The sad reality is that the World is becoming increasingly more withdrawn. If you look around you will see that most people are squatting in their own, little corners and refuse to leave them. They only ever emerge to hiss and swipe at anyone that comes near who may be a threat to their World-view. Truth is swept aside in favour of what people WANT to hear and believe. And anyone who disagrees with another is almost always labelled a bigot. You cannot change a mind that is already made-up. This is increasingly more apparent on the internet, my advice is to be very careful what sites and people you interact with when using it.
Being a Christian and also an intellectual is a lonely road. I have yet to find any Church group in my region that thinks as I do. Like you said, majority are YEC subscribers and refuse to hear you out. You cannot talk to them which makes new relationships almost impossible to form and your own growth suffers as a result. I am not afraid to state the fact that most Christians are weak-minded. They refuse to learn about the real World and anything that may cause them to question their beliefs. It is their right to remain ignorant of course. But at the same time they try to warp our understanding of the World to suit themselves based on incorrect interpretations of scripture. They run from knowledge and never ask questions yet they act like they have all the answers and spread their mis-guided, non-biblical nonsense to others who then collectively make Christianity look insane. These types of people are only damaging Christianity and are in direct opposition to Christ’s prayer for the Church.
When it comes to the existence of God, the World is full of people following the loudest voices. They take no pains to learn or understand anything for themselves. They ask questions but do not care to know the answers. They ask only to accuse the answer of being incorrect. Their minds are already made up before they even ask! They never question the voices they follow. As long as the voice confirms their position. They are blind to bias, to twisting, to lies. Nothing useful can be learned from them. They cannot be reasoned with. They are a furnace, blowing intense heat to burn any who come near in the genuine pursuit of knowledge.
Atheists and Christians alike are guilty of this.
Atheists love to mock us and throw around the names of Gods as if it cannot be known which one is responsible for the World around us. But if they only stopped their arrogant attacks and thought for a moment, they would see the answer. Ultimately there is only one, true reality and we seek it earnestly. But sadly, for some topics, it cannot be found at this time. This is where faith comes into the mix.
Facts are discovered via evidence. But faith can also be discovered via evidence.
Nothing should be accepted or believed without evidence. But evidence does not always lead to fact. Evidence can lead outside the regular scientific methods of discerning facts, this is where philosophers and theologians come in. This is where faith comes in.
Faith is believing in something that cannot be proven at the time. It is by no means a certainty. The nature of faith is agnostic. Yet it is still a rational conclusion to come to when following the evidence.
Anything can be believed in. But not everything can be rationally believed in, a final, faith-based conclusion must still be accompanied by evidence. What conclusion fits with the evidence? At this point, beliefs are tried and tested until they are discredited by the evidence and only one remains which fits with what is shown. For the rational person considering religious faiths, it is Christianity that is the only one that fits with the evidence. All others have been discredited yet are still clung to by the irrational. As the late Antony Flew admitted… “Christianity is the one to beat”.
As for following God but also using your brain, the Bible encourages it! It teaches you to test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21), to always have an answer for why you believe (1 Peter 3:15) and to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
That last one is important. Because it IS scary, especially if your faith is small. the World can fill you with doubt and it can become a maze to work through all the available knowledge and come to a conclusion that unites your faith with the facts. It has taken me Ten years to get to the point I am currently at, and I still find troubles everyday, questions that take a great deal of time and effort to answer. Anxieties that I may be wrong and living a lie. This is all normal. And as far as I know it never really goes away for as long as you seek to know how things truly are. This is why it is easier for most people to hide their heads in the sand, to have their faith and ignore anything that makes them question it. Sure they may be right in their core belief that God exists and Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but they can’t provide an answer for their faith, they cannot help others with questions and they become easy targets for the World. Then others see all that and decide that Christianity is not worth their time.
As for how God helps me, He provides me with the burning desire to search and learn, but also the means to find my answers, like the Biologos website and a myriad of other apologetic works I never would have known existed had I decided to stick my head in the sand, He doesn’t let me give Him up and go on my way, not a day goes by where I don’t have Him on my mind. I am unable to ignore his knocking. And in the end, my faith grows even stronger than it was before and I can even help others with their struggles. God knows what you require, so just pray how you have been taught and listen to the inner voice that tugs.
Hope I was able to help.