Am I a lousy Christian or a confused agnostic, or just mucked up from too much religion?

(15 Posts)
DefinitelyPeppa Wed 27-Nov-13 14:57:14

Sorry if title is flippant, I couldn't think of a better way to put it but I'd really like some help & advice. Will try and keep it brief, so sorry if I have to dripfeed later.

Basically I was raised Christian - always told 'it's your own choice what you believe' but I never really felt that it was, my parents always looked down on other religions as they were 'mistaken and going to end up going to hell' and things like homosexuality and sex outside marriage were always made out as really terrible things that would also guarantee going to hell. I always went to church with my parents as a child/early teen and the concept of hell was always present - ie, believe in God and do the 'right things' otherwise unimaginable horror awaits.

So now I'm mid-30's and I'm constantly so upset and confused about what I believe, or don't. I think I believe in God, because I'm indoctrinated by the idea of hell and obviously it scares me - but if I believe in God then am I a Christian and what does that mean?

I've never been sure I can feel a relationship with God - never had a 'WOW - that's me converted' moment and have done the 'stop now and read out this prayer and you're a Christian' thing loads, especially as a teen when I felt just as confused.

I'm divorced and I've had sex outside marriage, and married again - doesn't it say something in the Bible about that being just the same in God's eyes as having an affair?

What I truly feel drawn to is a feeling that things like homosexuality/sex outside marriage etc can be wrong but only if you're doing it out of some sort of unhappiness, ie hurting yourself doing it, that if you're truly happy and not hurting yourself or someone else then it can't be wrong. And I feel anyone with a true faith that lives their life in a good way (ie, really being good - treating everyone well, not just 'looking' good) will go to heaven/somewhere 'naice' when they die - but have always been told in church that that's wrong - you can be as good as you like but if you don't believe in Jesus then that's you done for when you die.

I keep thinking if I was brought up with Islam or any other religion I'd believe in that just as much so does that mean I don't really believe in God, it's just what I'm used to?

How do I try and find a belief when I've got the idea of hell (and avoiding it) so strongly stuck in my head? Surely I should believe in something because I believe it, not to escape some punishment?

How do I begin to reconcile all this into some sort of belief for myself? And if that belief is 'Christian' when there's so many flavours of Christian and disagreements about things like homosexuality, how do I know I'm right?

I would say that you really can't know so the sensible choice is to be the best person you can in your own way without worrying about the rules of any organised religion.

If god exists and is good and kind as religious people claim then he can't fault you for doing that.

And if it turns out at the end that god exists and didn't want you to be good to people.. well then you wouldn't want to be with him in heaven anyway.

drudgewithagrudge Wed 27-Nov-13 16:02:34

I think I know how you feel. I was also brought up in a religious household basically C of E but frequent bouts of Methodism with strong evangelic tendencies plus a grandmother who went all the way and joined a small weird bunch of Pentecostals who went in for speaking in tongues etc.

We were threatened a lot with Hell and I was terrified of the end of the world happening at any time, really frightened. It was impressed upon us that God saw everything we did and we couldn't hide anything from him. Not much love from God and Jesus was crucified so that we could be "washed in the blood of the Lamb" and saved.

Now many years and 2 marriages later I have given up church and am not at all sure that I believe in the version of God that was sold to me.

The trouble is that I still want to pray and I don't know who or what is on the other end. I went through the Apostles' Creed in my mind and the only thing I believed was that there probably was a God and that Jesus probably existed but I don't think he was the Son of God and the rest I think is hogwash.

I really miss religion but I think it is like believing in Father Christmas, once you find out the truth you can't go back. If I went to church I would feel a hypocrite. I t upsets me when I think of all the people who through the years have prayed for me and tried to steer me in the right direction and yet I have turned out so bad. I f only there was a pill you could take that made you believe it all again.

Sorry I haven't been much help but I am just as confused as you.

fizzoclock Wed 27-Nov-13 17:39:03

I would say you aren't a Christian. Is that helpful and not too rude?
I know where you are at (as far as that's possible to say) because I have been brought up Christian, done my own thing in the same sort of way you have and then found my faith for myself.
I think lots of people see Christianity as a sort of social policy or moral code. It isn't. All the disagreements over homosexuality etc. are just a long way from the core of what Christianity is about. I don't think many Christians would dispute that whatever their beliefs on those social/moral issues.
I think you are right that trying to hold on to faith as some sort of insurance policy against hell/sin is never going to work. Christian faith has got to be about coming to understand who God is and the utter love of God for yourself. Romans 8v38-39 says 'For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

I don't think you do 'know you are right' I think what you discover as a Christian is that God is right. God is right in all things. God is love. God is perfect love in all situations. Love always wins out, even when we don't understand it or see it, in the end God's love ends the cycle of sin and evil. I think that verse suggests that we need to understand that nothing, not even our wrong thoughts about who God is and what God wants can separate us from God's love for us. You don't have to be the right kind of Christian. All you need to do is open your heart to God and understand enough of who God is to realise God needs to come first in everything.

I think on hell....hell is really the absence of God. It's when people have said they don't want to know God. God lets have their choice. That sounds benign. But actually if you know that God is perfect love, perfect justice, perfect mercy that's pretty scary. The closest place I can imagine to that, where (some) people have said actually they have no use for love, justice and mercy are places like North Korea. I'm still a hopeful universalist though....that is I hope that ultimately nobody chooses to say no to God.

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 27-Nov-13 17:56:49

I think most of the christians who post on here are very clear that the mainstream church does not believe in a fire and brimstone eternal suffering kind of hell, rather that they see it as simply not being with god. It is hard though, when something is so ingrained in you to let it go.

You have obviously arrived at a point where you are questioning the beliefs that have surrounded you your whole life. This is good, normal and healthy. How important is it to you to have a label? If you can manage without one it will give you the freedom to explore what else is out there - the different flavours of christianity, other major world religions, personal spirituality, atheism. There is no need to force yourself onto any particular path unless you find one that makes sense to you.

You may come to find that you are a christian, albeit a different sort than you thought, or you may find when you lose some pieces of the jigsaw the whole thing disintegrates. I have believed completely in one god, then many gods and now no god. Sometimes it is hard to move on, but it is actually easier than being dishonest with yourself. It depends on what you want really.

If the idea of hell is worrying you then try Rob Bell's book 'Love Wins.' He looks at the traditional idea of hell and finds not much in the Bible to support it.

At the moment the debates about homosexuality and women in leadership are pretty intense in some churches. In others you have female priests, gay and lesbian priests, readers, worship leaders, lay leaders. If you are on facebook there is a great site called 'Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented' which is for people who have come out of fundamentalist churches. It is an American site but worth linking to for their jokes and articles.

Maybe some exposure to the more mainstream and inclusive part of the church will help you with your questions.

damnitchloe Thu 28-Nov-13 07:09:09

You sound as though you've done lots of thinking & beating yourself up a bit but still have lots of great questions. I really recommend going on an Alpha Course. This is a brilliant, low key, no pressure way of asking & discussing some of the big questions in life with no question too hard, too stupid or to hostile. There is usually a meal first, a 20 minute talk & then a brilliant chance for discussion in small groups. I LOVED the course I did & it really helped me feel more sure about what I believed & even really happy about it. Lots of churches will be starting courses in Jan - google Alpha for all the details. Hope that helps. X

DefinietleyPeppa so sorry you find yourself so confused and faced with a God who is not represented as loving. I really hope you will find your way into the loving presence of God and a group of people who will be supportive and kind.

You may find some Fresh Expressions of church are more up your street, more relaxed and less pressurised.

www.freshexpressions.org.uk/

drudgewithagrudge (great name) my heart goes out to you too.

I hope you will both find a place to call home, where you can pray and speak to God and mix with others without feeling the terrible pressures of worry about hell etc.

Although the Church of England gets a bad press sometimes it is generally a very tolerant place, where people can feel accepted and loved (that has been my experience of it). I really hope you will find a good place.

In the quiet of your own home/s I can certainly recommend Listening to God by Joyce Huggett.

www.amazon.co.uk/Listening-God-Hearing-His-Voice/dp/0340864257

Whatever you do, please do not give up on God, he is very nice and probably very very sad that we (the church) spend so much time debating and hating about gay marriage and the like and so little time genuinely loving and connecting to our neighbours and those beyond our walls.

Please let us know how you get on, faith is an adventure, I am sorry it has been represented to you in such a stale way and you have not found the joy in it.

springythatlldo Mon 09-Dec-13 03:30:08

I remember the moment it dawned on me that I had been spiritually abused by my parents. Ach maybe they didn't intend to but it was abuse nonetheless. I, and most of my siblings, had a rabid fear of hell. Our mother had regular migraines brought on precisely because of her terror of hell.

It makes me angry to read your OP (and also drudge's post); angry that you have been peddled some really toxic stuff in the name of God. It makes me think of the commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain and imo peddling this poison in his name is doing that.

Perhaps do an Alpha course to sort the wheat from the chaff ie what it's actually all about, not some religious fear-mongering; what Jesus did and why he did it etc.

God is lovely and over-eggs his loveliness at every turn. It is unbelievable that people can twist all that loveliness around and turn it into something so horrible. I'm so sorry that you/we have been fed this poisonous tripe. It is heartbreaking.

aroha77 Mon 16-Dec-13 17:38:50

You might find the discussion boards on http://www.ship-of-fools.com useful.

Best wishes for your searching xx

giggle78 Mon 16-Dec-13 19:17:43

I think that everyone on here has given you really good advice. There are a lot of people out there who have had a lot of junk thrown their way 'in the name of God' . There is a small number of us out there who know that he is brilliant and are sad that the church can often misrepresents Him. You can also just go in your room and ask him - that if he is real that he will show you. And if you really mean it he will. You might bump into a friend who has become a christian tomorrow or you will see a little sign - like an advert for an alpha course that you have never seen before. I promise that it may take courage to sign up for an alpha course but once you go through the doors the first night it is really really non scary. x

youretoastmildred Sun 22-Dec-13 13:16:51

i think you need to talk to someone - a person with faith, an educated understanding of it, and trained in counselling. not a missionary, determined to convert you - nor a secular shrink who regards faith as primitive - and work through it all over some time. whether or not you come through it as a christian, i think you will probably ditch the fixation on hell as detrimental to your moral / spritual development. but you will need some sensitive, educated help to get through that. good luck.

headinhands Sun 22-Dec-13 14:22:13

I find the previous posters assertion that all medical professionals are unable to set aside their personal beliefs (or lack thereof) when working very insulting. I'm sure many are Christians and are equally adept at treating individuals based on the knowledge gained via years and years of training.

Op when I was going through my loss of faith I knew I had to do the thinking for myself although I suspect talking to Christian friends wouldn't have helped once I gone even a little way along the journey. I must add though that if I'd had intrusive thoughts of a religious nature that were causing me frequent distress I would have spoken to my GP as I would about any intrusive thoughts that were affecting my well being day to day.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sun 22-Dec-13 18:09:20

I would recommend that you do a bit of studying of other religions. Find out what they belive and why. Also, try reading some of the many books which debunk religion.

You'll find most monotheistic religions have very similar stories, fears and perceived values but it may demonstrate to you that stories are all they are. No one can know for sure what happens when we die. No one can tell you. So why fear it?

Live your life according to your own values and enjoy it.

bringoutthepringles Mon 30-Dec-13 00:33:34

Have a look at The Hour of Power on Sky Atlantic. In my view, the Pastor gives inspiring sermons. You mention "things that guarantee going to hell" but Jesus came to save sinners (we are all sinners). For me, one of the most inspiring stories is that of Jesus preventing the stoning of an adulterous woman. Also, the story of him speaking to the woman by the well.

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