Crisis of Faith

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I'm going to put away politics for a little while in favor of a serious monologue about religion. Feel free to continue to comment on those posts (as long as you're being civil) as desired.

I was raised by a Roman Catholic mother and an agnostic father. For a while, my father went through a phase of Christianity, but when life got difficult, he turned away from it. I have attended the Catholic church since I was a child, was baptized, had my first communion and was confirmed. For all intents and purposes, I am Catholic.

As I grow, both in age and in life experiences, I'm finding myself increasingly unsure of my religion and faith. College and my post-collegiate studies have opened my eyes to things I wasn't aware of before. I almost feel like I've been duped. Don't misunderstand me, I still believe whole-heartedly in God, but beyond that, I'm, well, lost.

I was raised with the new testament and the works of Jesus. And then I spent time in one of my college history courses studying the history of religion and found myself disturbed by the politics involved in the church. The fact that the gospels were written a century after Jesus' death and were literally voted on by a council of people who appointed themselves to head the church is confusing to me. I don't like the idea that I'm getting the version of Jesus that some group wanted me to get, rather than the whole picture.

I was also raised with the belief that the bread and wine, upon consumption, became the body and blood of Jesus Christ, except that for the entire time I was going to church, I never actually realized they were being serious. Not like, I thought they were joking, but I always saw the bread and wine as symbolic. I can prove scientifically that when I ingest that host that it is not the flesh of the son of man and that when I sip the wine, it does not become blood, so how is it that each week we are told to believe this? I realize that this completely discounts all the instances of miracles about this very thing, but I have never experienced one of these miracles and if it's always supposed to change upon digestion, then I feel like there's some incongruity here.

I'm not out to flame the Catholic church, or anyone for that matter. The Catholic church has been nothing but good to me, I just don't know where I belong any more. I don't like going to Catholic mass because I hear myself reciting things that I know I don't believe, purely out of habit and a feeling of obligation. I tried on an Episcopal church for size for a while and I liked it, but I just feel like there's still so much that I'm unsure of.

People often ask what The Fiance and I will do with our kids when we get married as he is Jewish and I am not. Many many people are troubled when I tell them that I do not oppose raising my kids as Jews. Frankly, I love Judaism. I think it's a fantastic religion and if I'm going to start my kids in some religion (knowing full well that when they're almost 25 they may run screaming in the other direction), that's one that I'm completely comfortable with. I think that it instills the moral boundaries that I agree with and so much of it is based on the idea of doing good things for others and to me, that's what should be at the heart of all religion (and I think ultimately it usually is).

This leads to a natural question of why I wouldn't convert to Judaism. Aside from the obvious problem of, generally speaking, conversion to Judaism is a pain in the ass, I know that it would kill my mother. I also know that despite the fact that my ideals have absolutely nothing to do with The Fiance (to be honest, he and I have hardly spoken at all about it), my family would probably never forgive him.

On Easter my family gave me a big lecture about how I needed to start going to church again, but where do I go? I don't want to go to church for the sake of going. I don't want to go somewhere, not having any idea what I believe, so that someone can tell me what I should believe. I feel like I need to research and read and discover it myself and see what I really genuinely believe in my own heart and brain and from there, pick the religion that best facilitates that faith.

I guess if it were that simple I wouldn't be typing this, would I? I honestly don't know anymore. It's not that I don't have faith or that I can't believe without seeing, it's just that I don't know what's real and what's not. I don't know who's right and who's wrong. There are so many different accounts of the same thing, who's to say that theirs is the right one?

My name is Katie, I'm 24 years old and for the first time in my life, I feel completely lost.


Anonymous said...

Well, if it makes you feel any better, I am 29 years old, was also raised Roman Catholic, received all of the sacraments, etc., and I'm also pretty lost, religion-wise.

Although the Church is far from perfect, I like the formality and ceremony. I feel like a lot of Protestant religions are informal and "go with the flow," and I feel like God deserves more respect than that. Ironically, the rules of the Church are what has driven me from it. They will not recognize my marriage because my husband was previously married (not in the Catholic church), and thus I am "living in sin," and my son was "conceived in sin." We tried to have his previous marriage annulled, but a less-than-honest priest blocked the annulment, and I don't know if it is even possible to begin the process again. So, I don't feel really warm and fuzzy about all of that.

From what I know of it, the Episcopal faith incorporates a lot of the traditions of the Roman Catholic church but is more forgiving on issues of divorce and homosexuality. It seems like it would be a good fit for me, but I don't want to devote myself to a religion again only to be burned by its rules.

It's not surprising to me that church attendance in this country continues to decline. There just aren't easy answers, and sometimes it feels like there aren't any right ones, either.


lace1070 said...

Katie ~ Remember that all who wander are not lost!
Seriously ~ I grew up in the christian faith in the Episcopal church and it wasn't until I got to college that I started questioning why I believed what I believe. You have to search for a church where you feel comfortable ~ where Jesus speaks to your heart. You will know the place when you find it. It took us four years to find the church that was right for us when we moved to NY. Start with the an internet search for all churches in your area. See if they have a web site so you can narrow your search. Look for churches that appeal to you ~ maybe some that have casual services with a full jam band. Hugs ~ Lace

April said...

I just started reading here from "I'm no Belle" (very interesting political debate! :) nice to see it can happen with such civility) Anyway, I wanted to suggest that since you agree, and believe in God, the God of the Bible. Then I would encourage you to get some alone time and just read it. Ask God to open your eyes to what HE wants to show and tell you. It says in Jeremiah 29:12,13 "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
I grew up in a protestant house and now in my mid thirties I attend a non-denominational church. I went through a searching time in my early 20's finding out if I believed because that's how I was raised or is this the real thing. I have found, personally, God to be faithful. He has never let me down and as always kept His promises to me. Just as that verse I listed above says, when I have searched for Him, when I wanted to know Him better I have found Him. And He has given my soul a peace I had never known before. Things may happen in this world or to me physically but I know in my deepest heart that I am safe.

Anonymous said...

Dang, Katie. Just don't have enough going on in life right now, do you?

I went to Catholic schools all my life and they did a good job of teaching me how to think for myself, thus I am now an ex-Catholic.

I agree about the Jewish thing. A friend of mine was unhappy with the Episcopal Church, in which he was raised. He was leaning toward Catholicism, which would be an easy stretch because Episcopal is just Catholic without the mojo. I think he just wanted his kids to go to a better school but didn't necessarily want to pay non-parishioner tuition, but would not admit it.

He asked me what I thought, I said if he wanted to get back to basics, he should consider Judaism. They've got some great views on things, but getting circumcised at age 43 ain't pleasant, and it would kill his mom if he turned into a Jew.

Then there's the problem of picking the "right" religion, because inherent in that choice is that the ones you don't pick are less right, or even wrong.

Do you remember the South Park episode where everyone was gathered up at the gates of hell, and one person says,"I don't know why I am here. I'm Christian, I go to church every Sunday, I read the Bible." And another, "I don't belong here, I'm a Buddhist, I've never hurt a fly," and so on.

Satan says,"I'm sorry, but the correct answer was Mormon."

The point is, you've become home to the longest damn comments on the internet and I am determined to set some sort of record, even if I can't give you any spiritual guidance.

Here is the meaning of life according to some wise individuals:

"Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations."
Monty Python, The Meaning of Life

Honestly, though, I'd say that you're young enough to sit back and keep observing for a while. And just be unselfish to the people God does put in your path; the Golden Rule and such. I think that's the end game of any religion. It's all about redemption, and my theory is that the trick is to try to not to do things you will feel you need to seek redemption for.

So maybe I've been helpful, or confusing, and hopefully win the longest comment award for the evening.

Flea said...

Two things. First, I'd recommend a really cool book called Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner (not sure on her last name) that you might want to pick up. She was raised Orthodox Jew and became a Christian in her early 20's. The book is Christianity from a Jewish perspective. Short, humorous, insightful. It might help with perspective and the dilemma you're facing between the two religions. Well written book.

Second, I can only tell you what I know, from various religious classes, including recently, about the writing of the Gospels. John was one of Jesus disciples, so he was there for most of it. In fact, he was the favorite disciple. Matthew was the tax collector Jesus called as disciple, a Jew, but had the perspective of a hated individual, given his job. So those two were contemporaries of Christ. Luke was a revered doctor and a Gentile, giving an altogether different perspective, being very thorough in his accounts, even though it was after the fact. Mark I don't know so much about.

Yes, there was a group which voted on which books became Scripture. It's my understanding that there were many accounts out there, some far less than accurate, some out right lies. The group was working to make sure that only the truth, only what was accurate and true to the original Scripture at the time (the Old Testament) would be included.

I can't give a valid perspective on inter-faith marriage, as I married a man of my own faith, but I can tell you that I was born and baptized Catholic and still enjoy attending my grandmother's cathedral in central Louisiana when I'm in town. I also don't understand or agree with the transubstantiation (real body and blood). But the beauty of the services always stuns me.

Given that, growing up we moved churches several times, so I've been Methodist, Baptist, Charismatic and Mennonite. I whole heartedly understand religious confusion and endorse your journey (like you needed that, right?).

Hmm ... seems I rival Pete for long comments. Sorry. Hope you find what you're looking for. Oh! Another fun read is Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. She throws the F-bomb around like crazy, but her journey is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

zaHey Katie, I've been lurking for a while now, enjoying reading your blog, but have never commented (although the political discussion got me pretty darn close!) I think it's totally normal to question your faith and now is the time to explore and look for answers. Of course, the Bible is an excellent source, but if read on your own it can be confusing (at least it is for me sometimes!). Try getting involved in a bible study, either at your church or another one. Try attending several different church and listen to the message of the sermon. I'm not quite sure what to say about converting to Judaism. If you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, I just don't see how that works. But ultimately, that decision is up to you. Also, I have been praying for you with your health situation. God's peace to you.

Roland Hulme said...

What a fascinating and beautifully written post!

I totally sympathise. About four or five months ago - after being a Christian for nearly 30 years - I discovered that I didn't believe in it any more.

My grandfather was a priest and I attended a theological college, so I've studied the Bible and the history of the Bible and that actually erroded my faith even more when I started seeing the flaws and hypocrisy in the way religion has been presented to us over the centuries.

I believe Jesus existed. I believe he was a wise and great philosopher. I don't believe he's the son of God, though. In fact, I don't believe in God at all. The Christian God I got taught to believe in simply wouldn't let the world be the way it is. The Tsunami, killing 250,000 people. Hurricane Katrina. Those are senseless 'acts of God' and make no sense.

Daisy, Just Daisy said...

I am Presbyterian (born and raised) and BISMOW (the bf) is Catholic. During the discussion of getting engaged we realized the church I've always dreamed of getting married in (my Grandparents) won't marry any Catholics. So we are struggling through the "religion" crisis as well.... I realize that is in no way helpful, but I suppose misery loves company?

Bogart said...

One brief suggestion from a your quest, don't look just for a "religion". I told a group of HS students that I wanted them to question their parents on what they believe and why. I wanted them to ask the pastor questions about what he was teaching and why. I wanted them to seek out people of other faiths, ask them questions about why they believe what they believe...then I told them that as they dug I wanted them also to examine the lives of those that lead the faiths they are looking did Buddha live and what did his life really accomplish? How about Joseph Smith/Brigham Young? What about Mohammad? What about Christ?

I really, firmly believe that when you dig and I mean your heart and in your head you will find a rock that you can't get around.

The student's parents did not like this. The head pastor did not like this. Many of the students did not like this.

I will tell you, however, that those who did it found what they were looking for, and it was certainly not a religion, but rather a relationship. I trust, that if you went after it honestly and whole heartedly, you would as well.

kim-d said...

You can probably imagine that I'd love to have a whole lot to say about this, but I'm too much like you myself! It's hard!

I'm not big into "denominations." I was baptized Methodist, and confirmed Lutheran. I am a member of a Lutheran Church that I love, but the most moving religious experience I have ever had in my 51years just happened this past Good Friday in a Catholic Church. I have had many Jewish friends and co-workers and find Judaism fascinating.

Why does it have to be one or nothing. I think we can just go where we're lead at the time; "membership" is overrated. But, then again, I've never liked being part of "a group" (read, cliques). I don't know, Katie--maybe I'm just a simpleton dunce when it comes to religion--but I just have never been able to put it into a pretty package and tie it all up with a nice, neat little bow. I know I'm a Christian, I know what I believe, I know what resonates with me...other than that it's all up in the air to me. And I'm over twice your age!!!
I'm pretty much liking what Pontchartrain Pete had to say, though...

So, all I can say is this. For matter what you are, religiously-speaking, you are still Katie. And that's all I need to know.

Freakin' helpful, huh? :)

Anonymous said...

delurking...I saw a church signboard this weekend that said "Don't like religion then try us!" It was a unity faith church or something like that. Thought is was funny, but sad.
I went through the same thing when I was in college. Have never really gone back, but marrying an atheist (who I met in college) didn't help either. It takes time to go against everything you grew up, whether you go back or not. Give yourself time to chose.

Anonymous said...

Let me know when you figure it all out. I've been asea for a looong time now. I am now comfortably a "cultural Catholic"--I do things of a catholic nature more out of a cultural calling than a religious one.

GenZie said...

I was born an Asian Muslim, who grew up in England for the first ten years and went to catholic schools there. My parents weren't all that religious until we left England to go back to Malaysia (hypocrites!). Spent another ten years there, learning to be a "good" Muslim (Which I sucked at!)Exposed to other different religions there, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Which actually broaden my perspective on faith. At 20, I was questioning my faith a lot, and well it pissed off my family beyond believe! I left my family, friends and country to come to America to marry now husband of ten years, who is Jewish, to live my life the way I wanted to and not by some organized religion. In short I tell people, I was born a Muslim, went to Catholic School, married a Jew and became Agnostic, and oh, I'm an Atheist when I have my period! (What God makes women bleed first before having the "chance" to conceive?).

I get questioned a lot by my many Catholic friends who were shocked that I am no longer a Muslim, they never heard of it being done! Well, not in Malaysia anyway, since it's an Islamic country. According to the religion actually, if you renounce Islam, other Muslims have a right to kill you! It actually wouldn't be considered a sin! Which to me is crap. Just like how Fanatical Muslims think killing others in the name Allah is acceptable! Murder is one of the biggest sins in the faith! The only "forgivable" murder is when you do it out of self defense! And blowing up innocent civilians for not believing in their faith does not fall under "self defense".

There's aspect of Islam is acceptable to me, but it wasn't enough for me to dedicate my life to it. I have had my family and other Muslims telling me that I will burn in Hell for doing what I did. Fear plays a MAJOR role in Islam, it forces women to do what their husbands ask them to do. They always play the Hell card! If you don't do this, you go to hell, if you do that, you go to hell, I'm sure you get the picture.

My husband is Jewish, but he hasn't been to temple for years. He's been disgusted how most of the temples are more "commercialized". Rabbi's giving more preference to those who "donate" more than others or who suck up to them more! I have discussed with my husband though, that we agreed to raise our children, when we have them, that they will be raised according to Judaism. Religion gives some sort of structure and discipline to the kids. I had one proviso though, that they would learn other religions too, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religious believes! We agreed that, when they mature, and if they choose a different faith, that we won't be unhappy about it or outcast them for it. At least they have a broad perspective of different faith to make an informed decision.

You can say I had an epiphany during college. It was my first time not being under the strict guard of my family. I was able to think freely without being criticized and getting the "going to hell" speech. I found that most religions have the same foundation. Do good and do no evil to others. I found that the guidelines were the same, just that, over the years, it's been interpreted by so many people over so many years! That I felt the true meaning has been lost under it all! What is the true meaning? Well I exactly don't know, I don't think anyone will find out the exact true meaning, at least not "A" unified true meaning. Until then, I'm just living my life the way I want to, the way it makes me happy. I still live by the rule, do good and do no evil to others. I doubt God would have anything against that.

Greta Perry said...

Born & raised Jewish by a mother who converted to Judaism and can kvetch with the best of them. I have a Great Aunt who is a nun and attended my brother's bar mitzvah. I married a Southern Baptist and we raise our kids to respect all religions and celebrate everything including Festivus.

I'd pick Judaism. It isn't just a religion (sounds like not just for breakfast any more), it is a culture that your kids will embrace!

Hubby and I still haven't picked a religion and out oldest is 11 - we blew it!