than a computer program performing a task. And yes, there is something very computer-like about our minds. All creatures, humans included, possess behaviour patterns: appetite, sexuality, testosterone, predatory instincts, maternal and paternal inclinations, etc. These things, and more, make us predictable to a certain extent. Similarly, a computer programmer can create an autonomous game character, imbue him with behaviour patterns, and place him into the game environment, where he will interact with it and behave as if he is self-aware. However, you would never say that such a character is genuinely self-aware. And yet you know that you are, in a manner that transcends any form of artificial intelligence. Science has never distinguished mind from self-awareness. The two are not the same. Mind is a brain-based faculty used by self-awareness. Science has fundamentally lost touch with the wonder of consciousness that we all experience. It has no place for such a thing because it cannot seem to grasp it and measure it. “No,” says science, “you cannot be immaterial consciousness interfacing with a brain. You’re just a brain.” And yet, where is this thing called self-awareness on any map of the brain? Nowhere to be found.

If you start from the deeper standpoint of using self-awareness as the cornerstone of your thinking, you end up with a vastly different perspective on the universe. For a start, the one thing you can be sure of is that you exist. As Rene Descarte said, “I think, therefore I am.” Everything else is under suspicion, because everything else is a perception. What this means is, if you want to believe in a physical universe, you have to take it on trust. If you want to believe it’s all a matrix, you have to take it on trust. In this predicament, what do you do with the scientific approach, when you suddenly realise you can’t use it to get anywhere? My answer to that is you use an almost forgotten little thing called intuition.

What do you sense the truth to be? The two most fundamental questions you should ask yourself are “What am I?” and “Where I am?” In my experience, asking those questions starts you on a wonderful journey of self-discovery that brings an end all to the bewilderment of living in the zeitgeist. For the scientifically minded person, the understanding that consciousness transcends matter opens up the genuine possibility of life after death and the mystery of whether our physical birth was really the beginning of our life. For the religious among us, it presents spirituality free from imposed dogmas that must never be questioned. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

(I recommend watching the following documentary for an easy-to-understand visual look at the nature of reality.)

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The religious pulse of the planet

I’ve just finished watching an excellent documentary series on TV called Around the World in 80 Faiths. Anglican minister Peter Owen Jones took a year off from his parish to travel around the world and to, as he puts is, “Take the religious pulse of the planet.”

If I were still a Christian, I would have been shocked by his willingness to participate in some of the rituals. He did everything from drinking ayahuasca in a Brazilian rainforest to joining in naked at an urban witchcraft ceremony. As an ex-Christian, I have no judgement whatsoever to make on the man. In fact, his willingness to participate made it all the more fascinating.

The documentary looked at the major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, various branches of these, cults, and other little known faiths.

I came away from the series with the realisation that you could end up as anything, depending on nothing more than where you were lucky or unlucky enough to be born. I finally started to appreciate what people mean when they dismiss Christianity with words like “Everybody has their own beliefs.” When you have an appreciation of the sheer diversity of religions on Earth, and the sheer commitment that all these people have to their own way being the true way, you start to see how incredibly tiny your own religious experience is in comparison to the experiences of others.

I feel a sense of sadness that the world is in this state of diversity, because if the idea of objective truth has any validity, then something somewhere is true. Of course, as soon as I say that, all of those religions are raising their hands claiming, “It’s us!”

Sadly, religions seem happy to survive and advance by presenting only a single version of reality to the young (indoctrination) and encouraging the herd mentality in all (social conditioning). Some also back that up with terror tactics – viewing life in an alternative way results in immediate damnation. Rarely does the subject of evidence come up.

If I’ve learned one thing from the mammoth task of finding the real truth in the haystack of religion, it’s the sheer improbability of finding it. And that, for me, means that I simply cannot take religion seriously.

You pick your religion (although usually it’s picked for you) and you bet your life on it. You hope that your way is the true way, and that your faith will see you safely through the mystery of death into the arms of God (or to your next life, or whatever).

I refuse to be indoctrinated and conditioned. I refuse to assume that the religion of my birthplace is the one true way. I cannot take seriously any threats of judgement without some serious weight of evidence to back it up.

The cure for religious indoctrination and conditioning is to reclaim your right to think your own thoughts – to always ask the question “Why?” when you don’t understand or don’t agree, and to never let yourself be guided by so-called “truths” dictated by nothing more than strength of numbers. Only then will your thoughts and decisions be your own, and only then will you have a hope in hell of discovering any genuine truth.

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Why I spoke against Christianity

Seven or eight months ago, I abandoned Christianity, after being a Christian for many years. It was a decision that cost me dearly. Four close friends have exiled me from their lives, and two others can no longer see me due to their family’s intolerance. This all happened, not quite because I abandoned Christianity, but because I chose to speak out publicly about my reasons for doing so. Let’s not mince words: I expressed opinions that were anti-Christian.

Looking back, having learned a lot since my decision, I not only stand by it, but my stance has been greatly reinforced. There is not a single thing that lures me back to Christianity except the slight nagging fear of having made the wrong decision. I am fully aware that I am literally betting my life and soul that I’ve made the right choice. I take it very seriously, and only a fool wouldn’t.

In choosing to speak against Christianity, I caused great offense to some people, and it occurs to me now that I don’t think I ever made it clear why I was compelled to say the things I said. It could appear that I am full of venom, but that’s not the case.

When the teachings of Christianity tell me that I am going to hell, that provokes a response from me. I can either accept the Christian claim or reject it, and that rejection can take one of two forms:

1. I shrug my shoulders, walk away, and hope that hell doesn’t really exist.

2. I investigate the claim (with as little bias as possible) to be sure that I’ve made the right decision.

Response 1 would drive me mad, as I would end up constantly living in fear of being wrong. I would have to know for sure, just to put my mind at ease – or equally to lead me to embrace Christianity, should evidence present itself.

So I’ve done my homework. In fact, I’ve done twenty years of it; my relationship with Christianity goes way back. And now I don’t think Christianity is true. I don’t think there is such a place as hell. I don’t think people are damned until they discover “the way.” And I’m betting my life on it. What choice do I have? The choice between doing what I think it right, or giving in to an unjustified threat.

In saying such things, I realise I’m being very anti-Christian, but the thing I need to throw back at the Christians is this: you provoked it. I’m not trying to shift responsibility. What I’m saying is, you can’t threaten somebody and expect them to have no reaction to your threat. You can’t ask me to play Response 1, and simply say, “Gee, I hope what you’re saying isn’t true,” and nothing more.

Okay, maybe you won’t deny me the right to think what I choose to think, as long as I keep it to myself and don’t cause offense. That’s unfair for two very clear reasons.

Firstly, you’re saying you would prefer to relate to a false version of me, a politically correct projection that suits you but is nothing more than an illusion. What kind of a relationship is that? Wouldn’t you prefer me to be honest? Wouldn’t you prefer to know what I really think?

Secondly, you are expressing hypocritical double standards. How can you deny someone the right to say what they think is true (even when it offends), when you give yourself the right to express what you think is true (even when it offends)? If you’ve got the balls to say, “Buddy, you’re going to hell,” then I’ve got the balls to say, “No I’m not, and here’s why.” How can you be intolerant to criticism when you claim the right to criticise everyone else?

I don’t want to tar all Christians with the same brush. Some of my friends are Christians, and they’re still my friends, and we still have intelligent discussions without getting angry. My experience of losing friends has made me see that Christians are divided into two camps. I’m not sure what to call these groups, but I’ll wager the words “moderate” and “fundamentalist” are close labels. They are groups of mind and not of location, although I would say that certain churches fuel the fundamentalist mindset, whereas others fuel the moderate mindset.

I think the driving force behind the fundamentalist mindset is the ideal “I want to do God’s will. Whatever God says, I will do, and it doesn’t matter what you think or even what I think, only what God says.” This is rooted in an understanding of the supremacy of God and the perfection of the religious teachings. It sounds fine on the surface, until you try to put it into practice in a world full of differing beliefs. You give yourself permission to slam everyone else’s beliefs and you get angry at them for slamming your beliefs, but you still think that’s fair because you’re the one’s who’s on God’s side. The trouble is, often the opposition believes the same thing about themselves. This, I think, is the root cause of religious conflict, whether that conflict is as insignificant as an abandoned friendship or as devastating as a war.

The moderate Christian realises that when he gives himself permission to criticise someone else’s beliefs he must allow them to criticise his. This is nothing more than basic fair play, the understanding that we’re all equal. We don’t all start out with the same beliefs, so how can we live life with the constant expectation that everyone will see things the same way, accept as sacred the same things that we hold sacred? Ultimately, it is as simple as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This principle is recognised by athiest and Christian alike as the most beneficial way to relate to people, and the very fact that it is in the Bible should give the fundamentalist Christians pause to reconsider their tyrannical stance on the world around them.

I have my own imperfections and personal failures to deal with, too. I’ve been known to get a little upset at times – like when a fundamentalist makes snide remarks at me, or calls me stupid, or insinuates that I have some malevolent agenda. I don’t react well to character assassination. Understandable, you might think, but I should learn to simply accept the criticism without complaint. If that’s how a person feels about me, then I would rather have that raw honesty come out than have the experience of polite dishonesty or hidden fury. Let me have the truth, even if it stings. Mind you, the same fundamentalist will be completely mystified why I don’t feel any attraction to the sort of spirituality that leads him to express himself the way he does.

To the Christians who have stood by me, I’m glad of your continued friendship. I know you think I’m going to hell. That doesn’t bother me, because you have every right to believe what you want to believe. To those who are too offended by me to remain friends, I wish it wasn’t so, and I hope this essay helps you to understand why I’ve gone about things the way I have.

Bottom line: you can’t threaten somebody and expect them to take it lying down.

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More friendships crash and burn

I’ve just had a pretty harrowing evening. A Christian man and wife in their fifties/sixties recently discovered my change in belief. I knew it was only a matter of time before they found out. I didn’t want them to remain in the dark indefinitely, but I’ve been dreading this day, because I know how hardcore they are about their faith.

So I called round to their house to talk it through with them. It didn’t go well. They believe I have committed apostasy, that I have “rejected the saviour.” It doesn’t matter that in my mind I haven’t rejected anyone. All I’ve done is changed my mind about what I believe is real. You can ask me, “Do you deny that Jesus is the son of God?” How can I deny something that isn’t even a reality to me, because I question the reliability of the documents that explain this person to me? Yet the idea that I have rejected an actual person is what will be imposed upon me, because they will only see it from their point of view.

They listened to me for a while. And they got their own concerns off their chest, too. It was mainly prophecies of doom upon my life, and the heavy suspicion that I had never been a true Christian in the first place. Furthermore, I’m no longer welcome at their house, nor do they want me to maintain a friendship with their twenty-two-year-old son, whom I’m quite close to, in case I lead him into deception. How about the idea of respecting his ability make up his own mind about what he hears? That doesn’t come into it, apparently. I left with a heavy heart, and feeling like I had been poisoned.

I also saw how real this was to them. The lady even wept slightly during the proceedings, so I know there is real love for me in these people, but they have lived so much of their lives within Christianity (or their particular Calvinistic brand of it) that it appears impossible for them react any other way than they did. And yet it’s the most bizarre kind of love. The underlying attitude seems to be, “I love you, but I must reject you. You are only acceptable to me if you believe what I believe.” Or, “I love you, but I must hang you out to dry.”

As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I bumped into the very guy who led me to Christ when I was seventeen. Hadn’t seen him in many, many years; he lives in England but was back here for a visit. This guy’s Christian faith has been a rocky road, like mine. Many years ago, in an email, he admitted to me that he was gay. And, you know, it was great to actually have the chance to tell him in person, “I just don’t care. You’re all right by me.” To allow myself to empathise with what he has had to go through and to express true unconditional love – not the love that says, “I love you but I don’t accept you.”

As for me, the experience this evening only reinforces my views about religion, and the problems with accepting any rigid belief system that tells you what you’re supposed to think en masse. The craziness of the extreme reaction to me is illustrated by the simple fact that I’m the same guy I always was. Better, morally, than I’ve ever been. To some extent, it’s even true to say that I was living a double life as a Christian, and for the first time in I don’t know how many years, I’m now the same person in private that I am in public. What’s a guy to do with that reality except embrace it?

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Turning Hyde back into Jekyll, permanently

Trapped in a lonely body
I’m losing control
Can’t show my emotions
And I’m losing my soul
Could it be that I’m obsessed
With feeding my disease?
I couldn’t make it known
The hidden things that no one sees

Yeah, loser
I’m a secret loser
Loser
I’m a secret loser

Seeing is not believing
It don’t mean a thing
Although it appears to be that
The loser is king
I can understand that what you see
You think is real
But underneath the surface
Is a wound that cannot heal

Those are some of the words to “Secret Loser” by Ozzy Osbourne, which is the song that came immediately to mind regarding the topic I want to discuss. Anybody feeling any sense of kinship with old Oz here? I sure am, and I’ll bet a lot of you are, too.

In the last post, I touched briefly on how my new spiritual views provided a pespective that made it easier to love other people. But what about that other side of morality, where it’s not a case of how our actions affect others, but how our actions affect ourselves. We all have our “secret sins,” things we do (or even just things we think) in private that the world doesn’t see – things that fill us with a sense of shame and guilt, and even the feeling at times that we’re living a double life. Is anyone empathising with this? I’ve had plenty of intimate conversations over the years on this topic, and I know I’m not alone. Last year, at school, I even dared to give a talk on the subject of “vice” to the eleven- and twelve-year-olds at Scripture Union. It made me nervous, because I personalised it. Especially nervous, because a couple of teachers decided to sit in during that particular session. At the end, to my surprise and delight, the teachers expressed how brilliant they thought the talk was.

What’s clear to me is that everybody’s suffering here. And if anyone has some information that can help people, it should be expressed, and not hidden out of a fear of condemnation by people you assume to be better than you. It’s a big relief when you realise we’re all swimming in the same sewer.

The Christian idea that we possess a sinful nature (or “the flesh,” as some Bible translations phrase it) is what once allowed me to put some substance around why human beings have this perverse streak. We have a predisposition towards evil, it seems. Right now, though, I find myself questioning the validity of that, for several reasons. Firstly, I asked myself, can evil behaviour be put down to a combination of free will, bad decision-making, outlook on life, upbringing, environment, education, indoctrination, etc? In other words, are your problems with sin down to a combination of things you’ve done to yourself and things that have been done to you? Does man necessarily have to be rotten at his core? Secondly, I asked myself, has the belief in a sinful nature helped or harmed my ability to better myself?

Rather than give definitive answers to those questions, I would rather let you ponder them (heh-heh, there’s a handy way to curtail another blazing argument). Instead, what I want to do is present a different way of looking at things that certainly has helped me lately.

What is it that prevents us from being as bad as we could be? I think the main motivator is the realisation of consequences. I don’t mean fear of consequences; I’m choosing my words carefully here. We restrain ourselves from doing evil to another person because we know that what we do will hurt them, and we possess empathy with the victims of ours actions. Of course, not all of us choose the path of good; I’m just illustrating how I think the anatomy of the conscience works. There’s an interesting movie called Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale, about a future society where mankind is drugged 24/7 into a condition where they can no longer feel anything, because (according to the movie) evil is caused by our ability to feel. A disturbing kind of peace reigns supreme – except when someone decides he doesn’t want to take the drug anymore. Then he is mercilessly killed by the authorities. The philosophy of the movie gets a little messed up in places, but you can make interesting observations watching it. Principally, it’s not the ability to feel that makes you evil; it’s the absense of feeling that makes you capable of doing anything to anyone! Empathy is the key.

But sometimes we are put into a moral arena where empathy towards others doesn’t even come into the picture. When you’re sitting alone in front of your computer with a box of Kleenex at hand, feeling the temptation towards wrongdoing, your actions are affecting no one but youself. It gets worse when you can’t even see any real consequences for yourself. I’m still alive, still healthy; I haven’t been struck down by God; everything’s okay, despite how often I’ve gone through the neverending cycle of guilt and repentance. What I’m saying is, it’s very hard to stop yourself from giving in to temptation when you can’t see any permanent consequences. The mere knowledge or feeling that it’s wrong doesn’t seem to be enough. Even grasping an awareness that it’s an offense to God doesn’t seem to be enough. The only consequences appear to be feelings of guilt and shame that will dissipate in a short while. If that’s what it means to possess a “sinful nature,” then I would say yes, I possess a sinful nature.

But that’s as far as it goes with me. It is too easy to let this belief in a sinful nature cloud your mind into believing that you will never overcome the vices you want to overcome. Recently, and for maybe the first time in my life, I have found that when I’ve opened my mind to some different ideas, I have changed remarkably for the better. I’ll try and communicate these ideas.

You can overcome personal evil because there actually are consequences. I just wasn’t fully clued into them until recently. Everything is consciousness. Consciousness and energy are the same thing. When you think something, you either create positive or negative energy, and that energy has a direct and immediate effect on you. This is why we can feel literally sick our stomach by something we’ve done. All negative thought creates a negative imbalance within you. The worst aspect of it is that like attracts like. This is true on the physical level with the types of people who gravitate towards us, and I suspect equally true on the spiritual level with what sort of entities gravitate into our lives. Yes, I am talking about demonic influence and oppression. What we do on the physical level has a massive impact on the hidden spiritual reality all around us. Our actions, and more importantly our very thoughts, affect our spiritual/emotional/phsyical balance – the whole of our being, because everything about us is interconnected. That imbalance can be subtle or great. The important thing to realise is that the imbalance is happening, and it doesn’t have to happen. This is the knowledge that helped me to get my feet planted firmly in the right direction and to stop playing with darkness.

For me, forgiveness from sin doesn’t really come into the equation. I’m actually concerned that the awareness of being able to claim forgiveness after I’ve committed a wrong will encourage me to get away with doing that wrong, time and time again. I’m also concerned that constantly feeling guilty before God is so detrimental to self-esteem that it often keeps me locked in a self-destructive attitude. I think I’ve fallen into these states of mind plenty of times. Now, I feel a greater ability to pursue good when I embrace the idea that it’s all up to me, and when I shun the idea that I’m being stared at with a disapproving gaze by God. Dropping all that baggage, it comes down to this: I can choose to keep harming myself and face the consequences in my life, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and in every other way, or I can get my act together.

And I have got my act together. Gone are the little voices that say things like, “I’ll never overcome this”; “I’m such a disappointment to God”; “People would hate me if they really knew what I was like.” I’ve discovered that I can, and have, overcome my personal vices. I don’t think I’m a disappointement to God because I don’t live with the reality of a God who holds everyone to account for everything they do. And some people probably would hate me if they knew what I had been like, but any lack of understanding they might have towards me is no concern of mine, because I’m overcoming my problems and forgiving myself for what I’ve done; I know what I am and I like what I am.

The key to overcoming evil (overcoming moral imbalance, which is what it really is) is to promote balance within yourself, in every way you can. Learn to see this as the most vital thing you can do. Start disciplining your own thoughts. Take your mind away from negative thoughts and intentions as soon as they occur. I think we’ve been conditioned to think that it’s normal to have good and bad days – days when you’re on a bit of a downer for no good reason. Total nonsense. There’s no reason at all why we can’t live lives that are characterised by emotional, spiritual, physical and moral balance. We just haven’t prioritised it. Realise that there is much that you can do to maintain balance within yourself. Part of that means embracing a healthy lifestyle, choosing not to eat all the crap we’ve been led to believe is a normal diet. Health on the physical level and health on the spiritual and emotional levels are all connected; feel unhealthy and you will feel emotionally imbalanced. Everybody has experienced that, right? When you feel sick, it’s a short step to feeling depressed. Sometimes promoting balance in your life can be as simple as going for a walk to clear your head. What I’m saying is, start to see the importance of these things and how they relate to all parts of you, including your morality. A person with a balanced life feels no inclincation to give in to negative impulses. In short, if you’re a mess in other areas of your life, don’t expect to be healthy morally.

I don’t know if anyone feels any kind of resonance with what I’m saying. All I know is, this way of looking at life feels real to me, and the actual benefits it has brought to my life are very real. Aspects of what I’ve said are certainly compatible with Christianity, and possibly I should have been able to implement them into my life effectively as a Christian. All I know is that I couldn’t, not for all the years I’ve been a Christian. According to a poll conducted by ChristiaNet.com, 50% of Christian men are addicted to pornography. I say that without any condemnation, only with empathy. I feel that I’ve now found a greater measure of understanding that I only possessed in a half measure as a Christian. I feel like I’ve found the truth that really has set me free.

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