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?


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.

technodad Sun 24-Feb-13 20:13:51

Fundamentally, you are not to blame for the wrongs of the church, even if you consider yourself as belonging to an established religion.

To be honest, it sounds like you are a spiritual person, with your own beliefs. Why don't you just maintain them without worrying about the nasty things that others have done.

If you believe in god, you can carry on with believing without needing to go to church or giving donations to the organisations you dislike.

I hope this helps.

CrisisOfFaith Sun 24-Feb-13 20:21:28

It does, thank you.

I think it's two separate things - that I hate what the church seems to stand for nowadays, and that I'm questioning where Jesus fits into my beliefs. I suppose they're not related really.

Cuddledup Sun 24-Feb-13 21:02:27

Crisis sorry to hear about this crisis . I can't really suggest anything but I do find the Quakers helpful - google them - you'll find them v accepting of all opinions. BTW I've just started reading The Story of God by Robert Winston in the hope it''ll answer some of the questions you've raised.

CrisisOfFaith Sun 24-Feb-13 21:12:53

It's funny you should say that Cuddled - I've just spent most of the last hour reading about the Quakers! I really like what I've read so far. They don't have communion though I think? I would be sad to not take communion anymore - though I now don't know whether that's because of the ritual or the belief behind it.

Thanks for the book recommendation - will have a look now.

IndigoBarbie Sun 24-Feb-13 21:50:00

Hey, Hpoe you are OK. I just wanted to offer some kind of virtual hugs, and when I read TechnoDad's post, I couldn't say it better than he smile

jaynebxl Sun 24-Feb-13 21:57:28

Crisis maybe this isn't going to be helpful at all but I would suggest just reading one of the gospels if you want to think about where Jesus fits in to anything. I would maybe recommend reading Mark and try to do it without any preconceived ideas but just coming in to look once again at something that is written about Jesus. I wouldn't get too hung up on trying to think through whether you believe the bible or not, or what you believe about God or the church but just get back to basics and have a fresh look at Jesus.

To be honest sometimes the church can be pretty crap but I've always thought Jesus was worth keeping a close eye on!

technodad Sun 24-Feb-13 21:59:56

I can't give you any advice regarding Jesus though, 'cos I am a died in the wool atheist, but I am glad I could help.

technodad Sun 24-Feb-13 22:00:46

But I meant "dyed" not "died"! :-)

cjel Sun 24-Feb-13 22:05:16

Reading your post I felt that you sound as if you would have the same views as Jesus. He didn't rate the churches of his day either. One of the reasons why independant churches are growing I think. I'm with jayne. I wouldn't worry about what your thinking about church, try concentrating on Jesus and how you feel your relationship with him is? The reason there is so much bad goes back to the beginning and the fall of Adam and Eve allowing evil into the world, its nothing new. Depressing but not a reason to disbelieve ? I also felt that I wanted to say to you consider how you are feeling but try not to worry about it.x

Nettee Sun 24-Feb-13 22:08:02

another book recommendation: How to be a bad Christian by Dave Tomlinson

Almost enough to bring me back to the C of E (if I could find the right Church) but the next bit of advice is to look into the Unitarians - Very flexible theology and worship based in the Christian tradition. I suspect they would not be Christian enough for you though (communion is a rare event and does not mean the same thing as in a Trinitarian Church).

nailak Sun 24-Feb-13 22:19:02

Lets look at what you do believe.

Do you believe in a creator?

Do you believe the creator is a sentient being who still has control over our actions etc now, or do you believe it is more of a natural force?

Do you believe that it is possible that a religion could be perfect, but the people who follow that religion are not perfect?

What do you believe the purpose of life is?

Do you think God had a begotten son?

If you think God is a force, is that force more in one person or is it equal in all of us?

Looking back in the scriptures were there examples of the people who represented God being corrupted and how is this explained and dealt with?

IndigoBarbie Sun 24-Feb-13 22:20:35

The thing is, I think you might need a break from listening to those around you, and just take some time out for yourself.

if God is an 'energy' then how can he be made incarnate?
I feel like I am an energy, and when I die, I will go back to being that same energy - I just won't need a body anymore. I speak from having experiences that tell me this is truth, rather than being taught it.

Please, go easy on yourself. You will figure things out in your own mind.

CrisisOfFaith Mon 25-Feb-13 12:42:53

Thanks for all your reply. I'm about to dash out but they're percolating and I'll try and give a reasoned response to them all later!

CrisisOfFaith Mon 25-Feb-13 12:43:03

Replies, even.

Januarymadness Mon 25-Feb-13 12:50:20

I feel a lot like you. I have debated this for years and I am yet to reach a conclusion that feels right. Thought I have to correct your dh on the point that people who believe in a force (or a god) can identify as atheists. By definition an atheist is without a God. Someone who believes in a deity or deities is a THEIST.

MaryBS Mon 25-Feb-13 12:52:09

No great words of wisdom, but I despair sometimes of our church, but can also see chinks of sunlight where good has been done. Jesus too despaired, and yet he kept going, even to the cross, so I try to do my bit too. Don't be too ready to chuck God out with the bath water, just think of it as a journey of exploration. Whether you believe or not will not affect whether God exists or not, but it will affect you in how you feel/think/live...

A lot more ministers have wobbles of faith than is known about, don't be afraid to talk to one if it would help, and don't be afraid of crying, its a good release when things seem tough/infathomable

niminypiminy Mon 25-Feb-13 13:59:53

I was talking quite recently with someone who is in a senior clergy position in the CofE and this person said they quite often feel like leaving because of the stupidly and wrongness of the church ... but doesn't, quite, because God is still there, and because people are still in physical and spiritual need, and need to be served. And I think Mary is right that most clergy have wobbles -- in fact, most Christians have wobbles, sometimes little ones, sometimes years where God seems to have deserted them.

Talking about it to other people who've gone through this might help, and reading might help (John Pritchard's God Lost and Found might be helpful). And, as MaryBS says, thinking of it as part of your journey -- a dark part, but one that won't last forever.

Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, when the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of being slow.


PedroPonyLikesCrisps Tue 26-Feb-13 18:41:48

I'd recommend taking some time away from the church and from other Christians for a bit as all they will do is try to reel you back in. That may be exactly what you want or what you end up doing, but wouldn't you rather come to that conclusion by yourself?

Perhaps instead of reading religious material, try to read up on some scientific stuff. As a suggestion, perhaps a Richard Dawkins (The Greatest Show on Earth is an evolutionary piece on the scale of Darwin and superbly written) or even The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking. It might just give you a different perspective on things and at the very least should help you decide what you want to believe in.

Hope that helps and good luck!

Cuddledup Wed 27-Feb-13 06:48:12

Crisis you're right the Quakers don't do communion but they go give you silence in which to think and decide what it is you want out of a church.
Some people like dogma and ritual and others don't. You don't have to join the QUakers you can just "attend" for years and years. (My mum has been attending for about 25 years and has never formally joined. In fact she knows people who still go to church / synagogue etc but come along to the QUakers every now and then.
Enjoy your journey.
BTW I've recently discovered pray as you go website (recommended on this board) and that's really really helped me. I'm someone who's spent many many years on the journey and still haven't reached a destination!!

EllieArroway Wed 27-Feb-13 09:57:30

and that lots of people who agree with me that there was some force responsible for the creation of the universe call themselves atheists

This isn't to bash you, more for information, really.

I haven't ever personally met any atheist who thinks that there's a "force" responsible for the creation of the universe, not in the way you mean. Science has no idea what, if anything, caused the universe to come into existence. There's no evidence at all that's even suggestive of a "force", whether it's a deistic one or a naturalistic one so any belief you have on the matter is down to your own emotional need for one, not any objective fact.

Personally, I would suggest that your journey towards "figuring it all out" should begin with looking at what we do know scientifically - and that manages to be rather a lot and not much all at the same time. Which is helpful, huh?!

But none of this has anything to do with how churches behave - even the most disgracefully hypocritical evangelists could be right in their beliefs (although I sincerely and deeply doubt it).

So, my advice would be - begin at the beginning. Ask yourself, with regard to a God like figure who created the universe, "Is this likely to be true?". If you conclude that you feel it is, then you are free to look at all churches and find one that fits best what you believe, and worships in a way you feel comfortable with. There's no right or wrong on this issue. (Well, there is, but I doubt you'd care to listen at this stage).

CrisisOfFaith Wed 27-Feb-13 12:09:15

Sorry for the delay in getting back to this.

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...

CrisisOfFaith Wed 27-Feb-13 12:10:20

I should add, I really appreciate all the responses here. It is a relief to have a conversation about it that is in no way judgy! (Or at least, if you are judging me, you're not letting on grin)

CrisisOfFaith I am sorry to hear how unhappy you are. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years (mostly C or E) and I know what you mean. I struggle with the church and how it is, and the world and how it is.

I can't offer a magic solution except to say that for me God is the creator, he created your brain and your amazing mind, your heart that has compassion and sees the world and wants it to be better.

I would just talk to God quietly, to Jesus and bring these things to him, one at a time, (I often like to pray in the bath) and just leave each one with him and ask for guidance in how this should impact on you.

I too feel sure that Jesus would say to the church/churches what about the hungry, when I said feed them, what about the widows and orphans and all the rest that the Bible talks about. Loads of passages in the Bible about justice but people are very hung up on a couple of references to homosexuel sex!

Please don't allow this worry to steal your joy or peace of mind. You do not need to answer to the whole world about what you believe in. I think if you can find that peace which you have had before with God you can deal with all the shit of life, and maybe you can also make your own small contribution to being a part of the bigger picture. I am sure you are a loving and caring person, or this would not trouble you so much.

Whatever you do, please do keep talking to God because ultimately I think you will find that peace there. I often feel I do not have the answer but life is not about answers, it is about relatonships. In my old very evangelical days I might have said 'I don't have the answers but I know someone who does!' Now I think I would just say 'I don't have the answers.' Or if you want the long version .... "But not knowing the answers does not stop me loving and being loved and t does not stop me making my life the best life it can be and touching other lives in the best way I can.'

I hope you find peace.

I agree that Church and Faith are two seperate things. For every Christian there is a personal relationship between them and their Creator and Saviour. The Church is an organisation, a building. Your faith is at the centre of you, reflecting what you know in your heart about yourself and what you feel to be true.

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


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?

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?


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

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:

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.

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.

BonfireOfKleenex Sat 02-Mar-13 12:18:40

It's not true to say that science has nothing to do with feelings. Neuropsychology, for example, includes the scientific study of feelings, emotions, and behaviour.

And the stereotype of scientists being emotionally stunted boffins waving steaming test tubes is just that, a stereotype!

amillionyears Sat 02-Mar-13 13:04:15

One of my sons is a scientist. I know a bit about scientists!

BonfireOfKleenex Sat 02-Mar-13 13:11:13

Niminypiminy - you say "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."

Does religion have a monopoly on wonder and awe? Science presenters have (for many years) expressed wonder and awe at things which actually exist - is this morally suspect? They are also providing credible, verifiable, educational information about those things - is that somehow impertinent?

I agree that the media selects charismatic science presenters - but then that's showbiz, innit. You also get charismatic TV chefs, interior designers, talent show presenters and contestants etc. Oh and charismatic priests - maybe there really is a connection there.

Don't find that Guardian article convincing, sorry. Some of the comments underneath point out some of the intellectual gaps, if you have time to read them (I haven't read through them all).

As an example, she writes "To the popular neuroscientists, our minds are not tools of lofty reason but nerve cells in a lump of meat." confused Does she really think that 'popular neuroscientists' believe that human brains are NOT capable of 'lofty reasoning'? She just comes across as a bit muddled and paranoid about people trampling on what she seems to think is 'gods territory'.

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 16:22:42

amillionyears - One of my sons is a scientist. I know a bit about scientists!

No you don't, you know a bit about a scientists, it doesn't mean you know about all scientists.

niminypiminy - 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.

I didn't asert it at all in that first post, you are seeing thinks when they don't exist.

I didn't respond to your post because I don't really know what you are trying to say. If you are infering that athiesm (scientists) are creating their own belief system, then you are talking bollox and don't understand (or choose not to let yourself understand) the scientific method. If you are saying that science can't replace religion because it doesn't act as a moral compass, then I would ask, why do we need religion as a morale compass in the first place.

amillionyears - 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.

These are just baseless meaningless words, written in a confusing circular argument. They don't further the discussion at all, because you don't provide any form of evidence. Just because stuff it written in an old book, it doesn't make them true.

nightlurker Sat 02-Mar-13 17:30:32

I think the whole scientist religion thing is a moot point. I can't speak for others, but I would be in a very difference place if I were an atheist. I probably would have pursued a job as a professor in order to be on the cutting edge of research.

If others are like me, it makes sense to me that a higher percentage of professors would not believe in God, when compared to the general population. When professors do not believe, they can pass that bias on to their students, more especially in fields such as psychology, history, and anthropology.

I don't think you can pin down any definite cause and effect in this matter. There are too many factors that go into what we ultimately become.

amillionyears Sat 02-Mar-13 17:42:37

technodad, with respect, you twisted my words there. Not sure if you meant to or not.

Yes, I do know a bit about scientists.
My son works with other scientists, and he is one, so hence "I know a bit about scientists".
I didnt say I know about all scientists, Nor did I mean that.

technodad. sorry I cant remember if I have talked about evidence with you before on here or someone else.
On a couple of other threads, I have said that no, there is not physical evidence. Because faith is all about believing something that cannot be proven.

My son is a Christian scientist btw.
If his career came into conflict with Christianity[though I cant see quite in his case how it would] then I very much hope that his faith would win out, no matter what the consequences.

IWantATowel Sat 02-Mar-13 18:08:55

Hi op, are you still there? my faith in God is not based on how people in church choose to behave but on my personal relationship with Jesus Christ; when I am struggling I go to God by reading His word and crying out to Him in prayer. It's hard when people at the front say contentious things but remember, that's all they are, people. People get it wrong.

CrisisOfFaith Sat 02-Mar-13 18:32:33

Hi everyone, I'm still here smile I'm reading everyone's responses and finding them really interesting, if a bit hard to take at some points. I'm reading 'God is Not Great' at the moment which is fascinating (and much better written than anything by Dawkins in my opinion) and in turns making me go 'of course he's right! There's no God!' and 'of course he's wrong! There's a God!' So overall I'm not sure it's helping me come to a conclusion but at least it's fuelling the discussion between Christian me, confused me and sceptical me...

I can't respond to everything everyone's posted, but to answer some questions, yes I'm praying about it (at the same time as wondering if there's anyone listening) and I'm also trying to read as much as possible. I think somebody suggested reading one of the Gospels but I'm struggling a lot with the fact that the gospels seem quite contradictory of each other, and wondering whether anything in the Bible can really be claimed to be representing God/Jesus' words/ideas as it was written by men, usually well after the event, with bias, etc etc.

So far I think my best bet is talk to God direct, even while feeling cynical about it, ignore the church(es), read on the matter from Christians and atheists alike, and try not to worry about it. The last one might be less easy to achieve!

This thread is helping though, even when it dissolves a little bit into 'I believe this/why/why not/you're wrong/no I'm not'! It's really good to get other people's perspectives, so thank you all for that, I appreciate it a lot.

amillionyears Sat 02-Mar-13 18:36:38

Hi op.
There is a verry important verse in the bible that says "All scipture is inspired by God". I dont know if you know that verse.
I think it is in the book of Timothy.

I don't know if this website might help CrisisofFaith as finding other people on the same sort of journey can be helpful.

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 18:53:22

Hi Crisis

Did you manage to watch the video which I posted the link to at 8:10 ish this morning. I highly recommend it.

CrisisOfFaith Sat 02-Mar-13 20:09:19

I did, though I confess I got bored about halfway through. I was rather struggling to see his argument. Science is important in lots of ways...I don't think anyone would disagree with him! It also seemed an odd message for a room full of scientists (and, randomly, comedians). I'd have been more interested if he was saying 'these are the challenge facing scientists today and here's how I think we should face them', or 'these are the areas we most urgently need to fund and why' or 'this is how we could get young people interested in science'. An 'argument' that 'science is important' just seemed a bit unnecessarily obvious!

CrisisOfFaith Sat 02-Mar-13 20:13:22

thegreenheart that is a fascinating blog-thank you so much for the link. I looked at the title and immediately thought 'Oh God, not evangelism!' (the whole playing tambourines and dancing kind of praise has always filled me with horror I'm afraid to say, as does the telling atheists they're going to hell bollocks that some evangelicals I've had the misfortune to meet have been rather keen on) so I was interested and relieved that actually it's nothing like that at all!

technodad Sat 02-Mar-13 20:20:45

Dara O'Brien has a PhD in Particle Physics (or something like that). He is a credible scientist.

It does go on a bit towards the end I admit, but the first 10 mins really says a lot to me.

CoteDAzur Sat 02-Mar-13 20:22:40

"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."

The science of feelings is called Psychology.

I see a couple of posters have mentioned the Quakers to you as a group that could be interesting or helpful to you ATM.

I found the Quakers in my twenties (having been C of E'ish growing up !)

You'll find they value the christian tradition from which they originally grew (in the 17th century), and yet there's plenty of space and support to explore very freely ... following "the promptings of love and truth in your heart" - from the first of our "Advices and queries")

I'd just say see it all as part of your life and spiritual journey. There doesn't have to be any abrupt ending or loss of anything, you can just continue on your path of exploration of love and truth and see where it takes you !

Wishing you peace, courage, and every blessing thanks

CrisisOfFaith Sat 02-Mar-13 20:25:22

I thought that about D o'B too, but I think it's a myth! (Sadly, I rather like the idea.) He did study Maths and Physics at UCD though.

CrisisOfFaith Sat 02-Mar-13 20:27:17

I've got a few books on the Quakers that are next on my list-I like the look of them and their openmindedness a lot. They seem very grounded compared to some other religions!

You'd always get a warm welcome (I hope !)

Many people have described finding Friends (or Quakers) as like "coming home" - but then most faiths make welcoming invitations and encouraging noises to seekers I guess wink

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 03-Mar-13 10:30:40

"All scripture is inspired by God"

That clearly settles it then. Whilst we're on the subject though I'd like to point your attention to the Book of Pedro which I have right here which clearly states that all my posts are inspired by the Purple Snuff-goblin which orbits the Earth just behind the International Space Station.

So that means that everything I post must be true, I guess....

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 03-Mar-13 10:34:11

God Is Not Great is a fabulous book by the way. Hitchens was one of the greatest journalists, intellectuals and debaters I've ever had the pleasure of reading and listening to. A sad loss to humanity.

amillionyears Sun 03-Mar-13 12:19:03

"All scripture is inspired by God" matters to the op.
I agree that it will not matter much to you at present.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 03-Mar-13 13:33:18

Why should a claim of that scale mean more to one person than another? If it's true, then it should matter to everyone, if it's not, then it shouldn't matter to anyone.

Either way, it should be quite clear that a text who's only claim to truth is that it says so within itself is a fundamentally flawed argument with circular reasoning.

amillionyears Sun 03-Mar-13 13:36:25

Ideally it would mean much to everyone.
Sadly, it doesnt.
I would be very happy indeed if it meant something to you.

EllieArroway Sun 03-Mar-13 17:51:41

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

Indeed not. Science is worldwide. There are statistically far fewer religious scientists than there are religious people within the general population of any country. When you focus on the "life scientists" there are fewer still. Focus again on the very elite scientists, those that are very highly educated & have reached giddy heights in science then the percentage of religious believers is very tiny.

Like it or not, the more educated a person (particularly in science) the greater the tendency to atheism. Don't like that - tough. But kindly don't call me ignorant for being more clued up than you. Thanks.

(This does not mean there are no religious scientists, btw. I shouldn't have to point that out, but some people on this thread are not inclined to see what I'm actually saying).

EllieArroway Sun 03-Mar-13 17:58:25

Crisis God Is Not Great is a good book - but something more accessible that answers immediate questions (without the Dawkins confrontational style) is Atheist Universe by David Mills.

And good for you for questioning & thinking. Nothing wrong with that.

How's it going Crisis - hope you are feeling more peaceful.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now