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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 • Opinion

soundoff (3,753 Responses)
  1. Marcie

    People of various religions have gone to their religious leaders and teachers to ask why there is so much suffering. Often, the response is that suffering is God’s will and that he long ago determined everything that would ever happen, including tragic events. Many are told that God’s ways are mysterious or that he brings death upon people—even children—so that he can have them in heaven with him. As you have learned, though, Jehovah God never causes what is bad. The Bible says: “Far be it from the true God to act wickedly, and the Almighty to act unjustly!”—Job 34:10.

    6. Why do many people make the mistake of blaming God for the suffering in the world?
    6 Do you know why people make the mistake of blaming God for all the suffering in the world? In many cases, they blame Almighty God because they think that he is the real ruler of this world. They do not know a simple but important truth that the Bible teaches. You learned that truth in Chapter 3 of this book. The real ruler of this world is Satan the Devil.

    7, 8. (a) How does the world reflect the personality of its ruler? (b) How have human imperfection and “time and unforeseen occurrence” contributed to suffering?
    7 The Bible clearly states: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) When you think about it, does that not make sense? This world reflects the personality of the invisible spirit creature who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) Satan is hateful, deceptive, and cruel. So the world, under his influence, is full of hatred, deceit, and cruelty. That is one reason why there is so much suffering.

    8 A second reason why there is so much suffering is that, as discussed in Chapter 3, mankind has been imperfect and sinful ever since the rebellion in the garden of Eden. Sinful humans tend to struggle for dominance, and this results in wars, oppression, and suffering. (Ecclesiastes 4:1; 8:9) A third reason for suffering is “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) In a world without Jehovah as a protective Ruler, people may suffer because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    9. Why can we be sure that Jehovah has a good reason for allowing suffering to continue?
    9 It is comforting for us to know that God does not cause suffering. He is not responsible for the wars, the crimes, the oppression, or even the natural disasters that cause people to suffer. Still, we need to know, Why does Jehovah allow all this suffering? If he is the Almighty, he has the power to stop it. From "what does the bible really teach". Go here and download for free. http://www.jw.org/index.html?option=QrYQCsVrGlBBX

    May 7, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Colin

      Or, perhaps, like all other gods, the Judeo-Christian god is simply a figment of our imaginantion. That would perfectly explain all of the above "conundrums."

      May 7, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Mirosal

      Marcie posted a jw.org address ... If there was ever a CULT, the Jehovah's Witnesses are it!!

      May 7, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Reality

      AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD

      ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:------>

      Joe Smith had his Moroni.

      "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

      Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

      Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

      Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

      The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

      Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

      Some added references to "tink-erbells".

      newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm

      "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."
      Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:

      "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

      And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

      "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."

      "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

      "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

      For added information see the review at:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel

      May 7, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Marcie

      A cult is a group of people who stick to themselves. We knock on everybody's door. We are not partial. Jehovah witnesses are in over 236 lands around the world.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No Marcie, you belong to a cult. The average group does not knock on other people's doors or stand on street corners selling the belief. You people attempt to recruit at every possible chance you get. You believe that only a certain number of people are the chosen ones. When JW's come to our door they are given a bunch of indisputable facts that send them scurrying off to the elders to try to argue with us. You're more of a cult than Moron's oops I mean Mormon's are. We don't expect you to acknowledge that you belong to an exclusive cult and we don't care how many countries you are in...you are still the minority cult. You can't validate your claims any more than a christian can.

      May 7, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  2. Hugo

    sigh: "hugo – because you were not responding to the OP but to me and thus you are going off of my understanding of what the OP said and not your own."

    You may think that but I wasn't doing that. You can argue that I should have been doing that. Regardless, I wasn't doing that which defeats "thus you are." It wouldn't defeat "thus you should have been."

    Regardless, my interpretation was my interpretation. You'll have to take my word that I wasn't attempting to do anything dishonest. It was my honest interpretation. It appears to be different than yours and I don't see what is to gain by pursuing this path.

    We could get into an Ethical debate about what I should or should not have done and that might be fun. Unfortunately, I don't have time for that right now. (My ethics classes were among my favorites and, it shouldn't come to a surprise to you, that I often, at least in the upper division class, challenged my professor frequently. But that's how to get an A in upper division ethics.)

    Anyway, I have to get ready for work very soon and don't have time for a debate on ethics. I"m not sure who the stakeholders would be here... perhaps just the two of us. Not sure.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • /sigh

      sorry you should have, but arguing simantics is worthless at this point, i was responding to what i believed the OP said and you were responding to me based upon what you thought the OP said and that is where the misunderstanding took place.
      You should know though that in a debate you must argue against the statement of the person in which you disagree with and their views not what you believed the original poster put and your own views. hope that makes sense as you said its late, even my spelling is suffering,

      May 7, 2012 at 5:58 am |
  3. Hugo

    Sigh - "I also stated to prove that praying helps people as in curing diseases or saving someones life without using the bible, soething you have yet to prove and completely ignored."

    When did I take the position that required me to prove that? I took the position that the OP was (most likely) using the Bible for his definition of God. How can he make an argument related to God, as defined in the Bible, without using the Bible? (Even if it's an implicit usage.)

    May 7, 2012 at 5:19 am |
    • /sigh

      i stated that to the OP, was not trying to say i was making you do that, I was mearly trying to explain what my position was and what i was saying in contrast to what you thought i was saying.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  4. globetrotter

    I relate so much with your article,
    tears are rolling down my cheek.
    I hope my workmates or my boss don't see me.
    I grew up in a strong christian family.
    I live and work in a different country, on a different continent....
    where christ means squat. nada. zilch. zero. (EUROPE).
    I long for christ in my heart again.

    May 7, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Primewonk

      So other people not believing in your imaginary sky daddy affects your ability to believe in an imaginary sky-daddy?

      May 7, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  5. Hugo

    @Sigh? You reading? As for "your Bible" ... where did you get the idea that I was touting the Bible? Why didn't you say "your mathematics" or "your science?" I mentioned the release of oxytocin and later cited Paul Zak. I talk about defintions and referenced the problem with dividing by zero (both mathematics).

    I didn't use the Bible once in any of that except to say that God is mentioned in the Bible. I doubt you are arguing that God isn't mentioned in the Bible. (Go ahead if you want.)

    In any event, since I didn't actually use the Bible for my arguments (other than to say that the Bible refers to a God) why did you claim it was "my Bible?"

    May 7, 2012 at 5:04 am |
    • Hugo

      Oh, sigh, you are here. I reloaded and didn't see your posts. Looks like a technical delay. OK.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:05 am |
    • /sigh

      umm take the time to read my responses, in fact take the time to WAIT for a response before posting, because you are suffering from a foot in mouth syndrome.
      I also stated to prove that praying helps people as in curing diseases or saving someones life without using the bible, soething you have yet to prove and completely ignored.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Hugo

      Sigh, I'll give you the sequence of events and you tell me if you really think I didn't act in the forum correctly.

      See no response.
      Compose message.
      Save message to clipboard.
      Referesh screen.
      See no responses.
      Click post.
      See reponses several minutes before my post submitted.

      Where did I err?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:14 am |
    • Hugo

      Sigh, I'll give you the sequence of events and you tell me if you really think I didn't act in the forum correctly.

      See no response.
      Compose message.
      Save message to clipboard.
      Referesh screen.
      See no responses.
      Past my composition from clipboard.
      Click post.
      See reponses several minutes before my post submitted.

      Where did I err?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • /sigh

      you waited less than 10 minutes for someone to establish the releence of your statements by looking it up, sorry that i dont just say things as they come to me and think that is automaticly fact.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:18 am |
    • Hugo

      sigh, point taken on the 10 minutes. However, your post, that I didn't see on the refresh, has a time stamp some 4 minutes before my post which I made right after refreshing the screen.

      That doesn't sound like a technological issue to you?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • /sigh

      sorry it sounded like more as if you got impatient you did not state anything about the time stamp only that you appeared to impatiently be refreshing expecting an instant answer.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:39 am |
  6. Hugo

    @sigh, can divide by zero, eh?

    If 4/0 = x, then tell me what value of x, if I multiply it by 0 will give me 4?

    May 7, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • /sigh

      In mathematics, division by zero is division where the divisor (denominator) is zero. Such a division can be formally expressed as a / 0 where a is the dividend (numerator). Whether this expression can be assigned a well-defined value depends upon the mathematical setting.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • Hugo

      Interesting sigh. Care to cite a reference? (I did produce Paul Zak.)

      May 7, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • /sigh

      umm math? do you really want me to look up all the people who created calculous or perhaps you can just look up "division by zero"

      May 7, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Hugo

      Sigh, I know about calculus. That's not dividing by zero. Loosely speaking, it's the limit of n/x as the limit approaches 0. x is very very small but it isn't actually 0.

      When I said dividing by 0, I meant dividing by the actual 0, not something very close to 0.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:26 am |
    • Hugo

      limit of x. OK, it's really late at night.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • /sigh

      Although division by zero cannot be sensibly defined with real numbers and integers, it is possible to consistently define it, or similar operations, such as non-standard analysis, distribution theory, linear algebra abstract algebra and computer arithmetic.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  7. Hugo

    Sigh – Google Paul Zak.

    May 7, 2012 at 4:50 am |
    • /sigh

      as has been stated it is not the prayer itself but the "good feeling" that people get when praying that is the release, the same thing when you pat yourself on the back for doing something you deem as good, or self satisfaction, the fact that people get that feeling is more of a statement of the selfishness associated with prayer rather than the prayer itself.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:03 am |
    • Hugo

      Sigh, I think we are interpreting the OP's statement differently. Often when people say "prayer..." they aren't using perfect English. They mean the "act of praying." The OP might have meant what you appear to think he meant but I've encountered that use of language by several people to frequently mean "the act of praying."

      Unless you want to take the position that the "act of praying" doesn't release oxytocin, I suggest we drop it due to differences of interpretation of the original statement.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • /sigh

      BTW i dont see anything about religion releasing oxytocin under pauls information only that He has studied brain imaging, and was the first to identify the role of oxytocin in mediating trusting behaviors between unacquainted humans, looks like his reseach is mostly about economics and is debated amongst others in his field.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:14 am |
    • /sigh

      you should of known exactly what i thought the OP was saying as i used the baby dying despite prayer analogy.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • Hugo

      Sigh, why should I interpret a message by party A using a response made by party B after party A as finished the statement. The later action by B doesn't affect A before B speaks (assuming we use psychological time and keep physics out of this).

      May 7, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • /sigh

      hugo – because you were not responding to the OP but to me and thus you are going off of my understanding of what the OP said and not your own.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:36 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 7, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • /sigh

      tell that to the babies in my state that could of lived if they got medical treatement but his/her parents decided to pray instead so the kid died and now the parents are in jail.
      prayer has never brought anything, in fact, in your bible it states not to pray for selfish things as it will not happen and yet that is the main thing you christians do, pray for others to make yourself look better to your "god" or pray for yourself.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:34 am |
    • Hitchens

      The fact that some people misuse or do not understand prayer does not negate the power of prayer.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • /sigh

      well hitchens, without using passages in the bible why dont you tell me one time when praying has worked with the only explanation being "god".

      May 7, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Hugo

      @Sigh. I'll say that prayer does change things to whoever. One change, scientifically demonstrated, is that people who pray release oxytocin. Meditation works too. So does a hug.

      But please don't take the position that prayer doesn't change things when scientific research has demonstrated that it does (release oxytocin).

      May 7, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • /sigh

      @ hugo – look up the word oxytocin, because i dont think you know what it is, and NO it does NOT release it, that is simply propganda told to you by someone, you should research and use your ming instead of blindly following what your pasture tells you.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • Hugo

      Sigh, that's an absurd request of Hitchens. You requested that he must attribute something to God without using the Bible. Right?

      But Hitchens' definition of God comes from the Bible.

      You might as well have asked him to divide by zero. It's unreasonable. Why did you do it?

      May 7, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • /sigh

      @ hugo, you can divide by zero. look it up again you have no idea what your saying.
      So you cannot show or prove religion works or exists outside of the bible? Well then would that not make it fiction?

      May 7, 2012 at 4:49 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Hugo: As much as you are correct about the oxytocin issue, it does not mean that prayer equates to god. There are numerous other ways (two of which you mentioned) to get that same effect. Oxytocin is a brain chemical...the feel good measure basically. When we say prayer does not work we mean it in the exact sense that 'sigh/' has stated...it will not make an ill child better, or help cure cancer or as.sist an amputee or resolve any issue outside of ones own mind. All it does appease the person praying, it does not do anything for the apparent recipient of the prayer...for that there is no scientific study that provides such evidence and in fact there are numerous studies to prove it doesn't. The only benefactor to the use of prayer is the person saying the prayer.
      Please enlighten us on how praying proves a god exists...use the scientific method since you seem to wish to entwine science and belief (an oxymoron in itself).

      May 7, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "But Hitchens' definition of God comes from the Bible."

      You can't use the buybull to prove god. It's called circular reasoning and fails.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • Hugo

      @Truth, how is it circular reasoning? I said the defintion (most likely) used by the OP of God comes from the Bible. How is he supposed to discuss God without using the definition he learned for the word?

      How would you discuss an apple without first having a concept of an apple in your mind? More to the point, how do you discuss an apple if you may not use the concept of an apple that pre-exists in your mind?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • /sigh

      @hugo, there is a difference, an apple exists, to discribe it you need no more than to show an apple, religion is a belief system you cannot discribe it or show it as no individual interprets the bible the same and everyones visions of their god is different than the next persons, thus it cannot be shown to exist outside of the bible which in itself is mearly literature and cannot prove the existance of a god either. an apple will always be an apple but "god" can be many different things.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @Hugo: The buybull is the apparent word of god and the only foundation for god. It comes to this:
      Theist: God exists
      Atheist: How do you know this?
      Theist: The bible says so.
      Atheist: How do you know the bible is correct?
      Theist: The bible says it is the word of god.

      It is circular. You can't use the bible to prove god.
      /Sigh cleared it up in regards to your comment about an apple. Apples can be proven without question to exist and they can be proven to exist in many forms...they can be tested to prove they are apples. There is no test to prove god.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Also I would argue that Hitchens gets his definition of God not solely from the Bible but from the general overarching concept of a universal overlord with an apparently keen interest in mankind. The sources for such come not only from the Bible but also from the Jewish scriptures as well as a panoply of other world religions. In fact Hitch would likely say that the definition of God is entirely unique for each individual believer.
      On the other point about the Bible being circular...the apple an.alogy fails. A STORY about an apple in no way determines an apples existence in reality. The fact that apples actually do exist in reality and can be verified by numerous methods does. If someone told a tale about a pink and blue polka dotted apple it makes no sense to accept that as a true statement until an actual example was presented and verified.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.~

      May 7, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  9. /sigh

    smoking cigarettes and listening to any music besides christian only music makes you secular? man alot of christians should know about this because they are secular.

    I also love how the writer stated giving meatloaf to firefighters as being conscientious and how reading a 19th century russian novels (most likely translated) somehow denotes intelligence.
    i guess all us secular people who are volunteer firefighters or do charity work because it is the right thing to do instead of trying to get into "gods good grace" and feel better about oneself sure have alot to think about.... I know being able to read a book is hard when you dont believe in "god".

    The only reason why the author went back to "god" is because she got scared of the real world, it was too much for her and she had to have her security blanket to make everything ok. she even said it herself that there were so many questions, yet she answered none of them, she simply ran back to something safe instead of being courageous.
    enjoy your desire to "possess" the "presence" of "god", a statement that is so far away from being christian that its not even funny... do christians even read their bible or is that something only us secular people do? maybe thats why we are secular :)

    Here is a question for all your crazy christians, why would a "god" need to be worshiped? why would an "all knowing god" need recognition to being a "god" if he is a "god"? In fact as "god" created lucifer first, why would a "good god" diliberately create evil supposedly knowing what would happen, yet somehow not knowing?
    sounds pretty fallible to me, sounds almost like he is human and not a "god" at all... now who wrote the bible?

    May 7, 2012 at 4:04 am |
    • Nii

      SIGH/
      You seriously feel that asking theological questions which have been answered already here and in countless books makes u more intelligent than "crazy" xtians? How about you reading books which answer them?

      May 7, 2012 at 4:44 am |
    • thearrowz

      God doesn't "need" to be worshipped. Assuming God is real (and is "God" in that sense of the word), it makes sense that He wouldn't die if He wasn't worshipped. Worship doesn't "fuel" such a God.

      Could God make a stone so heavy that He couldn't lift it?

      May 7, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • /sigh

      NII- so i'll take that as you cannot answer it. nice try though.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • /sigh

      @thearrow, then why is it commanded by "god" that we must worship him? you MUST have faith in "god" there is no other way.
      no one answered the fallible question either, why did god create lucifer knowing what he would do? heck why would god create man the way he created man knowing what man would do? if he did not know than he is fallible and therefore not a god. the bible has "god" making ALOT of mistakes.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • Nii

      SIGH
      You really think I shud answer all those questions over and over again while you change blog names to post them everyday??? Seriously!!!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • /sigh

      NII – sorry first time posting here, I'm sorry if you think i do what you probably do but i do not.
      i know you will not answer those questions for the simple fact that YOU CANNOT.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Nii

      I'm busy right now. I'll answer later as you say u dont frame new blog names. I don't either. Nii is my first name.
      Mirosal
      You do realise that engineers are scientists and I WORK as one. The American system is different from the British.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Nii is a civil engineer. It equates to science but only certain aspects and not the ones that get disputed in regards to the christian belief. Civil engineering does not cover evolution or how the universe was created. An accurate definition would be: The field of engineering sciences, related to design, construction and maintenance of buildings, dams, bridges, tunnels, highways and other structures by the use of physical laws, mathematical equations and theories of mechanics.
      Furthermore Nii, is not solely a civil engineer but is also in seminary which is exactly where he fails at being logical in any sense.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Mirosal

      Yeah, civil engineering... building roads sure does make one an expert in all things scientific lol .. Civil engineering is more math than science. Personally I don't think he's the designer, I think he's the guy holding the "stop/slow" sign for trsffic at the construction site.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Nii

      MIROSAL/TP
      I finished a course in Biology to Advanced Supplementary Level. I am very competent to speak on Evolution. I believe u guys think an Engineer calculates with Physics and Maths all the time. However engineers study a whole lot of things to be good inventors as well.

      May 7, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  10. Ryan

    Wow, more Christian propaganda. Didn't make sense, kept doing, here I am. What a great way to live life! I'm sure a lot of drug addicts could say the same thing.

    May 7, 2012 at 3:31 am |
    • Alan

      It made sense to me although I had to read it twice. Did you try reading it twice?

      May 7, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • /sigh

      it only makes sense when read by the blind.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:43 am |
  11. The Umind

    The author of the article has some great questions. I wish I had the opportunity to demonstrate to her that God has even greater answers. The enemy will do everything he can to cause doubt and confusion even if it comes through a theologically and biblically inaccurate statement from a preacher. "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. . ." (I Corinthians 14:33)

    May 7, 2012 at 3:26 am |
    • wow

      Did you really just quote two thousand year old text in an attempt to help another human being? There are more relevant statements to the modern world made in a phone book than your precious bible. Go back to riding your unicorn, i'll stick to what I can see.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:32 am |
    • /sigh

      so your using an inaccurate statement to prove yourself correct??? you should go read the bible because it does not say confusion and there is more to that statement, pretty sad that atheists know more about the bible than the christians efending it.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:11 am |
    • dito

      Sigh, you really drank the koolaid. I worship Santa Clause, he brings me stuff.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • /sigh

      dito – good for you, i take it you are 12 from your worshiping of santa clause and the common use of the word "koolaid" to denote something bad even though it is a very popular drink.

      May 7, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      /sigh, the use of the word koolaid has to do with the Waco, Texas massacre where they all drank poisoned koolaid.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • Mirosal

      No m'lady, it has to do with the Jonestown, Guyana massacre in 1978 with Jim Jones .. over 900 of his followers drank the cyanide kool-aid. Some willingly, some at gunpoint. Jones shot himself when everyone was down and OUT. Only a handful of people who were there managed to escape the kool-aid and the loaded rifles.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  12. mike

    If she really wants to (at least once a week) go and be told that she will suffer eternal hell fire, torture, and damnation because she was guilty of thought crime (bit of a human rights violation) then by all means go. Children should not be exposed to this. She seems to go to church because she feels it fills something in her life. Well, people with imaginary friends are seldom lonely.

    May 7, 2012 at 3:03 am |
    • Nii

      MIKE
      One thing that most atheists fail to realise is that we sort of evolved to be religious. The intuitive personality seeks fellowship and ethical fulfillment. The religion is irrelevant. Spirituality is part of us. H.o.m.o fu.tu.ru.s might be more or less religious not us.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:20 am |
    • Ryan

      not really, there are plenty of people in Europe that couldn't give a flying F@$#$ about religion. If it were genetic, atheist could only come from other atheists

      May 7, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • /sigh

      Nii – pretty funny when you say christians evolvved when you don't believe in evolution lol

      May 7, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • Nii

      RYAN
      What in the world made you feel I said religion itself was genetic? I said we are intuitive by nature and it predisposes us to seek spirituality by being religious. Lots of Europeans will drop gifts/flowers at a place where a tragedy has occured. Thats a religious act exhibiting spirituality.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • Mirosal

      Nii .. religious and spiritual are NOT synonymous.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:19 am |
    • /sigh

      Mirosal, using logic on a christian never works.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:35 am |
    • Nii

      MIROSAL
      I never said they were. I actually did make a distinction between spirituality and religion both of which inspire religious acts.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • mike

      Again people who have imaginary friends are seldom lonely. Even if something is inborn that does not make it true or correct.
      CNN recently published an article on critical thinking. Critical thinking has allowed us to do everything from develop new hunting methods to scientific instruments, modes of transport, and modern economies. The result of the study? The more you do it, the more you're apt to to question things like if Jonah really survived in the belly of a whale, err, excuse me, great fish. Religion makes far fetched claims which it offers no proof and insufficient evidence. Its fair to question. But critical thinking is a relatively recent development for humans. We have existed as long as two hundred and fifty thousand years and it was only a few thousand years ago the the Greeks first mastered it. We bare the lowly stamp of our origin.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • Nii

      SIGH/
      I am a scientist and minister, u will be shocked at the things that I do believe. However, I hoe u know evolution is not a religious tenet. It seems u think atheism equals science. That is highly illogical thinking for someone who claims logical thinking. Learn more on human psychology.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • Nii

      MIKE
      De Greeks mastered critical thinking? Interesting. History doesn't say that. Or u think when 3 professors say that on CNN then its correct. Maybe u shud ask urself how long it took de Greeks 2 become civilised after Babylon was built. It seems u really dont know ur subjectives from objectives.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • Mirosal

      Nii .... you've stated many times before that you are an engineer and a minister. Now you're a scientist and minister? Make up your mind. Which is it, are you an engineer or a scientist? A B.S. degree does NOT mean you are a scientist.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • mike

      Actually I was talking about a study reported by cnn that stated critical thinking helps cause atheism. But as you brought up science, lets look up what religious claims have been disproven by science. The Sun is pulled across the sky by a god in a chariot. The Earth is the center of the solar system. Slaughtering a lamb will decrease the chance of a storm sinking your boat when traveling on a long voyage. Also, of course evolution is not a religious tenet. Why do you think teaching it in school is mostly opposed in areas like the bible belt?
      As a minister, do you feel its morally acceptable to tell small children that they will go to hell for thought crime? These are not exactly topics found in children's books. That is actually the most complete and utter form of totalitarianism and authoritarianism that neither Al-Assad or Kim Jong Il could ever aspire to. And no, I'm not sure that I would be shocked by what you believe.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • /sigh

      NII – never said ahteism = science, only you did, just as you keep saying atheism = religion, putting words in peoples mouths.
      i also know evolution is not a tenet of religion as i stated earlier how its funny a christian would say they evolved into religion, in fact that was you who said that lol
      are you sure you know what tenet means?

      May 7, 2012 at 6:07 am |
  13. Mark from Middle River

    Matt, when you get TomTom to break her composure and show her true self, is now days my favorite sport.

    There will always be ones like TomTom, Rev Wright, Rev Terry Jones... Sometimes all you can do is pity them and hope and pray they find peace.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • /sigh

      sounds like you are not at peace yourself as you are pretty upset oer other people not following your belief structure.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • Nii

      SIGH
      Using Bhuddhist terminology, again? What is it with most so-called atheists and Bhuddhism?

      May 7, 2012 at 5:03 am |
    • /sigh

      NII – nope made that up all by myself, see atheists don't need refrences to state something insightfull, we use our brain.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  14. Jeffrey Brown

    You summed me up perfectly here.

    I am in the same boat you are. Raised in church, have left the church, and I am at the point of realization that I need and yearn for God's presence in my life. I desire it. I have recently started prayer again out of a bad situation (funny how that happens) and God, in 3 weeks, has started totally changing that situation. Doubters and disbelievers, please call it coincidence, please tell me how brainwashed I am, because I know those are the arguments that you want to give me. To feel God in your heart is to experience something I wish on you all.

    I do believe parts of all religion have been fabricated to serve self interest of men. I don't doubt that really. I'm not naive. But I also don't believe that this entire existence is based of a perfect series of chance happenings. I believe that God has overseen those happenings to ensure the chance happened.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • Andrew

      "Perfect series of chance happenings"
      Part of the problem is that in your mind, you have reduced it to either 'god', or 'strawman'. Your belief in a "perfect series" is what is bringing you back to god in the first place, because you cannot conceive of this world as 'an outcome' but rather 'the perfect outcome'.

      You have a very human-centric view of this universe, and have made for a rather large place in it in your mind. This world, this universe, it's not perfect, it's just what we happen to have. If you were born on the second planet on the third star from the top third of the second spiral on Andromeda, you'd be having the exact same ideas, you'd be wondering 'how could this universe be so perfect, how could this planet be so perfect, clearly there must be something going on here'.

      It's like the idea of you winning the lottery, then believing god gave you the winnings. But the picture is more complex because SOMEONE was bound to win. In an unfathomably large universe, there would be some planets where life is likely to develop. Thus when life does develop, it's possible to say "this planet was so perfect it was made for life", when in fact life would only come on a planet capable of sustaining it. Life comes out of the universe organically, as an intrinsic part of the universe, rather than as a piece of makeup painted on. It's not that this world is perfect and made for life, it's that some planets can support it, and that this happened to be one of those planets.

      I look at the scale of the universe and feel simultaneously very small, and very lucky. There are an infinite number of other possible "me's" that could have existed, there are an infinite number of people who never existed and never will exist, and in their place there's me. I am a very tiny, very unlikely part of a vast cosmic dance that has continued for nearly 14 billion years and will continue for billions more. I don't see it as perfect, I don't see it as needing a god, I see it as the outcome of a universe far grander than I am, and I can sit back and take comfort in my luck to experience the universe for a brief moment of time.

      You might feel you need to believe in god, but don't say that we believe the universe is just perfect, it's not, it's rather inhospitable in the most part for life. A god could create a universe teeming with life, but if we look out, it's mostly barren. That makes me appreciate what I do have more than any 'gifts of god' would, more than any perceived notion of perfection in the universe. I am the winner of a cosmic lottery, and with or without a god, I seek to enjoy my time on this planet.

      You don't need a god to feel fulfilment in the universe.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • wow

      You believe that man fabricated parts of religion, yet cannot prove he didn't fabricate all of religion. And here you are admitting that because of a hard situation you have turned to an imaginary being for help.

      Are you really so psychologically fragile that you must depend upon an invisible, untouchable, inaudible, "all knowing", and "all powerful" man-made panacea?

      Cheers.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • atheist fred

      A commitment to better a particular situation which happens to include god as part of its regiment is not successful due to the god component, it’s successful because of your conscious effort to change it. Don’t sell yourself short, and give credit where credit is due. God had nothing to do with it, it was all you.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Colin

      Andrew, great post.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • MK

      Correct, Atheist Fred. Jeffrey...try praying to a fire hydrant and see if you get the same results.

      May 7, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  15. RyanS

    Andrea is missing a relationship with God.Being religious and doing religious things is not much better then being a heathen it can still be just as empty, Jesus said to Follow Him, which implies a relationship. She needs to be born again spiritually. John 3:3-3:7

    May 7, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • wow

      You are delusional. The author needs to seek personal fulfillment in areas of her life that are concrete and real. Personal relationships with other PEOPLE, activities upon the REAL earth. What she absolutely does not need is relationships with unproven deities, or advice from two thousand year old books.

      When was the last time you heard of john the baptist or jesus actually impacting the world DIRECTLY and not through an agent of faith? You never have, because they are DEAD. D-E-A-D. Never coming back, unless there is a zombie apocalypse.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  16. b4bigbang

    Gotta go 4 now; g'nite everybody!

    May 7, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  17. n8263

    Organzied religion is delusional.

    You do not believe in religion because you honestly think it is true, you believe in it because you are afraid of the death. It does not take a genius to figure out all religion is man made, so for humanity's sake, please stop lying to yourself.

    Deluding yourself in religion does not change reality. Lying to yourself is probably the worst possible way to try to find meaning in your life.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"You do not believe in religion because you honestly think it is true, you believe in it because you are afraid of the death."

      I highly disagree. Because the Faithful believe, know, are held to their beliefs, Death is the last thing we fear.

      Maybe you should try talking to more of the Faithful n8263. As a Christian we hold to the 23rd Psalm, so I am interested in where you came to the assumption that we fear Death.

      "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;"

      and then ends with ".....and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever."

      And from this, the Faithful fear Death. Wow...

      Cool, I can cut and paste too. :)

      May 7, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • Jeffrey Brown

      I ask, can you prove your reality?

      May 7, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Hdixbskans

      What about Christian Denominations such as Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses that teach that you go in the ground in an unconscious state when you die... Do you think people join them (some of the ONLY growing churches in America) because they want to live when they die? The bible even says in Ecclesiastes that the dead know nothing.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • Andrew

      Mark, if you didn't have your faith, would you be afraid of death?

      I think the argument he was trying to make is that you believe so strongly because you are afraid of death, and thus religion gives you comfort to escape that fear. Thus, to avoid fearing death, you cling strongly onto your faith simply to avoid the scarier alternative in your mind, regardless of the veracity of your faith.

      While I'd say this might keep some religious individuals devout, I'm not willing to say it's what keeps all individuals devout, and not necessarily the primary motivation for religious belief, but it certainly is a motivation.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:41 am |
    • Nii

      ANDREW
      The Adventists do not believe that before the Resurrection a soul will live however all will be resurrected. The Jehovah Witnesses believe that only good people are resurrected. Adventists r Christians but Jehovah Witnesses fall out on this n other beliefs.

      May 7, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • Nii

      N8
      I think u r afraid of death but have found a coping mechanism in Atheism as a religion. This is y we call Atheism a religion as it seeks de same objectives as any other. That said I dont fear death in de same way another might. I'll hate 2 die young but its part of life n anything can happen!

      May 7, 2012 at 3:03 am |
    • Nii

      N8
      That said for me an unfulfilled life is more of my problem than life after death. I fear prison more than hell. However xtianity helps me to cope with my fears i agree. However it does more than that. It helps me to achieve a lot. Faith is the opposite of fear and more of it doesn't kill.

      May 7, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • /sigh

      atheism is never and will never be a religion, how is the absence of religion religious, that is the problem with you christians everything HAS to be a religion , math, science, atheists, because its far too confusing to you that logic has nothing to do with faith but understanding.
      i never found comfort in being an atheist because that is NOT the point of it, i find comfort in looking at the stars and knowing there is more to life and more to strive for than simply accepting what is given. i find comfort in expanding my mind and myself as a human, instead of blindly following a system over 2000 years old that does not work with modern society and forces you to have to think one way only.

      May 7, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Nii

      SIGH
      I love how atheists wud consult and reference all sorts of books on Christianity but when it comes to atheism then its the dictionary.
      REALITY has shown beyond reasonable doubt that academically it is studied as a religion. I don't know why you think it is Xtians who did it. Paranoia perhaps!

      May 7, 2012 at 5:20 am |
    • /sigh

      NII – considering the only way to refrence the bible and variations of it is by using the bible and variations of itself your argument is moot.
      that is why there is a difference between religion and atheism in fact Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists. Which is why we are called atheists in the first place.

      BTW reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined, so in reality atheism is NOT a religion based upon the definition of atheism itself.

      oh and i can use the dictionary to define religion as well CULT noun – a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.

      May 7, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • WASP

      @mark: you proved n8263 correct in his/her statement by using scripture.what is the difference between an atheist death and a christian death? religious folks live life hopeing they will be good enough to go to heaven.......and fearing going to hell. what do athiests have to fear from death? nothing, we just stop exsisting. so in using the bible to claim you don't fear death just proved that you require reassurance that you will continue to live on even after your body is dead.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • n8263

      Andrew and Wasp, that is exactly correct. Mark is making my point for me by quoting scripture.

      May 7, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Nii

      WAYNE
      Thanks for being honest about how you "lost" your faith. I always say for the most part it is the religious and sometimes pious who lose their faith but never de spiritual. I don't mind what u said 1 bit as u need to find ur own path to spirituality n if Atheism will give u that then fine.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:53 am |
    • Nii

      Moses n Jesus never actually taught religion but spirituality. Moses set de tone by giving spirituality's codes n Jesus deciphered them cos He was their original author. De religions based on the Bible can show u spirituality but so do others. Jesus is de perfect Example hence the Way, Truth n Life.

      May 9, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I doubt anyone here would miss Mark the Piddler is he disappeared tomorrow.

    His absence would leave little emptiness; in fact, I'd bet that it would be of benefit to many non-profit companies who have been wishing they could get rid of him a all along.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  19. Stig

    “This is bulls**t.”

    May 7, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • J. Clarkson

      You'll burn in hell for that one stig.

      May 7, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Mirosal

      Why would Stig "burn in hell"?

      May 7, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  20. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Mattress reminds me of the typical frat-boy-toy who can't wait to get laid by some frat boy,

    What a vacuous little moob.

    May 7, 2012 at 1:24 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.