I remember it being a rainy day, and I remember being in need of a shower. The rain might be a figment of my imagination.
It was Sunday again. Once, I had looked forward to this day, for it meant sharing in the ritual of church. Indeed, I used to like that ritual enough that I attended daily services when possible. This day, however, the thought of going had become a source of dread, though I still considered attendance obligatory, as I still held myself bound to the laws of the Catholic Church.
I do not think I awoke early enough to attend the morning Mass, though I no longer remember for sure. I do know that I awoke in plenty of time to attend the 5pm Mass, but I found myself unable to prepare by that deadline. No matter; there was another chance at 9. The minutes ticked by and became hours; still, I did not move to take a shower. Closer and closer came the time, and soon I knew that I must walk immediately or be late. At the time, I lived on church property, so Mass was but a few steps away, but I could not walk out the door. As I found myself skipping Mass for almost the first time in my life, I pulled out my prayer journal and poured out my heart to God.
It seems strange to hear “I could not walk out the door” – after all, for those of us fortunate enough to be able-bodied, walking is among the easiest of tasks. I’m sure it was not the task itself that I found so impossible, but the destination, for after I made that journal entry, I was able to go visit a friend (after showering).
Over the last few months or so, I had learned that evolution has more than no supporting evidence, contrary to what I had been taught growing up. Indeed, there were and are growing mountains of evidence from every related field – and some that might not seem related at first. I’d learned that man was not the special creation of any supreme being, but a result of simple forces of nature. Human beings evolved alongside every other animal, coming to exist more from mutation and environmental accident than any intelligent design. The story of our ancestry is written in our fossils and our DNA.
This scientific revelation led to a crisis of faith. That term seems less accurate to me now, but back then, that was exactly the term I would have used: crisis of faith.
To demonstrate my state of mind and my problem with Christianity as I’d been taught it, I’ve decided to include excerpts from both my last prayer (as I call it) and a flowchart I used to question the Christians around me in an effort to make sense of the doctrine of Original Sin in light of evolution.
I cannot go to Mass today. I just can’t. It would be dishonest of me. If the God I have tried to serve exists, He will understand. How can I go to worship when I don’t believe? No, evolution is true, and evolution contradicts the doctrine of Original Sin, upon which everything I have always believed rests. I cannot believe when it makes no sense to do so.
Jesus, according to the Gospels, lovingly indulged Doubting Thomas by appearing to him while he was in the Upper Room. Jesus spoke those words, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe.”
I no longer know what to believe, and the way that I am means that I cannot believe something unless I am convinced it is true. My belief in Christianity rested on evolution being false. That is now stripped away.
If Christianity is true, then God understands. If Christianity is True, God knows everything about my current struggle. If Christianity is true, then God is watching me with love right now and missing me, as I, in truth, miss Him, or at least the security and certainty I had when I believed in Him. If Christianity is true, He wants me to be happy with Him in Heaven for all eternity, and He further wants this for every soul. And if Christianity is true, God has the power to draw me back.
I can still detect that deep desire for love that I have been taught can only be filled by God.
Right now, I am on the edge of a knife. On one side is atheism, a blackness. On the other is Christianity, a light in which I was raised. One of these two, in my view, is where I belong. I must be one or the other, and I must be certain.
Like St. Thomas, I want to say “Unless I put my hand in his side, I will not believe.” I am requesting a miracle.
Lord, I want to believe, but I can’t. I am calling on Your love for me, which must be immense. Help me believe, and I shall speedily return to full Christianity and devote my life to helping people to Heaven as best I can. After this sincere request, after this statement so like and yet so unlike that of Doubting Thomas, I can only assume that either You will speedily bring me back to Thy Flock, or there is no god worth serving. Please, Lord, if You love me, let me love You, and I will follow, never to waver again.
THE question Flowchart of Inquiry
Click on the image for a larger version. I know it’s impossible to read in this post. (And yes, this really is the name I gave it back in 2010.)
I still can’t believe. I can’t make sense of these conflicting ideas.
While I call that journal entry my last prayer, I spent much of the next two years begging god through thought and action to give me faith or some sign that he is real. While I was busy with many other things, such as finishing college, any time that I had to spare was spent burying myself in Christian apologetics, trying to convince myself to believe. I put forth more effort looking for some way to be Christian again than I ever have on any goal before or since. I truly gave it everything I could, and I have not yet stopped looking into Christian arguments. Perhaps I never will.
But nothing works. Now, I see flaws in what were once convincing arguments. I see counter-evidence rather than evidence. I can’t believe in the face of my current understanding of the universe. There simply isn’t a need for a deity anywhere, and certainly no loving god would allow his earthly representatives to rape children even once.
On the whole, however, I feel abandoned and rejected. This being who I’d spent my entire life devoted to – in intention if not in execution, who I’d looked to for healing whenever I was sick, who I’d gone to for love whenever I was lonely, who had always been there for me, who I’d been told forever was perfectly loving and cared about me personally no matter what I did… was gone without a trace. No matter what I did, no matter how fervently I asked, my Heavenly Father had disappeared, abandoning me in my hour of direst need. Those were dark days.
Without evidence, I can never believe again. Thus, according to most forms of Christianity, I am doomed to eternal torment.
Some say I chose to abandon god, but that is a bald-faced lie. I could not have sought god more diligently. It is he who abandoned me. Everything I read was so I could better show his existence to those around me, and hell is to be my reward?
How is that loving?
If the Christian god exists and sends me to hell, it is his choice, and not mine, that led me there, for it is he who made me unable to believe without evidence.
You say I choose hell? Fuck you.
Everything in my life changed after this day. Everything was turned upside down. I lost so much, and nearly three and a half years later I still have not recovered. I still barely know who I am anymore.
God was my center, and he left me. This is so antithetical to the Being I loved that I can only conclude he was never there in the first place.
6 thoughts on “November 14, 2010”
Wow. I think I understand you a lot better now having read this with everything else on your blog. It’s still pretty emotionally raw for you, isn’t it?
So why did you think that if a person answers that healthy skepticism of religion was deadly to religion would be unhelpful? Is it because you were looking for someone who could empathize with your dilemma?
How well I can deal with the emotions from that experience …fluctuates. It took me a couple of years before I even realized I felt rejected and abandoned, honestly.
I can’t completely remember what I was thinking when I made that flowchart and included that question, but I was still thinking like a fundamentalist at the time. I almost certainly made this flowchart primarily for dialogue with Christians, considering the right side. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking somebody might say healthy skepticism is deadly to religion because religion isn’t true; I was thinking somebody might say healthy skepticism is deadly to religion because it could lead a person to the “false notion that god doesn’t exist” or something along those lines.
At this point in my life, it seems obvious that skepticism IS deadly to religion! However, I assume I was just trying to avoid Christians who weren’t willing to put their “Truth” through the rigors of questioning. After all, if you are really confident you have the Truth, why would you fear questioning or knowledge? Can truth contradict truth?
enjoying catching up with your blog! I totally relate to the feelings of frustration when others make the unfounded accusation that “you made a choice” not to believe anymore. Not too many things piss me off more.
Unfortunately, even some atheists and agnostics appear to think we can choose what we believe. Such an opinion frankly baffles me, for if I had had a choice, I might well have remained a creationist. I cannot deny evidence once I have seen it.
After looking at the chart, I don’t think you have any plausible arguments which should lead you (or anyone who is learned) to actually doubt God’s existence. Some of your statements are either misleading, false or incorrect. Again, I think that you may be angry and testing God as a result. If you are testing God, are you doing what satan did to Jesus? Read Luke 4:1-13 and you will see what I mean. Or have you done something to cause you to despair and lose faith, like St Thomas may have done? This is a good reason for you to see a priest for counseling.
Francis, if you wish to continue this dialogue, I have created a place, and conveniently ended with some questions for you to answer.