Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Praying in disasters.

We all do it! Even if it's not to THE God (whichever one that me be), but we all cry out to something outside of ourselves when things get desperate. Unless you are a die-hard atheist I guess.

We want god to rescue us, change the situation, do something to change what seems inevitable.

Time and time again, in the face of a disaster, people are called to prayer. Government officials, churches, relief organisations... all will end up saying things like "all we can do is pray". Churches hold big prayer meetings, and the government might even announce a national day of prayer.

We never seem to learn from history how ridiculous this actually is! God never turns up to save the day - ever!

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Some people may be spared, and call it a miracle and praise god for being so blessed, and yet countless others may be killed or devastated. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It's completely random. And yet we persist in thanking god for those who do make it through. We feel sorry for those who don't make it and pray for god's mercy and grace for them and their families but fail to recognise how absurd the entire belief really is.

Those who do allow themselves to question it all work hard to invent doctrines about why god allows such things. But ultimately it always ends up that "his ways are mysterious" or "higher than ours" etc. I was recently watching a thread where this very issue was brought up, and not one of the numerous comments actually addressed the issue. They skirted around it with the whole idea of who are we to question god, as well as the usual platitudes that god works with these things to refine us, to give us wisdom and strength.

Now there certainly is some truth to the fact that if we come through disasters and hardship it is possible to learn to see the world in a much more philosophical way and develop a deep strength of character etc. It's possible. For many though, it's the opposite, and they find themselves broken and wounded, with deep scars. Either way, god is not involved - it's a response formed by the strength or frailty of our own mental health.

If you find comfort in your faith, then that's awesome. If it brings you life and makes you a loving, caring, compassionate person, then great. But lets drop the notions that this god is somehow involved in the whole dynamic of disasters - either large catastrophes or small daily disasters.

What really matter is how we respond in the face of any disaster. If we can find some internal peace and strength, with enough left over to extend compassion to those around us, then we have responded with integrity and love.

Stop wasting time praying. Stop looking for reasons. Stop blaming society or gays or whatever.

The strength you need is in you already. If anything, develop mindfulness and meditation skills, because they will bring a genuine peace and stability to our minds and a clarity to react with love and grace.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Unity or Uniqueness?

There are many reasons why we love religion: purpose, meaning, security, community and so on.

One reason, that I find is overlooked to some degree, is a desire to unite humanity with common beliefs so that we can all get along and live loving, meaningful lives. We think that if we all believe the same way, we will have world peace.

This is, in itself, an understandable and noble goal. In fact, in a way if we really did have the same religious beliefs it would solve a heck of a lot of problems.

In the real world though this will never happen, although most Christians believe Jesus will return to rule the world and everyone will become Christians or burn in hell (or something to that effect).

To embrace this idea however is lazy – really lazy. In fact it’s everything that’s wrong with religion!

We cannot all believe the same thing no matter how hard we try. There have been, and still are, thousands of groups trying to create communities and organisations that all believe the same theologies and doctrines. Every church’s main focus is to make sure everyone is on the same page, faithfully shaping people’s lives to match their particular denomination’s rules.

Religion demands (overtly or extremely subtly) that we all become clones. Like it or not that’s the bottom line. Sure, we can have varied lives and roles in our community. As long as our belief system matches everyone else’s we can do whatever we like.

Solving the world’s problems and creating a better world however, requires hard work – just not the type of work Christians (and all other religions) think.

It requires that we actively go out of our way to encourage uniqueness.

You see, even in a tight church group, no one has exactly the same beliefs. They can say they do, but it’s impossible. Every mind is different. The way we all process information and our environment is different. We respond differently to everything, with different emotions. The variations are limitless. And yet we pretend that we are all in unity – until someone expresses the fact that they see something differently. We give them a certain amount of liberty, but if their thoughts run too far off track we have to bring them back into line. We have to help them force that unique thought process back into our particular group’s mould.

History has shown that this never works – ever! And it never will. It’s like “whack-a-mole”, eventually the moles always win.

The key to growth is through accepting our uniqueness, and helping each other discover our own unique approach to spirituality. We need to help each other discover how to live with integrity (the “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”). It doesn't matter what we believe if we do so with honesty and integrity, and that, most importantly, we display love – for ourselves and others.

To force uniformity of beliefs is to bring death.

To encourage freedom of beliefs with personal integrity brings life.

When I say to Christians (and all religious people) “it’s time to grow up”, I get slammed for being arrogant and patronising. And yet, after thousands of years of religion, it’s clear for those who really want to see, that unity through religion has failed. It’s failed in a way that is horrific. It really is time for all of us to grow up as a species.

Time to love each other for who we are, not who we think we should be to appease any religious expectations.