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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. BobZemko

    I just wish that Christians didn't hate so much (i.e. gays, non-Christians)

    May 7, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • GodPot

      Christians claim they have no hate for others, it's their God that hates. Funny that their God has never come down and punished those he hates himself and apparently just leaves it up to his "loving" followers to proclaim his hate and be the judge, jury and executioners.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • sortakinda

      You make it up. It must be true. Oh, wait, that's what you claim believers do. Sputter sputter, cough, sneeze.

      May 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  2. If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

    From reading the article I'd say she never actually had any doubt in her belief. She just had a desire for temptations and couldn't justify them with her religion .. so she called it doubt and set out on a "journey". Her religious training made her weak and unable to resist temptations that the vast majority of us can easily resist.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  3. Voice of Reason

    We are here to help you believers to live rationally with reason and logic.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • JM

      Write a letter to Obama explaining to him why his faith makes no sense.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • MarkinFL

      JM,
      Why?

      May 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  4. Bill

    I had to read this because as a person who truly believes that we are still developing as people, I wanted to read what got her back to church. This marked yet another time in my life wherein it was confirmed to me that there no god. If you need a church to believe that is what it takes to lead a good life – that's great. Just keep that confined to your church. It's a shame that when you are not part of a belief sysytem or a church, you are shunned or not taken seriously. Why do individuals believe that "their" god is the one and only? Doesn't that seem a bit ridiculous. It's pure prejudice. No matter what religion, individuals from any one, hold a negative sense towards faith based practices that are not their's. Why is this? Yes, I know there is someone as we read thinking, " I'm not like that"...yes, you really are. Think if you meet someone in your travels, have a solid conversation and take a liking to talking with that person. Then you find out they are______________! Wow, you never would have guessed it, but now your whole view on that person has changed. Yes, I do realize that these things don't effect everyone...I wish I knew more of you. My point is that we don't need religion to be good people. Good people are evolving everyday....why...because they have not closed their minds. They listen, they learn and they offer their opinions. They do the right things because it is the right thing to do. It's that simple...

    May 7, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Joe

      "Good people are evolving everyday....why...because they have not closed their minds. They listen, they learn and they offer their opinions. They do the right things because it is the right thing to do. It's that simple..."

      Really?? I'm not a Christian, but you are incredibly naive if you believe this. People do the "right things" (whatever that means), because they perceive it to be in their best interests, or it alleviates some of their guilt. People are not mostly good. What if everyone knew every thought you have had, would they consider you to be mostly good? No.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Marie

      And all good comes from God because they are made in His image

      May 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  5. Huebert

    And just what the hell is wrong with Pearl Jam?!?!

    May 7, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • moser

      no kidding...?

      May 7, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • blaqb0x

      It's part of "Secular" life including cigarettes, alcohol, and sleeping around.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  6. john

    hte whole point is that if we have physical evedince of god it would defeat the purpose of humans being on earth in the first place we are here because we are sinners and if we were just told by god himself in person to beieve in him there would be no question of if he is real or not we would just know and would all go to heaven god made the universe the way he did to make it look like he doesnt exist so we question our belief hints why it says faith

    May 7, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Huebert

      So your saying that god wants to condemn people to hell?

      May 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Madtown

      we are here because we are sinners
      ----
      No, we're here because we are part of the circle of life in this world. We are human beings, certainly imperfect, but created as such.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • MarkinFL

      John, if that is the reason we are here then life really does have no meaning. What a senseless reason to create life. Wow. To what purpose? Some weird vain experiment of which every failure must lay with the creator? Just sounds completely silly.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  7. Jonathan

    I hate the concept that there are secular enticements that might make someone not be a 'good girl or good boy.' I am secular, I am an atheist. I don't drink, I don't do drugs, and I don't listen to Pearl Jam. I am not promiscuous, I am married (13+ years now) and I am raising a family and am a productive member of society. Having never been indoctrinated in the church, I don't really understand this aspect of your spiritual journey. Frankly, I find it offensive that the opposing point of view is somehow bad. Most secularists aren't bad people... just like most theists aren't bad people. I attribute a great deal of evil to the church so I find this article interesting in how it mirrors the opposing viewpoint somewhat.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Adam C

      Religion is about control. Christians have been bashing non-christians since the religion was first created. The reason they do so is that they do not hold any power over a non-religious person. If you don't believe in the boogey man, they can't use the boogey man to scare you.

      Which is why secular humanism is a much better philosophy. All the being good to your fellow man, none of the shame/guilt/control of religion.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • L

      you must have a lot of personal problems. It was from her point of view,not yours.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Wildcat Birthweight

      I think you might be lying to yourself about the drugs.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Phil

      I'm with you Jonathan (and Bill too). I don't need faith or religion to lead a "good, clean life." I asked a Lutheran professor about it once, (all in my family are atheists of one flavor or another, and we're the straightest bunch you'd ever meet), and he said oh yeah, it's well known that atheists often have higher moral standards of honesty, charity, and ethics. They do it to compensate for the fact that they're not forgiven.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  8. ARM

    To all those God Haters..
    Please don't be negative if you do not have faith in God. You too are trying to impose your will and idea's on others that there is no God. Seems like of late you guys are trying very hard to intimidate Christians. That will never work, as some day and place you are going to have to answer to God.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Aezel

      What a fool you are. You start your post saying "oh don't pick on us poor Christians, you're being mean!"

      Then you end your post saying "oh and, if you don't follow Christianity you are gonna have to answer to our big mean God and he is going punish you!"

      Typical Christian dips**t.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Adam C

      You can't hate something you don't believe in. Do you hate unicorns?

      As far as your call for civility, yes, we ALL could stand to be a bit more civil to one another.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      Let them keep revealing themselves, ARM. They are doing themselves considerable harm.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  9. catholic engineer

    I think maybe I'll try living as a secularist. As a catholic, people can call me a hypocite when I hold other people to a standard I myself violate. Secularists apparently live according to some undefined standard. With no defined standard for living, I can be a nice guy on the cheap.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Aezel

      "Secularists apparently live according to some undefined standard."

      That is not true at all. It is much easier to construct a coherent and fair set of moral expectations when you don't throw pretend deities into the mix. Morality is not dependent on a god in any way.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  10. Church is fun!

    I was raised Catholic, left the church and then started going again. The thing most people don't realize as church bashing continues, is that church is a social enterprise and brings you into contact with other people. There is always something to do whether it be preparing a dinner or just work that needs to be done around the church.

    After studying many worldwide religions both on a college level and on my own, reading the works on the Dalai Lama, etc., they all teach the same thing. It is the myth that is different, ie, that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, he died on the cross, etc., but the core of all religions are the same. It is not a good idea to go around stealing, cheating on your spouse, murdering people, not respecting your parents or any other people. If you see someone in need, help them.

    Although I did not return to a Catholic Church I did return to a Christian, an Episcopalian one. And thought I don't believe many of the Christian myths, I do believe in God, whether is be with a small or capital letter. I do believe that other people's deities and mine are one and the same, the only difference is the story. I do not believe Jesus or any other religious leader wanted us to kill each other is his/there name. Kinda defeats the whole "love thy neighbor" thing.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • catholic engineer

      "I do believe that other people's deities and mine are one and the same, the only difference is the story." Absolutely. The atheists rejoice in naming off all the various deities through time. But humanity is a religious being (how did evolution produce this freak ?!). Humanity has a religious impulse to which it responds. It does this using whatever cultural conditions are available. So it comes out looking different. But the fact is there is one Spirit, one religious impulse, many expressions of belief.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Aezel

      That's a nice sentiment but you don't need pretend religion to do any of the positive things mentioned above.

      In fact, religion is far behind science in helping the rest of the world. Why do we live longer now? Science. Why don't you die when you get an infection? Science. Why are 2 BILLION people alive now that wouldn't have been? Genetic crop science.

      Wishy washy hokey religions have a LOT of catching up to do with science in making the human condition better. In fact I would say at this point it is an impossible task for them.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      @Aezel "In fact, religion is far behind science in helping the rest of the world. Why do we live longer now? Science. " Ever heard of Wilkie Collins? THis Victorian author witnessed the carnage of the Franco_Prussion War. He said "I begin to believe in only one civilising influence – the discovery one of these days of a destructive agent so terrible that War shall mean annihilation and men's fears will force them to keep the peace." Well, your scientists have cause us to live in fear since 1945. Heard of The Tuskegee syphilis experiment? Conducted by scientists. Science doesn't do things by itself. People use it do good or awful things. Take off at least one of your blinders.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Eon

    yeah, Basically same thing I hear from every christian...I drank did drugs tried to commit suicide and then i finnally came to god...so Christians are Drunks, Druggies, Theives, with no regard for life, not even their own...about sums it up. Like Aezel states you people are projecting your fallacies onto us. Stop it. Take responsibility for your own actions...and stop blaming Pearl Jam!!! if anything blame Conway Twitty....

    May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Those used guys.

      Me in my pick up truck, six pack, gun rack, southern and nortnern flag on back bumper, plastic Jesus sitting on the dashboard, copy of the good book and handgun in the glove compartment, and Conway Twitty blaring one out on the radio, life is sweet for a God fearing Born Again redneck.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  12. Uncle Spooge

    If religion is a reason to hang out with friends and family in the community to have an ice cream social or summer BBQ more power to you. If you believe in fictional stories written so long ago that only the most general terms apply to us then you are stupid, very very stupid. Believing fictional stories is not only a strong sign of mental instability but shows you have a severe lack of deductive reasoning and common sense.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • JM

      Do you vote for people who believe in God? Do you work for/with people who believe in God? Do you have friends who believe in God? Do any of your relatives believe in God? Do any of the writers you read believe in God?

      I think you need to make some lifestyle changes based on your comments. Why would you associate with people who you believe to be mentally unstable?

      May 7, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Those used guys.

      From the Gospel of the FSM
      Re: Recruiting Christians to Pastafairianism
      Born Agains are the most dogmatic of all, because it is the dogma itself that forms their belief system. The Born Again believes that everyone needs to be told what to do-and realistically, that's the only thing keeping them out of jail.
      RAmen...Stay clear of anyone you expect to be a Born Again, the one exception being if they are buying the next round of beer, but be vigilant and run away if you have to. Peace.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  13. pray4peacewlove

    Spiritually is great to talk on any form and yes-even CNN it is the topic in the sunshine of your life and at the sunset of your life.
    Sometime you have to stop looking outside to find it, Just look within for your belief look within for your faith, and you will see it never left you, and belief is like the air you breath it sustains our life, but you cannot see it, and did you really have to see it?, I would agree that religion sometimes makes you feel like it gets in your way, but religion is a gathering place to share a common bond with like minded people, but your spiritually is a journey that is for you take , it belongs to you alone even if you choose to share with others, and I believe that our goal and hope in life, is that we find the comfort that is needed to feel the true freedom from what binds us, to know that you mattered , that you made a difference, that because you existed life will be eternally better for others that follow after you. That you feel free to rest because you have cared, and given your best in what we call our human experience.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  14. hilikus00

    This article is nothing but a young girl's rebellion, and the attention she wanted from it. Her 'secular life' comes from a religious stereotype, and is insulting to real secular people. That was not secular living, that was doing what ever she wanted to do. Through the entire time, she never stopped looking through religious eyes. "I'm being bad" = secular, to her.

    I mean, really...she insulted her father's belief while in church...made a scene while leaving, because waiting to the end of the sermon and not going back wouldn't get the attention wanted. Did whatever she wanted to for a little while, then slowly came back to her family's way of life. I don't think one single bit of this story had anything to do with religion.

    Equating her "bad times" with secular life is insulting to all us people who decide to be good every day without the threat of punishment or reward.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  15. Adam C

    Support higher education. Reduce religion's grip on the USA. 2 birds, 1 stone.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • JM

      Obama. Colin Powell.

      People who believe in God.

      You do realize that many highly educated people believe in God/Jesus?

      May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Adam C

      @JM – Yes, there are exceptions to every rule.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Eon

      Meh, Republicans say Obama is dumb and a Muslim who was not even born in America...so out of 300+ million Americans you could only name one intelligent Christian....hmmm....

      May 7, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • JM

      That's quite an understatement. You might want to consider how many people you respect in life who believe in God...and why.

      "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 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • JM

      Jimmy Carter? The Clintons?

      Every modern president consulted with Billy Graham.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Eon

      JM your Quote is flawed. By stating there IS a God you are stating you have infinite knowledge of the infinite universe stating you absolutely know the unknown. Where-as Atheists go under the the fact that there is no proof of god so its existance is questionable at best. Atheists don't BELIEVE in a god doesn't mean that Atheists KNOW about the existance. Where as Christians KNOW there is a god even though there is no proof, they just believe it so that has to be fact...

      May 7, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Adam C

      JM – do a google search about the correlation between higher levels of education and lower levels of professed religion. These studies continually show that people who are more educated are less religious. Thus, the rule is that higher education = less religion. Certainly there are many people who are highly educated and also religious, but they are the exception to the rule.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • JM

      The majority of Americans believed in God until about the last 15-20 years. Educated, un-educated. Secularism.

      I believe because I have experienced God's presence in my life, not because I have seen God. I believe because I have seen how God has worked in the lives of others. I believe because when I read the Bible I am astounded at how accurately it portrays human behavior.

      I believe because the hope provided in the Bible is good news.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Eon

      LOL Carter? the Clintons? serious? Republicans say that Carter was the worst and dumbest president in modern history and don't get them started on the piousness of the Clintons...Why don't you come up with Incredible minds like Hawkings, Einstien, Kurt Vonnegut, John Lennon? Oh yeah, they are Atheists

      May 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Adam C

      JM – That is great. I am glad that your religion has been a positive, uplifting experience for you.

      In my opinion, however, religion tends to be very divisive and controlling. As such I advocate for the weakening of its influence on our country (particularly our government). This is one of the reasons that I suggest supporting higher education.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  16. bandgeek1

    I am constantly amazed at the number of atheists who read the Belief editorials. It like me reading the sports page. I don't care about sports, don't follow sports, and generally consider grown men and women being paid huge sums of money for playground games ridiculous and a monumental waste of resources. Why would I visit a site I don't follow or agree with?

    It almost seems that the are looking for a reason to believe.

    Hmmmmmm

    May 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Adam C

      Well, try to put yourself in their shoes. You've learned through life experiences. Fire is hot. Water is wet. Then you meet some people who tell you there is this magical guy living up in the clouds, and he sees everything, knows everything, and created everything.

      Wouldn't you want to keep an eye on these people?

      May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • TrueGod

      We are not looking for a reason to believe. We are just trying to understand the roots of ignorance and cure it, if possible.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • FiveLIters

      For the record,I am an atheist,but I occasionally read the articles here. I don't have to agree with them,but I like to make myself as well-rounded or informed as possible. Sometimes I walk away from here with interesting info,sometimes I laugh or shake my head at the things being said. And as for the sports thing,I don't bother,simply because there seems to be nothiong of value there. (You can catch or throw a ball? Yay.) I wonder how many people do the opposite...

      May 7, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • ARM

      to bandgeek1
      Yes, you are so right. It seems like they already know God is for real..

      May 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • dnfromge

      No, it is never about looking for a reason to believe – that'll never happen because for me, organized religion and is associated beliefs aren't logical and it borders on very creepy. Again, speaking for myself, I just want to have a full understanding of what other people actually do believe. It's called being a well rounded individual. Just because I don't believe, doesn't mean I am not interested in learning what others do believe. One cannot have a true debate about the subject if one hasn't studied both sides of the equation. And, the arguments presented by the faithful believers are quite entertaining. To each his own, one belief is not right or better than another, just different, and I enjoy being aware of the differences.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Commenter

      bandgeek1,

      If sports zealots were trying to run the government, enact laws and public policies, demand that their beliefs be taught in public schools, declare tax-exclusion on their properties and drone on endlessly about how you are bad, bad, bad for not following sports, I'll just bet you would read an article or two, and maybe even comment.

      May 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  17. currandera

    Beautiful experience and beautiful article. I am happy someone had the courage and sincerity to write it. Epiphany as always is incommunicable hence negative, blind or bitter reactions are natural and expected. All the most brave the act to still try to share the experience.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  18. Snap

    It seems the church has already infected your logic. Your entire editorial proposes the idea that doubt is a part of faith. The very idea seems at opposition with one another, much like being an athletic sloth. Religion loves to stretch the meanings of words freely in order to harmonize the mass difference between everyone's experience into very generalized terms. I challenge you to describe at a literal level what a relationship with Jesus is.

    May 7, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • JM

      Doubt is a part of faith. Faith is a pilgrimage. One grows in their faith through time and experience, through prayer and reading the Bible. Doubting Thomas? He didn't believe that Jesus had risen until he saw his nail-pierced hands.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Snap

      I don't know about you but a pilgrimage is where you move from one spot in the world to another. Sometimes it is used in reference to a spiritual pilgrimage where walking is a highlight of the experience. But now for the purposes of your attempt to persuade me that your experience is far superior, you change its definition to mean the process through life by which you experience and change your opinions, with emphasis on a idea of growth over time. To be honest because you decided to once again bend a common word to some strange context, I am left with a very abstract generalized concept of what you are trying to communicate. This is a perfect example of my original comment.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Buddha

      There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • mayflower

      Spoken like someone who has nothing to believe in but himself. I challenge Snap to listen to everyone who does articulate that relationship, albeit in terms he doesn't understand, without judging. Good luck with that.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  19. Andy

    If someone could show me one tiny piece of actual physical proof that any religion or god is real I might start to believe. I'm not talking about the Bible or that warm feeling you get in your heart when you close your eyes and talk to yourself. I want one sliver of actual proof that there is a heaven or hell. So far us Atheists have thousands of pieces of physical evidence to support our way of believing. I'm still waiting on your first one.

    Remember, no Bible (anyone could have written it) and no internal feelings you have.

    Give me the evidence!

    May 7, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • JM

      http://www.rzim.org

      May 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Mark

      You wouldn't believe it if it was presented to you.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Try me.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • hbk

      If there is no God, there would be no atheist. You cannot oppose something that does not exist. Your very existence proves that God exists.
      It's like Anti-Semitic saying there are no Jews. Well how can you be anti-Semitic then? :) And just to top it off, the Bible says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."
      Have a nice day.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Andy

      Well, I said evidence that doesn't use the bible or your feeling on the matter, I haven't seen it yet. Who has the evidence. I'm waiting.

      I also don't believe in floating pink furry butterfly dragons that can fly to the moon. (See, i can not believe in things that do not exist HBK)

      May 7, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      hbk ... your religious indoctrination betrays you. Atheist does not mean ANTI God, it just means no belief in a God(s). To top it off .. It's that simple, really.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • j

      That is the one thing many people say when trying to understand religion. GIVE ME PROOF!!! Do you believe in love? if you do, prove it exists. Do you believe in hate, prove it exists. And yet it does exist. We see the results of love and hate. You and I don' see the actual tangible evidence of love and hate but we know it exists. God knows how you feel. He knows what your thinking even before you think it. Predesitination. I can't prove to you God exists, but I know he exists because of what I feel and how it effects my life. I choose to follow the teachings of god. far better than the life of man, and their faults and weaknesses. I know because I was where you are now. One day I knelt in prayer and asked for answers to many questions I asked of him. I got my answers not in a vision of grandure but in a still small voince and the life that changed when I klnew. I am happy now and I no longer doubt. Whether you beileve me or not. Think me a nut or just plain ignorant based on your beleifs, but one things for certain, you may not believe in God, but he sure believes in you. Good luck.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Andy

      J,

      First off, Love and Hate are just labels for feelings human beings have. You can't try and connect the belief in a feeling to believing in a higher being that watches everything I do, and either an everlasting wonderland or a fiery Hell. It's like saying, " Do you believe in Apples? Oh then you must believe the Moon is made of cheese then, right?"

      Now, for your belief that you were predestined to believe in God, that you were somehow born with this believe inside of you. I believe your belief in God was nurture no nature. And, there is a simple way to prove this. Look at all of the different religions saying completely and utterly different things. You can't say that every single Native American deserves to go to Hell because they believed in something other than your God. They believed in whatever their elders came up with. Just like you believe what some people came up with thousands of years ago.

      If you were born on a deserted Island with no contact with humanity you wouldn't believe in some higher being. You believe what you were told to believe when you were little. The only difference between Santa and Jesus is your parents eventually told you Santa was fake.

      STILL WAITING ON THAT EVIDENCE BY THE WAY! ANYBODY?

      May 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Andy

      Well, I guess that's it. No evidence for your beliefs. Have a nice day.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  20. Those used guys.

    If and when you have children, do them a big favor and skip step one of your stated journey and let them develop their own moral compass without the brainwashing of an organized religion. If at some time they chose to go in what ever life choice they want to, just give them your unconditional love and support. Some of the most misserable, disfunctional people I have met are those that have rebelled against their parents narrow views including both religious and prejudice against others. If at some time they get sucked in by the fairy tales of religion, so be it, but it will be because of free will, is't' that what the churches use to explain all the suffering that got you turned off in the first place? God allows suffering because of free will, not very omnipotent is she, doesn't even exist, does she?

    May 7, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Anonymous

      When I was 13, my mother told me to take a step back from religion, to make sure I wanted to be part of it. If I chose to be a member of the church, or a part of any other religion, or not be part of any religion at all, my family would treat me with the same warmth. I've always been sort of a cynic, and I have always questioned certain parts of my religion, so I decided I needed to make sure I wanted to stay. I didn't want to be one of those people who blindly accept the beliefs of their parents. So I took a few months. And at the end of that time, I decided what I did and did not believe. And then I talked about it. I believed in the core values of my faith, e.g loving everyone and placing hope in a greater diety, but I didn't believe in literal interpretation of the bible, or (especially) trying to force my beliefs on other. I would not say I was brainwashed or misled.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • john

      Interesting debate? I know kids and adults, who have grown up without religion. Most are confused, empty, miserable, and looking for something to give them purpose and direction. Some revert to blasting people have something to give them purpose and direction. Some what like people who don't have much money, having a problem with people who have plenty of money. Or what ever they think they lack, with those who they believe have abundance of said items.

      May 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.