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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. Willem Donziger

    This is a wonderful piece. I had a similar experience, and came to the conclusion that the church is filled with the same vapid, gutless, and heartless people that exist outside of the church. Perhaps the greatest difference (and it is a critical difference) between the church and those outside the church is that the church knows it has defective people, that it exists in a world that is defective, and it is trying, always, to do something about it using Christ as its model. My doubts have subsided over the years such that they are now unimportant to me. The thing that is now most important is pouring out life to leave goodness in the world. In my view, there is only one life. We may use it for self-pleasure (which gets boring with surprising rapidity), for destruction (which is an ever growing hell), or to serve others. The latter option is truly where it is at, and the church, despite its flaws, has been pointing us in this direction all along.

    Here are my answers to your questions:
    Q. Why does the church seem so culturally insulated and dysfunctional?

    A. Because the church is comprised of isolated and dysfunctional people. We are seeking beauty and perfection, some of us are farther along than others. But none of us has come to the end of the journey.

    Q. Why does God seem distant and uninvolved?

    A. It is hard to say. I find that when I follow God’s commands, going to my very end to love and serve others, I sense Him very close to me, helping me along, and being remarkably involved. On the other hand, when I am half-heartedly helping others, or when I am merely chasing pleasure, God is nowhere to be found.

    Q. And most of all, why does God allow suffering?

    A. When I look at most of the world’s suffering, I see a nasty truth behind it. I see that most suffering here is caused by us. God has been very clear about how we should get on with one another. But we fail to do it. And so we suffer. The starving children in Kenya need not starve. Their parents are likely disobedient. And many of us are disobedient so that we would rather watch the children starve than simply love and feed them. Very little suffering goes on in the world without man’s disobedience. I cannot speak to the suffering that lies outside this. I am not at all sure if it is in fact suffering.

    May 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      That may explain the suffering we cause but it doe not explain the needless suffering, natural disasters, children with cancer, ect.

      May 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  2. LMYork

    Wow – this was an eye opener and saddened my heart. The pivitol problem is that most of the church has denied the full access of the Holy Spirit to move and work in the Body of Christ and through them to see the POWER of God change these things that brought her questions. Religion brings bondage or kills but fellowship with a Heavenly Father, who you have a relationship with through His Son Jesus, brings the opportunity to trust and obey Him. Then, when you do follow His Spirit, you will be a part of His answer, His solution to a lost, hurting, dying world. You will not just try to win them over to a God who gives no answers, leaves doubts and questions. I hope she continues to go to His Word and ask His Spirit to reveal the Father in His fulness to her and as He desires to bring His life into hers and others through her obedience. I hope this for us all! My hope is founded on His Word.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  3. Emma in Baltimore

    APD: "My questions belong on the altar as my only offering to God."

    That quote struck me more than any other in your article. I, too, struggled with my faith, and I wandered away from it for about 10 years. Then, like you, I found myself attending church again, but from a "safe" distance. During that time, the pastor gave a sermon about "building an altar." It took me a very long time to make sense of that sermon, but I think you explain it very well. God pursues His own, and we pursue Him because He pursued us first. Laying our struggles on an alter as an offering to God allows us to wait on Him for His answer, and to watch and listen for Him, and to draw closer to Him.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:52 am |
  4. Flip

    http://www.ofwforum.com .Online community where Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) all around world can meet and converse with fellow OFWs.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Larry L

      Religious people have preyed upon the ignorant and fearful for thousands of years. It keeps working even with none of the many gods have appeared except in the delusions of the faithful – not once. Jesus was a myth based on the God Horus – and the story-line is quite similar. It's a myth and many, many people have been murdered by the pious and others made quite wealthy in perpetuating the beautiful, but totally unsubstantiated tale of Jesus Christ and the other central figures of all religions. These myths will continue to curse the world because it takes both logic and courage to face the reality of a limited lifespan. Don't waste what life you have on a ridiculous tale of eternal salvation – it's hopeful but childish nonsense. Enjoy life and make the life of others better. That is it's own reward.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  5. You are my GOD!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  6. AtreayuJah

    I am NO part of this world, and neither should you." Those are the words of Yeshua. And yet, followers of Christendom are arguing over the decisions of this government. Why? If you are a lover of Yahweh God, why are you even delving into worldly politics? If it doesn't affect you, and it shouldn't, then why worry? Here's what irks me. You call yourself a "Christian", and yet your actions and doctrines refute it. Yeshua (Jesus) was not affiliated with any part of politics when he was around. When asked to be King, he turned it down saying that his kingdom was NOT a part of this world. Neither should his followers who claim to love him. True Christian's don't vote because you know that this system and government is overseen by Satan. Christendom holds to Pagan traditions enacted by Constantine and Babylonian gods! Here's a hint..if you want to judge others on their decisions in life, start with yourself and your so-called faith. Stop listening to these money-hungry pastors that go to school to learn the Bible when if you are truly called by Yahweh, then you don't need a theology based college that all preachers and pastors go to. Here's a hint...research! Christmas...pagan, Easter...pagan..the cross...pagan! Yeshua died on a stake NOT a cross. So before you whine about decisions Satan's government makes and you claim yourself as a follower of Yeshua, you need to do your research. You are to be NO PART OF THIS WORLD. You pay back to Ceaser what is Ceaser's (Pay your taxes) and follow the laws of your government, because many laws are guidelines of the ten commandments. Other than that, politics are not of Yahweh. Jesus wouldn't touch politics. PERIOD! Learn your history. Christendom is bloody! The Catholic church, Catholicism, which every other denomination stems from (Reformation) ,are child-molesting cover-ups! You call yourself followers of God? True followers of Yahweh stay out of worldly churches that teach lies. Churches will be destroyed and those inside of her will be destroyed too. The Vatican and the Pope are already under attack because of the secrets coming out about abuse, child-molesting and abortions of pregnant nuns and what they did to the Native Americans. Mormons are a cult as well as Jehovah's Witnesses. Baptists and Protestants are "Sunday" Christians,and these feel-good churches are just that..feel-good. Get out of the churches, study for yourself what the scriptures say. Stop putting money in preachers hands cause they are all businessmen.

    May 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Curt

      True Christians don't vote? I think you're stretching the verse about not being of this world. So many sects, like yours, claim to be the TRUE Christians. You have figured out the Bible and everyone else has been completely wrong? The bottom line is do people believe in Jesus death and resurrection as the Savior for their sins? If yes, then they are true Christians. Do not add to Jesus all of your rules and legalism.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @Curt

      I second that!

      May 13, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Steve

      The Bible tell's us:" Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."[James 1:27.]

      God clearly warn's us, at [James 4:4] " You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."

      There are more passages, but yes we should not vote if we are true Christians!

      May 13, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Sergio

      It is sad to hear so much resentment in your words. If you read the new testament it says we are the church, not the building, not the organizations, but those who believe and follow Jesus. We are His people, His bride and the salt of the earth. We are a light that needs to shine before all men and the way to do that is to love each other in His name. Communities built around the truth of the Bible are to be schools for all, hospitals for the broken-hearted and families for those alone. We are all messed up but nevertheless Jesus calls us to fellowship and wash each other's feet. It's not about what we think is best but how He designed it to be. We will be hurt inside and outside of the church because it is a broken world we live in. But if we have faith and courage and humility we will be happy as we do HIs will wherever he leads us.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • Larry L

      I deeply wish Evangelical Christians would not vote. Their judgement appears to be too influenced by their narrow-minded and bigoted interpretation of their religion. There's so much hate and intolerance in religion the concept of compromise and the spirit oc cooperation is excluded from the thought process. You don't need a vote – you simply need somebody to "Issue" a list of your thoughts...

      May 14, 2012 at 12:08 am |
  7. kate

    "When Fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and caring the cross."
    Sinclair Lewis

    May 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  8. Bo Bo Jeanie

    I thank God everyday, that we are a nation of free thinking people. People who respect the rights of others. People who not belittle other opinions.... People who acknowledge this land of opportunity was inspired by those who came here to practice their religion without interferance of a government. This is the what our founding fathers worked for.. I treat everyone with respect regardless of their color, religion or creed. I am sorry that those who don't agree with religious freedoms are so quickly and brazenly mean spirited in their comments. As mom would say, " If you can't say anything nice then say anything at all."

    May 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • GodPot

      "People who do not belittle other opinions..."

      But what if you are of the opinion that drunk driving isn't really dangerous and all the statistics are made up? What if you are of the opinion that you should be allowed to have s e x with 10 year olds? What if you are of the opinion that people with darker skin than you are less than human? When the fvck do you stand up and say something? Or are you of the opinion that other peoples insane opinions don't matter? At some point you have to stand up against the erroneous opinions of others when their opinions put others or yourself at risk for harm. Religion has been harming children almost as soon as they are out of the womb for as long as there have been written records of humans.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Bo Bo Jeanie -

      The problem is that beliefs have consequences...and the consequences of nonsensical beliefs are often less than desirable.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jfruh

      "I treat everyone with respect regardless of their color, religion or creed"...
      that's the problem with religions... they basically say that everyone who doesn't follow it, is going to hell... or is the enemy deserves to burn on a stake, be lapidated or whatever horrible punishement they can come up with.

      Secularism is what truly brings this sense of equality and respect, and your founding father seemed to understand that.

      May 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Worship Poseidon

    Jesus really liked to take it in the butt.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Bo Bo Jeanie

      That was horrible. If you can't say anything nice Don't say anything at all.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bo Bo Jeanie

      My are we nasty.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Sergio

      Your lewd and immature remark only reveal how miserable you are and how Poseidon has done his dirty job well – ultimately to drag you along with him to the fiery pit for he has already been judged. You, however, still have breath by God's mercy. Why be so foolish to blaspheme the One and Only God when He holds life and death in His hands? Is it worth it to hold onto your pride and sin as you go down with it? Why not cry out for mercy and taste the freedom you were made for?

      May 14, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Larry L

      Religion brings out the worst in humanity – and you're statements are examples of how low humans can stoop to be noticed. Your life will be quite difficult.

      As an atheist I have no use for religious zeolots, but humanity has no use for sociopathic losers.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  10. CJM

    It's 12:40 a.m., I got up and online due to not feeling well/unable to sleep. Now I'm thinking this was meant to be; to read your article. It spoke to me on many levels; I can relate. Thanks.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  11. Nat Q

    You can have my vapid secular enticements when you pry them from my cold dead hands!

    May 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  12. Booorrrinnnggg

    **YAWN** Could hardly keep my eyes open reading this....

    May 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Your enemy

      My initial experience with God was after smoking a huge wad of Colombian pot in my pipe... at age 21...He scared the hell out of me in a vision but his images is described as hair like wool and eys of fire in the bible were confirmed...
      This experience led me t eventually seek the Lord as real and tangible.. at age 24 I found him...he was inside me and flowed like a mighty river inside me as Jesus described in John chapter 7:...or as he said to the woman at the well....Jesus is real...but you must rend your heart to see him.... :)

      May 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      "....Jesus is real...but you must rend your heart to see him"
      Yes, rend your heart and lay it bare before Him.... Nothing less!
      O, but the load that's lifted, and the peace that comes within, nothing in this world can compare to knowing it...
      Only Christ can fill the heart with such peace, as He becomes the indwelling, living Lord in the life of one who has surrendered to Him ! This is the peace that the proud, arrogant, alianated from God lost world does not know.

      May 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Better than Ambien.

      May 11, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • yannaes

      You have been asleep most of your life, therefore, any thing you might read would not wake you up.

      May 12, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • resting

      have a good rest in peace...

      May 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      There is no peace for the ungodly.

      They will never know peace!

      Only in Christ Jesus true peace if found!

      May 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Nat Q

      "Jesus is real...but you must rend your heart to see him"

      Sorry, but anything that says believe in this fully and THEN you'll feel as if you've found evidence to support the belief (though still not evidence you can share with others) should be viewed skeptically in the least and with supreme distrust and disbelief more likely.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  13. amyer

    Okay, I'm a Christian. You're not. Coffee anyone?

    May 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  14. gera

    " that a person just needed to pray and have faith in order to be protected from suffering." No wonder she left, the pastor should know better, following Jesus does not mean you will have a happy life. Hasn't he and she heard of Paul. He was put to dead, and yet love the Father until the end.

    May 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  15. kindness

    A thought to consider without a typical ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Trancend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and trancsend our own desire to know and have proof. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Let go and let god".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find a truth you can take with you in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life. You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf, the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed, your good deeds are forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated, your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over .
    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent....

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth.

    Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment. You don't get what you want you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime .
    Its awsome .

    May 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Drivel.....

      May 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Another cut and paste troll how lovely.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • Yoi

      Ecclesiastes 2 >>
      New International Version 1984

      --------––

      Pleasures Are Meaningless

      1I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2“Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

      4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harema as well—the delights of the heart of man. 9I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

      10I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

      I refused my heart no pleasure.

      My heart took delight in all my work,

      and this was the reward for all my labor.

      11Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

      and what I had toiled to achieve,

      everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

      nothing was gained under the sun.

      Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

      12Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,

      and also madness and folly.

      What more can the king’s successor do

      than what has already been done?

      13I saw that wisdom is better than folly,

      just as light is better than darkness.

      14The wise man has eyes in his head,

      while the fool walks in the darkness;

      but I came to realize

      that the same fate overtakes them both.

      15Then I thought in my heart,

      “The fate of the fool will overtake me also.

      What then do I gain by being wise?”

      I said in my heart,

      “This too is meaningless.”

      16For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered;

      in days to come both will be forgotten.

      Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

      May 11, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Nat Q

      "Evidence follows faith."

      Then it isn't evidence, but self-justification.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  16. Stephen

    Nice try, but it doesn't work that way. You assert something exists that cannot be objectively shown to exist, then you submit your subjective belief in it as your evidence. I assert nothing. My absence of belief is perfectly logical.

    May 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Nii

      STEPHEN
      And by that you state your belief!

      May 10, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Nii,

      It is the same type of "belief" as not believing in flying monkeys is a "belief"

      You stating that not believing in god is just as much of a belief as beliving in god is a rationalization of your belief system.

      Is believing in 'flying monkeys' just as rational and equal as not believing in 'flying monkeys'............of course it's not.

      May 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Nii

      CLAIMS
      You do know that what you are saying is not logical right. If u tie Atheism down to not believing in a god then extend it to a theory of morality and ethical fulfillment based on such a belief it becomes a religion. Belief in flying monkeys is the same as Atheism if u do this with it.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Nii

      STEPHEN
      How do you know that your experience of certain feelings is what I experience when I percieve God. I know what a lot of evangelicals feel is God. God is not a feeling. It is when I am not feeling that I have percieved Him. He does speak to us. You can explain this voice of God not a feeling.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Nii,

      You need counseling.

      Atheism has no bearing on morality of ethical fullfilment. Those are just projections of religious people. Atheism is ONLY the lack of a belief in gods. Nothing more, nothing less.

      May 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Nii

      I need counselling when right on this page if u do look down someone is telling the other that he can achieve moral fulfillment as an atheist. That dictionary definition of Atheism is older than Christianity. Come again. You are not making any sense.

      May 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • ME II

      @Nii,
      "if u do look down someone is telling the other that he can achieve moral fulfillment as an atheist"
      Perhaps you need to point out the statement specifically, but Atheism, the variations I'm aware of anyway, don't entail any moral or ethical system. That does not say that an Atheist can't be behave ethical or morally, just that an Atheist's behavior is not guided by an ethical system that is defined within or by Atheism.

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

      @Nii

      You do realize that you're the one that isn't making any sense.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Nii,

      Atheism is an answer to a question, the question being " do you believe in god(s)" the answer being "no". Atheism has nothing to do with morality, which is something atheism has in common with theism, neither of them have anything to do with morality.

      My statement about believing or not believing in flying monkeys had nothing to do with morality. You added that.

      May 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Nii

      Have you also heard the question asked as to how God wud send a good non-Christian to hell? Or that you can be morally fulfilled without God or any god for that matter. Please as I said if you do not read Descartes, Marx and co don't come and make noise. Atheism is an older philosophy than you r!

      May 11, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • Nii

      Also the irreligious don't think they r being logical or struggle to explain why this is so. Nor do they make wild assertions of the nature of "four legs good, two legs bad"! . And just as you think a xtian belief is not to believe in Evolution you have a belief not to believe in God among others.

      May 11, 2012 at 5:07 am |
    • Nii

      ME II
      The fact that u do believe in morality and its fulfilment is what I am talking about. Not about an ethical system which only the Ethical Monotheistic religions have. This is in fact common to all religions that there is a sense of right and wrong to be pacified.

      May 11, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • Atheism not a belief is illogical

      Atheists BELIEVE that there's no god, ergo, their BELIEF is about the non-existence of god or deities. Thus, atheism is a form of BELIEF

      May 11, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Mirosal

      it isn't that we say "We believe there is no god.", it's actually "We have NO belief in a god", or "We do NOT believe in a god". Awating for your illogical answer

      May 11, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Nii,

      Yes I am well aware of Descartes, Marx and other philosophers, quite frankly with the way you communicate I am a bit surprised you have.

      The point is atheism like I said is an answer to a question.

      Those are atheists who asked other questions, like "can you be moral without god or religion (or with it for that matter).

      Are you saying you can only be an atheist is you know who Marx, et. al. are and knoe their arguments? That would be absurd.

      You have done an excellent job of avoiding the original question by attaching variables to it that were never there. I feel like I am back in religion class in christian school asking questions only to have them sidestepped and then looked at crossways for asking the question in the first place.

      May 11, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Nii

      CLAIMS
      Judaeo-Xtianity is founded on this
      Love your neighbor as yourself.
      The rest is a commentary. Shud we then take the simple as our definition? Marx, Dawkins n co provide the philosophical thought necessary to sustain Atheism. The essence is disbelief in divinity but this has brings questions.

      May 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Nii

      CLAIMS
      Engineers are peculiar scientists since we find answers. If you ask me a question I will find answers for you or tell u it is impossible to find. Yours is to try and follow if u can. The question you asked is funny and the basic answer is that monkeys can fly. I've seen them do it.

      May 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Nii

      If u want to check this you can go to National Geographic. Monkeys can propel themselves through the air from one tree to another using their amazing swinging and grasping abilities. Belief in flying monkeys is not only logical but true. NEXT QUESTION?!
      If u want this type of answer I can deliver!

      May 11, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Nii,

      That is not flying it is jumping. And regardless you arguing that monkeys do actually fly is disingenuous to the point. The way you argue is a perfect example of why I, like so many others seak answers outside of religion even though we were raised as believers. We have real questions we want answered. The people in the church answered those questions the way you do, with insinerity, being patronistic, scorn, ect.

      The idea of "love your neighbor as yourself" is older than christianity, it is another area where the religion lies about the orgin of its beliefs, in fact I dare say christianity "borrows" most of its philosophical tenets, why don't you try and list one that is original to christianity?

      Theists, such as yourself make a claim that there is a god, atheists reject that claim being true for lack of evidence, in your case you are also making an additional cliam that "god" is a specific god, the christian god.

      There is no need to "hold up atheism". That is a concept you want to think is true because in your mind it makes your cognitive dissonance easier to accept.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      no truth just claims God wants you back

      May 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Robert Brown,

      The first question would be which "god".

      An all knowing, personal god knows exactly what it would take for me and other atheists to accept him as a real ent.ity. He either chooses not to reveal himself in a sufficient manner, or the more likely answer is he does not exist as a personal god as is posited by christian theology.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  17. GodPot

    It seems the Christian argument comes down to this: "Won't people behave more morally if they think someone is watching them who will judge them and reward or punish them based on their conduct?" An argument could be made that children are more likely to behave if they have faith that the Santa fable they were told is truth and he really is watching them while they are sleeping and watching while they play and will reward them with wonderful toys if they behave and fill their stockings with coal if they don't. That doesn't make it any more true.

    Personally I believe that a child (and an adult) will behave more morally if they are not lied to from the beginning which right from the outset provides a "Do as I say, not as I do" precedent. It says "It's okay to lie for good reasons, so the rule isn't do not lie, it's do not lie unless you think the lie will benefit someone, or perhaps yourself. The ends justify the means." That is the biggest lie of religion, because the ends never justify the means if you have to break your ideals and conscience to achieve your goal of spreading your ideals and conscience to others.

    If you still want to play in the sandbox of ignorance and proclaim "God see's everything we do and will torture you for eternity if you don't behave" instead of growing up and realizing that the only person who see's everything we do and is the only person we should be trying to earn respect from is ourselves. People who do not take responsibility for their own actions and continue to blame their evil actions on an imaginary foe named Satan can never be trusted to make sane decisions.

    May 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • JM

      Um, no. That's not the argument. There isn't an argument. We believe that God exists; we have experienced God in our lives.

      There is no such thing as a moral person since we are all judged against God (who is perfect). Not many people would consider themselves as "good" as Mother Teresa, but she considered herself a sinner in need of God's grace/mercy.

      God is love. The Bible preaches Good News. Rather than infer what's in the Bible from people who you don't like, try actually reading Christ's teaching.

      May 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • GodPot

      Read it, cover to cover more than three times. Morality and laws existed before the bible and continues to exist apart from it. You know what I say is true and you refuse to grow up and want to continue to rely on morality being derived from Santa, er God, and you like the fact that your God gives you loopholes in morality like discriminating against unbelievers. Please grow up.

      May 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Stephen

      @JM says: "We believe that God exists; we have experienced God in our lives."

      JM, your statement above contains a logical fallacy - you use your perceived experience of God as the argument for why you believe God exists outside of your subjectivity. It's the same as saying "I believe God exists because I believe God exists."

      I have studied religion, and I have experienced the feelings you describe as God in my life, as well; but I do not believe God exists. Do not allow yourself the conceit that only you are privileged to a feeling of transcendence and a deeply inspirational connection with a larger whole. What you call your experience of God is in fact the poetry of living, and we all have access to it. Unlike your God, I make no claim that a poetic experience exists outside my human sensation of it, so unlike your statement above there is no logical fallacy in my saying "poetry exists because I have experienced it."

      May 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • JM

      Discriminating against unbelievers? Um, again, no. Most of us live in the real world: we are friends with people of all faiths.

      If it's true, it's true–and good news.

      How do you know morality existed 'before' the Bible? Were you there?

      May 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • JM

      Steven,

      Your statement above contains a logical fallacy – you use your perceived non-experience of God as the argument for why you don't believe God exists outside of your subjectivity. It's the same as saying "I don't believe God exists because I don't believe God exists."

      May 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Stephen

      Sorry, my response to @JM went to the top of the page . . .

      May 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  18. PRISM 1234

    No, dear, A.H. is only rejoicing that the artifacts are found. YOU are the one who is determined to discredit THEM, and anything pointing toward reality of God. Do you think that you can set your Self aside, and examine what makes you want to do that?

    May 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • GodPot

      No need to discredit an ideology that has spent thousands of years discrediting itself.

      May 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Stephen

      @PRISM 1234 - The posting of that link by A.H., in the context of a "Belief" debate-forum on the internet, was clearly to imply that in this story there somewhere lay evidence of a miracle and a confirmation of God's existence. You should not feign surprise that someone would disagree with A.H.'s implication, given the context of this forum.

      As to the story of the temple columns itself, what is there to actually discredit, anyway? A church is to be built, and by coincidence there are suitable stones nearby - and a cleric of the time interprets this as a miracle. Coincidences happen all the time, to both believers and non-believers. The discovery of this church is, indeed, interesting historically - but the miracle myth remains just that, a myth.

      Your attachment of some significance to its discovery is just an example of the "confirmatory bias" that grips the minds of believers and sends their logic careening in the wrong direction. You seem to think that the real discovery of ruins somehow also imbues its mythology with reality. The response by @No Truth, Just Claims, was to point out the fallacy of your reasoning.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Stephen,
      if you've ever read my posts, you'd see that I don't bet my stakes at the finds of man's science, further then the medicine that helps us to live, gadgets that make man's life on earth easier, and the exploration of things on earth to help us be stewards of what we here possess....

      Man's science ifs flowed. But when so many of you stake your lives on it, and damn your immortal souls making it your God, then it is a joyful occasion to me when man by his abilities to explore, finds remains of an ancient place and uncovers artifacts that indeed show that things written in the Bible were proved by archaeological findings....to me it is nothing more nothing less.

      I can't tell you how many times I read the desperate attempts of those who tear down the Bible, to say that Christ didn't exist, as well as Abraham, Moses, or David. So, this was my point in my previous post...
      I don't need those findings to make my belief in my Lord Jesus stand ! I know that Christ is RISEN from the dead, because I believe the testimony of His word, who IS THE LIVING WORD of God, and to me, as to every other one of His people, He HAS GIVEN the witness of Himself that's more real then a person who is closest to you in your life.
      You people who don't know the Lord, have this obscured, narrow view of what drives a Christian believer in his/her conviction. To you, becaue of blindness of your spirit, we're "delusional followers of indoctrination" .....
      But you DON"T KNOW what we know, because your spirit is dead, and it is dead through neglect and denial of your consciences which testified to you of truth, but slowly, through the deceitfulness of sin, love of Self and PRIDE, you silenced your consciences, and allowed it toward God. So you have alienated yourself from Him, and rejected the only hope you have.
      There is really nothing anyone can do for you, but preach the Word of God to you and pray that He many have mercy on you and remove blinders from your eyes. But unless you humble yourself and acknowledge your need within your soul, you'll never come out of your blindness. Its sad to see people so hardened to that degree, but for the sake of those whose hearts are seeking and are not yet what Bible calls reprobates, it is for them that we stay awake in the night and take time to reason with them, so that perhaps they would allow the Lord to show them where they are and where they are heading!

      May 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Correction : Missed one important word in the scentence***

      ......but slowly, through the deceitfulness of sin, love of Self and PRIDE, you silenced your consciences, and allowed them to *** DIE*** toward God....

      May 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  19. No Truth, Just Claims

    Just because we know Las Vegas is a real place doesn't mean David Copperfield can do actual MAGIC...

    Get a grip.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • One Eyed Willy

      Nuh Uh!! It's real magic!! I saw it with my own good eye, having lost the other eye when it itched one day and I forgot I was holding a fork...

      May 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  20. Atheist Hunter

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/possible-site-of-sixth-century-church-building-miracle-discovered-in-jerusalem-1.429195

    And another! Jesus Lives!

    May 9, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Fata Morgana

      @Atheist Hunter,

      Many of the places from the legends of King Arthur have been identified also. Does that mean that Merlin really cast spells, a magical sword was pulled from a rock to give Arthur special power... and all the rest of the glorious grandness of the story?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sites_and_places_associated_with_Arthurian_legend#Avalon

      May 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @Fata M.
      The legend of King Arthur may just be that- a legend.
      But the Word of God is living , powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit and of innermost heart of man, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of human heart.
      In it man sees himself for WHAT and WHO he is.
      And whether he runs and hides from it, or humbles himself and seeks refuge in it , it depends on what is found in him: the love of truth, OR the love of sin and Self, causing him to turn away in pride. You can not DO away with the Word of God, nor can you measure to Him, Jesus Christ – The LIVING WORD, any other as equal , because He was, is, and He will be forever God's living Word, The Messiah of God, the Christ , the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the One in whom in whom all things consist.
      If YOU ONLY KNEW, if you only understood ...then you would never put beggarly links to prove something your limited human mind, being lame without the eyes given to you by Spirit of God, can never comprehend!

      May 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Madtown

      PRISM 1234
      But the Word of God is living , powerful,
      -----
      Where can I get a copy of this "word of God"? Who wouldn't like to know exactly what God thinks!?

      May 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Fata Morgana

      @Prism 1234,

      Perhaps you should rant and rail at @Atheist Hunter then, for thinking that she is proving the existence of "God" by citing old Israeli ruins.

      May 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @Madtown
      You said
      "Where can I get a copy of this "word of God"? Who wouldn't like to know exactly what God thinks!?"

      Pontius Pilate who delivered Christ to the mob said to Christ "What is truth?" But he didn't recognize that the man who stood in front of him was THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND LIFE.
      I posted a post for you on page 33. There is one posted on pg. 19, which I referred to also. If things said there do not speak to you to open your understanding deeper then the surface words, then there's nothing else needed to to say. God has given you the same things as to everyone else, your conscience with the knowledge of Himself imprinted on it with overwhelming witness of Himself all around you , and free will to choose to seek Him that you may find Him, , your intellect, ability to know right from wrong... So what you do with all those things, it is all up to you, friend.
      I wish you the very best!

      May 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Madtown

      God has given you the same things as to everyone else, your conscience with the knowledge of Himself imprinted on it with overwhelming witness of Himself all around you , and free will to choose to seek Him that you may find Him
      ----
      And, none of that requires adherance to human-created dogma, or an illogical naming of the word of man to be the "word of God". If I'm given the same as everyone else(something I believe to be true), than I'm no different than a primitive African tribesman who's never heard of Jesus. I'm also no different than the person born in Egypt, who's surrounding culture practices muslim traditions. Each of these people can believe in God, even if their particular cultures developed differently, including concepts of religion.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:32 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.