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My Journey in Religion

by Andrew A ~

Since I was a kid religion has played a very prominent role in my life and has ever since. When I was about 10 years old my mother and father had me go to Sunday School in a Baptist Church. I went till I was in high school then I sort of dropped it, my attendance waned and I stopped going. In high school I adopted my dad's religion, he is from the Church of God group, a break off from Armstrongism. I went there until I was around 30 then I dropped that as well. The only reason I went there, looking back at it, was because of my dad, and I wanted somewhere to belong. I liked the idea of the one true Church and the idea I thought I could prove it.

In my early 30s I became Catholic because I wanted to be part of the one “true Church”, the historical Church. I was there for essentially less than 2 years. I wanted to go back but so many problems for me occurred, the rigorous standards as well, not to mention I had difficulties in overcoming certain “sins”. I vacillated back and forth for a few years but I couldn't stay with the doubts I had in my mind and heart. I started seeing as well that many of the truth claims of the church seemed to be able to be successfully challenged by other Christians like the Reformed or the Orthodox. I never knew enough history to know exactly if the historical counter claims were true. If something is “so clear” then why can it be challenged with such ease? The debates on these issues still rage on between different communions, but we are told by all three major communions that the evidence is so “clear” for their side.

In these recent years I also started critically thinking of science vs faith issues. Why for example did the Bible seem to indicate that the earth is less than 10,000 years old? Science has long since proved that the earth is billions of years old, they know this through the many different dating methods that they have today. I know Christians will object with various scripture verses and other claims that science is wrongly interpreting the evidence. This however seems to me to just be arrogance of the foolish sort, how can a person who is not a scientist even comment on science and the examination of the material world? The only way to rightly challenge science is to present your data in a peer review journal and let the examination of the counter evidence begin. Religious people do NOT do this, rather they only know how to pick holes in the evidence science presents. Their arguments are based on ignorance and “god of the gaps” argumentation. The major religions of the world never come up with counter scientific theories , like I said they ONLY pick holes and use arguments from ignorance.

There are many examples of the above, here is another example: Noah's ark in the bible. We are told that Noah gathered all the animals and put them on the Ark. If many creationists knew how many species there are and the biological diversity we see in the world, they would wonder just how they could take the account in a literal fashion. Did Noah use snake muzzles to protect himself from the many varieties of poisonous spiders? How did he get the deadly spiders on the Ark that we have in the world like the Sydney Funnel Web Spider? What about bacteria and parasites? How did the animals get redistributed all around the world once the flood was over? Things like this puzzle me and I have a million questions and yet you can’t get consistent answers from Christians in any communion. They all seem to contradict one another.

One thing I have learned from my examination of these issues is that, if you have the audacity to question anything there will always be believers ready to pronounce you “hell worthy”. The thousands of Christian sects have a nice niche in hell for the groups that contradict their beliefs. Seems very distasteful to me and I hope so as well for any thinking rational person.

Questions from all different angles started “jabbing” me and they have kept piling up for example “Why are there so many different religions in the world? Why are people being condemned to hell for being located in a country opposite to where the “true” religion was established?”. Why for example are Chinese who for the most part are Buddhists, who go about their daily lives, die and then go to Hell because they had a different religion? Christians will come up with answers like “God decreed they would go to Hell”, “God will save all people in time”, “They never had their first chance, they will have an opportunity later”. They will give their bible verses as to why they believe A, B, C and the next Christian will just contradict them and call them a heretic. Some Christians like using other Christians as punching bags as well “they were never saved to begin with”. No one can seem to prove their position is infallibly the true one.

The Catholic church claims infallibility in matters of faith, doctrine and morals and I believed that as well. It sounded so wonderful to be infallibly sure, to have the infallible fuzzies. However when examined the doctrine of infallibility also falls down. In order to come to the place where the convert “to be” actually believes the Catholic church is the one true Church, the convert must use private judgement. This is the very thing Catholics object to in Protestants, who are told they can’t use Scripture alone as the only infallible rule of faith. The Protestants are charged with using their own “private judgement” to interpret Scripture. Ironic that the very claims of the Catholic church, they appeal to Scripture in the various Catechisms. Catholics appeal to Matthew 16:18-20 to prove the authority to bind and loose. Should the Protestant be blamed when he reads the verses and sees that there are different views in Church history? Should the Protestant be blamed when he comes to a different conclusion? He sees that the church appeals to different verses and decides to examine them in context and uses principles of hermeneutics and exegesis, and comes to a different conclusion using private judgement?

When I realized certainty in religion is more or less impossible to achieve, I admit to loosening my grip on Scripture and the belief in God. Interesting that the various religions have apologetics against other religions for example: Judaism now has apologetic websites against Christians and Muslims and so do Muslims against Jews and Christians. They all have claims that they can’t support. If they had a million years to do so. Someone will ALWAYS come around to challenge their truth claims. The debates still rage on to this very day.

Where am I NOW concerning God and the Bible? I have to admit I am not sure. I am not even sure if you can know if a God truly exists, at least with the current knowledge we have at present. I have tried to believe a God exists and cares about us but examination of the world around us seems to be screaming at us a different story. I guess I would have to say that I am in the “half way house” philosophically. Perhaps I can say I am an Agnostic. I am glad though for this journey in life and at times finding things to believe in. However the journey however has not been without its “scars” I have lost things in life because of religion.

I have lost much precious time debating religion and trying to find which one is the true religion. I have spent lots of money buying books and listening to MP3s. Religion has brought me much mental stress in my life as well...there are times I have felt like I was going insane because of all the questions I had and couldn't solve. To this day the religions have not solved them as well. I can only say at this point in my life I am going to live as a rational thinker and as a humanist. I still believe in the ideals of treating our neighbors as we would like to be treated. No religion is needed for that.

I conclude my letter with this from Clarence Darrow:

I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure — that is all that agnosticism means.

An agnostic is a doubter. The word is generally applied to those who doubt the verity of accepted religious creeds of faiths. Everyone is an agnostic as to the beliefs or creeds they do not accept. Catholics are agnostic to the Protestant creeds, and the Protestants are agnostic to the Catholic creed. Any one who thinks is an agnostic about something, otherwise he must believe that he is possessed of all knowledge. And the proper place for such a person is in the madhouse or the home for the feeble-minded. In a popular way, in the western world, an agnostic is one who doubts or disbelieves the main tenets of the Christian faith.

I am an agnostic as to the question of God. I think that it is impossible for the human mind to believe in an object or thing unless it can form a mental picture of such object or thing. Since man ceased to worship openly an anthropomorphic God and talked vaguely and not intelligently about some force in the universe, higher than man, that is responsible for the existence of man and the universe, he cannot be said to believe in God. One cannot believe in a force excepting as a force that pervades matter and is not an individual entity. To believe in a thing, an image of the thing must be stamped on the mind. If one is asked if he believes in such an animal as a camel, there immediately arises in his mind an image of the camel. This image has come from experience or knowledge of the animal gathered in some way or other. No such image comes, or can come, with the idea of a God who is described as a force.

To say that God made the universe gives us no explanation of the beginnings of things. If we are told that God made the universe, the question immediately arises: Who made God? Did he always exist, or was there some power back of that? Did he create matter out of nothing, or is his existence coextensive with matter? The problem is still there. What is the origin of it all? If, on the other hand, one says that the universe was not made by God, that it always existed, he has the same difficulty to confront. To say that the universe was here last year, or millions of years ago, does not explain its origin. This is still a mystery. As to the question of the origin of things, man can only wonder and doubt and guess.