I was raised into a Catholic family and went to a Catholic primary school, and for the most part I experienced a comfort and connection with God during Mass and in private prayer. While the feeling of connection to God was true, if I sound like a model Catholic, rest assured my teens were peppered with misdeeds and their consequent guilty ruminations. I fell pregnant at 18, unmarried and seemingly in direct defiance to my father's pleas - albeit drunken ones as he passed by my open bedroom door - to 'not do it,' because having sex or getting pregnant would "wreck my life." But the connection -- the feeling of peace with God -- was there nonetheless.
I pretty much stopped going to church as I entered motherhood, but I was ever conscious of my failings toward God and the church. You see, although I don't remember the idea of divine punishment being drummed into me as a child, my private readings of the Revelation during my mid-teens had filled me with fear. To this day I don't understand how anyone who is aware of their 'failings' could find solace in reading any of the horrors contained within that book! Despite this (and perhaps, in part, because of it), I still prayed privately, asking for help to be more like Jesus and for all the usual things I assume people wish for in prayer.
I guess I was ripe for the picking when in my early twenties I allowed the Jehovah's Witnesses into my home for a few months. Through talking with them I came to realise how little I knew of the Bible - and in truth, I do believe that during my childhood I was shown mainly its most sanitised passages (thank goodness!). Of course there were many aspects of the Jehovah's faith that I could not logically reconcile, but I admit that I was comforted when I learned they believed a compassionate God would not doom the failures to Hell! But the very exposure to the near-impossible demands of Christ's teachings shattered me. So much of what I had believed and felt was blown away almost in an instant, and I felt so very, very wrong, and so very incapable of meeting any of Jesus' requirements, except the ones that came naturally to me. I couldn't pray anymore - I felt not even worthy of that. I could not 'talk' to my loved ones who had passed, because I now knew that they were but dust and bones waiting for the second coming. I questioned my participation in traditions I had known all my life (Christmas, birthdays), and because I still did these things, it was all the more reason to feel unworthy! I was racked with fear and guilt, so much so that it was almost the only thing on my mind. It came to the point where I couldn't mentally handle it, and so I asked the Jehovah's to stop coming. They did so, reluctantly, and I tried to resume something of my prior life. But the fear remained. I became angry at religion and God, and at the seeming hopelessness of it all (and of life - for I was also becoming more aware each day of the atrocities within this world). So for the last few years I have been in this hybrid state of anger and fear, and it has led me to search, very tentatively at first, for justification of my feelings. In essence, I have given up on religion and put into the 'too hard' basket in the hope that I will find peace and be released from these horrid feelings. Knowing that this is essentially a knee-jerk reaction to religion's stranglehold over my moral character gives me more reason to doubt myself. Consequently there is the terrifying thought that perhaps this is all part of a 'divine' plan to make me realise the truth that others willingly and selflessly see and accept. If this is indeed the case, then I can easily predict the mental anguish that is to come. I am, quite frankly, a mess!
During my recent feast on atheistic works I have discovered many convincing reasons to doubt the divinity of the Bible. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, much of it is so repulsive to my own moral code that to obey it would be a great disrespect to my own humanity. But the counter arguments remain: What if the Bible is right, despite its inconsistencies? What if the atheist researchers have missed key things? What if, as the apologists would say, it is man's free will - and not the Bible itself - that has brought about the atrocities committed in the name of religion throughout time, and the message is still essentially good (if not all good, then true)?
In closing, I am at the stage where my 'logical' self can see that it is perhaps my longing for the comfort and peace I felt with religion while growing up that makes me doubt my intellect now. Perhaps I enjoyed the emotional release of praying to someone who I thought would respect my own natural compassion, sadness and confusion at this thing called life. I can see, too, how utterly pathetic it would be for me to turn back to religion because of fear. All I know is that I want to do good for goodness' sake.
I hope this has made some sense, and that I might invite a little 'enlightenment' from you all. I also wonder if any of you have gone through something similar.
*Note to readers: This was originally published as a response to another member's testimonial.