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.
His sheep hear his voice. Better is one day in his fold than a thousand elsewhere. In the end He will separate the compliant sheep from the rebellious goats. The goats will congregate in hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Are you sure you want to be reject the Good Shepherd?
The Great INvisible Unicorn will take me to Unicorn Heaven with him. When I pray to his pinkness, my prayers are answered and I feel loved and saved.
The god you believe in is a pr.ick.
Sorry, I just can't believe in a god who is a bigger terrorist than could ever be represented by a human.
Reject? We're atheists you idiot. We don't believe in god any more than you believe in the celestial teapot.
Islam took over Europe and may Allah lead us taking over America insallah!
Islam is the only truly religion and peace
Yes, another hate group is infiltrating our country. Another stupid belief, which not only uses eternal punishment as a threat, but wants to place itself in power to rule us on earth too. Take your religion, and go back to the mid east, and live under the Theocracy you crave.
That's hilarious! Good one. Islam... Peace... In one sentence! Hahahaha!
Very nice for her but readers should remember that spirituality is never one size fits all.
You don't know the difference between spirituality and religion.
atheists are the son of the devil, that's why they act the way they are
At least Dad raised us to think.
Can I stick my pitchfork up your azzzzz?
just sayin, evidence?
Your god is a pr.ick.
Jesus is the bread of life. Leave Him and you will most certainly starve. Good to have this young lady back in the fold.
"back in the fold" is the perfect way to say it! A blind sheep, for sure. I wonder if she was born in Saudi Arabia, if she would have signed up for the same religion?
Sounds like the sheep running back into the burning barn...
So by your logic 2/3 of the world got it wrong and aren't happy.
How do you honestly buy into your bible crap?
If atheists are right, then most of the world got it wrong. So if atheists can believe that they are right and most of the world is wrong, how can you condemn Christians for doing the same?
Love this post: So TRUE!
I am out of toilet paper at home and its Sunday so the religious controlled stores will not be open....what do I do?
Oh wait, I found a Book of Moron, a Koran and a Bible.
I'll be okay now!!!!!!!!!!
"What do I do"
1. Go roll up that Quran and put it inside your hairy a.s.shole
2. Take your physhopath pills
3. Stop spamming
You're desicrating the holy books. Oh my, oh my! Allah is so pi55ed at you. If you draw a picture of Mohammed, we are hunting you down!!
Amen. I'm right there with you: utter longing for God but mixed with so many doubts.
“If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world”
"Most of us find it very difficult to want “Heaven” at all – except in so far as “Heaven” means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise."
Your story reminds me of a young boy being put into our incarceration process here in the states at a very early age. At age 10 he steals an automobile and is incarcerated. This begins his life "inside". Every time he is released it is just a short time before he is back inside again. The inside becomes his normal. He cannot handle the real world with all its reality.
You see, he was indoctrinated very early in life to feel comfort "inside", for that's all he ever really knew, it became his safe place.
I don't know if you will ever read these posts but if you do I hope you can see the similarity between you and this young boy. You were indoctrinated at a very young age into the supernatural and you cannot handle the reality of our world. Too bad, you are truly missing-out on a wonderful existence.
GOOD POST !!
On the other hand, you may have been so indoctrinated into this world that you cannot see that there is something beyond.
You conclusion is based on your assumption that God is not real. If your assumption is wrong, your conclusion is, too.
you mean you are so indoctrinated that you become delusional. That I would agree with. The story of the boy incarcerated says it all,,, just like the religious are incarcerated into their silly beliefs.
Amen. How true, no matter what I tried to do in life, I always fell back on my Irish Catholic roots. I no longer believe a supernatural being from 'somewhere' is going to save me if I pray and I no longer believe a 'guy' in a black jacket is closer to God than I am. This young, and courageous (yes couregeous because she write her story) woman found her way home, a christian/quaker/ male dominated world, but I find her happiness refreshing.. don't believe in God but I believe in the goodness of most people, I don't believe in shoving 'god' down peoples throats. This young woman found what she needed, that is a good thing.
Voice of reason, you are nothing another looser defecating through your mouth!
Henry, you must be one of those loving christians whose words are always in season like apples of gold in settings of silver.. Thanks for your witness for your lord.
christians made good Nazis.
Gott mit uns
The Nazis opposed Christianity and persecuted and killed Christians.
It would be more applicable to say that christians make good fascists.
Faith – The new stupid.
Not sure if "Xtians" actually, truly believe their own lies. Their hipocrocy is evidence of their true feelings.
Since time began.
I'm certain of one thing: Most of them don't know what they believe. The second you pose a tough theological question to them regarding biblical morality, accuracy, or consistency, they go spastic or their eyes glaze over. They mouth the words and that's where it ends.
'The issue, then,. Is not whether the belief system you espouse – monotheistic, atheistic, pantheistic, or otherwise – is exclusive. The issue is whether the answers to the four basic questions of life pertaining to origin, meaning, morality, and destiny within the context of each of these world-views meet the tests of truth. Are they logically consistent, are they empirically adequate, and are they experientially relevant? The answers to life’s four questions must in each instance correspond to reality, and the sum of the answers must cohere as a system." – Ravi Zacharias
Malcom – the new stupid
Just because we don't know the answer to questions about existence and death doesn't mean that the prettiest fairy tale's stupid answers are valid (somehow it's always the one of the believers society)
my post was for JM.
Dear Andrea Palpant Dilley and analogous people,
ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS:
As noted previously, you need to get a 21st century perspective of religion: The Short Version (see p. 1 for more details)
• There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
Added details available upon written request.
A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.
"The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.
Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "
I stopped going to church when I realized what a fairy-tale like story the foundation of Christianity is. Fairy tales though are purportedly based on facts. The facts were then embellished to "make a good story." In the case of Jesus I believe he existed but his story had to be embellished to attract believers-we all apparently really want heros. The hero has to be everything we aren't or they wouldn't rise to the status of "hero" in our estimation. We don't allow our heros to be human so it was a natural progression for Jesus to be born a "commoner" but conceived not through intercourse like the rest of us and to grow into a child who was mature beyond his years and who was, for that century, intelligent–so intelligent he "taught" the wiser, older men. And it's fitting he died young and a martyr in some people's opinion.
What you present as facts are only your opinions. They help you form your belief system, which you have every right to, but why should anyone else believe them?
AND THE INFAMOUS ANGELIC CONS CONTINUE TO WREAK STUPIDITY UPON THE WORLD
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".
"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:
If you want to see how people treat people for voicing their opinion read the commentary.
This writer shared an opinion and people start bashing people.
We as a population voice religious acceptance but we clearly don't mean that in regards to Christians. We really can see in this commentary that it's not accept the person and keep your beliefs but accept an opportunity to persecute.
Oh, right, it's only Christians that are "persecuted" on these boards.
You must be new here.
Xtians are the biggest persecutors! They scream that we should all be tolerant. I don't ask for their tolerance or acceptance. I declared war on that religion long ago, and the war shall continue. War is an ugly thing, so get used to it!
TTPS – So this is how "tolerance and diversity" is demonstrated, and niethre side takes responsiblity for being snarky, just points at the other guy. What is wrong with healthy debate?
Respectfully I am asking...for those who have no god please tell me where you find peace? I am respectfully asking.
I find peace in my family, in nature, in music, in art, in friends, in reading, in napping, in playing, in working.
I would love to believe there's some divine creature who protects and loves all. I simply cannot bring my rational mind to such a belief. It makes no sense to me and gives me no peace.
Kindness – Thanks for asking. I find peace in life itself and my relationships with my fellow human beings. Animals and nature, too, for that matter. We find our peace where we find it.
Thank you Tom and Stevio for your responses! Those are important things to me as well. I appreciate you articulating those things...........
I guess worshiping a book which damns good people to a place of fiery death forever and ever is a sign of respect? Atheists didn't start the fire.
Tom: What compels you to war against those to whom God does make sense?
I don't "war" with them. I simply want them to stop attempting to insert their religious beliefs into places it doesn't belong in a secular nation of laws. I want them to stop telling gays they are sinners and can't marry; stop forcing women to continue pregnancies they don't want; stop telling people they don't know how to live their lives.
My point in asking respectly is that if Atheists "did not start the fire" as you say, please give me an idea of how your choices work in your choices work for you. It is a diminshed response if you only tell me what is wrong with the other side. Again I asking asking with a respectful ear – what are some of the good and successful things of a "non god" life?
Why? Why do you care what works for people who don't hold any belief in a supreme being?
@Kindness – 'what are some of the good and successful things of a "non god" life?'
Perhaps you should ask that question of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (93+% non-believers).
I am asking you. I guess I can go look at sceince if that is your answer, and you don't feel like giving me a personal response.
Atheism merely says that one of the beliefs of society is stupid and based on poor reasoning.. Atheism itself does not provide the atheist with tools for living life or anything else.. Not believing in unicorns doesn't help you deal with tough things in life, either.. Non-stamp collectors don't have any special tools for mailing letters or living happier either... and on and on.
And I've already told you: family, friends, nature, music, art, play, work, sunshine, rain, kids, technology, theater.
I don't feel a lack of anything in my life; I have all the time there is and all the world there is.
Let's assume, for simplicity, that religious people have one set of views on these issues and atheists have another. To be a truly 'secular' society, we would have to adopt neither. To say that the laws of the nation must be based on atheism is as much a distortion as to say they must be based on Christianity. You have every right to promote your views, not because they are atheistic views, but because you believe they would lead to a better society. Those who hold views opposite to yours have exactly the same right.
@Bob Bales – "Let's assume..."
Nope...please refer to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Consti.tution.
Nope...please refer to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Consti.tution.
I have just recently gone back with my family to worshiping volcanoes. Our great ancestors worshiped them. Today, our family is much closer than ever before. I'm sure this article includes us too.
I left the church for several years, and wished I were not Christian for I would not feel so guilty for the good I did not do and the wrong I did during that time. I was drawn supernaturally to rededicate my life to Jesus Christ, and had to go around and to apologize to those I had hurt. I am glad I did and have peace with God now.
How about making amends to those you hurt, because it comes from within? Doing it so you have "peace with god", is the most selfish apology I"ve ever heard.
the correct is one of honesty. If you need a god to help you with that, I'm sorry. Try to learn and stand on your own two feet, makes you far more a caring and good human. To use a god crutch is a manipulation and a manipulation is like living a lie.
You went back to a mythology created by man not God. You are a prime example of why we need to protect our children so they are not exposed to these primitive destructive man created myths.
Wow! Last week the theme was "Spock as God." I
U should look into Islam. It will make sense.
Sad, very sad. It's good to look for spirituality in life, I am not an atheist. I am a former Christian and I proud and grateful that I found my way out. Christianity is a belief system founded on myth. It IS a man created mythology but sadly too many Christians know absolutely nothing of the origins of their beliefs sytem. The vast majority of Christians know absolutely nothing of Christian history, how this belief system took hold and spread and how the error filled, corrupted, and forged Bible was put together. The author in this article sadly took a step backward instead of forward. The " Jesus Story" the basis of Christianity just did not happen as we are all taught. It is based on myth, lies, fabrications, and embelishments. Education is the key to combat ignorance.
'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
What are the facts that show that the "Jesus Story" is founded on myth? If the Bible is corrupt and forged, why is it that when we find old manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, they agree with the existing Bible?
JM: Who is talking about atheism? You didn't read my post apparently.
Bob: You clearly are not educated in Christian history or the formation of the Bible. The Jesus stories were taken from earlier myths and legends. Jesus being the Messiah was invented a long long time after his death, there was also a man considered the messiah before Jesus....you clearly have no clue how the Bible was put together and where these stories came from.
Hey Mainstream Media,
Non-believers are people, too! Here's a great idea! Why don't you glorify us the same way you do people of faith? And, lets all get along...
Because, if they did, CNN would not see the end of the resentment coming from religious bigots. In my opinion, atheists, agnostics and secularists, generally speaking, are much more open to differing opinions and healthy dialogues.
Well said Steviemo! the "believers" think they are better than nonbelievers. What a joke!
Unbelievers are lost hell bound sinners in need of Jesus Christ the savior of mankind.
Oh I see Henry is here to represent all the loving, tolerant Christians I keep hearing so much about.
I'm a believer. I, and the believers I know, don't think we are better than non-believers.
I originally came to this blog site hoping to discuss different views and opinions of believers. To my surprise I have discovered that most of the posts are made by unbelievers and unfortunately, all too many of them just want to make sarcastic remarks. More unfortunately, there are too many who believe that they are spokespersons for God and spew a lot of hate. In my opinion, I believe they make better agents for Satan.
And you wonder why you get an earful, Bo. Why are you posting this again? You've already used it to reply to another post.
There is a great deal of frustration on the part of us non-believers (I happen to be agnostic) that our culture and the media treat us like second class citizens. For the love of God, can't we stop choosing our leaders base on their religious faith or lack thereof?
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It's embarrassing.
You shouldn't have been so surprised.. Maybe you should start considering arguments you haven't so far.
That's because, typically, these forums attract large numbers of extremists. In the case of faith blogs like this, it attracts people who use the mantra “there is no god”, or those who spend their life convincing themselves that all religious people, especially Christians, are hateful, intolerant people. Then there are the extremists on the other side who sound like they went to a Fred Phelps training camp and give fuel and ammunition to the anti-god extremists. You can’t have a rational discussion on these “discussion” blogs. They are just battlegrounds for the ignorant and emotionally-driven of all stripes.
For a start, Bo, stop spamming.
Satan only exists in your mind!
No such thing as Satan......It's 2012, not 1012. I hope you were not serious.
Your observations are off base. Most atheists on this board do not adhere to the "there are no Gods" mantra. Simply that they do not believe it. There is a difference. One is a statement of knowledge that is impossible to defend, the other is merely a statement of belief. The honest atheist is withholding belief based on a lack of positive evidence. The theist who says I KNOW God is real is a big fat liar, but one who merely contests they believe I have no issue with even if I disagree.
I'm all good with God!:) I just cannot handle what man has done when it comes to religion. Man goes and makes up some bs, claims it's God's will and people have following it for centuries. Man has always manipulated religion as he sees fit to further the agenda necessary for that time in society. Today's agenda is chock full of hate, bigotry, hypocrisy.....and I simply refuse to be a part of something that been so mutated.
Thanks for expressing feelings that many folks hold - but remain silent because they find themselves intimidated by those who associate honesty and questioning with disobedience and pride. You can't not ask the questions that have been planted in your heart.
You have experience informing you that the answers to the really important questions of our lives lie in something other than what can be bought or owned. And that is probably good enough for a start.
Never stop your searching – God Bless and GodSpeed.
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.