I want to believe in God


#1

I’m 18 (19 in September), I come from a nominally Christian background but have never spent a day in church in my life.
I don’t really know how to start this, so I’ll just throw it out there: I’m a sufferer of severe depression. There’s many causes of it, probably the biggest being that my parents never sent me to school, but just behind that is the belief crisis that I’ve been actively going through for years. Like I said, I come from a nominally Christian background, my parents would talk about God and such from time to time but we never went to church or anything like that.

Through a lack of traditional religious education, I’ve tried for years to piece together my own belief system, since I believe very firmly that if there is truly no God, then this life is pointless, and one which I do not want to suffer through any further for no reason. I’ve always told myself that there’s one God, and all religions lead to him. I’ve never really called myself a Christian since I don’t really know enough about it to really call myself one. I don’t know the first thing about Jesus, for instance. I’ve always said that I believe in God, though not necessarily the Christian God.

I’m sorry if it seems like I’m rambling here, I’m on a pain reliever right now for tooth pain. Bare with me, please.

I’ve tried praying. I’ve tried begging God for a sign that he exists. I’ve tried everything I can think of. Everything I’ve ever seen that I felt might be from God I’ve always concluded that it was just a case of my seeing what I want to see.

I’ve never had too much of a problem with Science, with my belief from from the bible, Evolution wasn’t that big of a thing to accept. I never understood why any religious person would have a problem with the big bang, either. I’ve tried to hold onto my beliefs to tightly, but when I see religion declining so rapidly, when I see people so sure in their assertions that there is most definitely no God, I just lose my grip of it. I want so desperately to believe, but if I’m being 100% honest, I don’t. I don’t want life to be pointless, but I increasingly feel that it is. I feel like all the pain and strife in this life would be worth it if when we die, we get to live for eternity in paradise. But again, I can’t help but feel that paradise is just a figment of our imaginations.

Can any of you help me? Is there something I’m missing? If there is, then please let me know. Free me of this mental torment.


(Christy Hemphill) #2

It is hard to think clearly about anything when you are suffering from depression because your brain is out of balance chemically. Are you getting help? Is there somewhere locally you can go or call to talk to a mental health professional? That should be your first step if you aren’t already seeing someone.


#3

It’s a long story, but no. I’m not actively getting help. Unless you opioid abuse help.


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Nope, that won’t help your brain chemistry, I’m afraid.

Do you still live with your parents? Do you have any kind of real life support network? The internet can only offer so much if you are having a crisis.


#5

I still live with my parents, yes. And no, not really for the second question. I didn’t really intend for this to turn into a depression help forum, because even when I did have some antidepressants a few months ago, which made me a lot happier overall, the religious issues still persisted.


(Christy Hemphill) #6

I understand. It’s just that depression and addiction don’t usually magically fix themselves because you get some answers to questions about God and the meaning of life. So we can talk about God and the meaning of life, but you still are going to have to deal with the other stuff for it to make much difference, and you probably can’t deal with the other stuff by yourself. Just saying.

What is your number one thing you struggle to believe? That might give people a direction.

Also, can you identify a time in your life when you felt like you did have faith or that God was real? When was that? What changed?


#7

Probably the single biggest thing that is difficult for me to believe is that we go somewhere when we die. That’s the biggest thing to me. I’ve heard of some religions that believe in a God, but not in an afterlife. It just seems impossible to me.

I believed in God pretty firmly anytime before November of 2015. I never really thought about it that much before then. Then I seen a HuffingtonPost article about how the number of U.S. Christians were down sharply since 2007. Obviously I knew what an atheist was, but I had always assumed that they were a vast minority. I guess they are, technically, but they’re growing rapidly.

That article inspired me to look up the religious composition of the world. I never knew such large parts of the world were irreligious. And increasingly so, from all the signs I’ve seen. That made me ask myself this question: “Can all these people really be wrong? What about in 100 years when religion has all but been erased from the planet? Can the entire planet be wrong?” - I’ve been trying to answer that ever since.


#8

And I fully understand the point of depression clouding my ability to really think about these things clearly, but Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens aren’t/weren’t depressed and they seem pretty sure of themselves.


#9

You probably know this by now but I will mention it for the benefit of those who haven’t had first or second-hand experience with moderate to long-term opiate use. (And despite what a lot of people assume, the negative side of opiate use tends to develop regardless of whether the opiate consumption is legally prescribed by a doctor or not.) Opiate use beyond a few weeks tends to lead to growing fatigue, difficulty in focus and sound decision-making, and a growing cloud of depression. Even many doctors don’t grasp just how seriously opiate use can propel a patient into deep depression. And the general public assumes that opiates are all about euphoria. But the euphoric stage gradually becomes more and more difficult to sustain. Opiates can also cause sleep problems, which further contributes to the overall opiate fatigue and the “cloud of cynicism” which can totally sweep over even the most optimistic person.

I’ve often had to remind chronic-pain patients and others that even if all of the major stresses in their lives were removed, the opiates themselves can take a terrible toll in trapping the mind into very negative patterns. And I’ve seen people with exceptional energy and powers of concentration basically become Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers in as little as eight weeks of opiate use. (There was very little understanding of these issues back in the 1990’s when the medical establishment in the U.S.A. started treating chronic pain more aggressively.)

My main point is that anyone who has been consuming opiate medications—whether prescribed or non-prescribed—for more than a few weeks must realize that the “opiate brain” cannot always be trusted to make major decisions nor to determine how matters of self-esteem. Many patients will describe it as “finding the worst in every situation” and “feeling cynical and hopeless about everything.”

And that is why getting help from others can be so critical. Opiates make it very difficult to objectively self-assess. And as opiate intake increases, the body’s manufacturing of its own endorphins and various important neurotransmitters is compromised.

So I always tell those who are taking opiates: Whatever your brain may be telling you, be sure to take it with a grain of salt. You will find yourself thinking in unreliable ways. Opiates can be life-saving for those dealing with chronic disease and chronic pain. But opiates have serious baggage which tends to come with them. That’s why the help of professionals is crucial in helping weigh the cost-to-benefits ratio on a weekly basis.


(Christy Hemphill) #10

You mean Europe? Religion is actually growing almost everywhere else on the globe. By 2030 China is projected to have more Christians than any other country in the world. And new Chinese Christian converts were usually raised atheist secular humanists, so obviously, things can go both ways.

Yep, they are pretty sure of themselves. There are brilliant atheists out there. There are brilliant Christians. No worldview has a monopoly on smart people. There are some real idiots in both camps. There are mean people and nice people. At some point you have to pick your own narrative though, and best not to pick it on the personalities of the spokespeople. :slight_smile:

I think lots of Christians are even pretty confused about what the Bible says about this. The Bible says creation will be renewed and we will be given new immortal, physical bodies, not that our disembodied souls will float off into the clouds. A very good book about this is Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright. It examines what Christianity really teaches about “heaven” in contrast to what popular culture has turned it into.

Another God book is Reason for God by Tim Keller. It examines the common skeptic critiques of Christianity. Keller doesn’t try to prove God exists, but he does try to establish the case that it is reasonable to accept Christianity’s claims.

Both of these books are usually ones you can get on inter-library loan. It’s worth investing some time in really looking into the issues with the help of thoughtful scholars who have done their homework. If you are going to read smart atheists, you owe it to yourself to read smart Christians too.


(Christy Hemphill) #11

Another idea for you: Is there a church in your area that offers an Alpha course? This is usually a ten-week discussion group that explores the basics of Christianity for people who are wondering if it’s the real deal. Lots of times there is food and you get to know some people in the process. It might help you find more of a support network.


#12

Atheists are a mixed bag like any group (and I’m speaking as an atheist here from a family of mostly atheists though I would generally prefer the term humanist for myself). Stephen Fry who is another atheist has been quite open about his bipolar disorder (I think in part to encourage people with it not to feel ashamed and to seek treatment).

Most people tend to follow a religion they were raised around and understanding other religions or life stances can be difficult. Being an atheistic humanist to me does not mean despairing but ideally to live life fully and to help others live fully also (“live and help live” could be a short cut phrase). We will die sooner or later but we should leave a better world for those who survive us. I generally do a poor job of this but it is an ideal. There is beauty and joy and love in what is though also hate and fear and suffering. Working against the hate and fear and suffering is usually easiest done with a community and not trying to do it solo. Unfortunately in the US people are joining fewer communities whether it be churches, fraternal orders, Rotary club, amateur sports groups, gardening clubs, hobby groups, charitable organizations, etc.

Christians would have a somewhat different take (or to be precise a lot of somewhat different takes [Southern Baptist versus United Church of Christ versus Eastern Orthodox versus Mormon]). However I would get some medical help, if that is at all possible and then investigate joining another community or two.


#13

I’m sorry, but I just fundamentally disagree. To me, there is no meaning to life without God. I’ve seen arguments against this sentiment but they do not resonate with me whatsoever.


#14

And if there’s no point, then why should I care about leaving it better for the people that are still here? Nobody will remember their names in 100 years. And one day everything you see before you will nothing more than ash.

That’s a terrifying view to me. This is why I haven’t given up searching for something more.


(George Brooks) #15

@Van

If you get a little piece of paper … or a 3x5 card, and trim it down to fit into your wallet comfortably, I would ask you to jot down a few words to remind you of three points:

o God is found where people help people.
That’s where God loves to be. If you can find a church where people are helping other people (the elderly, the young, the poor, you know…), you will feel God nurture you a little more with each visit and each accomplishment.

o With every loving act by you, more of God’s love pours into you.
It heals. It supports. It makes you like a magnet, pointing you towards Him.

o You think, therefore God is here.
This might not sound right at first, but I can assure you that the Universe would not go through all the trouble of giving people Consciousness if there was no Ultimate Consciousness as the source. The fact that you are aware is the basic proof that Universe has meaning, and you are part of it.

On the other side of the piece of paper. Whenever you have a question or a concern that worries you, put down a word or 2 to remind you. Then go to a counselor (in the Church or out of it) and ask him or her about your question.

I don’t know where you live, but I think Lutherans are really really deep thinkers, who think about caring … not about rules. Give them a try, or visit the church of someone you admire.

I hope you have already found some good advice on this page… I know I have been moved by many of the things my “pen pals” here have offered.

Gods love can be felt when you are doing good things for others.

George


#16

Your point about the afterlife has actually put me somewhat at ease regarding that issue. I guess that’s why it’s so hard to accept the common definition of heaven; because it’s not purported to exist whatsoever. I have a much easier time believing in a “resurrection” of sorts, meaning that when we die, we DO die, at least for a while. Of course I’ll need to do more looking into this, I won’t make the mistake of trying to hold onto Internet posts as a belief system again, but at least for the moment, that’s sufficient.

But I will raise a point about the religious decline: Religion was increasing in Europe at one point. Europe was the center of Christianity for hundreds of years, and yet today it’s known to be the most irreligious continent on the planet while Christianity has moved elsewhere. My question is: What happens when religion begins to decline in South America, and stops growing in Asia? What happens then? Does it boom again in Europe (I think most people will agree that’s highly unlikely)? Does it move to some abstract place like Australia? I’m still pondering this one.


(George Brooks) #17

@Van

Think of the irony of the origins of Buddhism! Founded in India, by an Indian, it swept through the East, and now thousands of Americans go to Japan as one of the places of its most ardent practitioners … because in India, Buddhism had to yield to the Hindu and Islamic traditions.

My brother is one such American - - who traveled to Japan to better study his Buddhist inclinations! Of course, there are Buddhist centers throughout Asia - - but as minority institutions.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #18

Yes – it can, and has been often; if by “entire planet” you mean the vast majority of human beings on it in any given time. Christy has already given you some good advice on that. I’ll just add this: trying to discern truth by some perceived majority “vote” is usually not a good idea. But you are not alone in being influenced by perceived global-peer influence. We all are. If you find yourself tugged irresistibly by perceptions that some group seems to be up and coming or boasts large numbers, then you will want to attend carefully where your “go-to” places are that you immerse yourself in, at least until you can get rooted on more solid intellectual / spiritual ground of your own. This Biologos forum is a mostly pretty good place in that respect, but is no substitute for an actual church community that loves you and helps you explore your questions. (Nor is any of this a substitute for seeking professional help in dealing with depression or dealing with chemical dependencies).

I do encourage you in your convictions (which I and many others here share) that without God, our own drive for objective meaning is fatally undermined. If you share in that you need to seek out a community that honors and respects that conviction and challenges and nourishes you within that context. Recognizing how influenced you are at this point in your life by perceptions of what large numbers of others are thinking is a healthy realization (for any of us). Knowing that, you can exercise some of your own choice, making a deliberate effort to surround yourself by those who will cultivate those convictions or spiritual stirrings that are most important. As a Christian, I do believe God calls us in a great variety of ways and from a great variety of contexts. And so, along with encouraging you to find a local church community, we also welcome you to this on-line community such as it is.


(John Dalton) #19

There are still significant Buddhist majority regions, Thailand and Burma for example. You could probably make a case for my home of Taiwan, and Japan for that matter I think.


(George Brooks) #20

@John_Dalton, Yes, the point of my comment was that my brother moved to Japan, rather than to India.

I did not know there was a Buddhist majority in Thailand and Burma!