Believing in God(90 Posts)
On an earlier thread I asked where does belief in God come from? I got lots of really helpful replies, recommended reading, and people telling me the stories of how they came to believe.
The more I read (and talk to people - though that part still makes me squirm a bit!) the more I come across the view that you can't reason your way to faith. You can rationalise it when you get there but the faith part seems to be pretty much you either feel it or you don't.
Which is depressing, because I want to feel it but I can't. And I have no idea really how MN can help me with this one or why I've started another thread on this topic except that I have no-one to talk to in RL about this and lots of you have been really nice to me before.
What is it that you think you will get from a faith? Psychological comfort, belonging to a group, something else? Is there some way you can fulfil those needs which doesn't involve somehow making yourself believe something you don't currently accept to be true?
That's a good question. It's not about belonging; I am fortunate to have a loving family, good friends, solid connections in my local community and in the wider LGBT community that cumulatively make me feel secure. Comfort, I'm not so sure either. Again I'm fortunate in not having any reason to need comforting right now. I do think about my mortality but not because I am focused on the afterlife but just because I want the impact of my life on earth to have been positive and I'm not sure I've done enough good things (though I try hard to - I have a strong sense of 'Christian' morality; it's just the Christ part I'm not getting).
It's simply that I feel simultaneously drawn to the church and a lack of understanding of why that should be. So I am 'seeking' but not finding.
Which bits do you struggle with, regarding your belief?
I think a good starting point for exploring what faith you might already have, is to check yourself to see how much of what Jesus stood for, you believe in, rather than obsessing over how much you of the more 'supernatural' stuff you believe is true. I think this might take the 'pressure' off your belief initially.
If it is the 'supernatural' element that bothers you, maybe a look at how amazing and intricate our world is from a scientific perspective might help. It might sound extraordinary (going on some if the conversations I have had with atheists) but I read New Scientist every week for about a couple of years and found my faith developing alongside this!
I think your interest is a fantastic starting point to just to explore and see what happens.
Bible study alongside prayer I have found good too. Romans 10:17 says,
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
I find this site good as it lets you look up loads of different translations, some in very modern English, so you can find one that is most accessible to you.
Anyone have any views on this? app.nowachristian.org/#/welcome
Hi TooBusyByHalf. Bless you, you obviously have a hunger for God.
If you find emails and texts and things to remind you to do stuff a good idea, then maybe this will work for you (this app). My only caution is that it does not say where it is from. And that makes me suspicious. You have no idea what type of theological viewpoint it comes from.
Have you found a church you like?
I think that is a priority even if you do not feel you beieve everything or even anything yet!
How about finding a gentle book about seeking God. As I have got older I have found the slightly more contemplative way suits me.
Maybe try this....
Finding your hidden treasure Benignus O'Rourke
I also like Listening to God by Joyce Hugget
But couple that with a gentle, no pressure, fellowship who will just let you seek and be.
I sometimes think we are more about what we do than what we think about or what we believe, these things do change with time, sometimes we can 'do' things like sit quietly, or enjoy nature, or listen to a gardening programme and we find these things have permeated us. Of course what we believe matters but sometimes when we throw ourselves generously into life and friendships we find they come to mean more to us, and a friendship with Jesus can be a bit like that, IMHO.
Feel free to ask me anything by private message if you wish. I am an evangelical who has gone a bit liberal, is affirming of committed gay relationships, is a mum, is married, and sometimes does outreach (as well you know!)
I've not come across it, but it looks like an interesting project. I like the idea of emails on dealing with crap -- could use some help dealing with that!
Another place with good information/resources is ReJesus or its sister site Mystic Christ.
When I was exploring the (incredibly scary) idea that I might believe in God, two things made a big difference. One was reading some proper, intelligent, theologically-sophisticated stuff -- I know we've already talked about that TooBusybyHalf. I'm an academic and I could not, no way, assent to something that didn't stand up intellectually. I didn't reason myself into faith exactly, but I did really need to think about it very, very carefully.
The other thing that made a difference was beginning to pray. At first these were along the lines of 'God give me patience' because I was going through a difficult patch in my life. But gradually my praying changed. I started to say the Lord's Prayer (which was the only prayer I knew, and I scarcely know how I knew that, having come from a hardline atheist background). I would talk to God. Gradually I started to be silent.
Praying really changed things. It's not that I suddenly had a 'leap of faith'. It's more that praying became part of my life - an essential part of my life. And I realised that the quality of it had changed. It wasn't like talking to a dead phone line; there was somebody there, even though they weren't saying much! It was simply that the quality of the silence had changed -- if you like, to a loving, listening silence.
So I would say, one of the best things you could do if you want to explore what belief might be like is to try praying. It probably will feel silly at first (I used to blush every time at first even when I was alone). I found this book very useful helping me to know what I was doing and giving me pointers in how to pray -- after all, I'd never been taught! -- and I still refer back to it.
Caps It's definitely the 'supernatural' parts that I find hard rather than anything in Jesus' teachings themselves (though of course I'm not very good at giving away all my worldly possessions).
Italian Hi. thank you. That app is from 'churcharmy' who seem to be evangelical anglicans, so although I'd be more liberal than evangelical I doubt the theology would be seriously off would it?
I signed up when I posted it earlier, but the welcome email came through when DP was looking at my/our email, laughed, assumed it was spam, forwarded it to a friend as a joke, and deleted it. I have unsubscribed! (I will resubscribe from work which will be more private). That raises a whole other question about how on earth I would tell DP about any of this.
Finding a church raises the same problem. I have been to the church next to work (which is a touristy inner city church) quite a bit just for the quiet. I even went to lunchtime communion there last week. I haven't plucked up courage to talk to anyone there though, and I certainly haven't told anyone in RL that I went.
And I know the vicar of my local church (she has a dog - all dog people know each other!) and have been there once or twice (Christmas, when my parents were visiting). She is lovely and the church is a kind of middle of the road place that would probably suit me. I'm sure it's very inclusive. BUT I can't imagine going to a service there on a Sunday because I'd have to tell DP and the DCs where I was going. They would be horrified.
Thank you very much for the advice and the book recommendations I will try them.
Niminy Thank you. You were the first person who replied to me last time and I was so so grateful as you seemed to have been exactly where I am now. I remember all your advice very well! I have read Unapologetic - most of it twice - and really enjoyed his approach. I think I've read most of rejesus too. I have a small stack of other things though I admit I still haven't read Tokens of Trust.
I have tried to pray but I finding it hard. It is like a dead phone line at the moment for me! I will persevere.
Did you find it hard to tell your atheist family? Did you wait until you were sure or early on? And were/are they accepting?
It feels worse than the first coming out!
Too, re I doubt the theology would be seriously off would it? Not to me, but then I am an Anglican! I am sure if it is Anglican it is fine.
With regard to prayer, you know sometimes I think it is a bit like talking to yourself but you know someone else is listening!
As far as telling people, in you shoes I would wait until you are more sure of what you want to say. It's part of guarding your own heart and allowing yourself to explore without to defend your own explorations if you think your family will be hostile to it all.
All i can say, Too is it is worth it.
I think if you are drawn to the church it is enough, there is all kind of reasons to go to church. I even know an atheist who went to church every sunday simply because she like the atmosphere and how it made her feel. Why don't you talk about it to the vicar you know if you get along well?
TooBusyByHalf it is seriously easier in my family to come out as gay than as a Christian - my lesbian sister said that! It was bloody hard, and it was also really difficult telling my atheist friends and colleagues. I must admit I was (and am) very cowardly and did a lot of mumbling.
I think though, that because they love me, my family have had to change their attitudes a bit. For some of them I am the only real life Christian they know, and I hope I give them a different model of what being a Christian means than they got from reading The God Delusion!
It's worth it, totally worth it for me. Most of the time the phone line is silent and I have quite a lot of times when so fe like well, it probably is dead, it's just me talking to empty space. But when you get a sense of God being there, loving, showing you a glimpse of himself/herself - it is life-changing.
why don't you talk about it to the vicar you know
I have no sense about the etiquette of that. I have an idea, justified or not I don't know, that vicars run around all day rushed off their feet ministering to the sick and visiting nursing homes and doing a million and one other things. I wouldn't want to be another thing to have to fit in. If I emailed her to say 'can I meet you for a coffee to talk about God' it would be cringingly embarrassing wouldn't it (for her as well as me)? How else would such a conversation come about?
Hi, TooBusy. As I said over on the prayer thread, I've been where you are now (including the totally uncomprehending partner) and know how it feels.
You've had loads of good advice already that I will try not to repeat. What I'd add is that it may help to remember that your relationship with God is, precisely, a relationship, and like any relationship it develops and changes over time. It's OK to be cautious at first and to allow things to build from there. I'm sure there are people out there who've had Damascene Conversion type experiences, but it doesn't have to be all bells and whistles and a big voice from the sky. I started out just letting the experience of being in church wash over me and enjoying the chance for some reflection and quiet and a bit of singing and I have no idea at what point in that process of letting it wash over me I really felt that I believed what I was saying, but it happened. During that period, I really felt that I wanted to pray, but I felt somehow that I didn't have 'the right' to do so - to talk to someone in whom I only half believed. Like niminy, I stuck to well-worn paths - the Lord's Prayer and a snippet of a prayer I'd learned at school (slightly ruined for me by the 'Grace' scene in 'Meet the Parents' ) which ends '...may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly'. I slowly realised that that really summed up what I wanted: to know, love and follow God; but I also realised that those three things could develop simultaneously: just as we find things out about our partners by living with them and sometimes find ourselves surprised by them even after many years, we can enter a relationship with God without knowing all there is to know about him (even if that were possible) or about being a Christian. I think it's OK to say 'there are things I'm not sure about here - things I still need to explore - but they need not prevent me starting to build that relationship.
Initially, I avoided the issue with my DH as I was temporarily living abroad with the DC but without him when I first started going to church, but when I came back to the UK I told him very simply that I wanted to continue going to church. I accept that he doesn't like it, particularly, but I think that he sees it as a slightly incomprehensible hobby that he doesn't share (like golf, or knitting...). I reassured him that I wasn't going to start quoting the Bible at him at every opportunity or trying to convert him, and nor was I going to become a raging homophobe. All I asked of him was that he not mock religion actively in front of the DC (he can be as disparaging as he likes with me). The DC have been allowed to make up their own minds about it: one is an atheist and the other has chosen to be baptised and confirmed - their own decisions. So DH isn't particularly happy, but he has seen, I think, that I am still fundamentally 'me', and in some ways I'm happier and calmer than before, so he accepts it.
I'm sorry for waffling, but I hope this helps a bit. Thinking of you, TooBusy.
What is that expression again about how if you watch a kettle the water will never boil? (Sorry English is not my first language and I always get expressions slightly wrong!)...anyway, I think waiting for faith to come to you is the same.
I am not a Christian but I am very committed to another religion (and active in my community), and I think that is a very big part of it: go often, do stuff, get active, and in the middle of all this, I think faith (and a love for faith itself) is very likely to settle.
I think you should have a good think about how to talk to your partner. On the one hand I think you might gather courage and strength and confidence by getting active in your church and then when your faith has built up you might find it easy to talk to her and the children, HOWEVER I would not recommend this because it means going behind her back which would do more harm than good.
So I would speak to her - with love and trust.
As a priest one of the best bits of my job is meeting up with people in coffee shops and talking about God. So don't worry about it sounding odd. Makes a lovely change from admin and roars.
Rotas. The wonderful world of predictive text!
Hehe I was wondering what you meant by it, but had assumed it was definitely a 'thing'.
X post. I was just going to post that the vicar would probably love to have a coffee and talk about how people come to believe in God, rather than go to another admin meeting.
Re prayer - a friend of mine used to call himself an "If" Christian. He had lots of doubts and saw himself as on a journey rather than being there, so he used to begin his prayers, and his thinking with the word if. Sort of "Dear God, if you are there, then please could I ask about X" or "If you really mean the bit in the Bible about Y, then please could you help me to get my head around that" "If I were a Christian, then what would I think about Z?" It's an approach I've found helpful too in grappling with questions of faith and day to day life.
Thank you everyone. I get it; I'm trying too hard. I need to slow down and contemplate more and feel more, and pray more. I'm a very solutions focused person - it's all about the outcome with me (not just this, in life generally I mean). I need to make this about the process instead; will work on that!
And maybe then I'll get to the outcome.
I will try to pluck up courage also to (i) talk to DP about (ii) going to the local church one Sunday (me not her obviously!) and when I've done that I might be feel able to (iii) approach the vicar. Very glad to hear that you all think that she won't be to wierded out by that.
It is so reassuring hearing from you all because I feel in a very lonely place over this issue, so thank you again for all your help and advice; I really do appreciate it.
Faith is not a feeling.
Faith is to believe who God says he is, what he says about sin, what he says about eternity, what he says about everything, and to act on it, stand on it, and base you whole existence around it.
But you need to start somewhere, Reeky. A person 'feeling' their way in can be the beginning of faith.
Hi Reekypear how did you come to believe in those things? (if indeed you do, but your post kind of implies that).
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