I’m having doubts about Christianity.

bare lonely tree in black and white

I feel like my soul is lost in a snowstorm, and it’s because of the political situation.

The religious right is causing good people to leave their churches, or even Christianity altogether.    This is because so many churches, especially evangelical ones, have become little more than bullhorns for right wing propaganda that praise Trump as some sort of biblical hero.

Mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church have kept a healthy distance from politics, and if they lean any way at all, they tend to lean to the left and preach social justice, especially the mainline Protestant denominations.

The Catholic Church is awkwardly placed in all this.  While it’s always emphasized the importance of social justice and helping vulnerable populations, and is headed by a Pope (Francis) who appears to dislike Trump and is decidedly left-wing in his views,  the Catholic Church is still vehemently pro-life and is against artificial contraception (even though most Catholic women of childbearing age use it anyway).   It also considers homosexuality to be a sin and does not ordain female priests.   Many people have left the Catholic Church because they perceive it as being behind the times and out of touch with the needs of women.

Two years ago, I became Catholic, because of all the Christian religions, Catholicism had the most mystery and beauty, and I’ve always loved the liturgy. Although some Protestant churches (Episcopalian and Lutheran) also have a liturgy that’s almost identical to the Catholic one, I wanted the purity of the original one.   I also always liked the doctrine of transubstantiation:  the idea that the Eucharist is a real sacrament and the bread and wine actually turns into the body and blood of Christ, instead of being merely symbolic.

Catholicism is the oldest existing Christian religion, and I was attracted to all its rich and colorful history, both the good and the bad.   I loved the art, especially the serene paintings of Mary and baby Jesus.   I liked the saints.

I also was attracted to Catholicism because it was comforting to me.   Even though my family is not Catholic (my mother was but she left the Church during her teens), I grew up in a heavily Catholic neighborhood in New Jersey, and attended two Catholic schools between 5th and 10th grade.    Every Friday we attended mass in school, and I was so envious of the girls who got to take Communion, while I had to remain sitting in my chair.    I also was envious of all the cool stuff they got:  the lacy white Confirmation dresses, the Confirmation names (I finally got mine: it’s Catherine), the rosary beads.    I was given a set of blue plastic rosary beads one day at school (maybe they forgot I wasn’t Catholic?), even though I had no idea how to use them.  They were among my favorite possessions and I liked to finger them like worry beads.

During those years I attended Catholic school, it was like my home away from home.   I loved the nuns, who were always so serene and kind to me.    Things were very bad at home during those years, with both my parents drinking and fighting, and I felt unloved at home.   At school, that wasn’t the case.  A couple of the nuns treated me like loving parents, and I also had friends at school. Their families welcomed me as if I was one of them.   One girl, Lynn, came from a loud, big, boisterous Italian Catholic family.  Her grandmother, who spoke Italian, used to tell stories from the Old Country and they actually had a wine-making press in their basement where once a year they’d have a grape crushing party that all the neighbors were invited to.   Her grandmother used to cook a big Italian meal every Sunday after church.  What a contrast to my own home, where meals were a silent, stressful affair where my mother constantly criticized me if I wanted seconds and hounded me about my weight, even as a child.    When our dinners weren’t silent, they were interrupted by drunken arguments or either my mother or me in tears.

I’ve always been a spiritual seeker.     I dabbled in a number of different religions during my adult life, both Christian and not.    Still, I always found myself drawn to the Catholic church, and while I never seriously considered becoming one, on occasion I  would attend Mass and take Communion whenever I went.

I finally made the decision to become Catholic in 2014, and for a year attended RCIA classes at my local church.    At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2015, I was confirmed Catholic (my Methodist baptism, to my surprise, was accepted as valid).    I received my confirmation name of Catherine, and my  sponsor gave me a set of rose-scented rosary beads.  My father was perfectly fine with my Catholic conversion and sent me a crucifix.   It was one of the last gifts I would receive from him before he died in June 2016.

Overall, I like Catholic doctrine.  I like the idea of Mary and the saints, who are not actually worshipped the way Jesus is, but merely venerated and seen as intercessors (you ask them to pray for you, not pray to them directly).    I love the Sacraments, even Confession (penance), which to me seems like a way to unload.  It’s therapeutic rather than punishing or guilt-inducing.  At the same time, it keeps my conscience clear.   I always feel cleansed and relieved when I leave Confession (which is done in a small room facing the priest, rather than in a dark confession box).     The “penance” is usually nothing more than saying a couple of Hail Marys or Our Fathers. I always wonder why so many people are so turned off by this sacrament.  To me, it’s like an exercise for the soul.   More than anything, I love Communion.   After I eat my wafer, I really do feel different, as if Jesus is in me.   Maybe it’s a placebo effect of some kind, but I choose to believe it really is Christ’s physical presence, and that makes all the difference.

I like the fact that Catholicism is science friendly.  Many of the greatest scientists and academics in history were Catholic clergy.  I was surprised when I found out during the RCIA classes that in spite of the Catholic doctrine of original sin,  evolution is accepted (albeit God-inspired, which I’ve always believed anyway).   Most of the books of the Old Testament,  including the Adam and Eve story, are regarded as allegorical rather than literal (as they are in mainline Protestantism).   I’m not sure how that squares with the concept of original sin, but so be it.

There are still some doctrinal points I have issues with, and becoming Catholic hasn’t changed my feelings.    One is the literal bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven.  Also the idea that Mary was a virgin and remained so after Christ was born.  Since Mary was also human and not divine, I don’t believe she was conceived without original sin.

I also still consider myself pro-choice, although with limitations.   Actually, I’m sort of on the fence about abortion.   I certainly don’t think it should be used as a form of birth control, or that abortion is okay just because a pregnancy is inconvenient, but I also think there are times it’s the only viable option, especially in cases of rape or incest, if the fetus has a fatal condition and will die anyway, or if the mother’s life is at stake.   The Catholic position is no abortion for any reason, ever.     I can accept this though, because the Catholic Church is pro-life across the board: they are also anti-war, anti-death penalty, and have a long tradition of helping the poor.   There is consistency there and so, to me, their position is not hypocritical.

I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with birth control.  As for homosexuality, well, I have always had gay friends and my son is gay, so I just can’t condemn it.  Some of my favorite people ever are gay.     I also disagree with the Catholic position about women in the clergy, although this may change in time (my priest doesn’t really know why women are barred from the clergy and said there’s no Biblical basis for this other than tradition).

In spite of my issues with some Catholic doctrine, I never once regretted my choice, and until about two months ago, I attended Mass regularly.   But lately, I’m having problems with my faith.   Not Catholicism in particular, but with Christianity in general.    And it’s because of the religious right and the Trump administration.   My church has never taken a position either for or against Donald Trump, and in fact politics is rarely if ever talked about during the homily (sermon in the Protestant faith).   We are merely asked to pray for our leaders.

It disturbs me that so many Catholics (not necessarily in my church but in general) are Trump supporters.   The Trump administration also includes Catholics and I have a problem with that too.     Never before have I judged people based on what their politics are or which politician they support, but that changed this year.    Because of the politicization of Christianity and its growing association with the far right, Christianity in general has been giving me a bad taste in my mouth, and unfortunately that includes my own faith.

I still consider myself a believer in Jesus Christ and I still pray a lot (mostly for a strengthening of faith these days), but mention the word “Christian” to me and I recoil.   I am aware there are Christian leftists and a growing movement toward the social gospel, and that’s attractive to me — but the Christian right eclipses that.    I consider myself a “red letter Christian,” which means I focus on the words of Jesus himself that appear in the gospels.  Unfortunately, those lessons of love, charity, and tolerance are minimized or even ignored by the Christian right.   In this country, the religious right is a lot more powerful and a lot louder than the Christian left, and it’s turning many good people off to Christianity.   It seems that these days, the loudest and most powerful voices of Christianity belong to horrible people devoid of empathy or any true sense of morality or grace toward others.

So I find myself being turned off by the whole idea of Christianity, even though I know real Christianity isn’t like that at all.  I pray about it all the time, but the doubts still remain.  One result of this cognitive dissonance is that I haven’t been to church in almost two months.    I’m going to have to call my priest and set up a time to talk to him about these issues, but it’s hard to motivate myself.  I feel like a hypocrite attending church or taking communion again until this is resolved.   It’s actually occurred to me this is exactly the way Satan would get people to leave the Christian faith.  He would hijack the churches and fill them with heartless and judgmental authoritarians and narcissists.  He would corrupt faith by making it political.  He would use religion as a weapon of hatred intended to divide and create a culture of fear,  which is the opposite of what Jesus intended.    Good people who otherwise might embrace Jesus would reject Christianity altogether.

Maybe this is just a “dark night of the soul” — a spiritual crisis in which I’ll emerge with my faith stronger than ever, or maybe I really am “losing my religion.”   I just don’t know anymore.   I’ll keep praying, though.

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About luckyotter

Recovering from BPD and C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse from childhood. Married to a sociopath for 20 years. Proud INFJ, Enneagram type 4w5. Animal lover, music lover, cat mom, unapologetic geek, fan of the absurd, progressive Catholic, mom to 2, mental illness stigma activist, anti-Trumper. #RESISTANCE
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25 Responses to I’m having doubts about Christianity.

  1. Janet says:

    Keep praying! There are a lot of us out there that feel the same way. Check out pathos.com for thoughtful writing by different people who are more progressive and we all are doubters in some way. That’s not a bad thing but a sign of a quest to spiritual maturity

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tony Burgess says:

    Try the Episcopal Church, it’s a lot like the Catholic church with a more open mind and a big tent theology. I have been blessed to be a part of it for the last couple of years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • luckyotter says:

      I considered Episcopalianism too, but the problem isn’t with Catholicism in general, it’s the whole concept of Christianity. I just have to separate it in my mind from politics and it’s hard. My priest is easy to talk to and I have no problems with my home church. Maybe he can set my mind at ease but I just have to make the phone call.

      Like

  3. bobcabkings says:

    I’ve never been attached to any organized religious institution, but if I did profess to and identify as a Christian, I would likely be having the same difficulty whichever denomination I followed. I can’t see how so many people could take seriously the preaching of Jesus and also take the political positions they do. I hope you find the peace with your faith you seek.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. nowve666 says:

    It was the mystery that attracted me to the Catholic Church in the first place too. Did I ever tell you I was baptized Catholic? What turned me off was ideas that God could send anyone to Hell. We have finite minds. How can we ever deserve eternal punishment? How can God condemn someone for not believing in Christ? If Christ died for our sins, why couldn’t his sacrifice be for atheists too?

    If the behavior of Christians turns you off, remember, the Catholic Church is guilty of the inquisition. I kind of find Pentecostalism attractive the way they invite the supernatural into their lives. Did you ever see Jesus Camp? A lot of their rituals remind me of Wicca. (They would hate to hear that. LOL!)

    But I would focus on the actual doctrine. Does it make sense? I don’t think so. I support your struggle to find the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. renxkyoko says:

    I’m Catholic, too. My parish , i. e. , our parish priest is anti- Trump. He even said in his sermon that we have to choose the party that is big on social justice. And our parish isn’t the only one . In fact, our main Cathedrals bishop has been going public in urging the parishionners to vote their conscience, even if they don’t agree on the Pro-choice stance of one party.

    Liked by 2 people

    • luckyotter says:

      I’m pretty sure my priest is anti-Trump also, just going by a few things he has said that sound progressive. Climate change for example. I think I’ll feel better once I can talk about my concerns privately.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I found this post very interesting. I was raised a catholic and was duly confirmed into the Church. I never liked the concepts of confession and the saints so when I was a late teenager, I stopped attending Church. I never went back to Church until I had my own children and then I felt that they need to learn about Christianity and make their own choice. I found a wonderful Church, the leader of which was a great believer in equality and even fought for gay rights. Chunky died last year and since then I have gradually grown away from the Church. The new leaders are much more conservative in their thinking and that does not sit well with me. I believe in God but not necessarily in the man made structures of the Church. People are people in any structure, and are subject to being mislead and going astray. It is best to stick to your core beliefs and not be troubles by the man-made “noise”.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sounds familiar! For me, it’s Orthodoxy, and I chose it for many of the same reasons. Compared to evangelicalism/fundamentalism, in many ways it seems “liberal” (environment, treatment of other religions, etc.). But the constant refrain in church literature about homosexuality and such is turning me off. 😛 Politics doesn’t come up much in church, and I’ve heard some Democratic sentiments in the church basement, but also Republican. I keep hoping I can stay put. But I know someone who is Orthodox and gay, so I fear for how things will turn out there….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kate says:

    Maybe just focus on deepening relationship with Jesus, and let the traditional church structure recede a bit while you establish that core foundation? You can’t go wrong getting closer to the Prince of Peace, Lover of your Soul, the Way the Truth and the Life, and the incarnated Son of God who came to bring you abundant life, right?

    Religious Spirits are buzzkills in every kind of organized religion, turning hearts away from the original purpose of communing with the love of God. Their subterfuge made Jesus pretty mad in His day too.

    Bet you can find a sweet community of local folks who gather together with simple worship in humble pursuit of a deeper relationship with the Lord? Mike Parsons (Freedom Arc church in Barnstaple UK) has a lovely community on FB that you might like. Would be easy get started there and then connect with locals among his wider circle? Mike Parsons is such a kind and wise person, and doesn’t discuss politics, very calming fathering vibe. Being British would be another degree of separation from potential triggers?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jo Leatherland says:

    I live in the UK but struggle in a similar way to you. I come from a conservative charismatic background yet wrestle with the same topics as you. I found Kathy Escobar’s blog really useful when I found my faith in Christianity unravelling. http://kathyescobar.com/
    In the long run my faith in God has gone deeper whilst learning to see the good in Christians and the church.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dave says:

    While primarily a Buddhist, I am saddened because there is nothing greater than hope, and faith.

    Behind the cloak of the Christian-Right are hijackers who have sold out religion in exchange for politics. So-called Christian leaders known at the fringes for leading some organizations gaining notoriety over years. Corporations; Larger than life congregations asking for donations, many times through a national tv audience.

    Some of us could see some real, enterprising wealthy organizations from the top….down. The suspects. We’ve all seen them on tv.

    They sounded Christian. Very expensively dressed self-proclaimed Christian evangelists. Their congregations made no real advancements for their loyalty but, you could be sure their incomes were being severed by, that very well dressed leader of the congregation.

    No thought given by, the suspects as to how much food their congregates might have given up to maintain his wealthy lifestyle. These are the nationally, and internationally known salesmen for Christianity.

    There’s a problem, though. What to do with all that money. Businesses were set up to run these so-called ministries, and the greed continued. Too much to resist for the carnival barker pretending he was a Christian. He merely borrowed Christianity as a salable commodity. It sounded good.

    This is the so-called religious right. There’s no religious right!! Unless politics as the divine is a religion.

    We know they are not groups representing Christianity but, rather a political venue, with politics as the divine above all else with Christianity’s name being dragged through the debris.

    My question to you is; Are you doing to lose faith because some Donald Trump like carnival barkers set the wheels in motion to steal from the masses, and call their greed, Christianity?

    The reason I ask the question is, we all are aware to different degrees how Christianity is dedicated to serve the masses, the poor, and to love the population in its’ rainbow of colors, and beliefs. We are all aware of Christianity’s goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I soooo understand this post. Although I am a Christian believer today and I no longer feel in danger of losing my faith, I spent most of my life as an agnostic, almost an atheist.

    My dad was the pastor of a fundamentalist church. He was arrested when I was 12 for coming so close to murdering my mom that I thought she was dead. And my mother, the Bible-thumper preacher-wannabe, was even crazier and far more abusive than my dad.

    I lost my childhood faith in my early teens, but started going to church with a co-worker when I was 23. Unfortunately it was a very authoritarian church, one that followed the Bill Gotthard chain of authority method. Like that reality show family with all the kids, the Duggards. Not cool. They even told me who to marry. I married him, and he was an abuser.

    In my 30s I worked for the 700 Club. I was there when Pat Robertson told us that God had told him to run for president. “God does not back losers!” he said.

    When I left my job at the 700 Club, after all the insanity I had witnessed there, I also left my faith. With my Mensa tested IQ, I decided at that point that I was much too smart to believe in God and other “fairy tales.”

    Fifteen years later, after a lot of soul searching and studying many different belief systems, I became a Christian again. This time, my faith is in my Creator. Not in my minister father. Not in my Bible thumping hypocritical mother. Not in Bill Gotthard. Not in Pat Robertson. Not even in the Bible as we have it today, after so many multiple translations. My faith is in God the Creator, and in Christ, whose tomb is empty.

    Cold Case Christianity is a book that beautifully explains many of the reasons why I now believe. Going by the preponderance of the evidence in my own life, God just makes sense to me today, in a way that agnosticism or atheism never did. So I keep my trust in Him. Not in any church, not in any priest or pastor, not in any particular denomination — and certainly not in Trump and his followers!

    As for the doctrine of eternal hell…. I just don’t believe that a God who is love could or would do that. If this makes me a heretic, oh well. I am still trusting in my Creator God and my Savior the Christ.

    Like

  12. Great post. Expresses a lot of what I’ve been feeling. Such a shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jim says:

    People are messed up.

    Except Jesus; he wasn’t, so he came and lived the perfect life that we couldn’t pull off, for us, on our behalf. So we have to be patient with each other until were perfect.

    The churches are all filled with hypocrites and people with psychological baggage who act sideways a lot of the time. So you’ll be right at home in one of them. 😉 – Not a slam, just saying we’re all messed up.

    Don’t let other people’s jerkiness alienate YOU from God.

    Don’t worry, justice and truth will prevail before too long.

    Read psalm 37

    PS. I think you might be a little hard on conservatives. I don’t think they’re all heartless bastards. Some, but I think most are nice. Maybe I’m wrong. I also think that when a person spends a lot time looking evil in the face, trying to understand it, refute it, etc, it can be really really dangerous for your soul / spiritual health. Maybe force yourself to spend more time contemplating beauty. You tend to become what you behold, we need to feed on good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Thanks for the sage advice. You’re right.

      Like

      • jim says:

        Well, easy to say, harder to do.

        I think ultimately we just have to say that even if all Christians were hypocrites, Jesus was certainly no hypocrite, and so we should never give up on him.

        And remember the ultimate principle of interpretation when inferring doctrines from the totality of the scriptures (red and/or black letters) is GRACE.

        And remember God is the greatest conceivable being; that’s a good definition.

        If you could conceive of something greater than God then THAT would be God. Not the inferior conception of him.

        So if you start having hard feelings towards him, or think he could be better, because you think he’s a certain way (mean, non-compassionate, arbitrary, unfair, uncaring, too laissez faire… whatever) then something in your conception of him is off.

        He is not that way, by definition. He can’t be. He’s better than that. Because you can conceive of something greater than that, and he is by definition that greater being. (or even greater than that).

        Maybe we can’t piece it all together, but he’s not deficient; our understanding of him is.

        This really helped me a lot anyways.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. dennis says:

    Perhaps, uh, “where is God in this black hole? Why do I feel as if ‘every third person I encounter is a personality disordered petty criminal? As if I’m surrounded by bullies? As if I constantly feel like it takes *everything* I possess to just put *one* foot in front of the other, and then take another step, and yet another?

    That’s my lot, so I doubt much that it’s just you. You’re enduring something real, there is a (sizable) spiritual component, the spooks are taking advantage of their personality-disordered proteges, and brimstone is enjoying the whole cussed mess.

    I lack (in large measure) real familiarity with Catholicism, so I’ve little idea what to say of the matter, other than you ***needed*** to be confirmed(?) – to have that tenuous-feeling tie strengthened. (No, not just feelings. Something more. Something very real. The exact opposite of gaslighting. Someone taking your hand, and walking beside you through ‘dread valley’.)

    Like

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