To be more precise, I stopped believing about a couple months ago. Although that was part of a longer process of doubting and reconsidering, and I’m still making sense of my new lack of faith (which is why I haven’t posted anything on it until now).
It’s still a bit weird to think about. My faith was pretty much the central part of my life. This blog was just a personal blog, but it pretty quickly became almost entirely a religious blog. Heck, I was thinking about becoming a consecrated religious at the start of the year.
It’s difficult to pin down exactly why. There are a lot of reasons and they are all tangled up together. But I’ll try to untangle them now. I’m not looking to offend or convert anyone, or start an argument, but just want to share my thoughts.
1. Christian ethics and spirituality is too passive and weak (sorry)
I’ve read a lot of Christian spiritual books, and at the heart is a deep submissiveness to God, to authorities, and even to oppressors. The central theme is giving ourselves up, abandoning ourselves, passively trusting and submitting. The Church and scriptures talk about the Christian as a child, a servant, a slave, and a bride (in a clearly patriarchal sense).
Now, I’m not saying that this is all wrong. It’s not. There’s a deep truth and beauty to it really. But it lacks the wisdom of the opposite principle, that life has to be grasped, that (at least at times) we have to imitate Jacob and wrestle with God. We have to fight for justice and our rights, both for ourselves and for others.
I don’t want to be too harsh, but Christianity appears to be a religion for losers, that praises being a loser. “Blessed are the poor”, “the first shall be last”, “give to whoever asks of you”, “resist not evil”. We can make sense of this by taking a deeply anti physical, anti world stance, holding that everything the wicked might take, even our lives, are ultimately worthless, and I think the early Church did believe this, but the Church no longer really holds such a stance and I don’t want to either. I want to stake my claim and fight in this world, for this life. I don’t want to be a slave/servant/child/bride, I want to be the master of my own life.
2. The Church doesn’t believe
The more you try to take the faith seriously, the more you see contradictions, and the more you realise that most of the Church, and in particular the hierarchy, don’t care. They care about some things very passionately of course, from various points of doctrine to social causes to liturgical minutiae, but I think very few really care about the faith or holiness. I’ll give a few examples.
- Confession – if confession is really so important, why is it so infrequently offered? The easiest answer is that few priests think it really matters.
- Hell – why are so few people scared of hell, both for themselves and for their loved ones and for the non Christian majority of the world? Again, the easiest answer is that no one really believes.
- Women veiling – why did the Church abandon a practice with crystal clear roots in scripture and apostolic tradition? And why is there not even a proper justification given for this change? People claim it was merely a local cultural practice, but the scriptures themselves explain it on a completely different basis, arguing from nature, the creation account, and the angels. The easiest explanation again, is that the Church just doesn’t care. [For the record, I have no desire for women to be covered, I just wanted my church to be consistent with its supposed beliefs]
- Jesus’s teachings – too often I went to mass and Jesus says something remarkable, only for the priest to either ignore it completely to speak about something else, or even worse, they contradict or weaken Jesus’s words to the point of being just dull. Again, it seems they just don’t believe.
The doctrine of hell brings a whole mess of problems. I’ll list them out:
- Does God want people to go to hell? If not, then in the end He doesn’t get His way and His victory is incomplete. If He does (as Aquinas and others taught) then He’s not so loving (except in an abstract “ground of being” kind of way that isn’t what anyone really means by love).
- Is hell a good thing or a bad thing? If God is willing to send sinners to hell as a punishment, why shouldn’t we be happy with this outcome?
- Is the criteria really right? ‘No salvation outside the church’ – that’s just absurd. I know there’s the idea of “invisible Christians”, but that is either an exception to the general rule, or it’s a sneaky rejection of the rule itself (like the Church’s change in policy towards the practice of usury).
4. Many minor points I had overlooked
When you start questioning, suddenly every issue you had questioned previously, not found a solution to, and decided to leave and come back to later, comes back all at once.
- The divinely sanctioned and commanded violence in the Old Testament
- The shortcomings of the Law, including treating women as property and tolerance of slavery
- Contradictions in the scriptures eg in the resurrection accounts
- The lack of good reasons for denying women access to the priesthood
- The general tendency to treat morality as a system of laws
5. Where is the love?
Jesus said that his disciples would be known by their love. Can we really say that Catholics or Christians as a whole are known by their love? I can’t.
Now, I’m making my way through life as my own master. I’m still figuring out exactly what I do believe now, and reading a lot of philosophy in the process. I’m enjoying it so far! Life is good, and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly. Feel free to continue following this blog or to stop as pleases you.
Now that all that’s said, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!