Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Faith Crisis?

Someone recently asked me when I had experienced my crisis of faith.  My answer was about a dark period in my very early 20's.  But, I've been thinking about it further, and I am not sure if I ever had a crisis of faith.  I never had that confirmation of the spirit that people talk about.  I never really felt God's presence in my life.  I never experienced anything I considered to be miraculous.  I never had any emotional warm fuzzy feelings surrounding a "spiritual experience" (at least not any that I didn't attribute to hormonal fluctuations.) I tried to have faith.  I wanted to believe in God and I threw myself whole-heartedly into the gain-a-testimony-infinite-loop-trap. I followed (almost) all of the rules. I magnified more callings that a young woman should ever have. But, the testimony never came.  So, during the very dark period when I was 20-ish, I gave God sort of an ultimatum.  The deal was that I had done everything I could think of to get a confirmation of His existence with no luck.  And, I found myself at a point in my life when I really needed His guidance and comfort.  So, I told Him that if He was there, I needed to know it and that I felt I had held up my part of the bargain. So, if He couldn't be counted on to comfort me in my darkest hour, I was going to stop trying to believe and just embrace atheism.  That's what I did.

But, is that a faith crisis if my problem was that I never really had faith?  I had hope, so maybe it was an hope crisis?  Perhaps an existential crisis? I have tended to think of it in more positive terms, as an awakening or more appropriately, as self-realization/self-acceptance and embracement of the finite nature of my existence.  I only started to think maybe it was a "crisis" after I had heard almost everyone else describe their experiences in that way. Thoughts?

What I do know was that, when I finally gave myself permission to stop searching and trying to believe something for which there is no evidence, I felt that warm, peaceful feeling.  I don't attribute that to anything other than whatever tangled mess of biochemical signaling that occurs in our brains when we experience the emotion we call relief.  


  1. This is pretty similar to how I feel. The question, "When did you lose your faith?" doesn't make much sense for my situation, because it's more a matter of when I became fully aware that I didn't have faith (and what the implications of that were.)

    I like how you grapple with what to call the "crisis." While I like the reframing of it in positive terms, I think for me, I still want to find a way to convey the very real struggle over (lack of) faith that I had *before* coming to self-realization.

  2. Thank you, Andrew! That's a very good point that I didn't express. While my experience at the moment of acceptance of myself as an atheist was that of relief, the periods before/after were/are very painful. I felt "defective" or guilty about not being able to bring myself to just believe without evidence (thanks to the glorification of faith and disparagement of doubt within the culture). Then, after I moved past it, there was (IS) all of the angst and guilt associated with how my non-belief affects my relationships with believers as well as the pain of "deprogramming."

  3. I had a deep struggle trying to make sense of what I was taught, what I was learning, and what I could live with. When I accepted that I had been taught untruths, it was such a relief!
    I experienced all the joy and peace that I was told came from faith.
    The struggles I had were losing my tribe and no longer fitting in with the community that surrounded me. I still have anger and grief to work through, but not over 'losing faith'. And I also see that I gained so much more by going through the 'awakening'.

  4. I would be in the same situation as you IF I never had certain powerful spiritual experiences. I would have written off the demands of being a Mormon if I had never felt the spirit so strongly at certain times in my life. 10% tithe? Fast offering? Hometeaching? Sunday morning meetings at 7 am? Volunteer work in the ward? No way if I had never felt the spirit testify to me that this church is true. So I can appreciate how you have come to where you are in life.

    If I had to pick the number barrier to experiencing the spirit in a powerful way it would have to be humility. At times when I've been arrogant in my life I never felt the spirit. It was only when I humbled myself before God that he allowed me to feel the spirit strongly.

    I wish I had the spirit to inspire me more often. I want to feel and experience on a daily basis what I felt during the times that I've felt the spirit strongly, but this requires continual humility before God and it is not something I am good at right now. The result? Angst. Sometimes I ask myself, "I know He is there, but why isn't He talking to me now." In that way we are kind of the same.

    Best wishes.

  5. Thanks Dave! It's so generous to wish me well even though you clearly think I'm arrogant.

    No, really. I know you mean well. But, diagnosing my problem as a lack of humility (having never met me), is...not so nice. Also, kind of arrogant. Your belief couldn't possible be irrational so, there MUST be something wrong with me.

    Say, did you read that other post I linked to? Here, I'll give you that link again...I'd love your thoughts on it.


  6. "10% tithe? Fast offering? Hometeaching? Sunday morning meetings at 7 am? Volunteer work in the ward? No way if I had never felt the spirit testify to me that this church is true."

    Hmmm. I don't think I would need the church to be true for me to be willing to pay for and serve in it. I'd be fine with all of that - probably even happy for the opportunity to make friends and be apart of the community - even if the Church was merely a social club. Assuming it was a welcoming, non-judgmental, all view-points respected social club, which is clearly is not.

  7. In fact, Dave probably has it the other way around. He started investing time and effort into the Church, and then decided that he believed it, since why else would he be doing all this stuff?

    We often engage in post-hoc rationalisations to justify our actions. It's much less painful than admitting that we've wasted our time and money. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon.

    tl;dr: Sunk-cost fallacy's a bitch.