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 Thu 28-Feb-13 08:11:42

"Discussions about religion vs science can happen elsewhere and it would be better, in this case, if they did."

The OP specifically mentions the struggle of religion vs science in their post.

niminypiminy Thu 28-Feb-13 09:21:10

Technodad, that's a travesty of what I posted. Blimey! I was suggesting we be kind to each other (not that atheists are bastards or that they are insulting the OP). Sorry I spoke.

nailak Thu 28-Feb-13 11:53:17

Sorry for derailing thread OP

EllieArroway Thu 28-Feb-13 12:11:25

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?

Easy.

Science does not start off with a theory, it starts off with a question from which a hypothesis develops. Experiment, experiment, experiment -evidence, data, testability, peer review. Hopefully you end with an answer or conclusion, maybe even a theory.

Religion begins with the answer and then trims and fits all of the data (what little there is) to fit with the answer of "God exists".

If your husband is a PhD scientist, why doesn't he explain this to you?

Niminy The OP has not been bashed at all, she's actually thanked people for showing respect & answering her question. But as usual you're seeing precisely what you want.

nightlurker Thu 28-Feb-13 18:10:38

At least for me, religion and spirituality begins with a question from which a hypothesis develops. Prayer and meditation follow (experiments) in order to determine if the thing is relevant or true. It is experimental on a personal level. The real difference is in how the results are measured.

I'm not suggesting religion is a science, but spirituality and science can go through a similar process or questions and answers.

jaynebxl Thu 28-Feb-13 18:40:09

When I said theory Ellie I meant something as yet unproved. I fail to see how you can accept that in science but brush away religion as a whole without having proof every religion is wrong.

technodad Thu 28-Feb-13 19:02:04

We do so, only in the way that we brush aside theories about fairies at the bottom of the garden and Scientology, or the idea that touching wood will help change the future.

There are plenty of unlikely and wholly spurious things that are made up by humans, but we don't believe them by default. It is down to the people who come up with the spurious theories to present solid evidence for these theories to become fact. Without solid evidence they fall back into the "made up stuff" category.

With science, fellow scientists continually test each others theories and attempt to find holes in the evidence. It is this openness to honesty and acceptance of challenge that make it credible.

Do we know exactly what caused the Big Bang, or even if the Big Bang was actually the origins of the universe? No, but we only say it is a theory, and we strive to test that theory and discover new evidence to support or disprove it.

Do Christians know that god created the universe? Yes he did because I trust him and he loves me.

Not really the same way of working is it? wink

amillionyears Thu 28-Feb-13 20:03:49

op.Hi.
I am a Christian.
Like others have said,including yourself,yes, as in Biblical times, I dont think Jesus would be happy with some of the churches or its members.
This is not new, as you have pointed out.
In fact, the probable worst time of all was back in Genesis. Noah and the other 7 people were the only people that God chose to save.

So, I dont personally get down about it.
If it was as bad as it could get before Genesis was finished, then there really is not much new under the sun on this subject!

cloutiedumpling Thu 28-Feb-13 21:35:21

I am another Christian. I agree, I think Jesus would be dismayed at some of the stuff that is done in his name. I belong to a smaller church which doesn't have anything like the same hierarchy as you find in the Catholic Church or CofE and I like that it doesn't have the same concentration of power.

FWIW, I don't think that there is anything wrong with admitting that you have doubts. I think most Christians do at some point or other but for some reason people don't talk about it much. When Thomas had doubts after the resurrection Jesus didn't reject him and I don't think anyone else is rejected for having doubts either.

MareeyaDolores Fri 01-Mar-13 00:30:03

Prayer is useful, to ask God for help with the tricky theological questions

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Fri 01-Mar-13 19:40:10

"Prayer is useful, to ask God for help with the tricky theological questions"
What kind of questions have you asked it? And what answers do you get?

MareeyaDolores Fri 01-Mar-13 23:52:02

Are you actually there? [YES]
Is Jesus actually God? [YES]
Genuinely didn't know if it was all a lie, and so wasn't expecting an answer to #1, by the time I asked #2 I 'thought' the answer might well be 'sorry, he isn't, time to convert to Islam'.

Can't 'prove' the resulting (unexpected) sense of conviction was an answer rather than my imagination. But then I can't prove right now that I'm mumsnetting and not dreaming, as I should be at this hour wink.

CrisisOfFaith hi, how's it going. I don;t mean are you about to be 'crowned' the next archbishop of Canterbury or have you got it all sorted! I mean have you got a bit of peace or us your lack of peace less painful. Hoping all is well.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 02-Mar-13 03:17:15

Ellie - saying there are a few religious scientists is incredibly ignorant. Science doesn't just exist in the secular West.

As for the OP, I recommend prayer and taking time to observe the wonders of God's creation.

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 07:40:07

Or in other words - look around and admire the results of entropy.

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 08:10:46

Ellie Said "Ellie - saying there are a few religious scientists is incredibly ignorant. Science doesn't just exist in the secular West."

The statistics vary accross the world, but they are clear that in every country the percentage of scientist who are religious is vastly lower than the percentage of "normal" population who are religious, in the same geographic location.

In terms of top scientists (in the UK): I think it is fair to say that the views of the President of the Royal Society are going to represent the view of the top scientists in the country. And Sir Paul Nurse's view are very clear, and beautifully put in this TV programme: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCLX7kA0nMw

More beautifully put, exciting and passionate than any religious sermon in my opinion. I urge everyone to watch it from begining to end, especially the OP (who I hope is doing well).

Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities have departments for the study of religion and science at the Faraday Insitute in Cambridge and the Ian Ramsey Centre in Oxford.

Wikipedia talks about the conflict thesis between science and religion which is a name that is new to me but describes it very well. This is the stance of people like Richard Dawkins. I've gone with the non overlapping magisteria idea ie that science describes what and religion describes why.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_religion_and_science

Of course the article might change tomorrow!

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 10:10:22

I am still lost as to how exactly religion "explains" why!

I can accept the phrase that "religion has a blind stab in the dark at explaining why", but not that it has ever achieved, or ever will achieve, any verifiable or credible explanation of why.

Maybe science won't be ever able to fully answer the "why" question either, but at least science doesn't arrogantly claim to have done so and it certainly doesn't mean I have to accept other people's blind stabs in the dark.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Mar-13 10:43:17

There's a very interesting article by Eliane Glaser here about how popular science has taken over the language of religion. Glaser points out, rightly, that what most scientists actually do when they are doing science is very far from the big narrative stuff, and that when we are discussing the 'science explains everything about how amazing the universe is' view of the science-religion conflict thesis, what we are really talking about is the popularisation of science, not the practice of science.

If Technodad's assertion that more scientists are atheists than have religious faith is to be believed (and it is just an assertion as it stands) this is not in itself evidence that science is truer than religion. It might equally be evidence that professional science has a strong esprit de corps with a high degree of shared ideas and ways of thinking. Becoming a scientist is about more than going to your lab everyday -- it is also about taking on set of beliefs and attitudes about what constitutes knowledge (for example it is very common for research scientists to be extremely sceptical about whether real research can be carried on in any other discipline), but also a whole set social attitudes as well. (Being as scientist is no guarantee that you will hold enlightened attitudes on, say, the benefits of universal taxation, or that you will treat your female colleagues with respect).

All this is to say that if, by and large, scientists don't believe in God, that may say more about the social attitudes current in science labs than about the truth of the matter.

At present, atheism and science have very compelling narratives that have captured people's imagination -- with the help, as Glaser shows, of the language of religion. (One interpretation of the current view of science as propounded by prophets such as Cox and Dawkins is that it is merely a version of Pantheism in another guise.) Whether this will always be the case is not at all certain. Nothing can be predicted in human life, except that change will happen. Science has the more compelling story today; it might not tomorrow.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Mar-13 10:47:04

Just to add -- meant to put this in but forgot before I posted -- that anyone who has been involved in teaching science students something of the history and philosophy of their discipline will know that these students -- extraordinarily good though they may be at science -- normally find the kind of critical thinking involved in looking at the philosophical questions raised by science, and the challenges posed to scientific triumphalism by the history of science, extremely hard to deal with.

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 11:08:28

I never claimed that more scientists are atheists than of faith (although they likely are). I suggest you re-read my post.

amillionyears Sat 02-Mar-13 11:27:20

Science ignores or does not take into account feelings.
Yet we as human beings know we have feelings.
So science can never be the whole picture of everything.

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 11:42:30

Ignoring the fact that science can explain why and how we have feeling. science doesn't claim to know everything. In fact it explicitly states where it doesn't know stuff.

Even if science can't yet explain everything, I am still confused why it is acceptable to just fill the gaps with guesses.

niminypiminy Sat 02-Mar-13 11:59:44

I stand corrected, you said that the percentage of the population of scientists who have faith is smaller than the percentage of the general population who have faith. You still asserted it, though. And it doesn't change the substance of my post, which I notice you have chosen to ignore.

amillionyears Sat 02-Mar-13 12:15:11

The start of the Chrisitan faith is seeking the truth.
When you have found the truth, the things stated in the bible are found to be correct.
So for Christians, it becomes far from guesses.
The kingdom of heaven is described as being like a merchant who found one pearl of great value. He went and sold all that he had and bought it.

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