sent in by Luke
A cousin of mine used to go out and get drunk every single weekend. After a tough week at work he liked nothing better than to let loose and go wild on the weekend. Stress relief is what he called it. When his wife got pregnant with their first child he regretfully decided that his drunken weekends had to come to an end. He was surprised to learn that he not only enjoyed spending his weekends at home or going out and having a couple of quiet drinks but he preferred it to getting drunk. He hasn't been drunk once since then. That is how I felt before losing my faith. I thought life would be meaningless without belief. I couldn't fathom not having God during difficult times. I thought that nonbelievers must lack a moral compass and that their lives must be very empty. Like my cousin, I realised I didn't need a drug to be happy and to have hope and meaning in my life.
Six months after I got married my wife dropped a bombshell. She had been struggling with her faith for a while now but she was afraid to tell me because she was afraid that I wouldn't marry her. She would no longer attend Mass. I had some disagreements with the Catholic Church but I looked forward to raising my family in the faith. I was devastated. My wife said she had done a terrible thing but she was in love and made the wrong decision. She said she would understand if I wanted the marriage annulled. I loved my wife so I told her we would work through it.
I proposed that we discuss her doubts and concerns and then I would help her to understand the church's position on these issues. So, every Sunday afternoon we would get out our Bibles, books, and articles from the Internet and had discussions. I immediately found that I was unable to explain or justify the many concerns and issues she brought up. They are too numerous to go into here but they included the troubling history of the church, negative attitudes toward women, Biblical contradictions and violence, conflicts with scientific knowledge and the cruelty of many doctrines (especially the one about unbaptized people going to hell or limbo). My wife asked such things as how the church can accuse a frightened young girl of murder for aborting a nonsentient embryo when she isn't ready or able to raise a child, and yet make excuses when God kills living, breathing, sentient babies with diseases, drought, starvation, fires and natural disasters. I found myself overwhelmed. I started to question and have doubts myself.
A guy I worked with named Will was a born again Christian. I told him my doubts. He explained to me that the problem is that Catholicism is a false religion and that it is not real Christianity. He invited me to his church. He told me I would find answers to all my concerns. In my confusion and turmoil, I thought yes, that's the problem. Catholicism is wrong and I can find truth elsewhere. Of course, I told my always wise and questioning wife. She pointed out that Catholicism was the original Christian faith and created most Christian doctrine and the final make up of the Bible. All other Christian sects are simply off shoots. Just like you can't build a sturdy house on a weak foundation you can't create a true religion from a false religion. If Catholicism is true all the other Christian religions are false. But if Catholicism is false the other Christian religions that came from it must also be false.
I told Will about this and of course he came up with justifications and excuses, but I got angry and told him justifications and excuses just don't work anymore. I told him that when you really analyze Christianity it just doesn't make any sense. I told him I was tired of pretending that it did. A month later Will went to work for a new company, so our discussions ended.
I suppose I would describe myself as an agnostic now. There may be no God, one God or many Gods. I have no way of knowing. If he/she/they exist I look forward to asking he/she/them why they have allowed so much evil, cruelty and suffering among the beings they have created and supposedly love. As Tori Amos said in her wonderful song God "You make pretty daisies pretty daisies love/I gotta find what you're doing about things here/A few witches burning gets a little toasty here/I gotta find why you always go when the wind blows." That's what I want to know. The flawed free will argument doesn't work for me anymore.
I hadn't seen Will for a few years. I met him a few months ago. He's an exchristian now thanks to me. His wife threw him out but he's engaged to an ex born again and says he's very happy. We've become good friends. Now if only I could convince my ex-drunken cousin that he doesn't need religion either.
"No man holding a strong belief on one side of a question, or even wishing to hold a belief on one side, can investigate it with such fairness and completeness as if he were really in doubt and unbiassed; so that the existence of a belief not founded on fair inquiry unfits a man for the performance of this necessary duty."
The Ethics of Belief–William Kingdon Clifford