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ON THE OTHER HAND: Youth and religion

Peter Laurie

ON THE OTHER HAND: Youth and religion

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Teens, here’s everything you always wanted to know about religion but were afraid to ask.
• How can I be sure there’s a God?
You can’t. No one can prove that God exists or doesn’t exist. It’s a matter of faith, though not blind faith. Both reason and science suggest there could be a creative, loving intelligence underlying everything.
• If God is loving and all-powerful, why do bad things happen to good people?
God could have created a world of perfectly programmed robots. Boring!
Instead, out of a powerful passionate love, She (God is beyond gender) took a huge risk and gave us (and all creation) freedom so we might grow in virtue, wisdom and self-fulfilment by making smart moral choices. She desperately wants our love, but freely given, not coerced. Freedom, though, exacts a hefty price: we can choose to do bad things; accidents happen; and nature can erupt in harmful ways.
• Does God intervene in the world?
Yes, God is continuously intervening, but through persuasion, not coercion. So don’t think of Him as a supermagician who diverts hurricanes from Barbados, reverses a heart attack or helps you pass an exam when you haven’t studied. God works through your amazingly complex mind to give you inspiration, self-control, strength, courage, healing, love, compassion and so on.
• Why should I pray to God?
God loves you passionately and wants to hear your joys and sorrows, dreams and fears. Plus, She’s dying to help you. Prayer helps you grow spiritually.  
• Is there life after death?
Who knows? Some people claim to have communicated with the dead. And others who have had “near-death” experiences claim to have glimpsed a life beyond death.
But just remember how Christianity started: Jesus’ followers, who were shattered by His death, unexpectedly had experiences of His real presence so extraordinary and thrilling that it blew their minds and changed their lives forever.
God depends on you to build and nurture a better world. He’s given you special gifts. Discover them. Use them. Don’t worry about the afterlife. Stay focused on this one.
• Is there a heaven and a hell?
Heaven and hell aren’t places. Heaven is the presence of God. Have you ever had that wild exhilarating feeling of being on top of the world and in communion with the universe?
That’s a glimpse of God’s presence. Hell, on the other hand, is separation from God – like separation from a parent, but a million times worse. You’re filled with despair, fear and remorse.
But God is always waiting for you.
• Why should I go to church?
Many good people don’t go to church. And some bad people do. While our priests are all frail human beings, the church is a rock to which you can always cling. Going to church can heighten your spirituality and give your life a much sharper focus. Just don’t check your common sense at the church door.
• Did Adam and Eve really exist?
No. Science has proven beyond reasonable doubt that humans have evolved over millions of years from more primitive forms of life. God creates through purposeful evolution. The creation story in the Bible is not to be taken literally. It tells us spiritual truths, not historical facts.
• Is there really a devil?
No. The devil is a powerful symbol for the often irresistible impulses we have to do bad and stupid things. We have to take responsibility for our own actions.
• How can I be sure my religion is the true one?
You can’t. We all feel the religion we’re born into or choose is the right one. But you should be humble and recognize that God can work through any religion She pleases. So, be tolerant of the faiths of others. Better still, learn something about them.
So kids, grow in love, peace and joy.
• But wait, what about sex?
Sorry, I’ve run out of space.