Sunday, September 30, 2012

Struggling With Faith? Do Something About It!

For most of my life, I have been a believer in the Christian god. I was brought up on it and like others, I really got scared of the whole notion of hell and someone listening to my every thought. How bad I must be to have "sinful" thoughts as often as I did. I never even considered that everyone else has stupid stuff go through their minds too.....I thought it was just me. I wrestled with hell a lot, but I never allowed myself to even consider that I might be wasting my time with all that worry. 

A few years back, I started exploring my faith. I looked at Christianity with a critical eye and I began to research other religions. Then, I read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins and it occurred to me; What if there isn't a god? What if I can just live my life without the guilt and torment? What if I could be a happy human being? 

From there, I felt like I should look into my questions. I had never really gave not believing a fair chance. How could I? I was raised up on Jesus watching me all the time (not just in December when Santa has his critical eye on me) and fear of damnation. I was in church at the time and came to a point where I felt like I was being hypocritical by attending Sunday school in the morning and then reading Dawkins and Sam Harris in the evening. I stopped going and decided I would put the Bible to the test, so I started actually reading it. I wanted to test it against modern morality and ethics and see what god really said about how to treat people and it didn't hold up. I still continued to pray a couple of times a day for Jesus to help me along and show me the truth. Obviously, he didn't have much to say. My relationship was a one way street with my imagination. 

I continued to study religion and atheism and finally a little voice in my head said; "There is no god." Along with my losing religion, I was also dumping my penchant for certitude. Rather than proclaim myself an atheist or whatever, I decided that I just didn't know. With a gun to my head, I'd bet on there NOT being a god, but otherwise, hell, I just don't know. Nobody does. 

OK, it's taken me four paragraphs to get here, but what I wanted to say is that it's alright to have doubts. It's natural and you should welcome those doubts. If you don't, you are shutting off your mind, your intellect, and reason. If you believe a god gave you those things, then certainly you can see why it should be imperative that you use your intelligence and exercise critical thought. If I had to suggest some reading for a Christian who was wrestling with his faith, I would first suggest the Dan Barker book "godless". Barker is a former evangelist, Christian song writer and record producer. His book outlines his journey from being on fire for god to firing god. It speaks in a easy going manner to the recently converted and/or those who are starting to become unsure of their faith. 

I'd also suggest "Letter To A Christian Nation" by Sam Harris. He makes a great case, in a very short book, against religion as a whole. He mainly focuses on Christianity, because it is the prevailing religion in the USA, but he does so in a way that tries to allow the reader to take their belief into account in context with Islam or any other religion. His first, full scale book is called "The End of Faith" and it's also worth a persons time. It would be easy and probably cliche' for me to tell someone to run out and buy "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens or "The God Delusion" by the aforementioned Dawkins. Those are great books and for someone who has recently lost their faith, I'd recommend them as great guides to strengthen your decision and resolve. You Tube is a great resource to hear anyone speak that I've mentioned to this point. Learning about the universe, quantum physics, consciousness, and critical thought have been so satisfying after spending much of my life tuned out to those things. 

Don't let anyone talk you into or out of your faith if you are wavering. Explore it for yourself. Use your mind and reason. Read the Bible. Really read what god says. If your faith is meant to be, it should stand up to the scrutiny of your mind and what you learn. You wouldn't be afraid to read Lee Strobel's "The Case For Christ" or "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brendan Manning, so don't be afraid to read some of the stuff I've mentioned. Be fair to god and yourself.  It's been a very satisfying journey for me personally and I wouldn't change it for anything. If you are struggling with your faith, go ahead and do something about it. Either way, you should come away feeling proud that you came to your decision on your own terms, without indoctrination.