Perhaps my title is a bit misleading, but the REM song comes to mind and honestly, I just can’t NOT use that song as my title. You see, a few years ago I had a moment of doubt in the faith I had been raised with. That moment grew into a downward spiral of questions and worries that plagued my heart.
What started my doubt was a dark time in my life. If you have read my blog, you will remember that I fell into depression a few years ago. You can re-read that post here —-> Depression and the Homeschool Mama. A lot was going on inside my head and my heart at that time.
The Husband was in a phase of reading morbid news articles about tragedies involving children. It was things like, children left in hot cars and dying or children being run over when the parent was backing up in the driveway. And of course, he needed to share these stories with me as a reminder of all of the ways I could fail our children. Ok, in his mind I think he was trying to make me more aware of the possibilities so I would act more cautiously, but in my depressed mind I internalized and felt weighed down by the trauma of those children.
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But more than the children that were dying from tragic accidents and illnesses, what was really weighing on my heart were the children that were suffering truly horrendous acts of violence and neglect. I suppose it was the Facebook algorithm at that time, but articles kept popping up in my feed about children being sold in sex slavery or locked in basements or beat with wooden bats. Heinous stories that flooded my heart. I tried to ignore them, really I did, but in the end I would inevitably be baited into clicking.
Then I would look at my sweet baby and think, how could anyone do such horrible things to such a sweet and innocent little being? More importantly:
How could the loving God I grew up to know allow such terrible things to happen?
I suppose I should give you my religious background. I was born into a traditional Southern Baptist family in an area where 90% of all people attended a southern Baptist church. At age 7 my Mom converted to Catholicism and after that I participated in the Catholic Rites, went to Catholic School, and attended Catholic mass with regularity. All 4 of my children have been christened into the Catholic Church and received 1st Communion at the appropriate age. My oldest went to Catholic school for 6 years and the younger 3 have attended CCD classes. By all appearances, we are a Catholic family.
But the God I was raised with in both of my religion experiences is one that is supposed to love us. We’re talking New Testament, Love Thy Neighbor, God is a beacon of love and hope kind of God. How can the God I was taught to believe in also be the God that allows children to be sold into sex slavery at less than a year old? How does that give anyone hope?
Didn’t Jesus say, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”?
Most people I have confessed my wavering faith to say the same thing- the sin against children is because of the Free Will of man. God gave mankind the right to choose their actions. So it is through the choice of man that children are tortured, tormented, and killed. And it is the choice of man that can save children. But God is all-powerful. He not only has the power to stop evil against children, but as our creator doesn’t He have some responsibility to protect at least the helpless? This God that we can pray to and He will answer our prayers?
He is our Father. Helicopter-parenting aside, doesn’t a father still have the responsibility to make sure his children are safe? Maybe a father doesn’t stop us from climbing on a log where we might fall and break an arm or from riding our bicycle down a steep hill, but would a father stand aside while we are beaten, raped, and murdered? At least when we are children? Sure, when we become adults our parents can’t protect us anymore. We are adults and must make choices for ourselves, but as children especially the very young, doesn’t He have a responsibility?
It’s Not An Easy Choice
Honestly, it wasn’t easy to lose faith. The religion we grow up with is so deeply ingrained in us. What do I do with this relationship I’ve built with this being I thought existed? Who do I pray to when I’m struggling? Who do I praise when something amazing happens? The thing about religion is that it can be such an integral part of life. The idea of a great being in the universe that loves and protects us, comforts us, guides us, carries us through our trials, and celebrates with us through our joys is a very beautiful and powerful idea.
And what do I do with my Sunday mornings? What about Christmas and Easter? What about the traditions and life I’ve built around my religion? And perhaps, most importantly, what if I’m wrong in choosing to turn away from the idea of “God” and damn my soul (and perhaps the souls of my children and grandchildren) to eternal suffering?
Plus, I didn’t want to let my Mom or Grandma down. They have worked hard to instill God into my soul. How do I look at these important women in my life and say, “Yeah… I think it may all be crap. I don’t think there is a God Almighty”?
Not Giving Up Yet
I didn’t want to just give up on God. How could I flippantly throw away such a strong part of over 30 years of my life?
I started by seeing what other people had done to reconnect with their faith. I read blogs and books and I talked to friends and family. One book that really resonated with me was The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs. This book was an amazing journey for Jacobs and I really felt connected to his beginning struggles as an agnostic to decipher the path he needed to become religious. For me, that was where I was at. I felt agnostic in my beliefs, but I wanted to find my path back to faith.
What would it take to regain my faith?
Sure, a great act of obvious proportion would prove undeniably that there is a God. Can you say burning, talking bush here? But I guess God doesn’t do that stuff anymore. Jesus came and God just kind of… stepped back and said, “Ok. You guys are on your own now.” It’s been over 2000 years since we’ve had any real assurances of God’s presence. What am I looking for? I don’t know. Something. Something that unquestionably came from God. Something that can’t be easily explained away.
Is Any of it Real?
The history of Jesus and the Bible has always interested me. I mean, I can’t say that I’m a scholar or anything, but certainly, I devour any information I can get. From what I have found, there are 2 undeniable truths:
- The Bible represents a historical account of years that we otherwise know very little about. Now, let me be clear that I’m not saying it is historically accurate. It is always important to consider the Bible, especially the Old Testament with a certain amount of caution because there are many missing books, problems with exact translation including language interpretations such as the use of metaphors and embellishments. You can read the following article for scientific archaeological evidence supporting Biblical stories: Is the Bible supported by archaeology? If you have the time, this article from the NY Times also discusses the truths vs. story of the Bible based on archaeology: The Bible Unearthed while also giving a pretty good history and synopsis of the Bible itself. It is rather long though. Both articles appears to be pretty neutral in terms of biases one way or the other.
- The historical man Jesus as well as his story throughout the New Testament has been corroborated through a variety of sources including many secular writings such as records, letters, and stories. To say that Jesus the man did not exist is denying historical evidence to the contrary. Does that mean that Jesus was in fact the son of God, resurrected from the dead, and opened the gates of Heaven? Well, there is really no way to irrefutably prove that part happened. You can read (or watch) the PBS special Jesus Many Faces – The Historical Jesus to get you started on your search for the historical man. I also like this article from Live Science: Was Jesus a Real Person? I think if you really start digging, you will find a plethora of evidence in support of Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth.
To know that much of the Bible is real does change things for me a little. It’s difficult to deny the plausibility that God and perhaps, more importantly Jesus Christ are greater beings than me, a mere man (well, woman). Is plausibility enough to warrant blind faith though? And honestly, knowing that God may actually exist, but is just sitting back letting life unfold with all of the suffering and struggles in the world is actually even more disconcerting. In many ways, it’s actually more comforting to think there is no God than to think there is a God that just doesn’t care enough to do something.
So Now What?
It’s been almost 4 years now since I began this journey into the unknown space of losing my religion. I actually wrote a version of this post a year and a half ago when I was exploring my life as a homesteader… or an unlikely one. The post was picked up by Drew Sokol who reached out to me for an interview for the podcast he and Cory Markum were doing about their quest to find Jesus. You can find more about that podcast here: Hinge Podcast.
Hinge is a collaborative work for Drew, a pastor questioning his faith, and Cory, an atheist looking for evidence he was wrong. Through their podcast they interviewed a huge variety of experts in history, religion, archaeology, psychology, sociology, etc. These experts fell on either side of spectrum from atheist to devout Christian and everywhere in between. Throughout the 10 episodes Drew and Cory push each other to open their minds to the possibility that they are wrong.
The podcast was deeply profound for me. Several of the episodes moved me to tears. Tears of beauty for the relationship between Drew and his grandmother (he happened to lose his grandmother shortly after I lost mine); tears of sadness for my own loss of the faith that was once such a meaningful part of me. Cory’s doubts resonated with me as he continually questioned where is this “good God” that we are supposed to believe in?
None of my interview made it into the podcast. I can’t say if anything I said resonated with Drew or influenced any of the journey. I think in terms of what I said, Cory had me covered. And my struggle is more with faith in God than Jesus, although I suppose it all trickles down. Plus, I giggle as I think about me speaking with any sense of eloquence. I can write the heck out of eloquence, but on the spot speaking is more awkward and a lot of non-sensible babbling. Lol.
Anyway, I’m anxious to see if they continue their quest, and where their journey will take them.
As for me, I am still lingering in a place of uncertainty. I’m not sure I can deny the presence of a greater being, a creator. I don’t know that I can praise him for the beauty in my life or find comfort in him during my times of need. I don’t claim to understand his vision, but I do think that a God that asks for trust in Him that He knows what is best should be a God that earns trust by being more proactive in the care and concern of the creatures he has put on this Earth. I think a God that asks for blind faith should give us reasons to have faith… reasons other than the promise of unfathomable eternity after death. I think a God that expects us to follow His words should make His words more clear, more relatable, more meaningful to the ever-changing world.
I guess in the meantime, all I can do is keep seeking the answers I need to convince me one way or another. I will continue to share with you, dear readers, as I come to new conclusions. Feel free to leave me thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and encouragement.