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When Christians Lose the Faith

 
 
flushd
 
Reply Sun 7 Aug, 2005 05:46 pm
Hi Guys n' Gals.

I truly do not intend to insult anyone with this post. I would love to hear some imput from all the sides.

As a little girl, I believed in God. My father was a Christian. I went to catechism and was baptised and was overall a sparkling lil Catholic girl.
I really did believe in a loving, beautiful God.
As I got older, the nastiness that is part of life seeped into me. I learned about death, meaningless cruelty, and the insecurity of life.
I got angry at God - but I still believed in him. For a long time, I continued to believe. I couldn't fathom living without Him. But the questions piled up, and I wasn't able to accept the same answers I was getting.
I lost faith.
It was devastating. I lost my compass in the world. I felt lost and empty without Him.
I then began to feel there was no meaning in the world. The world is empty, dead, meaningless, and cruel. There was no reason to try. No reason to love or to live.
I kept putting one foot in front of another. I kept going. I started to live for the little things. Anything. Just living. I didn't find any answers. But I became okay with that. I became happy to keep looking.

This is an ancient story. We have faith, we lose it, we gain it again somehow. It manifests in different ways. The beliefs are always different.
My beliefs are no longer in God or Christ. My beliefs are mish-mash, and even I can't put my finger on them.

I'm wondering: How did what you believed as a child affect your experience with life?

What events or aspects of life have triggered a "spiritual crisis"?

From my observations, Christians who 'lose the faith' seem to go through an especially poignant and sharp 'existential pain'.

What do you think?
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SneakyBeaky
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Aug, 2005 07:13 pm
Like you, I was raised Catholic, but somewhere down the road, lost faith.

But it wasn't really a response to anything emotionally painful in my life; it was more of a response to...growing up? Beginning to think for myself?

As a child, I was always told that there's a heaven, a hell, a forgiving god, and so forth. So I believed it, for adults are always right when you are very little, especially on such important matters. Kind of like when my parents assured me there weren't any monsters in my room; I believed them, for parents know the truth about these sorts of things.

But then that day came when I began to analyze things in my world, not from my perspective, not from my parents perspective, but from a whole new perspective. I asked myself why I believed in god. My answer? Because I was told he was, he is, he always will be. Did I truly believe in this god's existence? Honestly, I found that I didn't; it just wasn't plausible. It's not like I was angry, or rebelling, or disgusted by things on here on this planet. My faith in god was based on nothing I truly believed, it went against my outlooks on life.

I'm sure a lot of people lose faith and go through what you called 'existential pain', but not all.

I can't say how that part of childhood has affected my life, really, because my childhood isn't that distant. But I think it has allowed me to look at my beliefs more closely, analyze things before assuming they are true.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 7 Aug, 2005 08:23 pm
I've told this story on A2K before, but here it goes again. Mine was a dysfunctional family when I was a child. I had nothing to believe in, little guidance from parents or teachers. One day, my older brother said to me, out of the blue, "I'm a Christian." Well, he thought it, but rarely set a foot inside a church. It set me to thinking, mostly on a subliminal level. I came to realize I wanted whatever it was the Christians claimed to have- -a monopoly on truth, morality, a pastoral way of being, plus a heavenly home in the afterlife. A local minister offered to drive me and my siblings to church every week. A few joined us for a time, but I alone went faithfully. I read a several volume writing of the Bible, aimed at readers my age and loved it. And yet the knowledge the books presented, along with the Bible and the observations I made during Sunday School and the sermons, somehow did not jive with the reality of the other six days of the week. I lay in bed, night after night, struggling with these concepts. After hearing the preacher assert that God alone presents us with morality, I told myself during my deliberations, "I don't believe him." But, if not from God, then where? I "heard a voice" say, "Inside." I understood this to mean morality is inate. In the days to come, I slowly concluded that I did not believe in God or the church. That means death; no afterlife. Fearfully, I accepted this fact. From that point on I was an atheist. I don't regret being one.
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flushd
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Aug, 2005 09:37 am
Thanks for replying you two.
Thanks for sharing your stories.

I suppose everyone's experience is unique.

Believing in God can be a great comfort. I would say that is why losing that deep sense of Him was so hard on me, and hard for others who have been quickly jarred out of the 'belief'. It's like having your safety blanket torn from you. You find out "hey, there's no Daddy in the Sky to take care of me. I'm on my Own!" shiot. ha.

Personal responsibility on this earth is a hard thing to accept. Some people are great at just accepting what's in front of them. Other's get scared, and need somewhere to turn. If you have no one you feel you can talk to, not even yourself, it helps to think God can listen and help you out.

Edgar, I really loved hearing your story. I wonder: how do you feel about children being raised Christian? Do you feel it would be better to raise children without a sense of religion?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I've realized I still have some lingering beliefs that are so deep I still struggle with them. I feel kinda like I was 'sheltered' and now I have a hard time coming to terms with 'bad things'. There is a lot of fear, guilt, and shame.

I'd love to hear how others dealt with this.

"She's very Catholic, old world. Filled with guilt and shame."
"I'm filled with guilt and shame. How is that old world?"
....from the movie Fearless
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Scorpia
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Aug, 2005 11:51 am
I also came to a point where I did not believe what the preacher told me. I also didn't believe in the Bible. It just didn't make sense.

I became an atheist for a while also. But I was drawn back to spirituality often. Just not the kind that involved organized religion which I perceived to be evil in its own right.

I couple of books that have made an impression on me are:

1) Journey of the Souls by Michael Newton, Ph.D.
2) How to find God by Deepak Chopra

Somewhere inside of all of us are the answers. I also feel that finding the answers is a continual process of growth. But for me, there is not one traditional religion that has all the answers - and never will. I believe religious organizations to be the infant in the process. It's where believers get their feet wet - it's up to each individual to open their minds and delve further.
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Mills75
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Aug, 2005 06:06 am
Most of my friends who claim Christianity as their religion are Christmas and Easter Christians. That's not a criticism, just an observation that they're not terribly invested in their religious beliefs. It's easy for them to believe or, as whim dictates, not believe; either way, they gain or lose little. It's different for those who are invested in their religion. They gain a great deal of solace while their faith holds, but losing faith is crushing. Religion provides not only a great sense of security, but a paradigm for understanding the world. The loss of faith leaves one defenseless and alone in a hostile and chaotic world.

I was one of the faithful. I had read most of the Bible by eight and seemed to impress my elders; many were certain I would wind up a minister. But there were those uncomfortable questions that the Sunday school teachers couldn't answer; stubborn refusal to accept what didn't make sense to me; skipping church in favor of wandering in the forest. Then my father started going to a different church; he found fundamentalism and my mother refused to go along with it. For a while I attended both churches, but I soon found the oppression of fundamentalism intolerable. It was, however, a valuable experience. Fundamentalism may be on the fringe, but the exaggerated extreme of religious fervor seen in fundamentalist churches makes obvious the contradictions, inconsistencies and irrationality inherent to all dogmatic religion. At twelve I refused confirmation and decided I wasn't going to church anymore.

Religion factored heavily into the dissolution of my parents' marriage; this occurred after I stopped going to church, but probably contributed to my spiritual disillusionment. Adolescence is a shitty time to have a crisis of faith and a broken home.

I spent the next several years depressed, alienated, and escaping into books as much as possible. The crisis didn't break until the summer after I turned sixteen. Since I could drive, I was given the job of taking care of my grandparents' cottage. I simply spent the summer there, coming into town for groceries and heading back up as soon as possible. I was by myself during the week; the only sounds at night were the crickets, whippoorwills, and occasional coyote. I had time to think and plenty of peace and quiet in which to do so. Some crises end gradually with no discernable turning point, but I remember the exact moment my spiritual crisis began to abate. I had gotten into the habit of snorkeling; that day I was feeling particularly low and reckless and swam out to the middle of the lake (maybe a half-mile from shore). Once I got to the middle, I came to rest in an upright position with only the top of my head and the snorkel breaking the surface. I stayed like that for some time; the fish began swimming around me like I was a natural fixture and I watched them through the lens of my diving mask. As I floated there watching the fish I was filled with a sense of contentment and peace. I felt connected to the world around me in a way I had never felt before. It sounds like a cliché, but I was one with everything.

That's how the spiritual crisis began to abate. There were skirmishes after that to be sure, but the tide had changed and the crises that followed were usually much more manageable than they had been. My spirituality has since evolved into a sort of pantheism; I approach the religions of the world much the same way I approach buffets: take what's nourishing or tasty and avoid those items that have been sitting there long past the time when they should have been thrown out.
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Pauligirl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Aug, 2005 09:30 pm
consider myself lucky. Religion never stuck to me. Oh, my mother took me to church when I was young, but since she wasn't that great a fan of organized religion, when I decided I didn't believe any of it and didn't want to go anymore, she was ok with it. She never said that much about it, but I got the impression that it was pretty much crammed down her throat when she was young, and she decided she wasn't going to do that with her kids.

Now I just find religion baffling. I truly do not understand how anyone believes it.
P
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Aug, 2005 09:35 pm
I didn't force my own beliefs on my four children. They grew up, one a church going Christian, two believers but indifferent to churches and one who believes as I do. I have no complaints.
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Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Aug, 2005 09:47 pm
I walked away from organized religion a few years back. I do believe there is something in the universe bigger and smarter than we are, but I don't think s/he is pulling any strings. I think our purpose on earth is to learn about ourselves and those we come in contact with. We are in the image of God in the sense that we are creators and we can help or hurt others by what we chose to do. I think we have complete free will, but there comes and a time a place where we will see ourselves as others have seen and experienced us. We become our own judge and jury.

I don't think God gives a fig if you believe in him/her - it's what you do with your time in this world that matters the most. Follow your inner compass - and remember that old saying "God loves an honest doubter".
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neologist
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2005 08:32 am
God created us in his image with the qualities of love, justice and wisdom. No wonder then when reasonable people observe the crimes of church leaders supported by their hypocritical misinterpretation of scripture, they are seen leaving the church in crowds. As edgar noted:
edgarblythe wrote:
morality is inate.
While this will eventually lead to the destruction of religion as we know it, (Revelation 17,18) it does not relieve us of our obligations to God.
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Bi-Polar Bear
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2005 10:11 am
I have said it before and I eirmly believe that the worst enemy of Christianity is Christians.
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Etruscia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2005 11:22 am
I have never been a religious person but lately ive felt a little drawn to religion. In particular Judaism, which is very surprising but i feel some sort of lure towards it. I dont know, ill probaly continue to be an agnostic for the long run.
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Jim
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2005 12:22 pm
Loving and serving God is an important part of my life. But as the years pass, organized man-made religion (of all stripes) is turning my stomach more and more.
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maporsche
 
  1  
Reply Tue 23 Aug, 2005 11:50 pm
This is going to sound really stupid but I gave up my faith because of "Independence Day" starring Will Smith. Let me explain...

I grew up a Christian in a "stand on your feet, raise your arms, sing, sing, sing" church. I was a true believer for 10 years (ages 9-19). I went to church every Sunday and two bible studies during the week (with the exception of football and wrestling seasons). When I was 18 I went to Brazil for 2 weeks on a mission trip.

I saw what believing did to people's lives. I saw what believing did to my own life. Believing was easier than looking for the answers; and it makes people happier with their daily lives. When you feel like you understand why things happen the way they do or why things are the way they are you can live more contently.

When I was 18 I moved out on my own 2000 miles away from my comfort zone and my church. I began to work and go to school and lived a church free life for a few months. Then Independence Day was playing in the theater. I went to see it with a few buddies of mine and near the end of the movie Bill Pullman (who plays the president) gets up to give a speach about defeating the aliens and standing up in the face of danger and fighting on. I got those tingling feelings down my spine like I used to have at church. I used to think those tingles were god talking to me or working through me....but how could Bill Pullman make those tingles?

Since then I've questioned everything that I thought I knew about god and the church. It all seems so disgusting now. I've been living without believing for over 6 years now and my life has only gotten better. I regularly spit in god's face (the christian god anyway) and my life has never gotten worse and I don't feel damned. I can live more contently knowing that there may be nothing out there.
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flushd
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Aug, 2005 01:14 am
Interesting, maporche.

really, that was a fascinating tale! Smile

I am happy w/ out the "God up in Heaven".
The worse part of 'losing the faith' for me has been dealing with all the guilt and bitterness for having someone else's vision shoved down my throat.

Religion is a powerful means of harnassing human emotions. Unfortunately, many times it is used as a cow prod! LOL
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Wed 24 Aug, 2005 03:04 am
Like SneakyBeaky...I just grew up.

I do not know if there is a God...I do not know if there are no gods...I do not have enough unambiguous evidence upon which to base a meaningful guess.

Best to stick with that.

If there is a God...the God will understand.
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baddog1
 
  1  
Reply Fri 26 Aug, 2005 08:54 am
Quote:
...Believing was easier than looking for the answers; and it makes people happier with their daily lives...


I do not clearly understand what you mean by this statement maporsche. Why can one not "look for the answers" and believe at the same time?


Quote:
Since then I've questioned everything that I thought I knew about god and the church. It all seems so disgusting now. I've been living without believing for over 6 years now and my life has only gotten better. I regularly spit in god's face (the christian god anyway) and my life has never gotten worse and I don't feel damned. I can live more contently knowing that there may be nothing out there.


When I read this statement, I sense hate. Or at the very least, extreme hurt. If you do not believe in God, I am unsure who's face you desire to spit at. But you sound pretty mad at someone or something. I am not a preacher, so will not preach, but I do hope you become happier with this "contentment" than your words reveal.

BD1
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Aug, 2005 02:20 am
Maporche, you do sound angry at God for something. Spit in His face regularly? Now, if you don't believe in Him, why would you even care about spitting in His face?

Not caring about something is not hate, it is indifference.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Aug, 2005 06:21 am
I think that I really understand what maporcshe was experiencing. As a kid he was "sold a bill of goods" about his religion, and he bought into it. As he matured, he realized that the "feelings" that he had in church really had nothing to do with a God, and he felt betrayed.

I think that many of us are raised in religious environments. Some remain close to their childhood beliefs, while others grow up, and think beyond what has been taught to them as a child.

I can surmise, from what he has written, that maporche had a epiphany which really caused him to question the beliefs that he had always held as a constant. That would be enough to make anyone angry.

maporsche- Try Beethoven's symphonies. They give me the "tingles".
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Bi-Polar Bear
 
  1  
Reply Sat 27 Aug, 2005 06:28 am
I was VERY connected to God at one point in my life... and now I spend a certain amount of time trying to overcome my bitterness and cynicism regarding "Christians" because it has cost me that personal connection.

As for those who think being connected to God makes me stupid or less than they somehow I say with all love and kindness....eat me. :wink:
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