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Tue Jun 24, 2014, 10:25 PM

Why Cling To Faith?

People of faith often share an experience that is so rarely discussed among themselves that, at first glance, it seems as if itís existence is completely covered up Ė this quiet secret is not rare in any way at all, however, and most people of faith know more about doubt than they are willing to admit in public or even in private to their peers. There has to be a reason for this hush surrounding the uncertainties that are likely to accompany faith and that often do Ė that reason is that with doubt comes consequences.

And so doubt is buried and ignored and handled with no real help at all.

The first moment in which a person has an inkling of doubt about something foundational to their understanding of reality and something they have up until this time known to be true is utterly terrifying. Most people, as they test these feared waters, find themselves bravely dipping their toes in and then quickly retreating as soon as they realize just how difficult this will inevitably become. Faith is that thing we most fear questioning as the implications of being right vs. being wrong are eternal and severe.

--snip--

Unlike Pascal and nearly every young apologist Iíve ever encountered I understand something about belief that, upon first approach, is very difficult to swallow; you are not in charge of what you believe, you will believe what you are convinced is worthy of belief Ė but never anything that hasnít met that criteria. You may study and learn and throw yourself into your faith Ė but if you, for whatever reason, later become unconvinced of the truth of that faith Ė not believing itís tenets is entirely out of your control. Simply put: You cannot believe what you do not believe.

Thatís what makes doubt so dangerous, once itís seed is planted it cannot be stopped Ė and once well rooted and growing it wonít be pulled out by any amount of force. Of course, there are counter measures one can make Ė all of which are, in my experience, temporary. Most who experience doubt retreat quickly and then employ some sort of cognitive dissonance to explain away their experience Ė but as I said, these efforts are generally fleeting and as long as they may last the dormant root of doubt one day revives and lays the faithful to waste once again. I certainly experienced this a number of times throughout my life as a Christian. If I look back on it the times that I was most outwardly devout they are likely also the times I was most fiercely attempting to dissuade uncertainty. I think many people are the same way; their desperation leads to devotion Ė strained though it may be.

--snip--

Clergy arenít the only people with a vested interest in maintaining a faithful status quo. The average believer will have invested a good chunk of his or her life into building a social construct consisting mainly of people who wonít challenge their beliefs. Within this social construct exist friendships and families, churches and social clubs that watch out for one another; if there is anything that the religious are good at itís being inclusive of those with homogeneous stances and beliefs on the issues deemed important by the bodies that make those decisions. It should be noted that they are also incredibly good at being exclusive to those who fail to fall in line. It doesnít take long for a convert into your average religion to notice what happens to those that begin to fall out of line, many of us grew up hearing the gossip about the backsliders in our churches and watching how those people slowly became appendages of little or no use Ė only to be cast away.


http://ragingrev.com/2014/06/why-cling-to-faith/


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Arrow 34 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why Cling To Faith? (Original post)
cleanhippie Jun 2014 OP
rug Jun 2014 #1
cleanhippie Jun 2014 #2
rug Jun 2014 #4
edhopper Jun 2014 #5
rug Jun 2014 #6
edhopper Jun 2014 #7
rug Jun 2014 #8
edhopper Jun 2014 #12
Brettongarcia Jun 2014 #10
rug Jun 2014 #15
cleanhippie Jun 2014 #17
rug Jun 2014 #20
cleanhippie Jun 2014 #23
rug Jun 2014 #24
RevOxley Jun 2014 #9
rug Jun 2014 #21
RevOxley Jun 2014 #25
rug Jun 2014 #26
RevOxley Jun 2014 #30
cleanhippie Jun 2014 #18
AtheistCrusader Jun 2014 #3
RevOxley Jun 2014 #11
edhopper Jun 2014 #13
RevOxley Jun 2014 #14
edhopper Jun 2014 #16
Htom Sirveaux Jun 2014 #19
RevOxley Jun 2014 #27
Htom Sirveaux Jun 2014 #34
rug Jun 2014 #22
RevOxley Jun 2014 #29
rug Jun 2014 #31
RevOxley Jun 2014 #32
rug Jun 2014 #33
Peacetrain Jun 2014 #28

Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Tue Jun 24, 2014, 11:01 PM

1. I wouldn't "cling" to this either.

 

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Response to rug (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:54 AM

2. I don't understand what point you're trying to make.

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #2)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 11:47 AM

4. He is describing a very particular and peculiar type of faith.

 

Broad inferences from his experience are questionable.

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Response to rug (Reply #4)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 12:38 PM

5. wouldn't you say there are similar

types in all religions?

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Response to edhopper (Reply #5)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 12:40 PM

6. There are extreme literalists in every ideology.

 

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Response to rug (Reply #6)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 12:44 PM

7. It is an interesting phenomena

The cognitive dissidence of people who refuse to even look at evidence that there faith might be wrong. And I am talking about people who believe things provably wrong. The rationalization for there belief is amazing. And it usually becomes a test of their faith rather than looking at any facts.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #7)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 12:45 PM

8. It's not simply belief. You see it across a whole spectrum of opinions.

 

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Response to rug (Reply #8)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:05 PM

12. true

look at the Tea Partiers.
Though with religion, many see it as turning their back to God if they accept that one of their beliefs is wrong.

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Response to rug (Reply #6)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:00 PM

10. Is Rug defending not fundie, but liberal faith then? Suggesting it is a different kind of faith?

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Response to Brettongarcia (Reply #10)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:20 PM

15. No. Rug is not.

 

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Response to rug (Reply #4)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 02:52 PM

17. I don't think that invalidates his ideas in the OP, does it?

I think he makes some very salient points.

What specifically about the OP do you object to?

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #17)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:07 PM

20. It doesn't invalidate them but it does temper them.

 

For instance, his own experience caused him to write this:

The first time I started to approach my doubt I recall being absolutely terrified to the point that I trembled. I would lay awake at night pouring with sweat as I prayed for forgiveness for my uncertainty, knowing Ė like Pascal Ė that the price of being wrong was heavy and eternal and yet at the same time fiercely angry at the god who would allow for such muddy waters where the truth about his will and existence were concerned. Itís easy to be a young man who knows only his faith and only the basics of even that Ė itís much more difficult to have a library of religious knowledge at your feet and still view your own faith with the same objectivity that worked previously.

That terror likely springs from the particular church he belonged to. Others come to disbelief - or strengthened belief - through other paths. Terror is far from a universal reaction.

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Response to rug (Reply #20)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:26 PM

23. While "terror" is the word he uses to describe his experience, "fear" is the theme.

Are fear and terror not synonymous? Of course they are.

And fear, the fear that arises from questioning faith happens to all. I especially like his Pascal analogy. To me, that's the easiest route to safety taken by those "on the fence" when it comes to religious belief. Overcoming that fear is what he is getting at.

I just realized that the author of the piece seems to be participating in this thread. It's a unique situation for us, so here's your chance to direct those questions directly to him.

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #23)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:31 PM

24. I already am.

 

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Response to rug (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 12:51 PM

9. Author's response

I saw this show up in my stats as having a few click thrus - though I'd check it out and offer a response to this post in particular.

This particular church is not my former church, meaning the one you reference in the link. Coincidentally the one referenced is in Savannah GA and mine was in a smaller town called Eastman GA.

I was not ordained by and did not hold a staff position or pastoral position in either this church or the HGO you referenced - just to clarify. My ordination was performed by a private ministry with no church to speak of. I was young, I was stupid, and I was taken advantage of if you want to get into the crux of the matter.

I don't communicate with the ministry that ordained me any longer for obvious reasons, but it wasn't this one and I've no affiliation with this one and never have.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #9)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:14 PM

21. A few questions.

 

Your bio indicates that you are 23 and "a former extremely devoted fundamentalist Christian turned Atheist". Is that true?

That description covers as lot of churches that emphasize eternal damnation, hence the terror. Do you in general agree with that or disagree?

What church were you in fact ordained in?

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Response to rug (Reply #21)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:43 PM

25. It was true

I'm a little older now. 28.

The ministry I was ordained in was a non-denominational ministry who's name I'd prefer not to mention. It was super tiny (myself and two others). It participated in prison ministry, an overseas radio ministry (sermons and bible teachings recorded for radio broadcast in Africa), and a few other things. I was being groomed to take it over when I was 14 and I was incredibly naive, trusted far too much in the president of the ministry, and allowed him to have far too much influence on my life. He set me up on a course of study that lasted about two years before I received ordination.

In the deep south, where I'm from, that describes nearly every church. They almost all believe in and promote the idea of eternal damnation and so it was all I really understood. I certainly agree.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #25)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:46 PM

26. Thanks for the info.

 

Sounds like Marjoe territory.

Oh, and welcome to DU!

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Response to rug (Reply #26)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 04:22 PM

30. Yep

Sadly too close to it.

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Response to rug (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 02:54 PM

18. Post #9 indicates you may be mistaken.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 11:04 AM

3. A lot of people don't invest a lot in, for instance, philosophy.

So, they fall back on the tools they have in their toolbox when they encounter problems.
That's my guess. One must invest time and effort in developing tools, and in a crisis/problem, we are limited by our available toolset.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:04 PM

11. Auhor's Response part Deux

To further my clarification:

This particular post wasn't actually written directly from my exact perspective - my faith was different from that of most people, not in that it was uniquely fundamentalist - but that it was uniquely evolving and is particularly hard to define as a now outsider to it. I moved from fundamentalist to universalist to agnostic theist to atheist and hit a broad number of posts in between and I also explored a number of various doctrinal waypoints on the way. I was a student of religion from the age of 13 and that gave me a lot of time to develop a method of discerning truth as well as a lot of time to hone that method as it failed, as my epistemology changed so did my faith - eventually becoming a non-faith all together and an epistemology based on empiricism. Fundamentalism was simply one stop on the road, probably the longest and most grueling stop - but one none the less.

I wrote this to explain how the majority of people experience doubt and why they run away from it, and while each point can certainly apply to my unique situation, mine is still wholly different and not well represented in this example - I think that's the trouble when you look at so many years of a faith journey and try to sum it up into a few sentences; it isn't as simple as a few sentences and so more often than not you are simply stuck with the prevailing emotion to represent the entirety of that experience - mine was heartbreak when I found myself incapable of belief.

I certainly cannot blame anyone for not wanting to cling to the faith I held while I was a fundamentalist, but there were times when I had a faith that was far more peaceful and loving and kind. That's a faith that I sometimes encounter in people and that I enjoy dialoging with - but for me my short traipse into that belief system was part of my defense mechanism to hold onto some semblance of god, it was me trying not to throw out the baby with the bath water which was the inevitable end. Don't think, though, that it was all terror and suffering for me - there was good, but there was a great deal more bad and that is the prevalent idea when I consider my past.

I appreciate you folks taking the time to discuss my post, I may stick around these forums for future discussions and am glad to answer any questions you may have.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #11)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:10 PM

13. That you could go from

fundamentalism to atheism is a optimistic sign. Hopefully more will question the tenets of their beliefs, and look at them with a rational eye.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #13)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:14 PM

14. agreed

and I know a number of other fundamentalist that have left their own faiths. I think we can blame the availability of information and a genuine human curiosity for this change.

Personally, most of my time in the ministry was spent studying other religions with a critical eye (as an apologist) - the moment I turned the critical eye onto my own faith things started to decay very rapidly.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #14)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 01:25 PM

16. I had a similar experinces

I was in a conservative Jewish family (not orthodox) and I could see the flaws in other faiths. When I turned that critical thinking to my own religion, it lost it's viability, and by keep asking questions about God It/Him/Herself, I eventually became an atheist.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #11)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 02:59 PM

19. Thank you for stopping by!

I'm particulary interested in your transitions from universalist to agnostic theist to atheist. What caused those transitions? Were there any particular issues or arguments that you found compelling?

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Response to Htom Sirveaux (Reply #19)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:56 PM

27. Quick

That was a particularly quick move for me - I was trying to hold on to some form of the Christian faith and discovered a method of interpreting the Christian Scriptures in such a way that allowed for a universalist view of god. I think by the time I stumbled upon it and tried to embrace it I had already become so disillusioned with the idea of believing in a holy book at all that I was unable to maintain the belief for long. It felt nice and flowery and good...but it didn't ring true because it still relied on a resource that I couldn't prove to be true. I probably clung to that for...6 months - and did so rather quietly because it is considered a heresy locally and in my circle of theological friends before I quietly started to embrace agnostic theism (the idea that I couldn't know that god existed but believed despite that lack of knowledge) and eventually atheism.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #27)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 05:57 PM

34. So would it be fair to say that the heart of your faith

was two-fold: the exalted status of the Bible, and the danger of hell?

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #11)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:16 PM

22. I don't think your piece can "explain how the majority of people experience doubt".

 

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Response to rug (Reply #22)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 04:13 PM

29. Maybe not

but in my experience, the majority of people hold to a faith that is lackadaisical. This post is particularly geared toward those types of people - just without explicitly saying so.

For me?

No, this is child's play stuff- it was far worse than this and I was practically untouchable to most Christians because I was so overtly radical in my faith so there wasn't a whole lot of community for me to lose, even though it hurt to lose what little I had. My fears were centered around losing what I considered a relationship with the creator of the universe - something I think a lot of people talk about but few people experience in any way that seems real. I was a loner from a young age, I had a pretty terrible family life growing up, I was ripe for this sort of religious experience and it entangled me fully - so it was very different for me than it is for most people, who's faith is largely centered around the way other people perceive them.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #29)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 04:52 PM

31. Sorry it was so rough.

 

What I find helpful when leaving a bad situation is to not make decisions on how bad it was but on how good it will be.

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Response to rug (Reply #31)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 05:17 PM

32. That's true

The thing about changing from one epistemological worldview to another entirely different epistemological worldview is that it's hard to imagine what good looks like.

Imagine, if you can, rebuilding the way you think about even the most fundamental aspects of the world as you know it - teetering on the edge of nihilism since it seems like the only viable alternative.

Hindsight is everything here, but if I could go back about 9 years and explain to the me that was experiencing the crisis of faith I experienced how much better my life would be without all the guilt, shame, confusion, and self doubt that were intrinsic parts of my life at the time I think it would have been an easier road - as it was, I spent two years a suicidal and severely depressed mess - barely surviving the entire ordeal and barely keeping my new marriage intact.

I was probably 19 when it started, I finally came out of it at around 21 (my doubt phase that is). I'm 28 now and I still suffer from occasional mental breakdowns if I hear certain songs, verses spoken, or expose myself to the wrong types of people. The scars I have from my religious past are incredibly deep and I don't know that I could have convinced that young man that it was going to get better - but I know that it does, even if it doesn't all-together go away.

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Response to RevOxley (Reply #32)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 05:21 PM

33. Wow, that comes close to a reaction to a cult or a trauma.

 

Keep talking to people. Hug your wife. Enjoy today. Yesterday is gone, never to return.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 03:58 PM

28. Some embrace.. some cling.. some have no idea

why they say they have faith other than habit .. Some have had an experience that is unshakable.

Pretty big thing faith.. can't quite box it in, like a scientific theory.. can't prove, can't disprove.


You just take people at face value whatever that is on the spectrum.


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