I’m giving up the faith

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.

3. Hell

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.

What now?

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!

Christianity & Buddhism

I’ve been learning a bit about Buddhism for a while now, mainly through Thich Nhat Hanh’s biography of the Buddha, Old Path, White Clouds (which, full disclosure, I have not yet finished). I see a lot of truth in it, but seeing that I’m a Catholic Christian and not a Buddhist, I feel the need to set the two side by side, to prevent any confusion. Of course, I’m no expert on Catholicism, let alone Buddhism, so please correct me where needed in the comments.

The aim of Buddhism is to attain and share awakening (Buddha means “the awakened one”), realising that there is no such thing as a separate self, thereby liberating the person from suffering as well as the cycle of death and rebirth. Realising that all is one, that all things exist in all other things, the selfish thoughts and desires that cause suffering disappear, as does death and rebirth (as the you that dies and is reborn, was an illusion you are now without). [I’m a bit less clear on liberation from death and rebirth, so if anyone could help me, I’d really appreciate it]

The aim of Christianity is God’s aim to draw all of creation into union with Himself in love, through the cross of Jesus Christ, setting us free from all sin, division, and death. In Jesus of Nazareth, God’s love in which He made the whole cosmos is made manifest, shared with us, and offered back to God in thanksgiving. Jesus loves us to the point of letting us kill Him, and still loving us. He offers up our ultimate crime – His own death – as a thanksgiving to God, His Father. Even in our rejecting Him, He is uniting Himself to us. It is the Christian’s aim to let Him.

The Buddhist concept of Annata, or “non-self”, is met by the Christian Kenosis, or “self-emptying”, which are so close and yet so far apart. Annata refers to how all things lack a separate self, while Kenosis reveals a self that exists precisely in its gift, its self-annihilation. The image of Buddhism is Buddha sitting in meditation, and the image of Christianity is Christ crucified.

In Buddhism, it is recognised that all things are interdependent, all things are one, and this reality must be recognised. In Christianity, all things are already one also, being held together in Christ, the Divine Logos, but are also being taken up in Christ into unity in God the Father Almighty. We are created in God’s love, and receive God’s love in Christ upon the Cross, and are united to His crucified love offering us back, up to the Father and out to mankind. We are in the middle of the dynamic, creative, expansive Oneness of the Trinity, in whom we live and move and have our being.

This has helped clear my mind, and I hope it has helped you too. I think thanks to learning about Buddhism, I understand Christianity better, and I’m deeply grateful. And I don’t mean that just in terms of “what not to believe”.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

God bless you :)

The crazy real meaning of Easter

Easter reminds us of the essential truth, that Christianity is a weird cult centred on escaping death by means of death.

We believe that one historical man was so fully alive, that life burst forth wherever he went. And that He was so fully alive, because He was always ready and willing to give Himself/His life away. But Life will always have enemies, because it destroys the control that comes from death and violence. And so this man Who was Life itself, was brutally put to death. Yet even in His own death, He gave His life so freely, that He brought life to death itself, and in dying, was only made more alive.

And we, by accepting and living by the gift of His life, that gives itself freely even to death, may be united to Him, and live and die and rise again in Him.

Christians, when they realise what they are, are an uncontrollable people, who will live fully even if that means dying, and will even rejoice to “give” their lives.

That is the crazy religion we call Christianity.

God bless you! Christos anesti!!!

Pray When You Don’t Feel Like It

This is my best advice for all people, in all walks of life, of all ages, all backgrounds, heck, even of all religions and none. Whatever your lifestyle, whatever your past, whatever your vices and virtues, whatever your failures and successes. However much you pray, however “good” you are at it. Pray when you don’t feel like it.

Why? Because we always need God, and He always makes it better. Always.

We always need our Creator, our Father, our Saviour.

Bl. Mother Teresa quote

If you don’t feel you can pray right, pray wrong. Even if you can’t help swearing, swear in prayer. God loves it.

Even the smallest prayer in the worst sinner, opens us to God’s infinite creative love and mercy. Throughout each day, we grow stale (the “righteous” especially), and we need to be reinvigorated. We close ourselves off, from God, from others, from creation, and from ourselves. In this dying world to which we are subject, we must repeatedly open ourselves to the source of all life.

Whatever the situation, the briefest contact with God will bring life there.

As the winter deepens, we know that opening the door for just a moment lets so much cold in, and leaving one small window open freezes the whole house! That is how brief prayer and small prayer let God in.

Sometimes prayer will be genuinely painful. But however bad it may feel, this is the pain of life, and it is good. It burns and it crushes and it grinds, but it liberates, and fills us with light.

Sometimes, I don’t know the words; I pray remembered prayers (the Our Father and the Jesus prayer usually). God answers. Sometimes, all my words, all my thoughts, and all I am, seem empty and vain; I tell God I feel empty and vain, accepting that I feel empty and vain even as I confess this. God comes to the rescue. Sometimes, I can’t bring myself to say a word before God; I kneel in front of my crucifix, make the sign of the cross, and remain there, in front of the Lord, knowing I am seen. God is there. Sometimes, I’m too afraid to go to God at all; I go to a saint to help me (usually St. Therese). The saints bring me to God. And sometimes, I don’t take my own advice and don’t pray.

At those times God either keeps on disturbing me, or waits for me.

Evidently, I’m no prayer master. But I know for certain, that every time we pray, we open our lives to God’s work, and He always enters, and He always helps.


God bless you


The Quran and Jesus

[This is the very first thing I’ve noted, in my recently begun (casual) study of Islam. I’ve started it because Islam is extremely important in the world today, and dialogue with Islam seems ever more important, especially in times of conflict in the Muslim world. Please, correct me to the best of your ability where I’ve misunderstood. Thank you]

I was recently given a free English translation of the Quran, and a few leaflets about Islam. Here is the first thing I have learned (and it seems to me, it may be the most important thing for a Christian to learn about Islam):

The Muslim’s Quran is more analogous to the Christian’s Jesus than to the Christian’s scriptures. In the introduction to the Quran I was given (something feels wrong about saying “my Quran”…), it says,

‘Moreover, it is the actual words of Allah — not created, but revealed by Him through the angel Gabriel to a human messenger, Muhammed…

What does one discover when he understands the meanings of the Qur’an? The answers to this question can be classified in four main categories:

1. That he can know his Creator as He has described Himself

2. …

4. How he should relate to all things — to Allah by worship and obedience, to his fellow man by…

This divine message was revealed to confirm and renew the relationship between man and his Creator and to reinstate the sincere and correct worship of the one true God…

It was “not created” that really grabbed my attention.

Much as we believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal, uncreated, Word of God, so Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated words of Allah. As Christ’s birth was proclaimed by the angel Gabriel, and given through Mary, so Muslim’s believe the Quran came through Gabriel, and was given to Muhammed to give to the world. We believe that in Christ, we can know God as He reveals Himself; similarly, Islam teaches that through the Quran, we can know God as He described Himself. As Jesus himself reveals how we should relate to all things, so Muslims believe about the Quran. As Jesus was sent to renew and confirm the relationship between God and man, so Muslims consider the Quran.

So, theologically at least, Christianity and Islam shouldn’t be compared Jesus against Muhammed, or the Quran against the Bible, but Jesus to the Quran, Muhammed to the prophets or apostles (or maybe even Mary), and the Bible to the Hadith. And certain practices, such as reciting the Quran in Arabic, even when it is not understood, should not be looked down upon with condescension, and considered as oppression or superstitious religious nonsense, but as practically (in Christian terms) sacramental; encountering a divine and unfathomable mystery in a simple, strange, and humble manner.

I would also like to point out at this point, that when, in recent years, some fundamentalist preachers threatened to burn Qurans, it was less like if Muslims had threatened to burn Bibles (sad as damaged Bibles are), than like when satanists threatened to desecrate Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist.

Of course, I must make it clear that (to my knowledge) no Muslim claims that the Quran is consubstantial with God. So the analogue is close, but not quite. But, I think it may still be, to Muslims, the Holiest thing on earth.

One thing I see that must be appealing about this view of the Quran, is the direct, ready access it gives to God’s words and divine mystery. Any Muslim can hold it in their hands, and relate with Allah according to the words He gave them to relate to Him with. If Christian’s had the Bible alone, we would (at least, theoretically) be further from God, than Muslims are from Allah. But, thank God, through the the Church, the very Body and spouse of Christ, and through the sacraments and the sacramental life, we are thoroughly immersed in the mystery of God’s own Trinitarian life.

As a final note, here’s the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.841:

The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

Pax Christi, Shalom aleichem, and Salaam alaikum!

The Necessity of Religion in Politics

Religion is necessary to politics, because the idea of the person is necessary to politics. The person is in fact something only perceptible by faith. By science or philosophy, you can determine many things about the nature of Homo Sapiens, but you cannot demonstrate their personhood. By these methods, you may discover various different ways of how they work, engaging various material, or even “spiritual”, mechanisms within the creature, but you won’t find that it is a person to relate to, to engage and commune with, that participates in the unfathomable mystery at the foundation of the universe, and so has universal rights.

Persons and personhood, cannot be proven or discovered, but only encountered. They are too profound to be found through our external and detached methodologies, but must be met, and communed with. Personhood is a truth we can only accept on faith, born of encounter.

Of course, you don’t have to be “religious” to encounter and accept the reality of personhood. People from any religion (I think…) or none can. But it is a thoroughly religious idea.

And without a solid, well built faith, the idea of personhood will be attacked on all sides, by various ideas of ‘pragmatism’, ‘utility’, ‘realism’, ‘moderation’, ‘fairness’, ‘liberty’, and even ‘compassion’. Personhood must be held to tightly at all times, or it will not last, and with it, the dignity of many lives. But personhood is difficult to hold alone, because it refuses all compromise, and to be strengthened needs to be part of a larger system of mystery. That is, personhood cannot well last, if it is understood as an isolated reality, without proper relationship to the rest of existence; it requires to be placed in relationship with a similarly profound mystery of all that is, that is also to profound for any knowledge but the knowledge born of encounter: the knowledge of faith.

Believers, when engaged in politics, cannot leave religion at the front door, because it will leave personhood, which should be the heart of all politics, exposed and vulnerable, to inferior ideas making reckless use of lesser truths. When the true principle of man’s life, that is, man’s relationship to the divine, is ignored, life is easily denigrated, and we end up with a culture of death.

In practice, personhood means that humans are not things to be used, but people to love. From this view, we can see that society’s focus shouldn’t be the individual or the collective, but the community, which transcends and harmonises both, in a shared life of dynamic love.

God bless you

P.S. I hope to write more posts on politics and society soon.

Is Christianity Knowable?

One of the main things that drove me from protestantism to Catholicism, was realising that within protestantism, I couldn’t really know about most areas of my religion. One day I could be sure an issue was settled, and the next day I would have seen an argument against my earlier position, and think the matter’s open, and within a few days my mind could completely change on an issue. And each time, I’d have to run about, looking into ancient languages, history, and literary styles, to support my new belief. Often, I was trying (with moderate success) to push my own ideas onto the Bible (I very nearly had a vegetarian Jesus at one point, but there was a pesky fish in the way…).

There could be arguments over what was scripture (“Paul never even met Jesus…”), what the scripture said (“the Hebrew word used, beit-nun-hei, was used to…), and how scripture should be read (“scripture came through men, and cannot be taken at face value”) [I can see the appeal of KJVonlyism]. I read good Christian books and theology, and found they kept referring me to a new “heart of Christianity”. It was when I heard about a Christian who believed we should still follow Jewish dietary laws that I got really fed up. Without hearing him out, I couldn’t dismiss him, as he was probably better informed on the matter than me. But I decided to anyway, because I was tired of being told I didn’t know my religion until I learned about ancient languages and history and the rest. I felt it was settled by St. Paul in the first century Anno Domini. I began to wonder if I had be a full-time scholar to know the “true” teachings of my own religion.

Sadly, these arguments aren’t confined to trivial matters. To this day, there are people arguing from the Bible against Christ’s divinity, God being the Trinity, who God loves, how we are saved, the way to read the Bible, the role of the law, the nature of sin, and much more. Today, protestantism still has to fight many of the heresies dealt with by the early Church. Protestantism is, naturally, in a worse state than the early Church was, because they have only the scriptures to refer to, and so each theologian must start again from the scriptures, whereas the early Church could also refer to the oral teachings of the apostles, and those given authority by the apostles.

As a result of this general uncertainty (and greater geographical mobility), you’ll find most protestants today will only call themselves Christian, and will avoid even calling themselves protestants (perhaps out of politeness also). Few are willing to associate with a denomination, since a better interpretation may come along, or they may move somewhere where that denomination is less to their worship taste. Exactly what constitutes a “Christian” is up for debate, and it’s accepted that on most matters, there is only opinion. As a result, churches only teach basic Christianity.

At the end of the day, the question remains unanswered, “Who is Jesus, and what exactly does he want?” Does he just want to save us, so we can sin as much as we like and still be saved? Does he want to threaten everyone with eternal torture so they obey his blood-thirsty Father? Does he want us to start a revolution? Does he want us to not judge others? Does he want us to follow him even to death? Does he want us to eat his body and drink his blood, and so enter into mystical union with him? Does he want us to be saved for doing good to the needy?

The Solution

Catholicism. Catholic teaching is known, and does not change. The Catholic Church has an immense, two thousand year old intellectual tradition, reasoning through everything thoroughly, and yet, the Catholic faith can be reasonably accepted by illiterate peasants as well as the finest scholars, because it is from the Church that Jesus founded.

The Catholic Church doesn’t struggle with the old heresies anymore, because they were definitively settled more than a millennium ago. The arguments were laid to rest, and we’re done with the matter. That’s not to say there are none left. There are always new heresies, but they’re being dealt with too.

The Church has come a long way since she was the early Church, and has remembered and passed on all of the teachings of the apostles, and ‘treasured all their words and pondered them in her heart’ (Lk 2:19). Indeed, the Church has internalised the understandings of those who originally wrote and received the scriptures, so that the Church’s teachings are naturally the teachings of the scriptures in their proper context. That’s not to say that the Church isn’t looking back to the scriptures though.

In protestantism, the believer is always looking to the fresh rain of the scriptures, but in Catholicism, the believer looks to the fresh rain of the scriptures, as well as the great torrents of the river of reflection and consideration by the saints upon those same scriptures, going back to their source in the incarnate Son of God. To take this analogy a step further, the puddle corrupts and muddies the water it receives far more than the fast flowing river.

‘Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church.’
St. Thomas Aquinas

Ultimately, the reason I became a Catholic is because I had come to believe that the Catholic Church really knew Jesus. I looked at her teachings, practices, and attitudes (particularly towards poverty and suffering), and I looked at the New Testament, and especially the Gospels, and found she was living in radical continuity with Jesus and the apostles. Catholicism was the real deal. And since the Church really knew Jesus, she really knew his teaching.

God bless you.

My First Confession

I received the Sacrament of Confession for the first time last week, and I feel it would be good to share some thoughts from it.

Beforehand, I felt an almost overwhelming guilt. It was painful. But as I thought about receiving the sacrament of forgiveness for my sins, it remained painful, but it felt like it was good pain, like God’s grace was attacking the sins already. As I made my way there, my heart was thumping heavily.

When I finally had the sacrament, I felt great shame at my sins, but I felt like they were being destroyed and washed out even as I confessed them. What really struck me was how my confessor showed no signs of judgment at all. I had come ready for being told, at least a little bit, how bad I had been, but there was nothing except forgiveness. The absence of judgment and ready forgiveness really showed me an image of holiness. It really made me appreciate priests, who are blessed to even administer God’s forgiveness.

Afterwards, I felt liberated. There was no more guilt. I was happy, and light as a feather. A few hours after, I noticed that I felt naked [I was outside at the time, and genuinely wondered if I might be]. I felt like I was naked before God, and He accepted me in my vulnerability. I had revealed myself to God. Of course, God already knew everything to begin with, but by the sacrament, I had gone out of my way to show myself to Him. God hadn’t just happened to oversee my sins, but I had presented myself, in all my sinfulness, to Him intentionally. I think this is part of why He gave us this sacrament. It was liberating.

All in all, it was a terrifying experience, and a good, healing, surprisingly liberating experience.

Pope Francis goes to Confession

Pope Francis recently went to confession publicly. I’ve heard that he usually goes every two weeks (privately).

May God bless you