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.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Wed 27-Feb-13 13:13:07

"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..."

The whole concept of the big bang is that there was a singularity of infinite (or nearly infinite) mass which exploded in to the universe we know today (ok, that's really over simplifying!). Fundamental physics tells us that Energy=Mass x the square of the speed of light (E=Mc2). Because the speed of light is a very large number, this means that the energy stored by an almost infinitely massive object is astronomical (literally!). So when this energy is released, all of the matter contained in the object explodes with enormous force and after a very short time this reaction begins to kick off chemical reactions which start to form the basic elements (hydrogen, helium, etc.) the events immediately after the big bang are very well understood and stand up to the most vigorous scientific testing humankind has ever performed. What happened before is a mystery at the moment, although there are some reasonable theories yet to be disproved.

Personally, I find physics (especially quantum mechanics and theoretical physics) to be a fascinating subject and thanks to some authors, is very accessible to the layman these days. I'd recommend "How to Teach Quantum Physics to your Dog", humorous and insightful!

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 27-Feb-13 14:39:34

"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..."

I don't believe in a creator god or an interventionist god, or a god in any sense in the way in which most people mean it. In that sense i am an atheist. I do however believe that we are spiritual as well as physical entities, as are all living things. I see this as a product of creation in the same way as atoms are, rather than the force behind the creation, if that makes sense. So, 'god' to me is just the sum of all existence and it is as much a part of you as you are of it. I don't see the big bang as a beginning, rather as a stage as the universe breathes in and out and recreates itself.

Thinking this way makes any concept of a church or religion redundant as there is nothing to worship, but instead simply calls for a respect for and connection to all living things. I'm not sure this will help you much, but thought you might be interested in seeing that there are alternative ways of thinking other than god in one corner and atheists in another.

Lerxst Wed 27-Feb-13 15:34:36

"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 am an atheist and a scientist and there is no conflict here for me. You see, time and space are products of this universe- which mean that they do not necessarily exist outside of the universe. So the big bang does not have to have a cause- since cause and effect may not happen anywhere except inside this universe.

Likewise, it is meaningless to ask what came before this universe, since there may not be time as we know it outside of the universe.

Outside of this universe, or in other universes, it is entirely feasible that effect could precede cause, or that things could happen for no reason. This universe is three dimensional with an arrow of time so for us having something happen without cause is a totally alien concept.

The physics inside this universe say that it is not possible for this universe to have begun without a cause (or 'creator' if you like). However, whatever caused this universe would have had to by definition have been outside of this universe, so not subject to the laws of physics that we know. Also, the laws of physics were completely different in the first few seconds of this universe, so things would not have worked as we are accustomed to during that time.

Many atheists embrace science, and so have no need for creationism. Many scientists are open to the idea of a god, given the evidence. Many scientists choose to label themselves as 'agnostic' rather than 'atheist' as this can indicate a willingness to accept a deity with evidence. However, for me I choose the label 'atheist' as I view it in the literal sense, meaning 'without a deity' rather than 'adamant that there is no deity'. I have no more need to prove the nonexistence of a god any more than I need to prove the nonexistence of the invisible pink unicorn. I do see how most humans need to have a religion though- and so I enjoy researching and discussing religion, since it seems to be something essential to human culture since humans first evolved. And I am open to their having been a cause or creator to the universe, but do not see it as a necessity.

EllieArroway Wed 27-Feb-13 15:37:45

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...

Well, I can't speak for all atheists, of course, but I think as a general rule of thumb most would not say that they believe any "force" brought the universe into existence - although they would change their minds very quickly if any evidence came to light demonstrating that.

Because that's what it's really all about - evidence. And there is none, so far, that offers any insight into the ultimate origins of the universe. Plenty of hypotheses of course, but nothing truly substantial. So science's position (which tends also to be that of most atheists) is a rather unsatisfying "We don't know".

And it is unsatisfying because we humans are programmed to want answers, particularly to really important things like this. But we have to, on some level, be willing to accept "We don't know" when that's the honest answer. What is not honest is to claim knowledge (which all religions do) that you don't really have.

If someone asks a Christian "What caused the universe?" and they say "God" they are merely providing their personal belief and are not, therefore, actually answering the question in any meaningful sense of the word. It has exactly the same validity as me answering, "A purple & pink flying hippo called Neville, did it". I've answered the question - but without any evidence to support that it's just meaningless babble.

We know that the universe as it appears to us today began about 13.7 billion years ago. We know that at the very, very, very beginning all of matter and energy was compressed so tightly that the laws of physics broke down - this state of affairs is called a "singularity", and our universe was born from it following a sudden and enormous expansion (called a "bang" but more of a "whoosh").

It's difficult to even talk about where this singularity came from, because none of the normal laws of physics applied when it existed. Time did not exist until it was created with the BB, so there was no "before" or "after" - so the singularity had no timeline, no past, no future - in other words, it hadn't been there for any length of time, because time did not exist. It also had nowhere to be - because space didn't exist either.

I know you exist because you physically take up spatial dimensions - and you were here yesterday. Could you be said to exist if you took up no space and had no past, present or future? Not really. But the singularity must have done in some respect because he we are.

Could it have come from "nothing"? Define nothing. We don't really know what that is - or if there's any such thing. When physicists try to create nothing in a vacuum, taking out all of the air, atoms & molecules etc., what they find is that the "nothing" has a seething mass of quantum fluctuations that pop up out of nowhere and for no reason. So, if we can't experience "nothing", how can we say what it can or cannot do?

So, it's not as simple as it seems. "Can something come from nothing?" - a question that seems to keep a lot of believers believing - is not a particularly good question at the moment. Because the answer has to be "Yes, maybe. But we don't know yet".

Hope that helps a little.

CrisisOfFaith Wed 27-Feb-13 16:45:23

Ok, thanks for those answers-good ones as I hated Physics at school but they made sense to my little brain! Am off to mull.

nailak Wed 27-Feb-13 17:10:07

I find physics a sign of God's creation.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Wed 27-Feb-13 19:05:52

"I find physics a sign of God's creation."

Can you elaborate?

technodad Wed 27-Feb-13 19:53:06

God can be used to explain the origins of physics in the same way that god can be used to explain anything in the universe that people either: a) don't yet understand, or b) don't want to accept the scientific theory or proof for.

Fundamentally as an atheist I don't think it is acceptable to simply say "god did it" for everything I don't understand. I am simply content with accepting I (or humans) don't understand everything yet (and may never)!

Take probability (randomness and chance) for example. I can estimate it and historically record it, but I can't control when random events happen (e.g an aircraft crash). But I don't say that god must have done it, I analyse the data and refine my aircraft design so that failure is less likely to occur in the future. It is much more useful than sacrificing a goat.

nailak Wed 27-Feb-13 23:46:02

no we understand a lot pf the laws of physics, for me it supports intelligent design, all science does.

nailak Wed 27-Feb-13 23:48:16

yes there were failures that caused an aircraft crash, an aircraft crash is not exactly an act of God, in the way natural phenomena are?

This doesn't mean that it wasn't in God's knowledge and control.

nailak Wed 27-Feb-13 23:49:22

The more we understand science, the more wonderful and amazing it is. I do not see any clash between science and religion in 99.9% of things.

nailak Wed 27-Feb-13 23:50:42

Why are you able to accept there are things you may not understand about science, but when a religious person says they are things they do not understand about Gods will etc then it is seen as a cop out?

EllieArroway Thu 28-Feb-13 00:28:15

The more we understand science, the more wonderful and amazing it is. I do not see any clash between science and religion in 99.9% of things

That's because you don't understand science, to be honest.

nailak Thu 28-Feb-13 01:24:11

how do you know what i understand lol, maybe it is because you dont understand religion!

There are plenty of people with degrees and masters and phds in science related fields who believe in God, do they not understand science too?

nailak Thu 28-Feb-13 01:25:05

Let me explain. God made all things. The laws of science are the laws that God created to make this world work.

EllieArroway Thu 28-Feb-13 02:05:07

I am basing my observation, Nailak on your comments above. Whether you realise it or not, they do demonstrate a lack of understanding.

Yes, there are a few religious scientists around. They would be the very first people to point out to you that, actually, there's no support in science for "intelligent design". None.

Let me explain. God made all things. The laws of science are the laws that God created to make this world work Marvellous. Now then - your evidence for this is.......?

And yes, I understand religion. It would be hard not to since there's almost nothing to "understand".

jaynebxl Thu 28-Feb-13 07:02:08

Ellie! How can you so firmly back science which usually starts off from a theory then diss the whole of religion with one mighty sweep? And I'm not writing off science here, I'm married to a practising scientist with a phd who happens to be a Christian. There are plenty of scientists around who are Christians and plenty have written books on the subject. One doesn't rule out the other at all and if you are happy to believe that we don't understand everything yet it would be unwise to totally rule out the existence of God, even if you as yet are unconvinced.

But actually this has nothing to do with the opening thread so it would be better to take it somewhere else.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Thu 28-Feb-13 07:06:01

"Why are you able to accept there are things you may not understand about science, but when a religious person says they are things they do not understand about Gods will etc then it is seen as a cop out?"

No, you've misunderstood, we don't say there's things we don't understand about science, we say that science hasn't yet provided all the answers.... That's a very different statement.

When a religious person says there are things they don't understand about God, I would challenge them to tell me what DO they understand about God? And I mean real, verifiable things, not just "he moves in mysterious ways" you have to be pretty lazy or stupid to just accept that.

jaynebxl Thu 28-Feb-13 07:07:20

Seriously buys, lets take this discussion elsewhere and leave this thread to the original question.

jaynebxl Thu 28-Feb-13 07:07:35

Buys? Guys!

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Thu 28-Feb-13 07:14:21

"How can you so firmly back science which usually starts off from a theory then diss the whole of religion with one mighty sweep?"

You clearly have no understanding of science at all. All science begins with a hypothesis, it only becomes theory once tested and validated. It instantly is dropped as a theory when just a single element of its content is proven incorrect.

How this would even relate to your next statement of dissing religion is beyond me. All of current scientific theory (that's theory as in verifiable truth, not "guess" as you seem to think) can be understood without the need for a god. So why invent one?

technodad Thu 28-Feb-13 07:20:25

Jaynebxi

I think this line of discussion has stemmed out of the OP asking how atheists can justify not believing in a controlling "force" in the universe. So I don't think these points are off topic.

niminypiminy Thu 28-Feb-13 07:21:40

I think jaynebxl is really right here. The OP is in pain and distress because of something that is incredibly important to her. Discussions about religion vs science can happen elsewhere and it would be better, in this case, if they did. I'm not saying atheists shouldn't post on this thread, and that they shouldn't debate, not at all. But since the OP ended her first post with 'please don't take this as an opportunity to bash the naive Christian, I'm falling to pieces over this' perhaps we should take her at her word.

technodad Thu 28-Feb-13 07:31:56

I don't think anyone had bashed the OP at all! There have been some honest replies to other who claim things that are not true, but no one has insulted the OP.

In fact, an atheist gave the first response on the thread after the thread went unanswered (worth re-reading maybe), which might indicate why the views of atheists are a valued input in such discussions.

technodad Thu 28-Feb-13 07:53:16

I love these threads, summing things up it has gone like this:

OP: I am having a crisis of faith, help

Atheist: there is noting wrong with private religion, you should just do what is right for you.

Christian: god is great and he loves you, you shouldn't leave him (no pressure....).

OP: how do atheists not believe in god

Atheist: provides an honest answer.

Christian: defend religion, it is under attack.

Atheist: responds with further justification and factual evidence.

Christian: you atheists are such bastards for insulting the OP.

And so the cycle continues.

Why is it ok for a Christian to convince someone to stay in a faith, but no ok for an atheist to reply to a question?

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