Experiencing a crisis of faith.

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Even as I write this I am hesitant to make this post. However, it has been on my mind for a few years now. Religion is such a volatile subject and I hope this won't stir up a hornets nest but rather this will be a calm, respectful discussion. My family was Presbyterian. I was brought up going to Sunday school from the start. When I was around 10 yr old I asked that instead of Sunday school, could I go with mom to "the big room" with her. Even then I was looking for answers. The deal in my family was you had to go to church through the 8th grade but after that it was your choice to continuing going or not. I was not satisfied with what I was hearing so I stopped. When I was in college I took several religion classes as electives; History of Religion, World Religions, etc. Though not entirely sure what I was looking for, I knew I still hadnt found any answers. I developed my own religion of sorts - prayed daily, tried to be a good person - even wore a cross around my neck - not particularly in reference of Jesus but more of a daily commitment to be a giving, kind, generous person. I even went a couple of years watching "church on TV" - that's how I viewed it. I became a big fan of Joyce Meyer - who I still think is awesome. I would say as far as religion goes I am maybe a tiny bit more knowledge than your average American. Then in 2008 my dad got sick - never really made a complete recovery and began his descent into a steady decline - his CHF which began pretty passively really started to get a hold on him. Dads last 1 1/2 years were pretty awful for him physically although his mind was still good up until his final few weeks. I adored my father. While my childhood was pretty awful largely due to my mother - and my parents dysfunction relationship with each other - once I hit my 20's I was able to get past it in regards to my dad. My father was my best friend for the last 30 years of his life. We talked on the phone daily and were as close as any father/daughter can be. My father was always there for me - as well as my disabled son (who is named after his grandpa) he was there for my mother and my brothers too - although neither brother could get past our childhood and was never close to daddy. As far as I'm concerned this was my brothers loss and they never saw my dad for the amazing man he was. This hurt my father - he had tried for so long to make it up to my brothers - for the crappy childhood - and my heart broke for my dad. In the last month I prayed for God to take my father - i couldn't stand to see him suffering and I knew that it was what my father wanted - to end his suffering, to end being the weak helpless person he had become / he hated it. When my dad passed he was in a strange place and alone - it's a long story but in short my mother had him taken to a hospice center behind my back - on the one day in over two months that I couldn't go over to spend the day with him - I will never forgive her for this. My father vehemently did not want to go anywhere like that - he wanted to be at home and I had hired help for 18 hours a day and was in the process of making it 24 hours a day when mom had him moved. Mom did none of the care taking of dad. Okay - so my crisis of faith: why does it have to be like it is for so many of our loved ones as they age? It's painful both mentally and physically. They are robbed of their dignity, their independence, their minds, on and on in the most degrading ways possible. Where is Gods loving mercy? What is it we are meant to learn that has to be taught in the most heinous way possible? While I didn't really expect daddy to contact me from the other side I guess I did expect to feel his presence in some way - as close as we were. There is a thread going now - it's quite beautiful really - of story after story of long passed friends and relatives appearing to gently and lovingly help our loved ones "go home". Some even think Jesus himself is showing up. I'm not meaning to discount thoses stories - but could it be people are telling themselves this is what happens as a way of comforting themselves and their passing loved ones? This whole bit of being reunited - doesn't it make it easier on everyone to believe it's true? But what if when your dead - your just dead, gone? I just feel my dad is gone - forever gone. I've heard it said that faith is believing in something when there is no proof. I feel like I have lost faith. The whole "God works in mysterious ways. God has a plan" just doesn't do it for me any longer. What plan could possibly mean a good man - a man who took care of everyone in his life had to suffer in the most painful and degrading ways imaginable? I guess some of the Sunday school fire and brimstone lessons have stuck - I practically find myself looking over my shoulder for a lightening bolt as I write this. But beyond that?

140 Comments

Rainmon, glad you wrote this as I feel the same way. Why would God allow our elders to suffer like this, and in turn the rest of the family is suffering right along.

I wanted to remember my Mom as that alert smart women, not someone who didn't know who she was and was in a coma state half the time. I am still trying to get those last day images out of my mind.

I believe in the reuniting, even though my analytical mind will try to reverse that way of thinking. I believe the "reuniting" makes it easier for us to believe that the person that died is now back with their loved ones who had passed prior.

We all were raised under different aspects of faith. I was Catholic but once my ex and I were divorced I was pretty much no longer welcomed by the church.... why go where I am not welcomed. I've been looking for something else, I want to leave a Mass/Service smiling, not feeling like I had been sinner :P
From my perspective, I hear three major questions emerging from this post.

1. Is their life after death, and if there is, how can we know there is?

2. Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?

3. If God does not have a specific plan for one's life, then how does one find purpose, meaning and direction in life?

I think you need to find a pastor who can help you with these questions.

Also, your asking questions is not going to get you struck by lightening.
freqflyer, my dad had the same kind of experience when my mother deserted him. The priest would not meet with him unless my mom also came. How cold!

I've had some painful experiences with churches myself, but have still held to my faith. I just keep remembering that not everything in the cookie jar is a cookie.
Oh I too was there at one time. By the time I lost belief, I felt the bible pounders were nuts and manipulative in their own way.
Yet, I wanted to believe. Such a nice story line! You could pretty much be a bastard 6 days out of 7, but forgiven and " blessed" on the 7th. Give me a break! Yet, I wanted to believe that I was loved so much that "someone" was willing to give their life so that I could know and be one with creation and the creator of all. It broke my heart not to know. But there was no proof-- for me. And then there was☺️! That is the clue, your life, faith and love (and trials) are yours.
My mother could never love me. Her dementia made all much worse. I disassociated my emotions from what was happening. I hired help, kept her home and kept her out of pain with hospice help. Now my husband is showing early signs. Oh my, this is a hard "ride" sometimes. Try to find joy, and love. A big gentile dog helps at night 🐾
I think you've asked some very legitimate questions, some which are perhaps the foundation for others deciding that religion does not offer the hope and relief they expected.

If you have some time, read history textbooks from pre-history, especially focusing on civilizations and how they viewed religion, or spiritual beliefs. But the texts should be on development of civilizations as well as development of the higher functions, such as the analysis of nature, weather, mathematical and scientific theories.

Compare the Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions, the latter 2 with their very humanlike gods with personality disorders and personal idiosyncracies (more like we humans). Consider the Egyptian and other earlier civilization's gods - the various functions which they were believed to control and how the people of those eras believed the gods controlled life, harvests, weather and other aspects of life for them.

The Roman (alleged) empire is especially important because of the anti-humanistic approach toward the populace, especially those of conquered countries. Juxtapose that to the preachings of Jesus Christ, and compare how a more humanistic belief developed. This I think is one of the most critical periods for the development of a philosophy that provided an alternate to the brutality of the Roman "empire".

When you view a lot of these issues from a historical perspective, it's easier to see that early peoples who knew nothing of science needed explanations for weather events, for sickness and death, for crop failures. Their system of gods explained this, including the vindictiveness of some of the gods. Their belief in these gods provided explanations that in their primitive minds made sense. Today, fortunately, we don't believe that sacrifice is necessary for a good harvest or for benevolent treatment by the "gods".

I suggest this historical study b/c it allows a person to step outside of his or her own religious background and put the issue of belief in all powerful beings in more perspective.

I assume some will probably attack these next comments, but so be it. I've always felt that we humans have until the development of scientific and mathematical explanations felt as if we were at the mercy of the elements, of nature, and often of unstable dictators or rulers (and many still are). That's a very scary thought; just reading about the overflow of the Mississippi now scares me as I see houses and roads being washed away. Nor can I imagine living in Syria or any other county with raging political and personal violence.

What person wouldn't want protection from these vagaries of life? We in advanced or post industrial countries have technological protection, up to a point. But we can't stop tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards. The thought of being at the mercy of these violent outbursts is frightening.

Some people provide for survival by stockpiling, building bunkers. Some people move to safer areas. Some people believe in a higher power. I think it's only natural to hope that there's something to protect us.

Then there's the reality, as you mentioned it, as well as the devastation caused by natural disasters or the pain of illness.

There's somewhat of a corollary to be seen in the development of civilization and a law enforcement venue. The Catholic Church played a role during times well before development of a formal police force, in creating a system of acceptable behaviors and social mores. Medieval life and development of the feudal system began to affect that role. Now we have laws, made by men and women, to govern behavior. The bad Sheriff of Nottingham no longer reigns terror over innocent civilians.

So, in today's society, where does religion fit in? Can it explain the questions you asked, to your satisfaction? If not, can anything, and I think that's where science and medical theory come into play.

As I read some of the posts here, in AARP bulletins and in news media, it's clear that facing the vagaries of 21st century life is still very uncertain, and some people rely on religion for answers. Others don't; some rely on themselves. It's difficult to accept though that we are essentially left to our own devices to protect ourselves from literally anything. For those people living in poor areas, with little chance of advancing past basic subsistence, what hope is there? Perhaps that's where their religious beliefs give them hope to belief that there's a better life after death. They certainly don't have it here.

I think the questions you pose are valid, thoughtful, insightful, and certainly worthy of analysis. I don't think there are any answers, though. I do believe each person has to decide for her or himself how much to rely on herself or himself, or whether to place faith in a deity that, as you wrote, has "mysterious ways", his/her (and I won't concede that any deity can only be male) own plans, etc.

Nor do I feel that anyone who feels as if she or he has "lost the faith" should be subject to criticism. Believe in deities or a god(s) isn't mandatory. The choice to believe in a religion is highly individual, and for many, there is no "proof".
You say you've studied religion, but aren't you just using as an example the feel good platitudes that Hollywood and the unschooled like to trot out? I don't recall the bible saying god has a plan for our lives, I know that god doesn't intervene when we face adversity (reference Job and Paul's "thorn"), and I also know we are often tested beyond our physical and mental endurance. God had a plan for Adam and Eve, but that got tossed out the window with the first sin, now we have free will. If you are christian the only plan is to have a better future in heaven, life on this earth has no guarantee.
Seeking counselling from a pastor gets you banal platitudes and bible references that boil down to the "how can you not believe, just look at the wonders of the world around you" kind of thinking. I was taught that faith is a gift of the holy spirit, so I spent many years praying for the gift of faith. I went to church hoping I might catch it through osmosis and I still receive communion in the faint hope that it may bestow a miraculous transformation. A good friend has urged me to explore other kinds of spirituality as she has found her faith outside of organized religion. Bottom line is that I don't feel it, anywhere, but I wish I could.
cwillie - the references of "God has a plan" etc are not my own but rather the standard replies I get when I ask questions like those in my original post. My all time favorite is "God only gives you what you can handle". To which my standard replies is "well then, he has certainly over-estimated me"! Like you this "faith" is something I wish I could feel.
Crisis of faith......Very good disscussion. I am not the least bit religious these days but was raised in a strict fundamentalist church. As a child I could never figure out why if God created us and loved us so much why would God let all sorts of horrible things happen to very nice people. And I was told that it was Gods will, he's testing our faith, it was all preordained and all the rest.

Life can be an ordeal. My family history is about as tragic as it gets. I understand the need to believe there's some reward beyond this life and I in no way disrespect these beliefs. I just ask that people respect my right not to believe. I'm not arrogant about this. I'm not an intellectual or educated person. I could be dead wrong. Imagine my surprise if I wake up some bright day in heaven, or hell, (more likely) and there's my town drunk uncles and all the rest of the gang!

Rain moms post is heartfelt and thoughtful as are the responces in the thread. It's a good discussion to have.
Rainmom, while I was taking care of my demented husband, I had this conversation with a well-meaning person,
"God never gives you more than you can handle."
"Poor Coy! Too bad he married me."
"Oh, no! It was perfect that he married you. You are so strong and compassionate."
"Yes, but if he'd married someone who couldn't handle his care, God wouldn't have given him dementia. He wouldn't give her something she couldn't handle, right?"

That particular saying drives me nuts!
I am so grateful to those of you who have experienced adversity and yet somehow managed to rise above it and share your wisdom with others on this site.
You inspire me to carry on.

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