Reasons to Become a Christian
See also: Jesus, Christian Books, Christ.net.au (external link)
This is a new page as of July 2017, which will improve over time. I'll add some pictures too to make it look more colourful and interesting.
The first four reasons are highly relevant to the themes of this website, and the first two of these are not usually given much emphasis in most other explanations of why you'd want to become a Christian (or to follow any religion).
If you're not already a believer, the idea of being religious, or Christian, may seem impossible to accept. Don't worry about that for now. Just go with it. If this was already something you could easily accept within your existing view of the world (for example a mechanical/materialistic view) then becoming a Christian wouldn't be much of a change at all.
Learning anything truly new, other than just more facts that fit neatly within your existing view of reality, requires genuine, significant change to your view of reality. This means learning the reality of things which flatly contradict with your previous views. (You may have noticed that the word "reality" as used in the previous sentence was written from the perspective of the new viewpoint. If you didn't notice, it's not important.) This subject is discussed in more detail below in the section called The Logical Mind Is A Trap. For now, just aim to get used to reading about things that you think couldn't possibly make sense.
What's On This Page?
Many More People Were Believers in the Past
Something To Rely On In A Very Uncertain Worldly Future
Getting Used to Austerity
Lessons From the Christian Martyrs
The Two Types Of Science
The Logical Mind is a Trap
There's Plenty of Evidence to Believe
The Apostles Were There and Were Believers to Their Death
More Issues of Logic
Spirituality vs. Religion
How to Become a Christian
Many More People Were Believers In the Past
The first sentence of the homepage of survival.org.au says "This site is for people who would
like to learn about the self sufficiency, sustainable living, wilderness
survival skills and other ways of living that people knew in ancient times — before we became dependent on modern fossil-fuel-based technology." In those past times, a lot more people were religious (and/or "spiritual") than today. Quite often, religion and/or spirituality was a central aspect of their lives. Or the central aspect of their lives.
Therefore, the logical conclusion is: A major way to become more like people from the old days is to become religious.
This is something which can be extremely difficult for many people living in our modern world. It's also something which is often passed over and ignored by modern people who seek to learn about and emulate the way people lived generations ago.
The usual reason that it's ignored goes something like this: In the past, people didn't know much and were kind of dumb. Now, with science and modern knowledge and technology and intelligence and (insert here any aspect of modern life you like), we know better than they did. And we know that most of those old beliefs were false. And silly/superstitious/illogical/discriminatory/etc/etc...
But the bottom line is, this is something which people in the past were into, so it's something which must be addressed on survival.org.au.
Agnostics, atheists and other non-religious and anti-religious people will no doubt be unimpressed by this idea. One way which some might begin is to think of religion and/or spirituality as just another old-fashioned way of living. Obviously a stone knife or axe, or even a steel one, is in some ways less powerful than a modern chainsaw, or an industrial saw or diesel-powered mining machine. Sleeping in a shelter made in a few hours out of natural materials, or in a tent, is in some ways less comfortable than sleeping in a modern house. Yet many people seek these experiences.
If the idea of religion (or anything spiritual) seems ridiculously archaic, just go with it. Try to think of it as having merit because it's old-fashioned. Even if at first you don't think of it as a better replacement for your current understanding of the world, that's fine. To be interested in hunting, gathering or growing your own food, you don't have to believe it's easier than going to the shops, or that you can compete with commercial factory farms, or that you have to give up everything about your modern life right now. You could start with learning about religion just because it's something that goes along with living more old-fashioned, and for no other reason.
Something To Rely On In A Very Uncertain Worldly Future
In the last 10-20 years, the idea that our civilisation may not have very much time left has gone from the not-widely-reported opinions of scientists to much more mainstream. Talking to teenagers over the last 10 years or so, it's very clear that basically everyone has heard ideas that the future is doomed, and many have accepted them to some extent, even if it's just enough to acknowledge them and then try their best to forget about them and become absorbed in the many distractions of modern life.
If you like, right now do a quick mental survey of the things you look forward to in the short and long term future, of the upcoming things you are about to do in your life, and why you are going to do them. Now imagine taking away modern society, including electricity, town water and sewage, possibly anything electronic at all (assuming there is an EMP as part of the collapse and war), oil/petrol/diesel, and everything in the shops. Also include the wars, violence, theft, illness, and other types of disturbances that will follow such a collapse. Now consider, out of those things in your mind to do in the future (and look forward to, etc), how many of them are still valid? In this kind of scenario, religious ideas like having a future in heaven to look forward to, and having a foundation to base your life upon that's just a valid after the crash as before, become hugely more valuable than when viewed from comfortable modern life.
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17, NIV.
Even the vast majority of those few who are totally successful at adapting to a collapse of society, life in the future will be much more materially challenging. It will be physically much more difficult. It's not hard to imagine that this kind of physical difficulty could bring emotional difficulties (e.g. feeling depressed and hopeless) along with it.
A very deep and fundamental motivation of humans is to do things which will improve their lives, so that life gets better in the future. Or at least doing things that they believe will make their life better in the future, based on something they're currently doing (for example, going to work, studying to get a job, or doing some type of leisure activity which will bring pleasure). It's much more difficult to become motivated towards doing something which you believe will end up with your life being worse than before (e.g. less pleasurable and more difficult). This is the main problem which people face in trying to prepare for a collapse of society — if it all seems so hopeless, then why even bother?
The answer to this problem can be found in Christianity, which gradually teaches to focus less and less on the material things of the world, and more and more on higher things which endure. Because Christianity teaches you to expect that worldly things will pass away, obviously being used to this idea before it happens will make the transition much easier.
If you seriously accept that there's not much time left for the world as we know it, you'll probably experience a feeling of fear and uncertainty about the future. The way to balance this out (or even to improve it overall) is to increase your levels of certainty and trust in aspects of the future that are not in this world. Recall the previous point that in the past (when life was materially less stable than modern Western society has been), many more people were religious. It's not that in the past people were terrified all the time because there wasn't mobile phones to rely on if their car broke down, or even phones at all, or even cars at all, or pensions, or superannuation,... Its much more like the increasing material affluence and certainty we've experienced has allowed people to forget (temporarily) the need for a feeling of certainty in things of the spirit. When you take away those material things, the natural human need for a spiritual foundation re-emerges. Just knowing this one thing can help a lot with fear of a materially greatly impoverished future.
Another point here is that for many people, having a focus on things outside their material world-based life is actually itself a pre-requisite to fully contemplate the future. Or even to accept that our future (and that of our children) isn't going to be anything like the lives of our parents and grandparents. Without anything else to believe in but the familiar worldly values and things of modern Western life, it's much more difficult to even think about the future where those familiar worldly things are taken away. In this sense, having a religious belief can free up a lot of your being in a way that allows you to realistically prepare for a materially dark future on this earth.
Getting Used to Austerity
Not only does Christianity give you something to rely on and to live for in the absence of most or all worldly pleasures of life, but it actually teaches that it's good to get used to austerity and other worldly problems, and demonstrates how to do that. Living frugally, simply, and without expensive housing or possessions is actively taught in many (but not all) flavours of Christianity.
So not only does Christianity give you something to live for after our materially rich society falls apart, it actively teaches that to live in poor physical conditions is beneficial.
Therefore you too, blessed ones, should consider whatever hardships you now face as strength training for your bodies and souls. You are about to "fight the good fight" [1 Timothy 6:12]. The living God himself presides as the overseer of this contest, and the Holy Spirit is your trainer. The prizes you can win are the flower wreath of eternity, the victory medal of angelic existence, citizenship in heaven, and glory forever and ever. And so your coach Jesus Christ has oiled you down with the spirit and led you to the wrestler's exercise ground. He intends to rid you of a lazy lifestyle before the actual day of the contest, leading you through a much tougher regimen so your inner strength can be hardened.
This is of course what happens to all athletes. They're set apart for a life of strict discipline so they can spend their time building their endurance. All luxuries, rich foods, and delicious drinks are kept away from them. Athletes are driven hard... forced to endure trials... pushed to the limits of their strength. The more they labour in their exertions, the more they long for the day of victory. According to the apostle Paul, the athlete competes to win only a perishable crown [1 Corinthians 9:25]. But we who will obtain an eternal crown view the prison as our exercise ground. We must be well accustomed to all hardships when we're led to the competition before the seat of the Judge. For strength is built up through austerity, but soft living definitely tears it down.
From "To the Martyrs" by Tertullian, circa 200 A.D., as translated in "Early Christian Martyr Stories" by Bryan Litfin, pp.116-117.
In the Bible, Jesus teaches that what appear to be problems may not be at all in the bigger picture. His words here can be of great comfort when faced with difficulties:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12, New International Version (NIV) Bible.
Jesus also promotes the idea of being financially poor as if it's a good thing in the bigger picture of life:
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Matthew 19:16-30, New International Version (NIV) Bible.
Other religions teach austerity too. Christianity stands out from the crowd in that its founder (Jesus) took this idea a lot further than the founders of most other religions. In fact he willingly went to his death, and an extremely painful death. (And not a warlike death while trying to conquer others with military force.) This idea will be discussed more in the point below...
Lessons From the Christian Martyrs
This section is an even more extreme version of the above two points, and then some. It's a topic that most sources of survival information won't discuss, or even mention. I'll improve and extend this section later on, but for now I just want to get the web page online.
Nearly everyone living in modern Western society has heard of Christianity and has some idea of what it's about. Perhaps the things you've heard and seen have attracted you towards it, but not enough to do anything about it. Perhaps you've been strongly repelled by it and thought any kinds of bad things about it and/or about religion in general. However — if your only exposure to Christianity is from what you've seen while living in Western, first-world developed counties, the stories of the martyrs really do give a totally different perspective altogether.
"I have found truly joyful Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground church and in prison". Richard Wurmbrand, "Tortured for Christ", p.96.
Before I travelled to the West I had absolutely no idea that so many churches were spiritually asleep... On some occasions I've struggled while speaking in Western churches. There seems to be something missing that leaves me feeling terrible inside. Many meetings are cold and lack the fire and presence of God that we have in China.
In the West many have an abundance of material posessions, yet they live in a backslidden state. They have silver and gold, but they don't rise up and walk in Jesus' name. In China we have no posessions to hold us down, so there's nothing preventing us from moving out for the Lord.
The Heavenly Man, Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway, p. 295.
Many Christians have also asked me why micacles and signs and wonders are so prevalent in China, but not so evident in the West.
The Heavenly Man, Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway, p. 299.
If you're new to this genre, its probably much better to stick to the longer martyr stories at first. Best of all being the ones where one person's story takes up a whole book. The reason for this is that the longer stories go into a lot of detail about the thoughts of the martyrs, what they're thinking and feeling, and other details about their lives that demonstrate their attitude to physical suffering. It's this attitude, which is mostly made up of gracious, humble, and even happy thoughts about the extremely difficult physical situations, that can really change your perspective. The shorter stories such as found in compilation books made up of a large number of indivdual stories don't have the space to go into this detail. And so unless you already have a clear picture of what's in the hearts and minds of these people, just reading the plain details of tortures and executions will probably seem more depressing and sad than anything else.
The benefit of these stories, from a survival point of view, is this: When thinking about the future, and the various kinds of things that could happen in a complete collapse of society and/or World War III, there's a lot that's not pleasant. Which can at times be frightening, depressing, etc... The martyr stories are examples of people who went through physical hardships beyond anything that's realistically likely to be experienced in almost any grim future scenario — and yet these people are still happy, joyous, and full of praise.
Most survival-oriented material is about how to survive, but doesn't go into a lot of detail about what happens if you are not able to survive. Plus, if your entire civilisation is going down the tubes, even if you do survive there's still going to be a lot of changes for nearly everyone in the prosperous Western countries.
I have a pretty good imagination, and I really can't think of much that could happen in a post-collapse society that could possibly be any worse (in a physical/worldy sense) than what some of the martyrs have experienced. In some ways the "medical" experiments as performed by the Nazis and others (such as "Unit 731") seem worse, that's about all I can think of. In any case, the martyr stories demonstrate that it's possible to experience some of the most horrible physical suffering imaginable and yet keep a positive and even joyous attitude.
These true stories give the complete opposite of the message of the fictional dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell (also here) — which ends on page 376 of the linked PDF: Look if you want — I was going to paste in the final sentence of the book but decided not to since it's a huge spoiler for people who might want to read the story).
Compared to the extremes of the worst stories from military history and even from fiction, other less extreme events which would be likely to occur to a lot of people in a post-collapse world, many of which are still very dark, seem less frightening. These stories prove that it's possible to learn to cope with these kinds of situations and not only not be completely broken by them, but to maintain a healthy attitude and keep your mind, sanity, and most of all your spirit intact. Not only do they prove this, but some of the stories explain their innermost thoughts and feelings in detail, and teach you how to become like them.
Note that these Christian martyrs are people who have been imprisoned, tortured and/or executed just for refusing to deny their Christianity. They are not criminals in any ordinary sense of the word. They often show amazing compassion towards their persecutors. This is a lot different to other kinds of religious "martyrs" you may have heard about in the news media, such as suicide bombers, who choose to suffer and/or die in order to kill others.
I find that I have to be in the right mood to read these kinds of stories. Sometimes they just seem too dark even for me. This was more true when I hadn't read many of them and they seemed more shocking than they do now. But even now there are times when I don't want to think about all that darkness. And at other times I find them not only not too dark, but totally inspiring and even positive. So if at first this seems like something that's not for you, it might just not be the right time.
Keep in mind that I'm reading them from the perspective of someone who expects our own civilisation to collapse within my lifetime, and therefore it seems likely that I will actually witness and/or experience some of the things therein. Even just to the extent of dying in a violent way, due to an act of war and/or invasion. Or even just being made a refugee, or being confined, and/or having to live in absolutely basic conditions, perhaps without food or water, etc. In fact much of my interest in the martyr stories comes from trying to come to terms with that kind of future, and how to best learn how to deal with it. It would be easier to read the stories from a purely historical/distant perspective, without expecting to ever be involved in any experiences of that nature yourself. However the other side of that coin is then there would be less motivation to read them. However there still remains the motivation that you've missed out on even hearing about a real huge lot of the Christian experience if all you've seen is the safe, comfortable first-world style of Christianity. It would be sad to turn away from something that might be the best thing you ever did, just for the reason that you'd only ever been exposed to a relatively shallow, incomplete version of it. Plus, now it seems that the idea that our civilisation might end (rather than will end) soon is accepted by almost everyone. Learning some of this kind of thinking is as good a type of insurance as anything I can think of.
Learning about survival is a logical response to knowledge that at some point your familiar way of living will no longer be viable. A lot of people are attracted to survival because of a fear of the future. In many cases this is a well founded fear. However in any case, there is always the possibility that any survival knowledge gained, or other preparations made, will not be enough. And of course, in the end, everyone is going to die one way or another. No-one can live in this life on Earth forever. In some ways, learning about survival will lessen fear of the future, and bring confidence. However in other ways, learning about survival calls to attention all the things that one does not know, and all the possible things which may be needed in the future which you may had not thought of before. In this way, learning about survival can increase fear of the future, and bring about a feeling of anxiety. This is one of the top reasons why more people don't take an interest in prepping. No matter how much you prepare, there's always that fear that it won't be enough.
So the way to deal with that fear, is to go in the other direction entirely. Look at the lives of people who deliberately did not survive, and yet were not afraid. Or those who did survive but only by living through great horrors, which they consciously chose to experience (rather than speak against their religion).
Here are some quotes from books:
After speaking with me at length, they told me that they had heard that at this address there was someone who had spent fourteen years in prison, and they would like to see him. I told them that I was the man.
They said, "We expected to see someone melancholic. You cannot be this person because you are full of joy." I assured them that I was the imprisoned one and my joy was in knowing they had come and that we [members of the Underground Church] were no longer forgotten.
Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, page 46.
Perhaps the flesh will fear the painful sword, the elevated cross, the enraged beasts, and the worst punishment of all, burning alive — not to mention the many excruciating skills of the torturer. But then let the spirit remind itself and the body about the other side of the argument: that while these things are extremely painful, many people have embraced them with a calm demeanour. In fact, some people have even sought out suffering voluntarily for the sake of fame and glory. And I don't mean only men. Women have done this too.
From "To the Martyrs" by Tertullian, circa 200 A.D., as translated in "Early Christian Martyr Stories" by Bryan Litfin, p.117.
Yet rather than this experience [of being jailed multiple times and tortured] teaching him to be afraid, it has taught him to be prepared. He travels at all times with a small black duffel bag that he keeps packed with a blanket and a change of clothes — the things he will need for prison whenever he is arrested next. Whenever possible he will spend his time in prison reading the Bible, something he manages to smuggle in with amazing regularity.
"Don't feel sorry for us," Zhao Xia says of their lifestyle. "At least we are constantly reminded that we are in a spiritual war. We know for whom we are fighting. We know who the enemy is. And we are fighting. Perhaps we should pray for you Christians outside of China. In you leisure, in your affluence, in your freedom, sometimes you no longer realise that you are in spiritual warfare.".
Jesus Freaks: Revolutionaries, by DC Talk, page 94-95.
My recommendation is to first read at least one full-length story (or have some other equivalent exposure to the inner thoughts and feelings of the martyrs). Otherwise, the very short stories in the newsletters will at times (or perhaps entirely) seem sad and depressing, and your biggest impression may be of the fear or worldly violence instead of the confidence, peace and joy of following Jesus.
I recommend reading one of the books "Tortured for Christ" or "The Heavenly Man". Tortured for Christ is shorter, and the first martyr book that I read (or owned). I got Tortured for Christ out to look at to write this section, and now I want to read it again since it's been a few years. They're both very powerful books, the kind that can change the entire course of someone's life (and have already done so, with readers all over the world, many times over).
Click here for books about Christian martyrs
The Two Types Of Science
Most people do not realise there are two entirely different concepts that are commonly called "science". And that sometimes they completely contradict one another.
One is the original meaning of science: Something which is done using the "scientific method". Theories are developed from repeatable, verifiable experimental evidence. The word "theory" is used to indicate that the conclusion which was drawn is not actually known to be 100% definitely true, it's just a way of explaining what we see and observe that fits in with the evidence and makes sense. Something that fits in with repeated observation and has not been demonstrated by experiment to be false. Or a conclusion or set of conclusions drawn from these experimental observations.
The second type of science is the absolutely massive edifice which consists of popularly accepted scientific theories, that were based on previous experimental evidence (or lack of opposing evidence), and repeated for long enough to be accepted into mainstream thought — and now treated as if we know everything on that topic and there is nothing else left to be discovered. Which is, ironically, the very thing that science itself was originally meant to oppose. In this second type of science, the important thing is not what can be demonstrated by repeated experimental observation, but what has already been accepted as truth at some time in the past.
I'd been vaguely aware of this for a long time, but when I read the quote below this idea really solidified for me. I realised how much of what we now call science is really just another version of faith.
When such [materialist] scientists and philosophers are confronted with the evidence, their reaction is often anything but rational. Philosopher Neal Grossman describes how he discovered this for himself:
'I was devouring everything on the near-death experience I could get my hands on, and eager to share what I was discovering with colleagues. It was unbelievable to me how dismissive they were of the evidence. "Drug-induced hallucinations," "last gasp of a dying brain," and "people see what they want to see" were some of the commonly used phrases. One conversation in particular caused me to see more clearly the fundamental irrationality of academics with respect to the evidence against materialism.
I asked, "What about people who accurately report the details of their operation?"
"Oh," came the reply, "they probably just subconsciously heard the conversation in the operating room, and their brain subconsciously transposed the audio information into a visual format."
"Well," I responded, "what about cases where people report veridical [verified to be genuine] perception of events remote from their body?"
"Oh, that's just coincidence or a lucky guess."
Exasperated, I asked, "What will it take, short of having a near-death experience yourself, to convince you that it's real?"
Very nonchalantly, without batting an eye, the response was: "Even if I were to have a near-death experience myself, I would conclude that I was hallucinating, rather than believe that my mind can exist independently of my brain."
He went on to add that dualism — the philosophical thesis that mind and matter are independent substances, neither of which can be reduced to the other — is a false theory and that there cannot be evidence for something that is false. This was a momentous experience for me, because here was an educated, intelligent man telling me that he will not give up materialism, no matter what. Even the evidence of his own experience would not cause him to give up materialism.
In other words, Grossman's colleague simply stated that nothing could possibly convince him that materialism was false. Like others before him, Grossman realised at that moment that for some people materialism is an ideology, a dogma. For such individuals, materialism is not a scientific hypothesis that is open to be potentially being proved false; it is an article of faith that "must" be true, regardless of evidence to the contrary. As Grossman shrewdly pointed out, a complicating factor is that materialists are typically under the impression that their belief in materialism is not ideological, but empirical [i.e. demonstrated to be true by experimental evidence]. That is, they talk as though their adherence to materialism is rigorously scientific, when in fact it is merely an expression of faith. [Emphasis added.]
Chris Carter, Science and the Near Death Experience, p. 236. Carter is quoting Neal Grossman, "Who's Afraid of Life After Death?", Journal of Near-Death Studies 21, no. 1 (Fall 2002), pages 5-24. The quote begins on page 8 of the journal, which is page 4 of the PDF. I've added one paragraph from Grossman's article which doesn't appear in Carter's book.
Once you realise this, it's no longer about choosing faith versus science — it's just faith versus a different type of faith.
My Father thought very highly of science and anything "scientific". As a small child I was given books about famous scientists to read and hopefully become inspired by and want to become one. I heard repeatedly how science is something that intelligent people know to be true, because it's based on thinking, and intelligence... And that all things along those lines were good. Religion was the opposite, based on superstition and invented fantasies, which had no basis in fact. And to follow religion you had to put your brain into neutral gear.
But that was a long time before I understood that science can mean two completely different things. And long before I realised that the way we use the logical parts of our mind — what we usually call "intelligence" — is actually a type of trap...
The Logical Mind is a Trap
The logical mind is just one part of the human brain. Which has certain functions, for example it receives impulses from other parts of our brain, our senses, our memories, and other things. Then it performs certain actions in a certain way, based on those impulses. Such as certain types of thinking , which involves using rules to decide which thought impulses get precedence over others. We call this "logic" and it's based on certain rules, which this logical part of the brain decides are either logical (those which make sense and are correct) and those which do not.
This is just one part of our brain, and our brain is just one part of our being, and our being is just one very very small part of the universe. However in modern society, this logical part of our mind is almost deified (viewed as if it's a "god"). Meaning we see it as infallible. We take the results we get from what is essentially a a narrow set of rules as input to small (compared to all the universe) calculating machine and extrapolate that to all of the universe, as if these highly specific rules of the logical part of our brain can know for sure whether something can possibly exist, or not, or be true, or not.
In one sense this is a natural process which allows us to make decisions and function in life. However, in another sense it is so extremely limiting as to actually constitute a trap.
Once inside this trap, the trap itself (i.e. the logical part of your mind) defines the rules by which anything can exist or not, and be true or not. Therefore anything outside the trap is forever off limits. By the definition of what you use to determine if something can be true (i.e. your logical mind), anything which lies outside this very narrow set of rules does not even exist.
And the hardest trap to deliberately escape from is the type where you don't even know that you're trapped. Because there can be no conscious effort made to escape if there is no knowledge of being inside a trap in the first place. This is the state of most of the citizens of modern Western society today.
One way that some people escape from the trap happens accidentally. Something just comes along in their life, either it happens to them or it happens to someone they know well enough to trust, which breaks their existing set of rules about what is logically possible. This happens when people have various types of spiritual experiences which cannot be explained by "normal" means. However not everyone gets the luxury of having such an experience, at least not one that's dramatic enough to cause a significant shift in their view of life. In fact, these kinds of things happen all the time (like small "coincidences"), but they are usually unnoticed and/or assigned to random chance or some other explanation which fits in with their existing logical world view.
But if nothing like that happens to you, what if you don't witness any miracles or experience anything which can't be explained by normal means — what then?
The only way to deliberately escape from such a trap is to deliberately consider things outside the trap — that is, outside the realms of what you're used to thinking of as logically possible.
This is very different from what most people usually do when considering something like adopting religion. Which is usually different ways of trying to fit what they hear about in terms of what their logical minds already agree with. This can work for some people, to some extent. It's success will depend on what's already entered their minds, based largely on their previous experiences in life. People with a large number of inputs which they previously recieved from natural/instinctual pathways into their brain cells (e.g. the opinions of family and society and other people in their lives and the world at large) which agree with a spiritual and/or religious world view will be much more able to believe.
For people who have very little past input that agreed with a spiritual and/or religious world view, the trap of the logical mind is much stronger. This includes people with past inputs that agree with a spiritual world view but then later on recieved a lot of inputs which disagreed and also which seemed to them to be more worthy of believing. This happens, for example, to many children who grow up in a religious family but then are exposed to the modern Western system via school, the media (including the internet), the massive (almost total) power assigned to science in that world view, and see how so many other people in modern society (e.g. their friends and teachers and people on TV and online, etc.) do not believe in religion.
If you're someone who's mind finds it hard to logically accept certain parts of religious belief, the best place to begin is to deliberately go outside the trap and become open to the possibility of things which your current view of the world does not consider to be possible.
There's Plenty of Evidence to Believe
Once you start looking for it, there's plenty of evidence to believe. Something to keep in mind here is the tendency to find things when you're looking for them. For example, if you're looking on the ground for a reddish rock with tiny glistening bits of another mineral in it, you're more likely to find one than if you just walk along thinking about something else. So if you go looking for reasons not to believe, you'll find plenty of people out there with their own arguments as to why they are right.
So at this point you could argue that you'll find evidence for anything you're looking for. And that kind of evidence doesn't prove anything one way or another. But this is just life. If you think about it enough, you'll realise can't really prove anything much at all. This can sometimes be an uncomfortable thought. For example, you can't even prove if you're awake right now, or asleep and reading this page in a dream and about to wake up to your alarm clock beeping. It can be somewhat de-stabilising psychologically to go too far into this line of reasoning. Because it exposes how little we really do know for certain in an absolute sense, and our minds are used to thinking as if things are a certain way, and this regular frame of reference is what be base much of our lives on. But the reality is that life is much more complex and uncertain than we can even imagine. This is literally true — we cannot even begin to imagine the full extent of everything there is out there. I don't only mean the countless numbers of solid hard facts (like the names of every person in the world), but the depth of what actually makes up reality itself is something beyond our own human ability to comprehend. Therefore we must live within a limited view of reality. Because our minds are not large enough to fit everything in, this means that some things will be stored in and comprehended by our minds, and some other things not. Because there's more than one possible way to put some of the universe into our mind while some of it remains outside, this means that there's more than one way of viewing the universe that our minds can possibly accept. Which comes back to the idea that your mind can potentially believe almost anything, provided there are enough neurons firing along the channels of thought that will lead you into that particular belief.
So the most important thing here is not what you already do or don't believe (i.e. what's already in your mind), but whether or not you want to believe in Jesus. To become a believer, the most important thing is to become convinced that it would be a good idea, to want to be a believer. Once you get there, the rest is the easy part.
Because it's impossible to prove most things either way, in the way that many people want them proved, there's always going to be evidence on both sides of these kinds of arguments.
My page giving a proof that God exists is regarded by some as silly, because it's largely an explanation of how you can define the word "God" to have a particular meaning. And some people want a lot more than that. Perhaps they want to see God with their own eyes, but you can't see electrons or electricity and people still believe in those. You can see the effects of electrons and electricity, but you can also see the effects of God. But all of this is just words on a page, written in a language called English. These words can mean whatever we agree on them meaning, and what your brain has gotten used to them meaning. Once you get to a point where your brain has learned that the word "God" means something that doesn't exist, you have change something about your thinking in order to believe in God. This is leading back to the idea of the logical mind as a trap: You can't use what's already in your brain, you have to look outside that. And if you look outside at the things which agree with the disbelief that's already in your brain, of course that isn't going to change anything for you either.
At this point there are two things you can do, and they are both worth doing. One is just to go with the idea that you don't know everything (and neither do the other people which are agreeing with your old ways of thinking), and be open to accepting things that don't make logical sense according to the logical rules you've gotten used to being trapped inside. The second thing is to actively look for things which support a belief in God.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31, NIV.
The Apostles Were There and Were Believers to Their Death
For me, one of the strongest logical reasons to believe is that Jesus' apostles, i.e. those who were his closest and most trusted followers, were right there with Jesus throughout his ministry. So they would know from firsthand experience whether or not Jesus was a fake. And they all chose to die as martyrs rather than renounce Jesus (apart from John who most likely died of natural causes, but even he was imprisoned for his beliefs). Its possible that other martyrs later on, who did not meet Jesus on this earth, may just have been mistaken, since they did not themselves witness the things which they placed enough belief in to willingly die horrible deaths for. But those who were with Jesus while he lived on Earth would have known if he was a fake — and they still chose to die martyrs deaths rather than renounce him.
More Issues of Logic
I'll write this up more properly in the future...
For example, my personal belief is that there is such a thing as "hell", though it's probably not just one single place. However I don't believe that hell is literally eternal, as in once you go there, there is no escape, ever, and you're tormented literally forever. This is just my opinion and I'm not officially trained in any form of theology or ministry or anything like that. I believe that the words which mention "eternal" hell, and torment "for ever and ever" are meant as metaphors in the same way that the following Bible verse is meant as a metaphor.
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Matthew 5:29-30, New International Version (NIV) Bible.
Considering that Christians believe everyone is a sinner (and that's why we need Jesus), to interpret the above passage literally would mean that every Christian would be required to self-amputate. It's understood by essentially everyone that it's meant as a metaphor — as hyperbole, which is defined as "exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally".
Of course some people are not easily persuaded, and may claim that Jesus really did mean the verse literally (and perhaps that's seen as a reason not to follow him). So if there's still any doubt that Jesus sometimes used hyperbole (exaggeration), where his words are not literally true, how about this verse?
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
Matthew 7:3-4, New International Version (NIV) Bible.
The original Greek "δοκός [dokos]" here translated as "plank" is sometimes translated as "log" or "beam", and from what I've read, it seems that it was intended to mean a rafter or other large type of roof beam. (Before beginning his ministry, Jesus was a carpenter. Also, Jewish houses in Jesus' time were made from stone and the main use of timber in a house was for the roof beams). There's no possible way that such a plank could fit inside a human eye, so clearly this is meant as a metaphor and not a literal large plank of wood in someone's eye.
I think the reason for the metaphor of eternal hell is that it's meant to mean "a really, really long time". Perhaps it may last so long as to make the length of our Earthly human life seem like just a blink. I also consider it to mean that it's much (and perhaps much, much, much) easier to decide to change ourselves in the kinds of ways that we're meant to change before we die, rather than after we die.
I think that the point it's mentioned in the Bible is to be a warning, and a motivation to learn what's best done while still in this life. I don't think it's put there to frighten people away from believing , using the argument that a God which could condemn people to a literally eternal inescapable hell would be worse than any human tyrant in history — and how could anyone love and worship a God like that, apart from essentially selfish people more interested in their own eternal salvation than that of the majority of the human race? Which is in huge contradiction with all the other Bible passages teaching us to not be selfish.
I can imagine that 2000 years ago, when the Bible was written, perhaps people did not understand the mathematically infinite idea of eternity in the way that modern people with 10-13 years of formal schooling in maths (and perhaps tertiary education on top of that) understand it. And that the idea of "eternal" was just a way of saying a really really really long time. Longer perhaps than you can even imagine — but even a time as long as that would be like nothing, like not even a tiny fraction of a nanosecond, compared to a literally infinite amount of time.
Even if some people were to remain in hell for the eqivalent of thousands of billions of earth years, even that length of time would be utterly tiny and insignificant compared to a literally eternal, mathematically infinite amount of time in hell. Comparatively, those thousands of billions of years compared to true eternity would not even be like a grain of sand compared to the size of our entire galaxy.
Any finite (i.e. not infinite, i.e. not literally eternal) amount of time, even one far larger than you could ever begin to ever imagine with your limited human mind, would be as nothing compared to literal eternity.
More of this later...
Spirituality vs. Religion
On this web page I haven't made a huge distinction between spirituality and religion, like some people do. The word "religion" usually refers to the more formal and organised aspects, and "spiritual" refers to the less (or not at all) organised parts. Very often the idea behind this is that religion is a bad thing because it has rules and/or because it's caused problems of various kinds. However if you look seriously into the details, most of the really nasty world problems that get blamed on religion (e.g. religious wars, or people being oppressed in the name of one or other religion) are in fact being done by people doing the exact opposite of what their religion is telling them to do.
Here's another way that you could see this:
One way of being "spiritual" is to think of your spiritual path in terms of what you can get out of it. The main aim is to learn things and do things which will help align the universe, and the things that happen in your life, with the way that you would like things to be. Trying to make life more like how you want it to be. Basically, everything is all about you, and how everything else outside yourself might be more able to please you.
The other way is the opposite — to think of your spiritual path in terms of what you can give. The main aim being to learn things and do things which will help align yourself, your life, and the things you do with the way that you believe that God wants things to be. Trying to be more satisfied with the life you've been given, and trying to use your life to benefit things outside yourself (such as God, and other people). Basically everything is about God and how you might please God.
What I've personally found from trying both of these paths is a paradox: The more that I tried to live life for my own ends, the less satisfied I felt with basically everything. And, the more I tried to live not for myself, the more satisfied I became. On the surface it would seem that trying to achieve satisfaction in life would be more likely to bring satisfaction than trying not to. But this is not the way it turned out.
In the modern world we are told over and over, in so many ways, the supposed benefits of being individualistic, competitive, motivated towards worldly goals (like a more expensive house or something), self willed, and above all, free. This idea of individual freedom is perhaps the most tightly held onto and sacred belief of our modern times. Yet look how our modern life has turned out. With massive consumption, that has to grow every year, so much that it's in the process of destroying life on Earth as we know it. With unhappiness and depression so endemic that suicide is the leading cause of death in many demographic groups (including Australians aged 15-44). People in these categories are now more likely to die by their own intentions than by any other cause. Clearly our society's worship of individual freedom and of living for our own happiness is not working.
As someone who was raised in such a society, at first it can be a very strange idea that living for something outside yourself can bring more happiness to yourself than living for yourself can. Or that by following external rules (like those found in the Bible) which limit your behaviour could lead to you feeling more free than deliberately trying to act freely from your own opinions of what and what not to do.
Returning to the subject of the heading (of spirituality vs. religion), I haven't made a huge distinction between the two because I believe that the rules and other formal (and even social) aspects of worship are an important part of it. If your aim is to learn how to live to please God, there's nothing to be feared from having rules to follow, and very much to gain.
How to Become a Christian
I'll fix this section up ASAP.
First up, be aware that you don't have to believe absolutely everything in the Bible right now — or even at all, since many people disagree on the meanings of various Bible passages so it would be impossible to believe everything in the Bible in exactly the same way as every other Christian.
What it means to be a Christian
The word Christian was given to the early followers of Jesus, and the name has 'stuck' to this day.
Being a Christian is not about keeping rules and regulations, performing rituals, or even going to church. It's about a friendship - a friendship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said that knowing him is the doorway to a special relationship with God.
Jesus says that we can begin such a special relationship with God by committing ourselves to follow him. Millions of people today have discovered a relationship with God in this way.
From the BBC Website.
Here's a Bible verses that's often quoted as the basis for whether someone is a Christian or not:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9, NIV.
The verse above says you need to believe in the resurrection of Jesus — that he rose again from the dead. This is one of those things which contradicts what's regarded as possible in the modern materialist view of the world. I'll add a lot more detail in the near future (hopefully next week) about how to deal with this specifically.
In the next verse Jesus implies that there's more required of you than just what you say:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21, NIV.
In a later book of the Bible, John says this about what is the Father's (i.e. God's) will:
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23, NIV
And Jesus has this to say regarding what he commands:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied:"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40, NIV.
Remember that not everything has to make logical sense in the way that you might think. The concept of "believing" does not mean you have to find a way to fit every bit of every teaching into a pre-existing "logical" worldview that's based on faith in mainstream reductionist science. To believe that Jesus (or anyone) can have life after death does not mean to find a way to explain, using only the ideas and terms and rules of reductionist science, how it could fit into that worldview.
Don't stress about not believing absolutely everything you might think you need to believe. Especially at first. Even Jesus' own disciples did not have 100% faith at first. (See below).
Afterward the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, “Why couldn't’t we drive it [a demon] out?”
“Because you have so little faith. He answered. “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:19-20, NIV.
It's Okay to Have Some Doubts
Especially at first, it's very common to have some doubts. And to wonder if you really do believe. Don't worry about this.
When I had first become a believer this was something that concerned me until I looked into it more. One web page (written by a pastor, I think) said pretty much the previous paragraph (but in better language). I haven't found that yet but I'll look for more about this soon.
There are several examples in the Bible of followers of Jesus not having 100% faith. These are examples directly from the Bible of how it's okay to not have complete 100% faith, especially at first. This verse shows that, according to the Bible, you can believe while still having some element of unbelief:
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24, New International Version (NIV) Bible.
Even Jesus' own disciples didn't have complete faith in him:
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. Matthew 14:26, NIV. Also Mark 6:49.
In the following passage the apostle Peter denies Jesus three times. Later on, be becomes one of the strongest figures of the early church, and chooses to die a martyr's death. The point here being that you can completely recover from a temporary falling away from faith.
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26:69-75, NIV. This story appears in all four gospels, the other three are Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, and John 18:15-27, all from the New International Version (NIV) Bible.
Even after Jesus death and resurrection, it takes a while for his own disciples to believe:
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven [Jesus 12 original apostles minus Judas, who had betrayed Jesus and by this time already committed suicide] as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. Mark 16:14, NIV.
These examples show that it's okay to have some doubts at times, and that you don't need to worry about whether you believe "enough". I think that the most important thing is to sincerely want to make Jesus the centre of your life, and to be seriously trying to follow him.
This page and the other religious content on this website contains only my own personal opinions and things that I've thought about. I am not qualified in theology nor in any other aspect of Christian nor any other religious teachings. The content presented here does not represent an official statement of any formally recognised branch of the Christian faith.
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