Crisis of faith - please talk to me

(102 Posts)
CrisisOfFaith Sun 24-Feb-13 19:54:41

Have namechanged.

I was raised C of E, plenty of clergy in the family, constant religious discussion etc. My brother's an atheist so noone was bullied into it, but it all felt very natural to me, perhaps because I refused to ever really ask myself the most difficult questions.

For the past few years I've been struggling . I can't stop thinking about the fact that the churches of the world seem to be hotbeds of lies - paedophilia, sexual aggression etc. I know the media has mostly focused on Catholicism but even if the C of E isn't directly implicated I feel like they're not shouting loudly enough that it's wrong. I also feel that the debates about homosexuality, gay marriage, gay priests, female priests etc are just ridiculous. I know that the church has always had its black sheep, I know there were Popes with mistresses, I know the C of E is bound to have weirdos go into the clergy but I have always felt that fundamentally, despite all their flaws, the C of E (and the Catholic church for that matter) have God at their heart and are foundations for good. But now I don't think I believe that anymore and it's breaking my heart.

Sometimes I feel like if Jesus were to arrive back on earth nowadays the first thing he'd do would be ransack the churches, just like he did the Temple!

I was talking about this to DH recently and explaining that I don't feel like the church represents me and I don't want to be associated with their bigotry. I explained that in my view God/Allah/Mother Nature/Spaghetti Monster are all the same thing - a force that was there at the creation of the universe and somehow responsible for it - an energy, or something. (I don't have this all figured out.) I worship in the sense that I am thankful to that thing for my existence and the existence of the world, and I am humble to be alive. I feel that everybody has a purpose on this earth as evolution over millions of years has resulted in each of us as an individual, and everybody's purpose is important whether it's to help others, be kind to the planet, etc etc. The trouble (apart from the fact that lots of Christians would probably think this is a load of crock) is that I have always believed that Jesus is the Son of God, but now it strikes me (!!) that if God is an 'energy' then how can he be made incarnate?

Fuuuuuck.

DH says that he reckons my views are liberal to the point of not being Christian, and that lots of people who agree with me that there was some force responsible for the creation of the universe call themselves atheists. I suppose the question is whether that force is GOOD or whether it just IS...??

I feel so sick every time I read anything about the corruption of the people who are supposed to be leading the world's Christians. If God is good, would he want to be associated with that?! And if he's not good, if 'he' is just energy, or something, then is the whole notion of religion pretty bloody flawed anyway?

I know I could go to church to talk to a vicar about this (or call one in the family) but I just feel like if I talk about it face to face with someone I'll cry and I'm absolutely petrified of asking these questions and finding that the answer is that I've been wrong - and so have millions of other people for 2000 years - and there's no God. I was about to type that it's not there being no God that I'm petrified of, but that it would mean I wouldn't know what to believe, but I realised while typing it that actually I think it is there being no God that scares me.

Please don't take this as an opportunity to bash the naive Christian, I'm falling to pieces over this.

technodad Sun 24-Feb-13 20:13:51

Fundamentally, you are not to blame for the wrongs of the church, even if you consider yourself as belonging to an established religion.

To be honest, it sounds like you are a spiritual person, with your own beliefs. Why don't you just maintain them without worrying about the nasty things that others have done.

If you believe in god, you can carry on with believing without needing to go to church or giving donations to the organisations you dislike.

I hope this helps.

CrisisOfFaith Sun 24-Feb-13 20:21:28

It does, thank you.

I think it's two separate things - that I hate what the church seems to stand for nowadays, and that I'm questioning where Jesus fits into my beliefs. I suppose they're not related really.

Cuddledup Sun 24-Feb-13 21:02:27

Crisis sorry to hear about this crisis . I can't really suggest anything but I do find the Quakers helpful - google them - you'll find them v accepting of all opinions. BTW I've just started reading The Story of God by Robert Winston in the hope it''ll answer some of the questions you've raised.

CrisisOfFaith Sun 24-Feb-13 21:12:53

It's funny you should say that Cuddled - I've just spent most of the last hour reading about the Quakers! I really like what I've read so far. They don't have communion though I think? I would be sad to not take communion anymore - though I now don't know whether that's because of the ritual or the belief behind it.

Thanks for the book recommendation - will have a look now.

IndigoBarbie Sun 24-Feb-13 21:50:00

Hey, Hpoe you are OK. I just wanted to offer some kind of virtual hugs, and when I read TechnoDad's post, I couldn't say it better than he smile

jaynebxl Sun 24-Feb-13 21:57:28

Crisis maybe this isn't going to be helpful at all but I would suggest just reading one of the gospels if you want to think about where Jesus fits in to anything. I would maybe recommend reading Mark and try to do it without any preconceived ideas but just coming in to look once again at something that is written about Jesus. I wouldn't get too hung up on trying to think through whether you believe the bible or not, or what you believe about God or the church but just get back to basics and have a fresh look at Jesus.

To be honest sometimes the church can be pretty crap but I've always thought Jesus was worth keeping a close eye on!

technodad Sun 24-Feb-13 21:59:56

I can't give you any advice regarding Jesus though, 'cos I am a died in the wool atheist, but I am glad I could help.

technodad Sun 24-Feb-13 22:00:46

But I meant "dyed" not "died"! :-)

cjel Sun 24-Feb-13 22:05:16

Reading your post I felt that you sound as if you would have the same views as Jesus. He didn't rate the churches of his day either. One of the reasons why independant churches are growing I think. I'm with jayne. I wouldn't worry about what your thinking about church, try concentrating on Jesus and how you feel your relationship with him is? The reason there is so much bad goes back to the beginning and the fall of Adam and Eve allowing evil into the world, its nothing new. Depressing but not a reason to disbelieve ? I also felt that I wanted to say to you consider how you are feeling but try not to worry about it.x

Nettee Sun 24-Feb-13 22:08:02

another book recommendation: How to be a bad Christian by Dave Tomlinson

Almost enough to bring me back to the C of E (if I could find the right Church) but the next bit of advice is to look into the Unitarians - Very flexible theology and worship based in the Christian tradition. I suspect they would not be Christian enough for you though (communion is a rare event and does not mean the same thing as in a Trinitarian Church).

nailak Sun 24-Feb-13 22:19:02

Lets look at what you do believe.

Do you believe in a creator?

Do you believe the creator is a sentient being who still has control over our actions etc now, or do you believe it is more of a natural force?

Do you believe that it is possible that a religion could be perfect, but the people who follow that religion are not perfect?

What do you believe the purpose of life is?

Do you think God had a begotten son?

If you think God is a force, is that force more in one person or is it equal in all of us?

Looking back in the scriptures were there examples of the people who represented God being corrupted and how is this explained and dealt with?

IndigoBarbie Sun 24-Feb-13 22:20:35

The thing is, I think you might need a break from listening to those around you, and just take some time out for yourself.

if God is an 'energy' then how can he be made incarnate?
I feel like I am an energy, and when I die, I will go back to being that same energy - I just won't need a body anymore. I speak from having experiences that tell me this is truth, rather than being taught it.

Please, go easy on yourself. You will figure things out in your own mind.

CrisisOfFaith Mon 25-Feb-13 12:42:53

Thanks for all your reply. I'm about to dash out but they're percolating and I'll try and give a reasoned response to them all later!

CrisisOfFaith Mon 25-Feb-13 12:43:03

Replies, even.

Januarymadness Mon 25-Feb-13 12:50:20

I feel a lot like you. I have debated this for years and I am yet to reach a conclusion that feels right. Thought I have to correct your dh on the point that people who believe in a force (or a god) can identify as atheists. By definition an atheist is without a God. Someone who believes in a deity or deities is a THEIST.

MaryBS Mon 25-Feb-13 12:52:09

No great words of wisdom, but I despair sometimes of our church, but can also see chinks of sunlight where good has been done. Jesus too despaired, and yet he kept going, even to the cross, so I try to do my bit too. Don't be too ready to chuck God out with the bath water, just think of it as a journey of exploration. Whether you believe or not will not affect whether God exists or not, but it will affect you in how you feel/think/live...

A lot more ministers have wobbles of faith than is known about, don't be afraid to talk to one if it would help, and don't be afraid of crying, its a good release when things seem tough/infathomable

niminypiminy Mon 25-Feb-13 13:59:53

I was talking quite recently with someone who is in a senior clergy position in the CofE and this person said they quite often feel like leaving because of the stupidly and wrongness of the church ... but doesn't, quite, because God is still there, and because people are still in physical and spiritual need, and need to be served. And I think Mary is right that most clergy have wobbles -- in fact, most Christians have wobbles, sometimes little ones, sometimes years where God seems to have deserted them.

Talking about it to other people who've gone through this might help, and reading might help (John Pritchard's God Lost and Found might be helpful). And, as MaryBS says, thinking of it as part of your journey -- a dark part, but one that won't last forever.

Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, when the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of being slow.

(Tennyson)

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Tue 26-Feb-13 18:41:48

I'd recommend taking some time away from the church and from other Christians for a bit as all they will do is try to reel you back in. That may be exactly what you want or what you end up doing, but wouldn't you rather come to that conclusion by yourself?

Perhaps instead of reading religious material, try to read up on some scientific stuff. As a suggestion, perhaps a Richard Dawkins (The Greatest Show on Earth is an evolutionary piece on the scale of Darwin and superbly written) or even The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking. It might just give you a different perspective on things and at the very least should help you decide what you want to believe in.

Hope that helps and good luck!

Cuddledup Wed 27-Feb-13 06:48:12

Crisis you're right the Quakers don't do communion but they go give you silence in which to think and decide what it is you want out of a church.
Some people like dogma and ritual and others don't. You don't have to join the QUakers you can just "attend" for years and years. (My mum has been attending for about 25 years and has never formally joined. In fact she knows people who still go to church / synagogue etc but come along to the QUakers every now and then.
Enjoy your journey.
BTW I've recently discovered pray as you go website (recommended on this board) and that's really really helped me. I'm someone who's spent many many years on the journey and still haven't reached a destination!!

EllieArroway Wed 27-Feb-13 09:57:30

and that lots of people who agree with me that there was some force responsible for the creation of the universe call themselves atheists

This isn't to bash you, more for information, really.

I haven't ever personally met any atheist who thinks that there's a "force" responsible for the creation of the universe, not in the way you mean. Science has no idea what, if anything, caused the universe to come into existence. There's no evidence at all that's even suggestive of a "force", whether it's a deistic one or a naturalistic one so any belief you have on the matter is down to your own emotional need for one, not any objective fact.

Personally, I would suggest that your journey towards "figuring it all out" should begin with looking at what we do know scientifically - and that manages to be rather a lot and not much all at the same time. Which is helpful, huh?!

But none of this has anything to do with how churches behave - even the most disgracefully hypocritical evangelists could be right in their beliefs (although I sincerely and deeply doubt it).

So, my advice would be - begin at the beginning. Ask yourself, with regard to a God like figure who created the universe, "Is this likely to be true?". If you conclude that you feel it is, then you are free to look at all churches and find one that fits best what you believe, and worships in a way you feel comfortable with. There's no right or wrong on this issue. (Well, there is, but I doubt you'd care to listen at this stage).

CrisisOfFaith Wed 27-Feb-13 12:09:15

Sorry for the delay in getting back to this.

I'm interested in the fact that atheists don't believe in any force that created the universe at all...what is meant to have caused the big bang? I suppose I really struggle with the idea that something came from nothing...

CrisisOfFaith Wed 27-Feb-13 12:10:20

I should add, I really appreciate all the responses here. It is a relief to have a conversation about it that is in no way judgy! (Or at least, if you are judging me, you're not letting on grin)

CrisisOfFaith I am sorry to hear how unhappy you are. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years (mostly C or E) and I know what you mean. I struggle with the church and how it is, and the world and how it is.

I can't offer a magic solution except to say that for me God is the creator, he created your brain and your amazing mind, your heart that has compassion and sees the world and wants it to be better.

I would just talk to God quietly, to Jesus and bring these things to him, one at a time, (I often like to pray in the bath) and just leave each one with him and ask for guidance in how this should impact on you.

I too feel sure that Jesus would say to the church/churches what about the hungry, when I said feed them, what about the widows and orphans and all the rest that the Bible talks about. Loads of passages in the Bible about justice but people are very hung up on a couple of references to homosexuel sex!

Please don't allow this worry to steal your joy or peace of mind. You do not need to answer to the whole world about what you believe in. I think if you can find that peace which you have had before with God you can deal with all the shit of life, and maybe you can also make your own small contribution to being a part of the bigger picture. I am sure you are a loving and caring person, or this would not trouble you so much.

Whatever you do, please do keep talking to God because ultimately I think you will find that peace there. I often feel I do not have the answer but life is not about answers, it is about relatonships. In my old very evangelical days I might have said 'I don't have the answers but I know someone who does!' Now I think I would just say 'I don't have the answers.' Or if you want the long version .... "But not knowing the answers does not stop me loving and being loved and t does not stop me making my life the best life it can be and touching other lives in the best way I can.'

I hope you find peace.

I agree that Church and Faith are two seperate things. For every Christian there is a personal relationship between them and their Creator and Saviour. The Church is an organisation, a building. Your faith is at the centre of you, reflecting what you know in your heart about yourself and what you feel to be true.

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