I recently read an article by Jackson Weako (https://jweako.medium.com/5-reasons-for-my-conversion-from-christianity-to-stoicism-c77a250635ed) on Stoicism and Christianity. I personally felt as if Weako lacked an understanding of early Stoic writers and Christianity. I would encourage Weako to review the resources at Street Theologian for a more comprehensive coverage of these topics. I sincerely appreciated the time Weako put into writing this article. Weako’s points are in italics.
Here is Weako:
I was born a Christian — both of my parents and family members are Christians. They are members of the Disciples of Christ Church. I believe in the uniqueness of the doctrine of the Church of Christ. The firm conviction of the Church’s doctrine and its beliefs about the world are definite and very peculiar.
Prior to starting Street Theologian, I was very anti-Christian so it will be interesting to see why we ended up at different places.
I have practiced Christianity for over 10 years since becoming an adult. I had my conversion experience back in 2010 when I officially joined the Church of Christ — accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal savior. I was devout or pious and convicted Christian.
The initial confession in Christianity — accepting Christ as your Lord and savior is important for any would-be Christian before baptism. There are incredibly Christian ideas and many moral lessons for living a virtuous life — for instance, these wise and inspiring words from the Apostle Paul to the Galatians clearly depict it.
Paul wrote in Galatians 5:23–25:
“ gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
This passage is one of my favorite passages in the Holy Bible. The key ideas in the verses above have been termed the fruits of the spirit and are similar to the four cardinal virtues in Stoicism. In fact, it is widely believed that Christianity and Stoicism are not mutually exclusive. I recently shared how the Apostle Paul took inspiration from the ancient Stoics in writing his epistles to the early Christians. However, I think some ideas in Christianity are now based on updated models that no longer resonate with me.
Along this line, I have become more interested in the Stoic philosophy because I was looking for a secular alternative to Christianity or religion as a guide to my life. Eventually, I discovered Stoicism and realized that was exactly what I have been looking for all along that resonates with me.
On what basis is Christianity and its emphasis on morals outdated while Stoicism is not? Stoics spoke against effeminate men. Do you consider this outdated? Moreover, by secular I assume you mean without needing a belief in God. Epictetus in 1 6 On Providence, is clear that he believes not believing in a Creator is foolishness. He claims the will and our ability to use it are gifts from God. Marcus Aurelius is also very clear that he believes in divine forces who “concern themselves with men.”
On a high note, I want to be emphatically clear that the purpose of this article is not to denounce Christianity but to share my perspectives on why I currently prefer Philosophy or Stoicism to Christianity. And maybe you too may be in a similar situation as I was a couple of years ago, and you may be wondering and questioning some ideas in Christianity — can have my perspectives to lean on.
I am not asking you to have disbelief in Christianity or getting into a debate about Christianity. Keeping that in mind, here I share my perspective on why I am now interested and practicing Stoicism — the best alternative to Christianity, in my opinion.
On a brief note, Stoicism — founded by Zeno of Citium, is a royal philosophy built on the bedrock of virtue and glued together by mindful discipline and commitment. Stoicism is a personal ethic, and Stoics are incredibly emotionally intelligent. It is a philosophy defined by actions, not by mere words.
Also, as Stoics, we focus on solving our problems, not by constantly complaining about them or putting our problems before God through prayers and waiting for His divine solutions.
I’d like to know which part of this is incompatible with Christianity? Christians are urged to do all things without grumbling or complaining (Phil. 2:14). Seneca and Marcus Aurelius talked about prayers regularly. Prayer is interwoven with action in the New Testament and people in the church of Thessalonica who sat around waiting for divine events were urged to get to work by Paul. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says if anyone is not willing to work let him not eat.
Furthermore, for the Stoics, moral virtue is enough; external things don’t matter. Stoicism has four cardinal virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, and Justice — all of which are fundamental ideas of Christianity.
Exactly- just as Stoicism emphasises trusting in God’s overall will and purpose (Logos) while focusing on your character so does Christianity. Except, Christianity goes one step further and offers grace through Christ. I fully believe Stoicism offers many benefits hence my article on it.
With that said, here I share 5 reasons why I became more a Stoic than a Christian. It is difficult for anyone to abandon Christianity, especially from a Christian family and many Christian friends. But as I have learned from the Stoics, such a decision is within my control. And I have decided that I was done with some ideas in Christianity; I have been slowly moving in this direction for a few years now; it wasn’t just an instant decision.
I have a simple question- do you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord (Rom. 10:9)? You either hold to this or you don’t, I am not too sure how a gradual transition on this would look like.
1. Christianity imposes more emphasis on obedience.
A big idea in Christianity is that our whole purpose in life is to come down to earth to learn to grow and progress, attain knowledge and fulfill covenants or rituals of the Lord: Baptism, confirmation, endowment, marriage, and so on. If you do these things, then you are in good shape to go back to live with a top tier of Heaven — a never-ending chain of an eternal family.
In religion, obedience is the most important thing, and that submission to the law of God is more important than self-expression and self-actualization. As written in the book of 1 Samuel 15:22–23, “ Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Obedience is a hallmark belief in Christianity.
But Stoicism, on the other hand, urges you to be virtuous and do what is right and leave things that are outside your control in the hands of God or Nature. Stoicism applies 4 filters to every situation, wisdom, a sense of justice, moderation, and courage.
I think religion should avoid imposing traditional beliefs on people that are no longer holding today in our society.
You’ve just tried to explain the purpose of Christianity without mentioning Christ’s death on the cross or the resurrection.
Have you read Ephesians 2:8? “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God.”
Meanwhile in Stoicism it’s all on you. To manage your impulses and mind in accordance with God’s will.
2. Most Christians think they have a monopoly over God’s Kingdom.
The biggest goal in religion or Christianity as a whole is the kingdom of God or Heaven. Christians believe that this world is not our home — we are strangers here, our true citizenship is Heaven — the transcendent place of God.
Also, they believe that only through believing Jesus Christ you can inherit the kingdom of God — you are eligible for Heaven; elsewhere, you will find yourself in Hellfire — a place of torment on Judgment day.
The church feels like it has a monopoly over the truth and who will go to Heaven. In other words, the church claims to have a monopoly over the fullness of truth, that the few millions of members are the only keepers of the real truth of what God wants from us. The sad truth is that no one really knows the right path; neither are the priests or the prophets.
Still, through prophets and apostles and modern-day revelation — the Christians believe they have the full picture of the Kingdom of God.
These outdated models bother me enormously and lead to several unanswered questions: What assurance or guarantee besides the written words in the New Testament do I have that Christ is my Lord and Savior?
What about the millions of people that are not believing Christians but are Buddhists, Jews, or Muslims? What if I were born to a Jew family or Muslim family, will I be inclined to believe only through Christ can I inherit the Kingdom of God?
If no one really knows the right path then how do you know that? Are you claiming to have a monopoly over truth and saying you are right and all Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists are wrong? Are Stoics on a straighter path than these religions? If so, why?
In the word of Marcus Aurelius “truth does the harm.” Seek the truth not emotional appeals or baseless statements such as “no one really knows the right path.” Can you see the right path to know they are all wrong? Seek the truth. Did Jesus die and rise again? If yes, accept the truth and move on. If no, come up with a logical refutation and let’s discuss.
3. It’s forbidden to ask critical questions.
Christianity kills the development of genius, in my opinion; why? Because people are not allowed to ask some critical questions that provoke critical thinking. For example, why most Jews don’t believe that Jesus Christ is the Messianic King? The preacher usually says that God is omnipotent — knowing all, and what we considered wise is foolishness to Him.
Personally, I think that preventing people from asking these intriguing questions inhibits the development of genius. Perhaps, a reason why Frederick Neictzhe is most famous for heavily criticizing Christianity.
Based on what I have discerned, I recently referred to Christians as people who unthinkingly believe and accept everything they read in the Bible. If you questioned the church, you are questioning prophets, people who are talking to God. And there are consequences if you challenge the status quo.
Modern science was developed based off Christian principles. The world is intelligible and has a purpose. Try finding a good reason to assume this in a chaotic accidental stew of atomic particles. I converted to Christianity after 18 months of intense study and questioning.
I realised I had no grounds for rationality if the world was chaotic, accidental and purposeless. If it’s all an accident why even respond to Christian points of view? How do you know they mean what they say and their words are not the result of random chemical processes? In a chaotic and accidental world with no purpose how could rational intent even come about? Did you write your article by accident?
Also have you read Acts 17 where Paul speaks to the Stoics in Athens? Why would he do that if he was scared of questioning? Why would he debate Jews and Greeks week after week (Acts 18:4) if there was no room for questioning? Christianity can be debated for and against. I am completely open to having that discussion. Are their rational grounds for accepting it? I would absolutely argue yes. Read my blog for more information.
4. Religion is inhibiting Africa’s development.
I know this is uncomfortable to write about; I can feel the discomfort of writing this piece. But I have to be honest, to tell the truth.
In my opinion, Africans are more religious than any other nationality. Recently, I wrote on my Facebook page that “Africans and religion are inseparable, and if this trend continues, Heaven will have more Blacks than whites.”
My statement was prompted by a post on Twitter when Renee Cronge writes,
“ I am getting divorced tomorrow morning. I am so fucking happy.”
And a friend of her, Sandrita, writes, “if you have instituted divorce proceedings, then it’s the best thing you could have done for yourself…Amen and God Bless.”
And Christos, an African believer of the Bible, writes, “which God, the one I know says in Malachi 2:16 that he hates divorce.”
And here is an interesting response from Sandrita about God hates divorce; she wrote, “sweety ..your God isn’t my God…your culture isn’t mine… I have an authentic original belief, not a colonial imposition”.
This depicts that most Africans have not reached that enlightened state of mind to discern or evaluate the Christian’s or religious ideas; they accept everything they have read in the Bible without having a second thought or strive to questions or see other possibilities.
Most religious institutions in Africa are doing more harm than good. They use religion to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses. They promised them heaven in exchange for their resources. The selling of anointing oil has become the order of the day. Christian beliefs put an unnecessary burden on people.
While most people in the West are moving in a more modern direction, away from outdated beliefs like Christianity, it’s mainly Africa that is still hung up on the Bible. The Church uses the Bible to exploit the underprivileged and promise them heaven. Instead of focusing more on Science and Technology, we are still relying on prayers — expecting Heaven to provide our needs and wants.
Focus on Christ to disprove Christianity or find reasons to move away from it. Not caricatures of Christianity. Moreover, have you studied the horrors of atheistic rule under China and Russia last century? Islam is big in Africa. Do you believe this is inhibiting development too? Moreover, how do you define development? What’s your basis for it? How do you define moral progress if there’s no objective morals under atheism or agnosticism? On what moral or logical basis is Stoicism not outdated while Christianity is?
5. Christianity makes you rely on prayers.
I believe prayer is simply a placebo — it has no tangible effect, so it is time to stop replacing laziness with prayer. If you don’t work hard, you will spend your entire life in the sanctuary shouting; I receive God’s blessings, but in reality, you are receiving nothing. Instead, I prefer to work hard on my goal or
purpose and believe in myself and God/Nature — that’s the way to succeed.
Also, most believers will forget to remember what is written in the book James, “faith without work is dead.” And the book of Proverbs put it rightly: “commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Here, work is plural, which implies two kinds of work, internal and external works.
Therefore, a believer must take these verses into serious considerations; you can’t just keep going to church and not paying attention to these quotations. And to the Man of God, it’s not enough to preach the message; you must depict the message. The preaching should be defined by action, not words.
On a high note, relying on prayers makes people lazy and dependable, while hard work, dedication, and faith, on the other hand, will pay off or make you truly free and independent.
Don’t read only the Bible; try to read other books to expand your mind, and don’t worry about going to Heaven; leave that in the hands of God or Nature. Living a virtuous life, trying to impact the lives of others, and making your contributions to humanity should be your main priorities than obedience to the will of God.
Prayer and works are both needed after salvation. Christ saves you which drives you to act in love and service to Him. You don’t earn your salvation. There is a responsibility on humans to act. I 100% agree. Prayer is also spoken of extensively by Seneca and Aurelius.
Religion or Christianity has some incredible ideas that are worth considering. Still, I think it puts a lot of burden on people, divides people just like politics, inhibits genus, and prevents people from realigning their true intellectual potential.
Deciding to leave Christianity or any orthodox religion is not easy; there are layers of psychological and cultural conditioning that you don’t even realize until you start to peel it back. I am still reading the Bible, especially the book of proverbs; there is always guilt, my behavior hasn’t changed.
I still have discipline and structure, and what righteousness is and what God/Nature wants me to do; leaving the church is painful socially, mentally — you experience a cause for doing so.
Christianity comes down to how you view Christ and His resurrection. Do you accept His gift of grace?
My existential view had been so neatly packaged by the plan of salvation, which is at the key doctrinal framework within Christianity. There was a deep fear of control and social repercussions of my decision — most of my friends and family are still Christians.
Peers and family will think differently of you if you chose to leave religion. It is better on the other side if you choose yourself and choose your personal experience and expression, and you’re honoring that as opposed to honoring the fear of obedience or the fear of the Lord. There are some years of pain and adjustment, but there is a sense of freedom on the other side, which for me is Stoicism.
I love science, philosophy, the beauty of the world of nature, the mystery that it is, and the mystery of life and cultures. That appreciation is enough for me.
Choosing your own personal experience and expression is hardly Stoic. Under Stoicism, you accept cold hard truths and conform yourself to them. Epictetus would no way have considered you a Stoic writing fluffy comments like that.
I think the wonder of the world outside of the plan of salvation and God looking out over His children for this big plan of obedience outside of that; I feel like there is plenty to stand in awe of and love
without a God and savior to create meaning for me.
Does God exist? Are you sinful? In our blog we argue yes for both. If so, you need a Saviour.
I believe that there is no rational proof that God exists and no rational proof that He doesn’t exist. Therefore, the best thing to do is find one way — being virtuous, to satisfy both conditions — fair and logical reasoning.
How does logical reasoning matter in an accidental world? How is you thinking you are reasoning if God does not exist seem any different to wind blowing leaves in a tree. Find me a key ancient Stoic (eg. Seneca, Aurelius, Epictetus) who believed there were good arguments for God not existing? What are your grounds for logic under atheism? Why does virtue matter if there’s no real intelligence, no purpose?
As for the Stoics, moral virtue is enough, so there is no need to torment yourself about going to Heaven. The decision about who is going to Heaven is outside one’s control — Yahweh will decide who inherits His kingdom. Therefore, do what is right today, and leave the rest to God.
As always, thank you for reading.
Christ was tormented for you to go to heaven. It’s not on you. He’s done the work. Do you accept this? God bless you on your journey to truth. I am more than happy to discuss these topics more thanks for sharing your thoughts!