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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. Jay

    Oh, you want to play the bible verses game? Ok, now it's my turn, and we wil switch off. How about this gem:     But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her fathers house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her unchasteness in her father's house.  Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.  (Deuteronomy  22:20-21 NAB)

    Your turn :-D
     

    May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • GodPot

      "31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father." Genesis 19:31-36

      your turn...

      May 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  2. Paul

    Nice story and all. But there is no god.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Roseypoesy

      Does that matter? Why can we just let people think whatever they want? You don't think there is a God. She does. Who cares. Why must you point it out that what you think is better? I want to understand about those that preach equallity and fairness. But only if it is what you believe? I think you have more alike with the organised religion that you hate than you think.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Roseyposey,

      What you are insinuating is that beliefs really don't matter.

      But beliefs do matter, actions are based on beliefs. Believing in unproven myths can have very negative consequeces.

      Look up Harold Camping and his followers, they sold everthing they owned, gave up jobs and relationships because they thought the world would end last year. Beliefs matter.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • edwardo

      @Rosey – Believing in things that don't exist, is extremely dangerous! It brought us crusades, witch burnings, 9/11... come on GF... YOU KNOW BETTER!

      May 6, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  3. C Colon

    The atheists are always the first to stand up and scream about their disbeliefs and there is never a shortage of their ridicule or nasty comments. Believers do not hate you or ridicule you for your beliefs, however it is interesting that you all feel so compelled to make nasty and cruel comments about anyone who believes in God. I wonder where that comes from especially since most of you state one can be a good, compassionate, and tolerant person as an atheist. You all demonstrate this so well. If you are all so confident and "strong-minded" then why is it so necessary to belittle those who do not share your beliefs? It is extremely amusing the venom that freely pours from your mouths.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jay

      i believe that's a bible verse where Jesus has whipped out his self righteousness. I also believe following that speech, god destroyed the entire town, in accordance with his do as I say, not as I do policy.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • momoya

      Christians here are every bit as nasty as some atheists here.. Why don't you mention them?? If you want to reject ideas because you don't like the behavior of the presenter then go right ahead.. For myself, I'm going to evaluate the logical reasoning in an argument regardless of the person's att.itude as they express it.. I'm interested in proper argumentation, not the believers anger at my stance.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • GodPot

      "Believers do not hate you or ridicule you for your beliefs" unless you are not a Christian. If you are not Christian then prepare for a constant stream of ridicule and messages of torture and torment for those who do not accept their truth.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      Colon, we are attempting to shake you from your sleep.

      Imagine millions of adults living their lives based on the idea that Santa Claus was always watching. Imagine if those adults used their voting power to affect the lives of all citizens to make sure everyone had a chimney and left cookies & milk out every night.

      You would scream at the top of your lungs, "THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS! THIS IS MADNESS!"

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

      I have never claimed to be tolerant. I am at war with religion, and the horror it inflicts on me, and my world. If you're looking for some sorty of tolerance from me, you won't find it. There is no room for it. Tolerance is the first step to acceptance of things unacceptable.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  4. Henry

    Dear Mss Dilley,

    Jesus said that you MUST be born again in order for you to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus says in John 3, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

    Here is my account of my personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

    I was in my early 40’s, I had a family of four whom I loved, and a dream job with an outstanding salary, but I wasn’t truly happy, something was missing in my heart of hearts. I was angry, but I didn’t know at whom or what. I often had visions of my finger pushing the button wired to a nuclear device capable of destroying the entire world.

    One evening after dinner, I sat alone in my backyard, feeling defeated from the inner war raging inside me, I cried out in my head, “God I am not sure if you exist or not, but if you do please help me,” I was exhausted, so I went to bed early. The following morning as I was walking from the parking lot to my job site I began to feel lighter and lighter until I felt like a I wasn’t touching the ground, then I noticed the birds chirping and flying about, something I hadn’t noticed before, I felt like all my senses came alive.

    I didn’t quite understand what was happening, but I was compelled to speak to a preacher, after relating my experience, the preacher told me that I was born again, I remember asking, what do you mean “born again,” and he said from the scriptures that God had removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh. Well, to make a long story short let me tell you that I’d never been the same again. The war raging in my heart, all my insecurities, the fear of dead, are all things of the past.

    I also know with all certainty the answers to life’s deepest questions such as “where we come from, why we are here, and where are we going”

    Jesus Christ is like food, you can’t experience Jesus by proxy, you must experience Jesus yourself in order to have eternal life.

    As Jesus says in John 6: 54-56, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

    I began to read or devour the Bible, and a whole new world of understanding opened up to me, right in line with what Jesus said in Matthew 13:10- 12, The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

    If in the future you feel like you have reached the end of your rope, please ignore your pride, and cry out to God, and he will answer you. Jesus says in Revelation 3: 20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

    May 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • BigRed

      Wow, such delusion, such waste of brainpower.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Hitchens

      Absolute Truth.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      You claim to have answers to lifes deepest questions but you don't, prove that you are right. I am glad you found peace in your life but for me I did not find peace until I wrestled with the religious questions and ultimitely rejected it as supersti.tious voodoo.

      Your personal experience does nothing to prove god.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      Henry, please realize that every single night you "hallucinate" when you dream.

      Please realize the brain is fully capable of making you believe things that aren't real.

      Only evidence, of things we can measure and duplicate, can truly be trusted. What you experienced was not real, it is not proof of anything. Be brave enough to see reality as it is, not how a con man that wants your donations wants you to see it.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Henry

      In Reason I Trust

      What is Truth?
      http://whatistruthhnrast.blogspot.com/2012/05/while-being-questioned-by-pontius.html

      May 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  5. Mick

    Interesting article. Shows how addictive religion is...she basically knows it's b.s. and carefully spells out the reasons, but goes back anyway.

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

      I so agree. If you have to forego logic, intellect, questioning, and analytical thought in order to "buy into" something then that something is like all B S. I left the church years ago and have never looked back. I live a peaceful, happy, life. I donate much time and what money I can generously to various causes. I treat others with respect. I treat myself with respect. It doesn't take a false belief system to instill one with good and wholesome values.

      Religion is the biggest scam on the planet. And consequently more people are killed in the name of religion than any other reason.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • TomPaine

      Yeah, that was sort of my take as well–it seemed she knew better but then felt guilty and missed the social aspect of it.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Get Real

      The real world can be sort of tough... and escaping into a fantasy world (and the promise of a spiffy after-world) is very seductive.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    "Why does God allow suffering?", Mrs. Dilley asked.

    It is just reality that we are no human robots (this is, what our rulers want us to be), but human beings with a free will. This is a historical fact, which nobody can doubt.

    A second historical fact is that there is a lot of suffering on earth and one could ask the above question.

    Although God is almighty, he faces a dilemma. At the one hand he wants to keep our free will at any rate, on the other hand he wants to finish all suffering.

    Much suffering is caused by human beings making wrong decisions abusing their free will.

    God could always descent from heaven and hinder a single person, which is about to do something evil. But in this case we had no more free will. Hence, God allows evil human beings and evil powers to rage for a small time, so that their malice manifests and finally they will get a bad sentence at Judgement Day according to their evil deeds, which they really committed.

    On could ask: "Isn't it awful that God guarantees the free will of single persons at cost of peace and security of all human beings?"

    Yes, it is somewhat striking, how God works.

    Yet, everybody can come under his shelter. Everybody, who enters the Kingdom of God by the rebirth (birth by Water and Spirit or sacramental baptism) becomes able to endure suffering by the power of the Holy Spirit. Once the prophet Daniel was cast into the lion cage, but the lions did not harm him. Once Daniel was cast into the fire, but the fire did not harm him. This does not mean that a Christian cannot be really hurted or killed, but the Christian has got an existence or life, which is beyond the biological life of his body. A Christian has got Eternal Life at the rebirth. One day every Christian will get a new heavenly body and up to this time he will rest in peace (sleep), even if his natural body gets destroyed here on earth.

    Conclusion: It is only important in which condition suffering hits us. If we are in the Spirit, we will be able to endure it. If we are not in the Spirit, it can lead us to desperation.

    How to get under God's shelter?

    Answer:

    Gospel of Jesus: God the Father delivered God the Son for our sins and raised him from the dead for our justification.

    This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believe this gospel and get sacramentally baptised and you become righteous. At baptism you die and resurrect together with Jesus. You die for the sin and you enter Christ or receive the Spirit. By the power of the Spirit you become able to overcome the lust of your flesh (body) and to do works of love and righteousness. Day by day you invite Christ to control your body, which is actually dead in itself. Consequently your body, which is sinful in itself, has to do works of righteousness, because Christ or the Spirit is stronger and greater than your body. If you keep the faith by daily following Christ, God will give you shelter, peace and happiness. If people harm you, don't beat back, but commend it to the Lord. Just keep on loving even your enemies in the power of the Spirit. God is a God, who wants to give you great joy. He gives you infinite joy, if you keep the love after the rebirth. If you keep on loving God and your neighbour, God supports you with everything, what you need.

    First after the rebirth we become capable to realy love, but after rebirth we have to love God and our neighbour. Someone who still hates after baptism (rebirth) casts away his faith and will get lost, if he doen't repent until death or Judgement Day.

    .

    May 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      OR.....there is NO god.

      Funny how a "no god" world and a "god allows suffering" world, look exactly the same. Grow up, your attempts to rationalize your fairy tale is embarrassing.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • kindness

      Izzy and No truth – Thank you

      May 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  7. no god

    I wonder if she ever gave a old man a Cleveland steamer. A hot pile right on his chest after

    May 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  8. GodPot

    Any person who believes there is something external they need to find in order to be happy shall never find happiness. This girl was raised in the Church to believe she just so happened to be lucky enough to have been born into a true external conduit for happiness, and then left when she felt it wasn't living up to her expectation of making her happy and went on to other external attempts to make herself happy, as she puts it "drugs and cigarettes and Pearl Jam." And when that didn't make her happy she decided to give the church another try because it will give her "a space to search for God" or to put it another way, to be around a bunch of other people who want to search for external validation and happiness. To bad true happiness is never found externally.

    "Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." – Buddha

    "You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection." – Buddha

    May 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Truth7

      So, you just stated to not look outside yourself, but what did you go and do? Reference Buddha. Amazing you don't recognize your own hypocrisy.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • momoya

      What a stupid reply, Truth 7.. He was referencing another person–not finding peace in that person's dogma.. What the fvck is wrong with your reasoning?!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • GodPot

      Everyone starts by looking outside themselves for truth and happiness, I am saying that one will only find the truth of happiness by turning inward and getting to know ones self before they can enjoy enlightenment. This was the wisdom of many great thinkers like Buddha. I am not a Buddhist but I can appreciate his wisdom which was not about seeking an external savior to rescue you from your existence, it was to better understand and appreciate your own existence which leads to peace of mind and contentment which is the core of true happiness.

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

      thank you mandarax for at leasst responding respectfully – that was helpful

      May 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  9. kindness

    I ve asked the atheist in this blog to give me an idea of what is positive successful, helpful about their views, with the exception of 2 folks all they have given me is mean responses, I walk away with no better answers from them then when I started. So I concluded that Nihlism is all they have to offer.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Kindness -

      I think you may not be listening.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • momoya

      What an absolutely stupid statement.. Go on back to your fairy tale, if you don't want to honestly evaluate your silly beliefs.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      I want to hold as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible.

      Here are but a few.

      I believe

      Humans do not require a god to be moral.
      Religion divides more than it unites.
      It is untrue that atheists “believe in nothing”.
      It does not take more faith to be an atheist.
      Atheists do not deny god because they wish to be god.
      Religion and science are incompatible.
      Complexity does not equal design.
      The scientific method trumps primitive anonymous texts.
      The scriptures are ridiculous, offensive and demonstrably false.
      One does not require an afterlife to have a meaningful life.
      Threats of eternal punishment betray a weak argument.
      Schools should be filled with facts, not fanatics.
      Your personal experience does not prove god.
      An inability to disprove god does not prove god.
      Not knowing what caused the big bang does not prove god.
      Even if you prove evolution is completely wrong, it will not prove god.
      And if you believe in any gods the burden of proof is on you.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nobody else is bothering to respond to you, kindness, because you're unable to process what you're told in answer.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @kindness -
      Maybe this will help...take everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think, feel...subtract your personal choice of deity...that is what non-believers experience. Make sense?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • kindness

      Ok then tell me again if you think I am not listening. i am sincerely asking.......

      May 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • edwardo

      If you think I'm going to offer you some lame belief to fall upon, you're barking up the wrong tree. Face reality. Deal with it. I assume you're an adult. Grow the he11 up !!!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • chubby rain

      How about this: since all we have is this life, the only lasting effect we can have is through our actions and the world that is shaped by those actions. Do you want to create a better world or a worse world for your children? Life is not meaningless, rather, it is the only thing with meaning.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • JT

      Although I don't think you really care to hear but atheists do not suffer from religious bigotry and are basically live and let live types. We want only the same liberties as you majority Christians have.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • kindness

      I guess what this blog has done is confirm the denigrating responses I get from most atheists when I ask them to help me understand their side.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • momoya

      Confirmation bias.

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

      Nilhsim is your term. How interesting that you are assuming and insulting my intellect based on your assumption that I am a Christian? When I am asking questions, trying to use reason and all you do is be condesending?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @kindness -

      I was about to ask you if your jumping from thread-to-thread asking the same question, while ignoring the thoughtful responses posted, was disingenuous and/or dishonest. Your last post answers that question...both.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • mandarax

      I could list a few off the cuff. They would be by no means comprehensive and are absolutely off the top of my head:

      It takes one of the most divisive and violence-provoking aspects of humanity (religion) off the table.

      It requires people to think about what is wrong and what is right and more importantly WHY, rather than simply following a instructions.

      It enables people to pursue the answers to questions with fewer limitations on their thought processes.

      It is not reliant on invisible forces or worse yet, other people's interpretations of what those invisible forces command you to do.

      It empowers people to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors rather than putting them in "god's hands" or attributing every event to "god's plan"

      It removes the pressure to avoid teaching and pursuing objective science because it threatens religious traditions

      It removes convenient excuses to persecute others (gays for example) who are different from you.

      It encourages you to look to your innermost self to find love for others, to treat others with kindness and respect, and to be a force for good in the world around you, rather than doing so because you feel commanded to or fear punishment.

      It is responsible, it is self-aware, it is open to evidence, it is open to seeking reality without guilt or fear.

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

      Nope not ignoring responses, I got an answer from 2 folks and responded about where they find their peace, but then I get your condesention, How sad that as I try to figure this out you are no better than an erudite Christian telling me I am not listening.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Kindness,

      I posted a thoughtfull positive response but you seem to focus on the negative ones. You have not responded to a single positive one.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • izzy

      kindness,

      Here is what's positive about my atheism. I don't behave morally because I am afraid a cosmic Big Brother will punish me or reward me; I behave morally because I recognize that my fellow human beings are capable of the same joys and sufferings as I am. When I turned atheist, I found the feeling of being good for goodness sake rather than for making an omnipotent dictator happy much more refreshing and sincere.

      I find my spirituality not in a 2000 year old book fraught with contradictions, fairy tales, multiple genocides and human sacrifice written by primitive shepherd tribes in the Middle East. I find it in my relationship with my family, friends and my fiancee who I deeply love, a profound appreciation of the grandeur, the beauty and the mystery of the nature; and the human condition of trying to understand and reflect on it through science and music.

      Finally, I enjoy the feeling of liberation that comes with realizing that this is the only life we will live and how lucky I am to have gotten it, which makes it all the more precious. So I try to live it to the fullest and in the best way, not wasting my time with dreaming of a magical eternal Disneyland, meaningless rituals, reading texts that do not make any sense and tribal ideologies whose only justification is the fact that you were born to a particular family in a particular part of the world.

      Hope this helps.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  10. Denise

    This was a FANTASTIC piece and encouraged me in my own doubts. It also gives me hope for my own wayward children. Thanks, Andrea, for your honesty and help on the journey.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  11. Debbie

    Secular life = bar, drug? What a misleading? Charles Darwin is by all means a responsible serious man, super nice who shifted his faith from God to Science.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  12. No Truth, Just Claims

    It is not surprising copious amounts of drugs and s.e.x led to an empty life.

    You did not use reason to make any of your choices, next time try thinking your way to your worldview.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  13. rob

    Looking at all the nasty comments by the atheists (really hatetheists), one thing's for certain: atheism certainly doesn't make one a 'people person'. Keep it up – the more you show your true heart, the more people you'll drive into the arms of God.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • no god

      A god that does not exist. You sir are an idiot.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      There are nasty people on both sides, religion practically invented hate and intolerance.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Clever, "hatetheists". Never heard that one before.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • momoya

      You must not be acknowledging all the hateful christians and their nastiness, here?. That's stupid.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And the more you call people who don't believe exactly what you do "hate theists", the more you prove they are right.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Debbie

      nasty comments by the atheists (really hatetheists)??????????, one thing's for certain: atheism certainly doesn't make one a 'people person'. ???????????? Your certain is judgemental and is based on your own believe. Remember religion is highly interwind w. Culture and history, only 2/7 people are Christians. There is no absolute association between good and Christians. under Roman empire, a person could be killed for being Christion in 200 ad. While a person could be killed for not being Christian in 400 ad. Bible is man made although it play good role as long as bad role in western history, (eastern world are never big believe), it progressed with the time.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  14. Roseypoesy

    Does it matter if God isn't real? Can't we live our lives as good as possible and if in the end it's not real what have you wasted? Nothing, you have lived your life as a decent person. I think everyone should be allowed to think and believe in whatever they want. No one needs to "wake up" from anything who cares what they belive or what everyone believes as long as you live and let live. Hurt no one and do what ye will.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Tell that to Bo and Chad and others who won't adhere to such behavior.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Roseypoesy -

      Sweet merciful reason...what are you doing here?

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

      This is where we all need to be don't you think? I mean if we as a people can't learn the one simple rule "leave others alone." Don't worry about what bob is doing...worry about what you are doing. Is there hope for us? We all can be this way. It does work. People just have to get out of their heads. It's nice out here. Harm you none do what you will. And let it be. :)

      May 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • chubby rain

      @Roseyposey – Religions do hurt people when they are legislated. The right to choice, the right to marry... Not all beliefs are equal.

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

      @Chubby But the other side hurts people to do wish to be spiritual. If you say you believe in anything you are called a loser who believes in fairytails. Not all people think like the harsh right wing yet we all get grouped with them. Most in fact don't care who wants to do what. But because the raticals want it we are all damned for it. Do you see the problem?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Roseypoesy-
      Beliefs have consequences. Inserting religious belief into our secular government results in irrational, unprovoked force against the citizenry – this is, of course, the fundamental problem with central authority, but using millennium old morality as a guide really muddles things up.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Reason 77

      Roseypoesy

      The problem is that too many believers do not "live and let live". They fire women just because they go to a physician to get help having a baby, they vote against gay marriage, they "burn witches at the stake" Unfortunately too many believers are not like you.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  15. dtboy

    I cannot prove there is a God no more than anyone can prove there is not a God. God is a personal personal belief or disbelief, therefore can not be proven or disproven by anyone as no one can speak on behalf of anyone else. So, if I chose to believe in "fairly tales," what beef does the Atheist have with me? If you don't like the boat I'm on, just get off, but don't rock it.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      If it worked that way then no problem, but it doesn't, therefore there is a problem.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      One cannot prove something does NOT exist.
      I cannot prove unicorns do NOT exist, you must prove they DO exist.

      Jesus is just as real as Thor and Zeus and Superman. The only reason you believe this particular fairy tale, is because you were raised to believe it AND it quiets the fear of death.

      Be brave, face reality with dignity and stop hiding behind a childish fairy tale.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  16. In Reason I Trust

    You are either brave enough to face the obvious truth that religion is made up, or, you spend the rest of your life drowning in doubt and a slave to the irrational.

    I was raised to believe, as an adult I was brave enough to face reality, and now my mind is clear to truly weigh right an wrong.

    May 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Truth7

      "Your "mind is clear right and wrong"

      Then why do you show up on every religious article denouncing God? Do you consider that to be "right"????

      "Woe to them who call good evil and evil good".

      May 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • In Reason I Trust

      I show up because my fellow human beings are living their lives based on a false view of the world.

      How many nations would rush to war if they truly understood how precious and brief life is?

      How many cures could we discover if people donated to science & medicine instead of religions that build mega churches for their own ego?

      Would people still eat and wear other animals if they no longer thought their Lord told them it was ok? What horror, to kill another sentient being just because we enjoy the taste of their flesh.

      The smartest animals that have ever existed on Earth are wasting their time following a 2,00 year old fairy tale instead of living up to their true potential. All because we cannot face the idea of our own death.

      May 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  17. robert

    This woman failed to "liberate herself from mental slavery". This article is not a celebration but a sad story about a drug addict that wasn't able to kick the habit. "my doubt is my desire – to touch the untouchable, to possess the presence of God", that's desperate and delusional. It isn't doubt. My doubt is the fact that there is no evidence to substantiate the existence of god. That is all one needs for doubt. Faith, is no more a noble trait than being gullible or ignorant, except perhaps to a bronze age mythology that demonizes knowledge.

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

      this is incredibly well written paragraph.

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

      unlike my comment lol, "this is AN incredibly well written paragraph."

      May 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Truth7

      Those who hate Truth won't come into the Light. That is why one ouright rejects God and His Son Jesus Christ.

      Now, a truly "intelligent" person simply asks God directly if He is real. An "intelligent" person goes right to the source instead of believing the lies of fellow men. An "intelligent" person doesn't compare God to a drug. Only evil would do that.

      The oldest trick in the world is the serpent stating that what God said wasn't true. You want to fall for the oldest trick in the world? That is not being "intelligent".

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

      If god actually did speak to people, we could verify that communication.. He doesnt' and we can't.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  18. BigRed

    The result of the Church murdering a scientist in the name of a kind and loving God: " Immediately after the death sentence was handed down, Giordano Bruno’s jaw was clamped shut with an iron gag, his tongue was pierced with an iron spike and another iron spike was driven into his palate. On February 19, 1600, he was driven through the streets of Rome, stripped of his clothes and burned at the stake."

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

      If one does not follow the teachings of Christ, one is not a Christian. One is only claiming to be. Anyone can claim to be anything they want. Jesus was most harsh with the religious hypocrites and told them that they had no part of his kingdom. Try actually reading His teachings sometime. If someone who claimed to be Christian acted otherwise, they weren't following him (no matter that they claimed to).

      Murder

      21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

      23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

      25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.'

      Eye for Eye

      38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

      Love for Enemies

      43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Truth7

      Did God kill Cain after Cain killed his own brother?

      NO.

      Wake up and realize that MEN kill.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • BigRed

      JE. Nice cutting and pasting without even trying to address the topic. Typical Christian response to cover up and use religious tracts to make nonsensical statements.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • JE

      How is it pointless if that is the actual teaching of Christ from which the religion comes?

      Of course, I cut and paste. Christianity is based on Christ's teachings, which is found in....the Bible.

      Do you think Christianity is whatever one wants it to be (made up in one's head)?

      God help us all...

      May 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  19. Chris

    Glad to see that the Athiests are representing here! To the rest of you...wake up, god isn't real.

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

      "To sustain the belief that there is no God, atheism has to demonstrate infinite knowledge, which is tantamount to saying, "I have infinite knowledge that there is no being in existence with infinite knowledge.' – Ravi Zacharias

      May 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • RickV

      And you suppose you sound more intellectual by saying that.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • halfbakedlunatic

      'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • momoya

      @JE

      No, that's such a stupid thing for Ravi to say.. Believers are making the claim that god exists; nonbelievers simply don't see a good argument or any proof; thus, nonbelievers are justified in their disbelief.. What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.. Where's your proof?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • BigRed

      If God made man in his image, and God has infinite knowledge, why did he need science to explain the working of a universe? After all if God made man in his own image, would not man have been all knowing also? Or did God make a mistake by making inferior creatures incapable of even resisting the most natural of all sins? So then God makes mistakes and does not have infinite knowledge? Look we can sit here all day long and play word games but nothing religion says has any validity. REMEMBER GIORDANO BRUNO!!!!!!

      May 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • JE

      Creator.

      Created.

      He set the universe in motion; He created order out of chaos. We are trying to understand the universe; He already understands it.

      May 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • JE

      Does your child understand everything that you understand? Why not?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • JE

      Does your child understand everything that you understand? Why not?

      May 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  20. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Religious indoctrination is a big business and gets deeply rooted in the otherwise carefree human psyche. I remember a freakin' camp-out or something where my parents took me as a 5 or 6-year-old in the 70's. The event was geared toward instilling the fear of alcohol, drugs and rock n roll into impressionable young minds such as mine. We got to hear scary stories about AC/DC and Ozzy and look at terrifying images of livers with cirrhosis (presumably of some rock n roll star who drank himself to death).

    This brainwashing sometimes takes years to counteract (as it did with me, cuz I didn't finally break the insidious religious chains on my mind until college). Obviously this person wasn't really free of those chains if she went back. Ooooh I really like Pearl Jam, but I'd better play it safe and side with the "Lord".

    May 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
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About this blog

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.