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My Faith: Returning to church, despite my doubts
Andrea Palpant Dilley as a child with her missionary family Kenya.
May 5th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Faith: Returning to church, despite my doubts

Editor's note: Andrea Palpant Dilley is the author of “Faith and Other Flat Tires.”

By Andrea Palpant Dilley, Special to CNN

During my junior year in college, I took a butter knife from my mother’s kitchen  and scraped the Christian fish decal off the back bumper of the Plymouth hatchback I’d inherited from my older brother. Stripping off that sticker foreshadowed the day, a few years later, that I would walk out of church.

The reasons for my discontent were complicated. By most standards, I had a healthy childhood.  I grew up the daughter of Quaker missionaries in a rural Kenyan community that laid the foundation for my faith. I spent the rest of my childhood in the Pacific Northwest, raised in a stable Presbyterian church that gave me hymns and mission trips and potluck dinners.

I was surrounded by smart, conscientious Christians, the kind of people who read 19th century Russian novels and took meatloaf to firefighters when much of eastern Washington state went up in flames in the fall of 1991.

When I started into my skeptic phase, my Christian community gave me space to struggle. They listened to my doubts about faith. They took my questions seriously.

And yet when I turned 23 I left the church.

Listening to a sermon at my older brother’s church one Sunday, I stood up, leaned over to my father and said, “This is bulls**t.” I made my way to the end of the pew and marched out of the sanctuary. The sermon didn’t sit right with me. The pastor was preaching about Psalm 91, saying in so many words that a person just needed to pray and have faith in order to be protected from suffering.

More than just that sermon, I was sick of church. I was sick, too, of all the spiritual questions plaguing me: Why does the church seem so culturally insulated and dysfunctional? Why does God seem distant and uninvolved? And most of all, why does God allow suffering?

These questions didn’t come out of nowhere. I’d spent time in high school volunteering in refugee camps in Kenya and in college working with families on welfare in central Washington. I saw hungry babies. I walked into homes that were piled with garbage and dirty laundry.

In an orphanage in the slums of Nairobi, I held AIDS babies and worked with disabled kids who’d been left at the front gates of the orphanage by parents who couldn’t afford to feed them. I saw things that I couldn’t make sense of as a Christian.

Walking out of church was a way of saying “To hell with it; I’m done.”

For two years, I skipped church. My Bible gathered dust on the shelf. The local bars became my temples. I indulged in the cliché rebellions of a Christian girl, smoking cigarettes and drinking hard alcohol. I got involved with men twice my age without thinking twice about it.  I wanted a break from being “good.”

And then, strangely, I woke up one morning at age 25, climbed into my car, and drove downtown to attend a 10 a.m. church service. I won’t relate here the whole story of how I came back to the church. But if I had to follow the standard testimonial narrative for Christians, the script for my life story would go something like this:

Step 1: Grow up in a Christian church.

Step 2: Go off to college away from said church.

Step 3: Be exposed to the enticements of secular life.

Step 4: Try drugs and cigarettes and Pearl Jam.

Step 5: Leave the church because of aforementioned enticements.

Step 6: Experience epiphany; realize vapidness of secular enticements.

Step 7: Return to church with penitent heart.

Step 8: Reestablish faith, discover good living.

In reality, I left the church more because of my own internal discontent than the lure of so-called secular life. When I came back, I still carried that same discontent. I was confused, and still bothered by questions and doubts. I stayed in the back row and didn’t sing or pray. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to be there.

And yet I sat there, Sunday after Sunday, listening to the pastor and the organ pipes and trying to figure out what was going on in my dark, conflicted heart.

Although I never experienced that dramatic reconversion moment, I did come to peace with two slow-growing realizations.

First: My doubt belonged in church.

People who know my story ask what I would have changed about my spiritual journey. Nothing. I had to leave the church to find the church. And when I came back, the return wasn’t clean or conclusive. Since then, I’ve come to believe that my doubts belong inside the space of the sanctuary. My questions belong on the altar as my only offering to God.

With all its faults, I still associate the church with the pursuit of truth and justice, with community and shared humanity. It’s a place to ask the unanswerable questions and a place to be on sojourn. No other institution has given me what the church has: a space to search for God.

Second: My doubt is actually part of my faith.

In Mark 9:24, a man says to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.” The Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor called this the foundation prayer of faith. I pray that prayer often and believe that God honors my honesty.

I also believe God honors my longing. The writer and theologian Frederick Buechner said “Faith is homesickness.” C.S. Lewis called it “Sehnsucht,” a longing for a far-off country. I feel that sense of unshakable yearning. It comes from the deepest part of my heart, a spiritual desire that’s strangely, mysteriously connected to my doubt.

Sitting in church every Sunday, my doubt is my desire – to touch the untouchable, to possess the presence of God.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Andrea Palpant Dilley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • My Faith • Opinion

soundoff (3,753 Responses)
  1. AtheistDude

    so basically her brain only functioned for two brief years beween ages of 23 and 25?? wow. evolution works in mysterious ways! oh well

    May 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • edwardo

      Look at that picture of her. You can tell, there's not a full deck there.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Her husband looks a little g'Amish

      May 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • DifferentAtheistDude

      It's atheists like you that make the rest of us look like angry, heartless morons.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Get Real

      The picture is of her parents and the author's family when she was a kid.

      Snarkiness is not a pleasant quality.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      OOOP's Sorry! Her father looks a little g'Amish

      May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @DifferentAtheistDude says:
      "It's atheists like you that make the rest of us look like angry, heartless morons."

      Get over yourself dude! What in the world is so wrong with having a little fun? You need to learn to laugh at yourself first then humor follows.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • si tate

      AtheistDude is right on. So much for supposing that the writer of this article possesses true and honest intelligence. Firstly, growing up in a missionary family is absolutely not normal. How many cultures including our own Native Americans, the Inuits as well as thousands of cultures the world over, have been completely destroyed by such 'holier than thou' believers who covertly brainwashed others to their own beliefs while under the guise of performing acts of humanitarianism.
      An intelligent person would investigate and study such subjects as 'the history of god(s)', how and when and why jesus was proclaimed divine, the necessity for and the plot of creating the 'trinity', the role of religion in political manipulation of the masses and so on. I was once a nun,16 years of catholic education always questioning the the reality of such nonsense as was taught by the church. Finally at age 60 when I had time and resources at hand, I delved into the history of god(s), religions, mythology, belief systems, and the human needs of that 'crutch' that religion and/or belief in a god comes to provide. There is also the consolation of our lives being lived for an ultimate reason, when in reality, once we are dead .......we are dead. No big deal. Get used to it. There is no afterlife, no making amends for the poor decisions one makes during life. There is no reuniting with loved ones as is promised. It is all a crutch. I suppose if one needs this crutch to cope with life, then one must do what one must do. More than one born again christian has made that committment as a result of the desperate need to curb a personal vice or habit such as alcohol. It is a common trend. That is all well and good. The problem becomes, however, those who adopt their crutch then feel compelled to force it upon anyone else who will listen. Throughout history from the beginning of time, this problem has been and still remains the ultimate cause of discontent and warring peoples. Keep your crutches to yourselves! Your crutch is tripping others!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  2. Dave Harris

    This young lady got a heavy dose of religion from her upbringing. That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. People who were not so indoctrinated have a much easier time letting it go, getting comfortable with the notion that religion doesn't just seem false and absurd, it really is false and absurd. But if you need it, you're hooked. It's not about religion anymore, it's about your needs. Good luck with all that.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • chefdugan

      Your absolutely right, and so was she when she finally realized it was a bunch of BS. The weak, pathetic people who need someone to tell them what to feel and how to live are okay with me as long as they don't try to s hove th eir beliefs down my throat, a failing they can't seem to avoid. My mother was an ordanined minister so I grew up with that crap until one day I did what she did and walked out. Its been over 60 years and I haven't missed a thing.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Your belief that religion is false and absurd doesn't mean that it is really false and absurd.

      May 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  3. mr blip on a screen

    We keep having to think our creator was this man or woman called God of course no one knows for sure ,it's
    the greatest story ever told ,anyway it shows with this person writing here has become what my mama said
    "As you get old you become everything your parents wanted from you when you were young" could be we
    don't know anything about who created life and designed that cool bug the mosquito ,what a design sure
    beats my Harley.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • edwardo

      Who designed the designer? If it takes a god to make something from nothing, it would take a god...to create a god.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • JM

      It takes a god to create a god?

      How do you know that? Are you god?

      That is just illogical. If you can't yet prove something that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

      Because people hadn't discovered DNA for centuries didn't mean it didn't exist. Man's viewpoint is miniscule.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • edwardo

      @JM – the notion that you can't prove something doesn't exist, doesn't mean it does. There would have been no reason to believe DNA existed long ago. It would have been nonsense. However, it is a tangible thing. It does exist, and finally someone proved it does. The burden of proof was on scientists, they presented, and won their case. So, present your case! Prove a god exists. At this point in time it is unreasonable to believe it. Therefore, I do not believe it !

      May 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Bogie

      @JM
      Just because you can't prove something exists doesn't mean that its not actually real = logical fallacy.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  4. eqgold

    Why believe something for which there is zero evidence, while denying the reality in front of you . I think the definition of being human must include this incredible ability to make stuff up and deny reality.

    You can't prove there is a god, isn't a god, is or isn't a Santa Claus etc. Since that's not possible, there is no point is arguing that there is or isn't a god, a tooth fairy or whatever.

    Quoting from a fairy tale? Really? Do you believers think the world is flat also, another quaint idea from the middle ages.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • JM

      May 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Bogie

      One time I saw a Santa in the mall. God HAS to be real.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • JE

      You are right. Why believe in anything that you don't know about?

      Why believe that DNA exists if there is no evidence of DNA? Why believe that there might be more than what one can perceive with the visible eye in the sky? Why believe that the center of the earth exists? Why believe in the wind?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • eqgold

      There are many things we can't see directly that are real, and science has found ways to "see" them. Not the same thing as believing in fairy tales. Science is not a belief system, its a test and challenge system that we use to explore what's out there in the world and universe. It's real. Fables, legends, bedtime stories, gods and religions are things we make up to comfort ourselves when humans face difficult concepts like death.

      May 6, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  5. The Dude

    She turned into a wh0re in college, got herpes and now regrets doing the whole Lacrosse team at one time.

    Boo hoo

    May 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • bryan

      "Meanness Kills" said sophia in the book the Color Purple by Alice Walker. So many responses to this well written article on her faith journey are just "Mean". Obviously people have been hurt by Dogma, Mans way of saying "Hey I the center of the Universe, will allow you to hear my way which is "the Only Way". What I heard from this dear writer was her true experience with her Spirituality, the one line I took which is precious is ". Since then, I’ve come to believe that my doubts belong inside the space of the sanctuary. My questions belong on the altar as my only offering to God." . What a great conclusion. For those who have no faith, I do understand... However to Vehemently attack those who do is mean spirited, presumptous and in a lot of ways ignorant. Do you really know everything there is to know about everything? Do you suppose in that part you don't know everything about a spiritual realm exists? Live and Let Live people!!!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  6. steve

    I have never heard a satisfying answer to why there is suffering at church or from secularists–only from Jehovah's witnesses.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • The Dude

      Sheet happens.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • camp

      yeah and the Witnesses said the world was going to end in 1976 and I am still here. Their words not mine. how can anything they say be trusted....

      May 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  7. The Dude

    Step 1: Grow up in a Christian church.

    Step 2: Ask questions when you are young. Don't blindly believe what people tell you.

    Step 3: Be exposed to other belief systems.

    Step 4: Live a life you want without guilt.

    Step 5: Leave the church because of your education and experience shows you what bullsh!t religion is.

    Step 6: Experience epiphany that life is simple if you except the fact that we are largely ignorant as a species.

    Step 7: Return to church with your children and expose them to all faiths

    Step 8: enjoy a secular life with your intelligent family and kids who trust you completely as you have never led to them about God, Religion or anything else.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Matt

    I have known atheists and progressives for decades, and can count many as my friends. I have known cynical, militant atheists as well as atheists who are respectful of others beliefs, or lack thereof. I can state emphatically that I have never known a militant atheist who is a complete person, a happy person. They all carry incredible baggage. An incredible emptiness and sorrow that cannot be assuaged. I mourn for what they will be in old age, winding down their life in the shadow of oblivion. I know the militants will not face it with grace, but rather with silent panic and horror.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • momoya

      I have known THEISTS and BELIEVERS for decades, and can count many as my friends. I have known cynical, militant theists as well as theists who are respectful of others beliefs, or lack thereof. I can state emphatically that I have never known a militant theist who is a complete person, a happy person. They all carry incredible baggage. An incredible emptiness and sorrow that cannot be assuaged. I mourn for what they will be in old age, winding down their life in the shadow of oblivion. I know the militants will not face it with grace, but rather with silent panic and horror.

      That was pretty fun.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • The Dude

      There sorrow is that they are surrounded by idi0cy.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • tony

      I'm old, productive, can think better than you, and am much happier for it. Thanks. In the meantime, explain to us how the mass slaughter of innocents by Tsunamis are the work of a loving God.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • BigRed

      Atheists and agnostics do not need to be judged by the standard of Christianity or any other religion for that matter. We are all whole and confident people who find the fairy tale romance of worshiping at the behest of costumed and perfumed fakers who seek only to relieve the congregation of its hard earned cash in return for false redemption. Ours is a far more peaceful path of reason, enlightenment, and science which in the end we see has never caused wars, massacres, or inquisitions.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      I think you might be mistaking militant for passion. Passionate atheists are the soldiers for truth and dignity for all mankind. They are frustrated beyond compassion for the stupidity and intolerance of this notion of a god and of the idiots that blatantly deceive the ignorant and force their beliefs upon the remainder. Intolerance breeds intolerance and it is that intolerance of the believer that has reared its ugly head up against itself. Passionate atheists have a peace a believer would never ever understand.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Matt

      Mamoya – very uncreative. Typical! In the end you know I'm right, and you're reaction is wrong. Tony – Obviously your thinking has left you in old age. Nobody would argue that tsunamis are "works" of God. We live on a beautiful, dynamic planet. Doesn't the wonder and ever-changing of the universe inspire us? How could there be a world worth living on that doesn't humble us occasionally? BigRed – you're deluded. Atheists killed more people in the 20th Century than in all of the previous wars of human history combined. Fact.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So you know every atheist that walks the planet, Matt?

      How many people do you know well enough to discuss such beliefs with? Twenty? Forty? A hundred?

      Sorry, dude, not statistically even a blip.

      Ever think that maybe the "militant atheists" you know are miserable because they are acquainted with you, a judgmental boob?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Matt

      Voice of Reason – Militant atheism will lead mankind into the abyss. It will lead to social engineering of all sorts, genetic engineering, and ultimately to dystopia. Reason cannot overcome the unexplainable origin of the universe and creation of life from the basic elements. Led by atheism mankind will throw up its arms in surrender and lose itself.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • momoya

      @Matt

      Your original post was extremely uncreative and absolutely stupid; I know I'm right in what I wrote, and you're wrong.. Have you ever used logical reasoning before?. You don't seem very acquainted with the concept.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Translation of Matt's post: The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

      People like Matt existed in the medieval world, too. They're the ones who insisted the world was flat and the sun revolved around it. Oh, yeah, and illness was caused by humours in the blood. And cats were Satanic.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Matt

      Tom, Tom – Exactly how many I do not know. Dozens. Do you know exactly how many you have known? I know that since I have come upon these people by chance, it is statistically valid. My observations are consistent with psychiatric studies, which are widely available as a result of atheists suffering higher than average incidence of mental illness. I'm not saying that atheism is a mental illness, but atheists are prone to higher than average rates of anxiety, depression, and other complexes. It's a fact. You're comment that my atheist acquaintances are unhappy because they know me just proves you can't come up with a coherent argument.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't need a coherent argument to post in response to your nonsensical spew, dear. Your idea of science and statistics is all anyone needs to see to know you're irrational.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Matt

      Mamoya – "Reason" is a word atheists like to throw around to make themselves look smart. Or at least reasonable. I reason all the time, even on baffling issues like existence. My reasoning had led me to believe that reason/science only go so far, and while they never hit a brick wall they face an exponential decrease in lucidity for every level uncovered. So, reason is like world records: always improving but never reaching the max. That's humanity. I have a bachelors in physics and a bachelors and masters in aerospace engineering. I am generally considered to be a "human calculator", even amongst my professional colleagues. Maybe you could explain your credentials in "reason"?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're considered a "human calculator" but you don't know how many "militant atheists" you know? And you think because those you meet are "miserable" (which is your opinion), that's statistical proof that all "militant atheists" are miserable?

      Yeah, you're impressive.

      What, exactly, do you mean by "militant atheist", Matt?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt -
      Do you hang with Chad?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Matt

      Tom, Tom – "Irrational". Another atheist buzzword like "reason". No worries, I see your issue. Plus, you have let yourself out of the bag (or out of something else). I understand you now. You know nothing of science or reason. You were hurt and you blindly, desperately cling to ideas that accept you, regardless of the shallowness of that acceptance. In the end – Tom, Tom – I pity you and love you. As I do the rest above. We all deserve pity and love, even if it is meant abstractly and not literally. Weren't we all innocents? Brought into this universe involuntarily, and thus unfairly subject to it's strange dichotomy?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Matt blathers:
      Voice of Reason – Militant atheism will lead mankind into the abyss. It will lead to social engineering of all sorts, genetic engineering, and ultimately to dystopia. Reason cannot overcome the unexplainable origin of the universe and creation of life from the basic elements. Led by atheism mankind will throw up its arms in surrender and lose itself.

      --

      Define "militant atheism", Matt.

      Why will it (according to you ) result in "social engineering" (define what you mean by this, too) and dystopia. Why will mankind "throw up its arms and be lost."?

      You're no scientist.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Matt, you're a fraud. Keep on telling all about being a physicist and a human calculator, honey. It's pretty funny.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "it's strange dichotomy"? Did you mean "its", dear?

      Yeah, you're really convincing.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt -
      Appeals to authority are quite often fallacious arguments; appeals to your OWN authority ("I have a bachelors in physics and a bachelors and masters in aerospace engineering. I am generally considered to be a "human calculator", even amongst my professional colleagues") verge on pathetic.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt – regarding: "reason/science only go so far..."
      Serious question – Is it reasonable to assume that your personal limitations, with regard to reason and knowledge, are absolute limits?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Matt's some sock puppet who's now been exposed and like all little mice, he'll disappear for a while and then pop up under another moniker.

      It's just a game of "whack-a-mole."

      May 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Tom, Tom -
      Is there a "Chad genre" defined in CNN's Rules of Conduct?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Matt

      Tom, Tom – Einstein couldn't keep track of how many shoes he had on! I'm not saying I am an Einstein. Being able to recall exactly how many atheist friends/acquaintances one has is something an autistic person is able to do better than a fully functioning person, even a math wiz like me. Nowhere did I say that all militant atheists are miserable. I said the ones I have known are, and that's true. I have also known thoughtful, kind-hearted atheists. But I don't consider them militant. One of my best friends – we both love photography – has a masters in biology from Stanford. He explained to me that atheism is the lack of belief. Not an argument against. He explained to me that there is no activist atheism.

      So, a militant atheist is one who actively tries to mock or dissuade faith. For instance, here we have one article among dozens on the CNN website. This one is under a certain heading and everybody is free to read it or not read it. And yet people who know they will not like it or agree with go ahead anyway, then mock the author.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not buying it, Matt. Get yourself another schtick.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt – regarding your friend from Stanford who asserts "atheism is the lack of belief..."

      Spend more time with that friend Matt...you may learn something from him.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Even a math wiz like me." Talk about pathetic.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt-
      How about an answer to my question? Is it reasonable to assume that your personal limitations, with regard to reason and knowledge, are absolute limits?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Matt

      ReallyO – Appeals to authority are quite often fallacious arguments; appeals to your OWN authority ("Reason, Rational, etc") verge on pathetic.

      I only mentioned my credentials to stress that I am very reasonable and very rational. I work in the real world every day, and there is no room for feelings in what I do! I agree that when people say things like, "As a physicist, I find that...", it comes across as pathetic. But that's not the point here. Atheists often argue they have the reason market cornered, when in reality the other side is equally capable of reason.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt-
      Fair enough. So...Is it reasonable to assume that your personal limitations, with regard to reason and knowledge, are absolute limits?

      May 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Matt

      ReadyO – No, because personal limits are always changing. The capacity of your mind to absorb and implement is a curve, and not necessarily a smooth one. There's always a limit, in flux.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt – "No, because personal limits are always changing..."

      Actually Matt, you're response to my question, "Is it reasonable to assume that your personal limitations, with regard to reason and knowledge, are absolute limits?" should be, "Yes, because personal limits are always changing..." as our "personal limits" are only realized in the present. Speaking of hypothetical "limits to reason" is, well, hypothetical. Put simply, the fact that your present understanding is limited in no way indicates a limit to understanding.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Matt-
      Whoa! Sorry Matt, my bad. Your seamless agreement with my assertion caught me off guard. I had to read my post again before I realized you acquiesced. Thanks for your honesty.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Matt

      Tom, Tom – I feel the anger and frustration in you. And for what? All I have done is give honest responses free of profanity and name-calling. And the best you can do is criticize one grammatical error? I have seen your responses to some other posts and it's the same. You reinforce my original notion.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why haven't you answered my question, you fraud?

      I asked you for specifics as to your "predictions" and the reasons behind them and you've failed to respond. What's the matter? Did you drop your crystal ball?

      May 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  9. tony

    Any time you want to measure the power of a loving god. Ask he/she what he/she needed Mitt Romney's $14M for

    May 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  10. Rene

    How sad. I guess some people are that weak minded. "despite the doubts"? If she had truly learned what it means to be a member of a religion, she would have never walked back. She never became secular/atheist/agnostic or whatever. She was just ticked off at herself and the church. Btw, Pearl Jam doesn't lead to an unhappy life. What a moron.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  11. tony

    It took "religion" to invent the word "persecution.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • BigRed

      Word association for religion!
      Inquisition
      Witch Hunt
      Burning at the Stake
      The Holocaust
      Forced conversion
      Crusades
      Massacres
      Pogrem
      Torture
      Hanging

      May 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  12. JE

    'The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell;
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win;
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin. Refrain:
    Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

    When hoary time shall pass away,
    And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
    When men who here refuse to pray,
    On rocks and hills and mountains call,
    God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
    All measureless and strong;
    Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.
    Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade;
    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry;
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.'

    May 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
      For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

      He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
      And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

      For everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
      But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
      (Words of Christ Jesus,found in John 3:16-21)

      May 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  13. tony

    It takes a "village" to give an naturally atheist born child religion. The guilt sticks, even when the later adult see through the false reasoning. That's why religion is the fundamental evil in this world.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  14. get off

    hey.. if the religious actually believed, they wouldn't have to come here and post.

    May 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • mikstov33

      If CNN were a truthful, honest organization they would not call this a belief blog. It would be the Lets Bash Religion flog-fest. No matter the angle, the results are all the same. Seems as though hired writers are paid to post anti-religious tripe for whatever reason. As soon as someone wishes to state their view on the side of religion or faith, they are attacked as idiots,morons,and people in need of mental adjustments.The very same bias athiests and non-believers accuse the religious of,are demonstrated to the fullest by those same accusers.He who has no sin should cast the first stone.Oh, I forgot most here do not even accept the concept of "sin". Remove the beam in your own eye first before you try to remove the speck from someone elses? My bad, that would be a toothpick, not a beam. The problem with the religious is not the faith they tend to display,it is the churches and false leaders that have been misleading them with false doctrines and apostasy.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      We do. However, it's always heartbreaking when reading your posts to learn how many of you are truly lost and haven't a clue that you reside in that category. Instead, the insults will continue to pour in at my or any Christians posts to defend your right to set yourself apart from society, as well as self.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  15. PRISM 1234

    There is not one true, dedicated Christian that at some point didn't go through the valley of deep shadows where doubts are so overwhelming that it seems like thick darkness is engulfing his person. It is there, when the arrows of the enemy of our souls are thrown relentlessly, that we are tested, tried and refined, and the motives of our innermost hearts are being exposed. .... That's when it is determined who truly belongs to God and who does not.
    This article hits home to every child of God.

    But There are some who went through the same trials but did not make it through, because the trial of their faith proved them not to be fruitful. Because their foundation was NOT found as being built by God Himself but man, therefore it was NOT solid and unmovable.

    There is much more to be said about this subject, but those who are His already understand its concept, yet those who are not, to them all of its foolishness..... And it is because they can not understand nor discern things of God, having not been made alive unto Him by His Spirit.

    But one thing is for certain: God knows His own, and He will move Heaven and Earth to cause one of His sheep that goes astray to come back to Him.
    But those who are not His, they will not recognize His voice and will turn away , not knowing that they are on the path where there is no protection for them from satan, the enemy of their souls, who is ever preying on those who have not the covering of God over them....

    And let no man think, when he turns away from God that he is free, not following anyone! Because if one becomes his own god, declaring his or her independence form God who sent His Son to redeem them, this person is already in satan's grip, obeying and serving him.

    We have the nature of sheep, we are created to follow, we were created that way!
    God Himself intended to be our Shepherd. But when we by our own will turn Him away, we only leave ourselves vulnerable. But our pride lets us not see it.... So, dear soul, if you're not following God who created you, there is only one other alternative: you are following the father of lies, satan himself!

    P.S. Thank you, Andrea for the inspiring article you wrote... Our life as Christians is a road full of obstacles, but our Father who sees them all before we reach them, KNOWS how to carry us over them. To Him be glory and honor and praise in Christ Jesus His Son, forever and ever , A M E N!

    May 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • sam stone

      wel, i suppose that some people just need a god to bow to. praise jeebus

      May 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • J

      From Pilgrim's Progress:

      http://voiceoftruthblog.com/pilgrim%E2%80%99s-progress-and-the-sinner%E2%80%99s-prayer

      May 6, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • tony

      Move directly to wonderful heaven. Do not pass "GO". Do not collect $200.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Humans are doubt machines, it is part of our intellect.

      I have come to the conclusion, that if Athiests are correct and there is no God, I would still rather believe in God.

      We humans only live a short time, and if all that is waiting for us is oblivion, then what do we have to lose?

      My faith gives me a reason to exist, it increases the love I have for everyone in this world, it gives me hope.

      Following Jesus Christ makes me a better person.

      If Christianity is all lies, so what?

      Get off of my cloud!

      Atheists, I will leave you to ponder how meaningless and futile your life is, I will continue to experience God, and love all I can until my living corpse dies.

      Peace and blessing to all of you from Christ Jesus!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • BigRed

      It's always nice to see that brainwashing is alive and well in the 21st century.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Mick

      "Atheists, I will leave you to ponder how meaningless and futile your life is"

      Why do you theists always assume atheists have meaningless lives? Our lives have as much meaning as yours do. We don't have the dillusion of a magical afterlife. In the mean time, we live in the same world that you do.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      PRISM 1234,

      Amen.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Get Real

      PRISM 1234
      "God knows His own, and He will move Heaven and Earth to cause one of His sheep that goes astray to come back to Him."

      Really?

      An omniscient "God" would know *precisely* what proof is acceptable to each and every one of us individually.

      An omnipotent "God" would be able to provide it.

      An all-loving "God" would do so freely and abundantly.

      'He' just doesn't care about some of us then...? - or 'he' doesn't exist as portrayed.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • si tate

      WHICH god did you choose?

      May 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      Mick,
      I didn't mean to give offense. Truth is, if Atheists are right, we are all meaningless. What does it matter what we do, if we were merciful to our children, we wouldn't have any because they will have to face that their lives will not acount for anything and one day they will cease to exist. Wouldn't it be kinder if we never existed to begin with? Why have children who will suffer?

      Peace and love.

      May 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  16. tony

    Sermons aren't "lackluster". There are only so many ways you can outright lie to intelligent minds without the cracks appearing.

    May 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  17. TRUTH!

    I am out of toilet paper at home and its Sunday so the religious controlled stores will not be open....what do I do?
    Help!!!!
    Oh wait, I found a Book of Moron, a Koran and a Bible.
    I'll be okay now!!!!!!!

    May 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  18. tony

    Sanity and true adulthood is knowing that life can (and should be) lived without fantasy based warm fuzzies. You missed community, and belonging to a "set". The ignorance is bliss group delusion is designed to stop you thinking about "doubt' aka as realilty and truth. Wait 'til you are 40-60 and see what happens.

    May 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  19. Adam

    "The local bars became my temples. I indulged in the cliché rebellions of a Christian girl, smoking cigarettes and drinking hard alcohol. I got involved with men twice my age without thinking twice about it. I wanted a break from being “good.”

    Speaking as someone who isn't religious and doesn't believe in a higher presence, I have to say I am NOT an alcoholic, I DON'T smoke, and I DON'T date people twice my age. It's call SELF-CONTROL. You're blaming “secularism” as a scapegoat because you didn't have the discipline or maturity to control your life. Stop blaming others and takes responsibility for your own actions.

    May 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • JP

      I think I banged her at that bar....in the butt!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • no god

      Man, the author is a huge s l u t...

      May 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • hazegrey&underway

      Adam, my friend we will all take total responsibility for our lives of sin... unless we have been covered in Christ's blood as a result of asking His forgiveness. It's His universe, His order, His timing... not ours. If MS13 gang members can discover the love of Jesus and the life changing power of His Spirit you can too. He does love you even when you spit on Him. But his patience has an end. He will not wait for your heart to open forever. My request today is for God to reveal Himslf to all of you who are hurting and hating and disgusted with what life dealt you. Know He loves you. There is no question about that. Also that you would discover His promises, of which can be tested and proven over and over. He has a plan for your life, should you choose to accept it.
      Which would sound something like this: "Father, I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and I want Him for my Savior! Thank you God!
      I for one would like to ask for your firgiveness on the part of all of those who would identify as Christians but are looking down their noses at you for sin. Christians are not to condemn and be hateful like "Hellsburough Baptist" but to love all of Gods children as "there is none righteous, no not one..."

      Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

      Peace Bro

      May 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jay

      Furthermore, blame your parents and sheltered childhood for finding secularist activities vapid. Drugs and music? That's all you could come up with? How rebellious. Just like any other teenage story of angst. Except you politely respected your parents until, 23? I'm sure you were already out of the house, how respectful!! So of course, being young and trying a new flavor of the month every month is fun. What you allude to is a binge of everything secular, which really justs says, 'I had no self control.' and when you beat yourself up, the easiest thing to do is crawl back from whence you came. So congratulations for crawling back from whence you came, having learned apparently nothing about self control, nothing about world history, archaeology, or philosophy to argue the real questions you had about human suffering, factual impossibilities in the bible, or the general truth of human existence, but just again blindly accepting religion bc you made a few dumb a s s decisions decades ago, and blame it all on 'secular activities.' You didn't really learn anything. There is no moral to this story, and for anyone who thinks its inspiring, you're a fool.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  20. Shane

    This article is eerily well timed for me. I just returned from Mass and found myself experiencing the same doubts after a lackluster sermon and a few other statements that I disagreed with. But this author has captured the essence of why I go and I believe. It is the quest for more, for the answers and that place beyond. I often think I would be as comfortable in a Buddhist temple as my church as soon as I learned the rituals. One thing I would add is I do also pray because prayer itself is a helpful and healing process. It's never let me down one way or the other.

    May 6, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • J

      Have you read anything by Corrie ten Boom? The Hiding Place? What a beautiful life/faith. I long for faith like that.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • pretty

      I've gone back to pray to volcanoes with my wife and children. It does bring us peace.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • J

      Just finished reading Pilgrim's Progress last week. Great book.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Whatever it is that you are seeking, you can do it on your own. You do not need any organized religion to develop a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. You have the power within yourself, the intellect and the morals that are inherit within your mind. These weekly outings to a religious building and listening to someone who is really weak minded with weak arguments and no answers is truly non-productive for you. Start reading everything you can get your hands on, from religion to science to history and you will begin to see a whole new world unfold before your eyes, one without the influence of the supernatural. Good luck!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Shane,
      I understand what you're saying. There is an element of mystic aura that one can experience in a buddhist temple, and it soothes the part of our spiritual person, giving one a sense of peace.
      But Christ Jesus is risen Lord who does not dwell in temples made by human hands. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life..... He is the Door of the sheep. All others are false shepherds, and are not of the Father of Lights, in whom is no shadow of turning nor space to compromise His Person.

      If your heart is longing for God, and it is pure in your desire to know Him, He will never let you out of His hand, and He WILL lead you into His truth, though the road may be rocky and painful before you..... But in those times Christ's Presence will be with you more real then ever, even in your loneliness. Because in those times you are partaker of His sufferings, yet also of unspeakable joy in completeness of the union with Him. That's when Heaven is very near to the child of God, and that's how the great saints of the past could withstand all hell satan would throw at them through his servants who persecuted them, and that's what Christ meant when He said that even the gates of hell could not prevail against them.
      The world has no knowledge of such strength and such peace one can possess, becaue they don't know resurrected Christ who has conquered even death itself, and in whom we live, move and have our beings. But we who come to Him with humble, repentant hearts, acknowledging our need for His righteousness.. We do know! No buddha, mohammed, krishna or any other "god' can,or ever did that their followers!
      God bless and keep you, friend!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Get Real

      PRISM 1234,
      "No buddha, mohammed, krishna or any other "god' can,or ever did that their followers!"

      Wrong. The emotionalism of those followers is every bit as intense as yours.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "The emotionalism of those followers is every bit as intense as yours"
      Oh, I never said that satan, the father of lies can't be very pleasing to follow!
      Or else, how would he lead them on?
      But there is only one God, the creator and Lord of all that was, is and ever will be. HE is the One who sent His Son Jesus Christ to this world, to become one of us, coming in a form of lowly baby,born to simple, ordinary parents, who although being of royal descent, were poor and without a voice, which in itself declares in what condition the religious leaders of the day were... But He came this way so that only those who truly sought Him would recognize Him . It is the same today. Only those who truly seek Him recognize Him. To others He is no more then a mystical teacher, maybe a prophet, or a revolutionary. But He said : My Kingdom is NOT of this world" Only hose who understands that there is another kingdom then this physical world we're in, and those whose hearts are pure and uncompromising...only those will KNOW and Recognize HIM.....

      ~~One Solitary Life ~~This song says it all!

      .

      May 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.