A Thread for the Confused and Seeking - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 102 Old 09-01-2010, 08:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just recently posted a question about finding the right church, but I'm starting to wonder if I should even be searching for a church in my current spiritual condition. Which is...lost, confused, seeking, searching, totally not sure what to think.

So I thought I would start a thread for lost and confused people and see if there are any others around! I would love to bounce ideas off each other as we journey, or even just have a place to work through things with people.

Or, if you're not confused, but have been, I'd love to hear your story, and any words of wisdom you have, or random thoughts, or hard questions you think I should ask myself, or whatever. I just want somebody to come keep me company here.

I'll post my story once a few more people show up so I'm not talking to myself. Suffice it to say for the moment that I'm coming from a Christian background but not sure if I should still be calling myself Christian. Not really sure what to think at all or where to go from here, and a little scared.

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#2 of 102 Old 09-01-2010, 10:47 PM
 
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Count me in! I'll come back and share more later.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#3 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 12:19 PM
 
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I've definitely been through the seeking/searching experience and would be happy to share ideas, thoughts, etc., if it would be helpful for you.

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#4 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 12:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've definitely been through the seeking/searching experience and would be happy to share ideas, thoughts, etc., if it would be helpful for you.
Yes, please.

I'm going to try to post my story when DS has a nap today.

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#5 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 03:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I really hope more people come to talk, but I'll go ahead and post my story. My story so far that is. This is going to be long...

So I was raised and confirmed ELCA (Lutheran). In college I got in with Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, all of that (very conservative, evangelical Christianity for those who aren't familiar). That's where I met my husband, and we got married in a very religious ceremony in an Evangelical Free church. That was six years ago. After we moved to a new state, we started going to a community church (it was a Crossway Chapel church if anyone's heard of that). We really liked it - it was very friendly and tight-knit like a family (which, hey, is what we needed after moving) and they had small groups that were like a family, it was awesome. So we took their "Biblical Distinctives" class so we could really feel like we belonged. And it was there that we started running into trouble.

See, I thought I believed in the Bible and all. I was supposed to believe the Bible is inerrant and certainly authoritative, and I had been told all the things to make me believe that. But in that class I learned that you can make the Bible say pretty much whatever you want. The issue where it really came to a head was over predestination. The church is Calvinist and I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea. It just didn't make sense at all - I started wondering what on earth was the point of any religion if God just chooses who goes to heaven. BUT there are verses in the Bible that seem to support predestination (even though there are others that seem to refute it). I studied and studied the Bible and couldn't make myself believe in predestination, and that coupled with the fact that I have for a long time known the basic fact of evolution to be true...well long story short I stopped believing the Bible to be inerrant. I decided JESUS was the "Word of God" and GOD was the authority, not a book. [Disclaimer: I know you don't have to be Calvinist to be a biblical literalist, that was just the tipping point between me and the Bible.]

So as you can imagine, we saw doors slamming shut all around us once we realized we couldn't affirm that the Bible was inerrant. We could pretty much no longer belong to any kind of evangelical or even conservative mainline Protestant church with integrity. We searched for a long time. We ended up belonging to a Methodist church for a year or two before we moved. I liked the Methodist church, at least theologically, because it was quite liberal, and I was (am?) getting more liberal all the time. I've always been theologically more liberal than the people around me, but only to the point of being looked at funny in Bible studies - bringing up questions, entertaining slightly heretical notions, you know. And I've had lots of doubts brewing in the back of my mind for a long time, which in the past few years have been coming out more and more.

Homosexuality - really a sin? I used to think so six years ago, voted against gay marriage and everything. But it's been brewing, I found out a couple of my friends are gay, and now that I don't believe every word the Bible says...a few years ago I realized I was totally cool with gay people.

The Bible - it's not inerrant but...what if it's just like any other book out there? Not any more inspired than any other work by thoughtful humans? And if it isn't, then where do I even go from here in regards to my faith if I can't necessarily trust the Bible to give me the answers I seek? This one isn't resolved yet.

Sin, salvation, heaven, hell - I'm questioning it all. Last year I pretty much decided I was a universalist. I can't wrap my mind around God sending people to hell. As a bonus, universalism allows me to believe BOTH the predestination and the Armenian verses in the Bible. Heh. But I'm not even sure how to think about or conceptualize heaven.

Jesus - ?????? Was he God? A man? I'm not sure about the Trinity anymore. Maybe Jesus was an incarnation of God and there have been others. Maybe Jesus was a divinely "sparked" prophet and there were others. Maybe Jesus was the Son of the Living God. I really don't know at this point...

So in conclusion I feel a strong draw toward Christianity and Jesus still but I'm not sure that it makes sense, and I'm not sure where to go from here. Part of me feels liberated by this questioning and just not knowing, but part of me doesn't think it's ok to decide my own beliefs and wants someone to tell me what to think. And part of me is wondering if the fundamentalists were right when they said believing in evolution is Satan's door into my heart...so now I'm going to hell.

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#6 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 04:31 PM
 
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Something that strikes me reading your post, which is probably not AT ALL what you are thinking, is that a lot of your issues are the kinds of things that often bring evangelicals to some sort of catholic faith - big C Catholicism, or Orthodoxy, or certain types of Anglicanism.

Now, this doesn't really go along with your ideas about becoming more liberal. But it does relate to the more fundamental questions you seem to be asking, about how we are to understand Scripture, and the history of the Church, which are very much addressed by those groups.

You might find it worthwhile to look into tit a bit if you haven't before.

 I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt.
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#7 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 05:21 PM
 
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This is going to sound really cheesy, but it can be really helpful. I promise! I suggest you take the beliefnet quiz. Just answer the questions based on what you're feeling right now. I've taken the quiz many times and sometimes my results change a little, but the top three results are pretty consistent. The results list various denominations with a percentage for how much your personal beliefs agree with them. This will at least give you some possibilities to investigate further.

As far as questioning, I am Unitarian Universalist and we are all about the questioning. For us, spirituality is a journey. There is a bumper sticker / ad that is only partially joking: "Unitarian Universalism - where all your answers are questioned". So if you really are looking for a community of fellow searchers, you may love UU. But if you really do want or need someone to tell you what to think (and that is not necessarily a bad thing sometimes) I think you would hate UU.

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#8 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 08:27 PM
 
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Thank you for starting such an awesome thread! I was raised pretty much fundamentalist/evangelical Christian, and becoming a mom has really led me to question all my previous assumtions about human nature, original sin, and the idea that blood must be shed for sins to be forgiven.

I've reached a conclusion much like yours -- I no longer believe that a loving God would cast His children into hell. I also no longer believe in a punitive God. Like you, I also believe in evolution.

I've been studying further back in human history, and I've been very interested to learn what anthropologists and other scientists have been discovering about some really big things that were happening right about the same time as The Fall recorded in Genesis.

I now see The Fall as something that happened to certain groups of people living in the Saharasian part of the world, which they passed on to every single culture they came in contact with. There is a lot of good information about this in a book by Steve Taylor titled The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era , as well as in the writings of Daniel Quinn.

At any rate, I now see Jesus' crucifixion as a necessary means of healing (from a vengeful, guilt-ridden mentality) for certain groups of post-fall people -- but I no longer see it as necessary from God's standpoint. I actually believe that we have never in actuality been separated from God -- many of us have just felt alone and separate for way too long.

Taylor talks about how unfallen peoples, such as the Native Americans, don't have the same sense that many fallen people do of being separate from everything and everyone around them. They have never lost their sense of the reality that we are all interconnected -- to one another as well as to the rocks, trees, streams and entire Life Force.

Taylor makes a really great point that people are starting to focus less on religious doctrine and more on religious practice. He feels that certain practices, such as meditation, are really spiritual technologies that we can use in our journeys to regain our sense of connectedness.

I've suddenly realized the real purpose of the "tongue" that I was given many years ago. Way, way back in time, I was a young adult who'd been going through a long period of fasting and intense prayer and seeking, and one night as I knelt by my bed and started praying, I sensed that if I continued, my words were going to be coming out like gibberish and not understandable English.

I figured I must just be really tired, and I went to bed and basically quenched the whole thing. I was in a conservative Baptist church at that time and was not even willng to consider that God might have been wanting to give me the gift of tongues; we believed that all that was just for the early Church.

Well, some years later I was in a Pentecostal church and I realized that what happened that night was indeed real. I felt really bad for quenching the Spirit, and started opening myself up and asking for another chance with the Gift. So one night it all came back to me.

For me it has just been a prayer language, and never to give a message to anyone else. So ... lately I started realizing that this is actually my key into meditation and into experiencing the reality of my oneness with the whole web and force of Life. Of course, I defined it differently before but the experience has basically stayed the same.

I start out praying with my tongue and just gradually (or sometimes quickly) relax into a state of total peace and joy (Nirvana?) -- and a state of really listening. The other day it was so cool. I started remembering my favorite verse from Tao Te Ching --

"Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue" --

And some stuff just came together for me about my role in nourishing and loving and accepting my children; we are here to be like the good Earth to our children, not to "make" them happy. I've been having such a hard time with seeing my older daughter going through some times of intense unhappiness. I must support, love, give, and release her to live out her own journey in her own way.

I was also reminded of a concept I learned in William McDonough & Michael Braungart's Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We make Things -- the concept of there being no such thing as waste because all waste becomes food. We really really can give to and love our children, and others, while at the same time leaving them free from constrictive expectations. Nothing we give is ever wasted -- it's just released into the ever-cycling stream of life. This is exciting food for thought.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#9 of 102 Old 09-02-2010, 09:12 PM
 
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Thank you OP for your openness and sharing. You may not realize how much you, by sharing here, can bless others who have questions.

I wanted to point out a few things that come to mind. First, don't guilt or blame yourself for asking questions-- it is how you find truth. I am not aware of any sincere belief system that equates questioning with wrong-doing (I could be wrong tho); however, many people feel this way when they question...

I'd love to answer any questions bc I have been through a lot of questioning myself and have found peace.

If you do still feel comfortable praying, I would suggest praying for guidance, for wisdom, and for peace on this issue. I will pray for you as well.

Where is your DH, spiritually? Is he questioning too? Is he leading the family? Just curious-- a spouse's journey can have an impact.

I hope this part of your journey nourishes you and comforts you.

blessings
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#10 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 06:51 AM
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sometimes, the apostle thomas is somehow considered a bad guy. he doubted, and they say "blessed are they who have not seen, but believed." but the cool thing, to me at least, is that in the story, Jesus appeared to Thomas anyway, and gave him the proof that he needed. In the catholic church, he is called "Saint Thomas the Doubter."

This indicates to me two things: questions, doubt--these can be sacred tools. you are walking a traditional path, really--that of contemplation. it's powerful. it is also my path. second, these questions can be and will be answered--one way or another. as in the story, the answers, in the way that you need them, will be given to you.

the flip side of doubt, btw, is faith. many of those who doubt, who question, have the greatest faith because they are unafraid before God. it demonstrates a strong relationship when you can be honest and question.

i am, personally, no longer christian, but i have no qualms with christ or with god. i still have a strong faith and relationship with the divine--but it is mine, outside of any religion, free of any given book (i am inspired by many books), and simply rooted in the spiritual traditions that develop wisdom.
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#11 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 06:54 AM
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sometimes, the apostle thomas is somehow considered a bad guy. he doubted, and they say "blessed are they who have not seen, but believed." but the cool thing, to me at least, is that in the story, Jesus appeared to Thomas anyway, and gave him the proof that he needed. In the catholic church, he is called "Saint Thomas the Doubter."

This indicates to me two things: questions, doubt--these can be sacred tools. you are walking a traditional path, really--that of contemplation. it's powerful. it is also my path. second, these questions can be and will be answered--one way or another. as in the story, the answers, in the way that you need them, will be given to you.

the flip side of doubt, btw, is faith. many of those who doubt, who question, have the greatest faith because they are unafraid before God. it demonstrates a strong relationship when you can be honest and question.

i am, personally, no longer christian, but i have no qualms with christ or with god. i still have a strong faith and relationship with the divine--but it is mine, outside of any religion, free of any given book (i am inspired by many books), and simply rooted in the spiritual traditions that develop wisdom.
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#12 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 07:42 AM
 
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I can't post much right now. I will say that I am in a state of nearly continuously evolving beliefs. I was raised in a strict christian household and the teachings I received weren't compatible with "what felt right" to my young heart. As a child I was taught to ignore this and to conform to the particulars of the religion I was exposed to.

I'll say that now, I don't fall into any strict religious category. I'd probably fit well into a UU church, but the "church" idea brings back some really unpleasant stuff from my childhood. So I've not fully explored that. So I work at creating experiences that myself and my DD can understand, usually that are kinda earth religion based, but not in any strict manner. What relieved me was to realize the definition of religion can mean different things, including ones personal routine to include spirituality. I'll find a link to include, but that is my personal interpretation. My beliefs don't have to conform to anyone elses. I believe above all that our actions, our thoughts and desires for others and ourselves are what we are weighed upon. And even if we somehow fail, which I don't think is really possible, we are simply asked to repeat and attempt to correct our actions in our lives. And while even this belief would seem to lead to a particular state of perfection, I am not sure that state is a singular state. I am perfect when I am honoring myself, when I am honoring my DD. When I put our greater goods in front of our personal desires, fears and wants, then I am perfect (well, nearly).

My belief system is very unique and does not fit in any single or even a neat split between two religions. It is a gathering of different beliefs that "feel true" to myself. I let my heart lead and allow my mind to consider what feels right, but I don't abandon what feels most right. My heart doesn't always follow the majority. But I think our current views of "majority" are not as they were originally intended. So take what I say with a grain or more of salt as it suits your own personal belief system.

So I hope this wasn't too confusing. I relate to the feeling of being without a spiritual community. I wish it weren't so. I'd love to be comfortably enmeshed in a community that was supportive of spiritual growth and seeking. When I feel stifled, I tend to withdraw. I have to be free to seek that which fulfills me. I know that I am a good person. I wish well for everyone, even those on very different paths from me. I don't care what your personal religion or sexual orientation are, as long as you accept the possibility of viewpoints other than your own. No one has to be right or wrong. We just have to be open to the possibilities of things not working as we expected or planned because we need to concentrate our energies in another area, whether we realize it or not.

So that's my early morning ramble.
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#13 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 09:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Woo-hoo! I'm glad to see more people here! Thanks everyone for posting your thoughts. I just wanted to clarify the purpose of the thread - not that anyone is going off track, but I just want to make sure it's clear...I didn't mean this thread to be all about me and helping me find my path but for us to talk about the journey. My journey, and everyone else's journey too. So even if you have taken a completely different journey from me, please come in!

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Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
Something that strikes me reading your post, which is probably not AT ALL what you are thinking, is that a lot of your issues are the kinds of things that often bring evangelicals to some sort of catholic faith - big C Catholicism, or Orthodoxy, or certain types of Anglicanism.
Really? I have to admit that these intrigue me. I have never been able to get my DH to attend a Catholic church with me. I don't even know if we have any Orthodox around here.

I was actually standing in the religion aisle in the library yesterday looking at all the books and gathering and gathering and gathering and then I looked at the stack I had and I was like... Wow yeah I better put some back. I did check out several books though, a few on the history of religion and religious thought. I would really like to dive in to history of religion a little right now, which surprises me because I have always hated history. But I am interested, especially, in the origins of religion, in early religions, and then in Christian history - early theologians, Catholic history, the Reformation and so forth. It all seems like such a huge topic though.

I think one of my problems right now is that I can't just say, ok I'm going to read the Bible again and decide what I think it says and what I should believe. Because the Bible isn't the be-all-end-all for me anymore. So because of that I just feel like I don't even know where to begin, you know? I think I just need to start feeling comfortable with the fact that I will always have questions, because it's not like I can know everything in the world or everything about religion or philosophy, or even everything about any particular religion.

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This is going to sound really cheesy, but it can be really helpful. I promise! I suggest you take the beliefnet quiz. Just answer the questions based on what you're feeling right now. I've taken the quiz many times and sometimes my results change a little, but the top three results are pretty consistent. The results list various denominations with a percentage for how much your personal beliefs agree with them. This will at least give you some possibilities to investigate further.
Yay for quizzes! I have done that quiz several times. Last time was just a few days ago...if I remember correctly my top result was 100% reform Judaism. Which made me go HUH? And then I think Taoism?? I don't know much about either of those...again, need to do some reading. You know, I really don't know that I would convert to an entirely different specific religion though...I feel like I might either stay Christian or be UU or just "spiritual but not religious" or something...not necessarily become Jewish or something. But I guess you never know.

Quote:
As far as questioning, I am Unitarian Universalist and we are all about the questioning. For us, spirituality is a journey. There is a bumper sticker / ad that is only partially joking: "Unitarian Universalism - where all your answers are questioned". So if you really are looking for a community of fellow searchers, you may love UU. But if you really do want or need someone to tell you what to think (and that is not necessarily a bad thing sometimes) I think you would hate UU.
I DON'T want someone to tell me what to believe. It's just that I always have had someone telling me what to believe. You know? So it's a little strange to think what will happen if I don't have that anymore. UU is very intriguing to me. I may try to attend a service and see what it's like. I'm a little worried that it's where all the politically liberal people hang out...I wouldn't really mind but my DH probably would - he is fairly conservative/libertarian in his political views. I am mostly just libertarian.

Mammal_Mama, your post was great. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love the part about what you now think about Christ's death...these are just the kinds of things I was hoping to discuss with people! And the part about your prayer language. I put that book about the Fall on my reading list.

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I wanted to point out a few things that come to mind. First, don't guilt or blame yourself for asking questions-- it is how you find truth. I am not aware of any sincere belief system that equates questioning with wrong-doing (I could be wrong tho); however, many people feel this way when they question...
Maybe not officially, but I always felt like I should be guilty when I brought up questions and weird ideas. Not in my family, my mom always just said things like, "that's interesting" but in Bible studies or groups of other Christians, I was always looked at funny. I remember one time the whole "is it possible for remote tribes that have never heard of Jesus to be saved" thing came up and I started talking about how I think God probably made provisions for that sort of thing, and then found myself immediately backpedaling as everyone stared at me in horror. My DH then said something about how these questions are "intellectual masturbation" and boy their eyes just about popped out of their heads LOL...but that's off topic.



Quote:
If you do still feel comfortable praying, I would suggest praying for guidance, for wisdom, and for peace on this issue. I will pray for you as well.
I have definitely been praying. And, thank you.

Quote:
Where is your DH, spiritually? Is he questioning too? Is he leading the family? Just curious-- a spouse's journey can have an impact.
DH was with me as we decided on the Methodist church. So I know that he's not a biblical literalist, and he definitely believes in evolution. Beyond that, no, he hasn't been questioning these latest things with me...we haven't talked about spiritual things for a while, so I'm not actually sure what he thinks...we need to. He's not really leading the family...he's never been a good leader. How is he supposed to lead? (I hope that question doesn't come across as snarky - what I'm asking is...are you asking if he is choosing a direction for our family to go spirtually as far as church attendence...or...what exactly are you asking?) We do really need to have a conversation, or start having our "Bible studies" together again like we used to.

So here's a question for anyone who is or has been searching - from where have you found inspiration?

Edit: I just wanted to add that I'm signing out for the weekend now because I am going camping (yay!) so I will be back on Monday night or Tuesday to catch up on the discussion. Everyone have a good weekend.

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#14 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 09:32 AM
 
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I am 100% right there with you, right up to including the beliefnet result with Reform Jew up at the top nearly every time I take it. I get Reform Jew, Liberal Quaker, and UU rotating depending on my mood when I quiz. I take the quiz about every 6 months.


I was attending UU for a while and sending the kids to the nursery - but when my son got to the "Spirit Play" age, I got turned off because it.....just wasn't enough, it was about exploration and reading stories, but had the questioning/ambiguity of UU, which is great for me, but I'm not sure I want that in a spiritual education for my kids. So I'm stuck at the point where Christianity is too much, and UU is not enough, and I don't know which to pick so I"m avoiding it entirely right now, which doesn't make me feel good either. I'm *leaning* towards Methodism again just because I enjoyed the church I was attending in my young adulthood and I feel like I want the kids to be "instructed" (Christianity) instead of "guided" (UU). I'm thinking I can just talk with them at home about how this isn't *exactly* what I believe, but is close and then just cover other religions at home.

I wish I could just attend Jewish services without having to convert......but you can't do that, right? Anybody know? I guess I'm too chicken to call the local reform temple and ask. Because I definitely believe in God. And I believe that Jesus was a real person.......but am unconvinced he was the actual son of God; and I am even less convinced of a Trinity.


My religious pedigree: Cradle Catholic, attended mass every Sunday except like, 1 time I was really sick (and I'm really not joking about that), until I went to college. As a young teen I always was fascinated by other religions and never really got how one religion could possibly be the "right" path for anyone, and never believe there was one TRUE religion. Went to the Newman House while in college on a fairly regular basis, took some early Christianty and World Religion classes and loved them. Decided I could not in good conscience call myself Catholic after college since I didn't believe half of what being Catholic involved, and went Methodist for a while, was married Methodist, and both kids were baptised in a Methodist church. After 2nd child born, started questioning even more, and started attending UU. Then, see above.

For *me*, I love UU spiritually. Some of the social justice is a wee bit too liberal for me (I believe in absolute personal liberty/nondiscrimination, but not as much in some of the larger social action ideals/governmental liberal ideals). For the kids, I'm not crazy about UU for them, I feel like they need something more concrete with me discussing things with them outside of it. I guess if I was raised Catholic with no real discussion about other religions and could be drawn to UU, if my kids were raised Protestant and had discussions about other religions at home, they'd turn out OK too, right?

DH is pretty against organized religion, so I had him convinced that UU was only a step or two up from bumping into a friend and having coffee with them. He won't attend services with us, which I'm fine with. SO wherever we wind up, it'll be just me and the kids. I feel like wiht the school year starting, it would be a good time for me to get this ironed out too and start the kiddos in religious ed classes at the same time.

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#15 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 01:32 PM
 
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Because I definitely believe in God. And I believe that Jesus was a real person.......but am unconvinced he was the actual son of God; and I am even less convinced of a Trinity.
This is really similar to me. I don't quite know where to go or what to do... I believe in God, but I am not 100% sure about Christ. When I take the beliefnet quiz I get orthodox Judaism at the top, and the rest varies a bit, because a couple of the questions are hard for me to answer and it depends what I've been reading or thinking about that week.

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#16 of 102 Old 09-03-2010, 02:07 PM
 
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Something that strikes me reading your post, which is probably not AT ALL what you are thinking, is that a lot of your issues are the kinds of things that often bring evangelicals to some sort of catholic faith - big C Catholicism, or Orthodoxy, or certain types of Anglicanism.

Now, this doesn't really go along with your ideas about becoming more liberal. But it does relate to the more fundamental questions you seem to be asking, about how we are to understand Scripture, and the history of the Church, which are very much addressed by those groups.

You might find it worthwhile to look into tit a bit if you haven't before.


I was never an evangelical Christian - my background is Methodist, actually - but I am definitely finding answers to many of my questions (which are very much the same as the OP's) by reading up on Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

I always thought I was very liberal - so liberal that I eventually left Christianity altogether for pagan spirituality - but it turns out that I wasn't quite as liberal as I thought and being traditional/conservative doesn't actually mean what I thought it meant. I'm Christian again now, but I have no interest in Protestantism, especially any Calvinist form of Christianity. To me, they just don't make sense, and that particular kind of conservative Christianity does not speak to me at all. Now, go back in time another 1000 years or so, and here is something that makes sense.

I just want to put this link up because I found it so helpful with one of my biggest questions when I first came back to Christianity...

Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife,
According to the Bible
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#17 of 102 Old 09-04-2010, 10:27 AM
 
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I was never an evangelical Christian - my background is Methodist, actually - but I am definitely finding answers to many of my questions (which are very much the same as the OP's) by reading up on Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

I always thought I was very liberal - so liberal that I eventually left Christianity altogether for pagan spirituality - but it turns out that I wasn't quite as liberal as I thought and being traditional/conservative doesn't actually mean what I thought it meant. I'm Christian again now, but I have no interest in Protestantism, especially any Calvinist form of Christianity. To me, they just don't make sense, and that particular kind of conservative Christianity does not speak to me at all. Now, go back in time another 1000 years or so, and here is something that makes sense.

I just want to put this link up because I found it so helpful with one of my biggest questions when I first came back to Christianity...

Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife,
According to the Bible
Yes, this is the kind of thing I was thinking of. It is quite common to see Protestants who are having difficulties with regard to the status, creation, or interpretation of Scripture, or the idea of what the Church is, or even difficulties when they begin studying the history of the early church, find answers in a more catholic or orthodox (with a small c and o) understanding.

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#18 of 102 Old 09-06-2010, 08:47 PM
 
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I was, when I was younger, at the same point once in my life. I am of Tribal decent raised in a Catholic faith. Did I ever believe that Jesus was the son of God? Nope, but I do think him a great humanitarian and teacher.

Now a days I am Pagan, but from a much more conservative sect than others. Not all Pagans are extreme left wingers. I am liberal by my Native upbringing, but I do have a few conservative views. I do not have a large group of Roman Recon Pagans in my area, so I found another group of people I love to worship with. These would be the Liberal Quakers. They have a very small meeting less than an hour from my home (think 6 of us total). They are welcoming, and they allow me to share their meeting space to feel the my deities speak to me. I study the Bible, but these folks do not look at it as a literal translation. That since everyone has a bit of the divine in them, he will lead us if we just open ourselves to him. There are times that even I stand and speak in meeting, and everyone just listens. I am a headcovering, plain dressing Pagan, and I stand out like a sore thumb at my meetings! LOL But, I am always welcomed with open arms. Conservative Quakers have a bit of a different view. I am going to add a site that you might want to explore. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religio...ety_of_Friends.

It may not be for you, but I felt I should pass it on to you

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#19 of 102 Old 09-06-2010, 08:52 PM
 
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I do post myself as Pagan Quaker as I feel at home with both of these faiths. My Friends accept me as who I am, so I like to share my love of their faith also :-).

Head covering Pagan-Quaker mama to 6yo DS, and DH. Recent WAHM www.napleshealthadvisers.com
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#20 of 102 Old 09-06-2010, 09:14 PM
 
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Really? I have to admit that these intrigue me. I have never been able to get my DH to attend a Catholic church with me. I don't even know if we have any Orthodox around
Well, if you're in North America, this website will help you locate an Orthodox parish. If there are one or more close to you, PM me. I'm Orthodox and can help with any questions.

http://www.orthodoxyinamerica.org/

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#21 of 102 Old 09-07-2010, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I just want to put this link up because I found it so helpful with one of my biggest questions when I first came back to Christianity...

Heaven & Hell in the Afterlife,
According to the Bible
That is great stuff. Thanks for posting that link. It definitely makes me want to dig more into orthodox thoughts.

So if there is no time in heaven, how can we actually perceive anything? Doesn't our perception of anything, even our perception of existing, require time? I can't really wrap my mind around existence without time, it's blowing my mind right now.

I started reading Karen Armstrong's book, The Great Transformation, this weekend and am enjoying that. It delves into history.

Even just since the last time I posted I am getting more comfortable with the state of questioning.

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#22 of 102 Old 09-07-2010, 11:53 AM
 
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I was raised Roman Catholic by extremely observant parents and went to Catholic schools back in the day when they were staffed by nuns. I knew from the time I was seven that I did not believe in the institution of the Catholic church and that I would not be a Catholic. But my parents forced us to attend church as long as we were on their dime, including getting confirmed. I resented every minute, and spent most of the forced church time and religious ed time researching why I didn't believe in the RC church.

After I got married, we attended a couple of Quaker meetings. There is much I like about Friends and Friends meetings. I think I've always had doubts about the existence of God, but the non-doctrinal seeker approach of Friends was good with me, because nobody pretended they have all the answers.

Then we moved to an area without a convenient Friends meeting. We attended a UMC church for a few years. I attended a bible study group and started doing some research. I started thinking about something that I'd never given much thought to, and that is who wrote the gospels and when. I read some of the work of Bart Ehrman. That was the beginning of the end of Christianity for me.

We presently are members of a UU congregation, although largely dh takes the kids without me. I'm pretty much done with religion and am out of the closet as an atheist. I've never been happier or more at peace with my "spiritual journey."

I'm analytical by nature. I look at evidence. It is such a relief to stop pretending to believe in the supernatural.
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#23 of 102 Old 09-07-2010, 03:24 PM
 
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That is great stuff. Thanks for posting that link. It definitely makes me want to dig more into orthodox thoughts.

So if there is no time in heaven, how can we actually perceive anything? Doesn't our perception of anything, even our perception of existing, require time? I can't really wrap my mind around existence without time, it's blowing my mind right now.

I started reading Karen Armstrong's book, The Great Transformation, this weekend and am enjoying that. It delves into history.

Even just since the last time I posted I am getting more comfortable with the state of questioning.
Do you mean how do we perceive things in Heaven? It would be very similar to the way angels must perceive things. It would be like an eternal now, where they see everything that exists at once. So from their point of view, at the same moment of creation, they see the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and the end of the world and last judgement.

I tend to be a visual person so I imagine it as if they are looking at a time line on the wall, where you can see Alexander the Great and WWII at the same time in front of you. Time is a fourth dimension in space in this image.

But ultimately, we don't really know what it is like to experience this.

Incidentally, that is why angels are not given a chance to repent if they choose to rebel from God.

 I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt.
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#24 of 102 Old 09-07-2010, 04:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you mean how do we perceive things in Heaven? It would be very similar to the way angels must perceive things. It would be like an eternal now, where they see everything that exists at once. So from their point of view, at the same moment of creation, they see the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and the end of the world and last judgement.

I tend to be a visual person so I imagine it as if they are looking at a time line on the wall, where you can see Alexander the Great and WWII at the same time in front of you. Time is a fourth dimension in space in this image.

But ultimately, we don't really know what it is like to experience this.

Incidentally, that is why angels are not given a chance to repent if they choose to rebel from God.
Hmmm. But how can they choose to rebel from God? If they were at one time with God, and then they choose to rebel that kinda implies time. I'm having trouble with the picturing how one chooses a different state than the current state while not in time.

EFMom, thanks for your story! I have a book by Bart Ehrman out from the library right now (haven't started yet)...oh no!

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#25 of 102 Old 09-07-2010, 05:57 PM
 
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I'll join you all: here's my brief history: grew up not really going to church, loose christian background: high school dabbled a bit in new age stuff. college: met an awesome person who introduced me to the baptist faith and was strong in those beliefs for a couple years while my mom was dying of cancer. Then starting searching again: this time into catholicism: attempted it but just couldn't believe it all, too many rules etc and etc. Then met dh who was a non-practicing hindu claims to be atheist now, i have become more and more distant from the christian idea of religion in part due to my ds's interest in science, dinosaurs the solar system etc. Yet there is still part of me that believes in the spiritual relm and wants to believe in the after life, but doesn't know if there is enough proof to support the theory. i wish i did have some spiritual guidance, i know it would help me fufill my life's purpose, i do believe that we do have things to do here on earth, but don't feel enough motivation or direction. Here's where i currently stand: I believe most religions are a lot myth, superstition and old customs holding down our modern society, I don't believe in reincarnation, I do believe that there is a supreme being or force that created the universe, do believe we are responsible for our own actions, no blaming or crediting satan or god for what we do. I do generally think people are good, but often misguided or damaged mentally which is why they don't always do the right thing. I want to be spiritual i just am unsure how at this point in my life. I have long abandoned the idea of christianity, it was way too much of hatred etc, hinduism is definitely out for me too, i got to see first hand what that religion was about in India and I could never believe that either.

The religion quiz had me with buddhism which i could handle but for the reincarnation thing...

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#26 of 102 Old 09-07-2010, 08:43 PM
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thing with buddhism, though, is that you don' t have to believe in reincarnation to practice it and get the benefits of the primary practice of meditation.

most form of zen buddhism deal in the present--essentially getting a calm clear mind and focusing on wisdom and compassion. for them, whether or not god exists, whether or not their is an afterlife (and what form it takes, if any), are not very relevant questions. LOL and, there is the zen phrase: "before enlightement: chop wood, carry water. after enlightenment: chop wood, carry water." the idea being that there is still just human being to be done, whether you are enlightened or not. so do that, and do it well.

it works well for me, honestly.

you might also like liberal quakers, who are essentially UU, but without "church-y-ness" imo. essentially, meeting for worship is similar to meditation (it is a distinctly different practice, and in fact a form of corporate worship combined with an aspect of contemplation), and you don't have to believe anything in particular to belong. some quakers are actually atheist, humanists. so, you know, it's liberal.
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#27 of 102 Old 09-08-2010, 09:22 AM
 
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Hmmm. But how can they choose to rebel from God? If they were at one time with God, and then they choose to rebel that kinda implies time. I'm having trouble with the picturing how one chooses a different state than the current state while not in time.
Yes, it is hard to imagine this. They would have chosen to rebel at the very moment of their creation, and it would then be a permanent state.

Some say that the Garden was similar, outside of time, and humans also fell at the very moment of their creation, and entered time as we know it now.

 I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt.
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#28 of 102 Old 09-15-2010, 05:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Bumping this thread back up for more discussion if anyone is interested. I've been reading...thinking...my plan right now is to plug my family into a ELCA church that's fairly nearby for now, since church really is such a prominent part of the social landscape of this part of the world, and maybe take a Sunday every now and then to explore other churches, probably UU, Friends, and Orthodox at some point at least. And then just read, study, think, and do life as I marinate in some ideas. I have gotten relatively comfortable in this state of not really knowing (for NOW), and I have found that I can still feel connected to God even not knowing everything about Him/Her/It. I also plan to explore Buddhism a little more. As I understand it, it is a method of finding peace that can work really no matter what you believe about the Divine...correct zoebird?

Who else is still with me, and what do you want to talk about?

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#29 of 102 Old 09-15-2010, 07:35 PM
 
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Just last week I got "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Buddhism" and have been reading a little every day. It is very appealing to me, so I'm going to finish up the book and see where it takes me.

Heather, WAHM to DS (01/04)DD (06/06). Wed to DH(09/97)
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#30 of 102 Old 09-15-2010, 10:55 PM
 
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Thank you so much for bumping this back up! I had intended to share more and then got sidetracked by a bullying situation we are dealing with in our neighborhood...

The bullying situation, incidentally, makes me sometimes feel like I'm being spiritually inconsistent, so I want to work on being more consistent within myself. I think that consistently practicing meditation can do wonders for me in this respect, and I haven't done it in about a week.

At least, I call what I practice meditation, where I just start praying in my tongue, and/or I also sometimes focus on my breathing, till I reach the point of feeling an intensified connection to the life force, and feel quiet and ready to listen; I keep a notebook on hand to write down anything I "hear" (in my mind, not in an audible voice).

About the breathing, I've been off and on reading the book Say Yes to Change by George and Sedena Capanelli, and one thing they suggest is mentally saying certain things upon inhaling and exhaling.

For instance, they suggest inhaling peace and exhaling limitations and restrictions. This has been powerful for me because I'd never thought of limitations and restrictions as being the complete opposite of peace before -- but now I realize that our peace is disrupted when the unfolding of our lives, and our love, gets blocked by walls of fear or hate or prejudice.

It makes me think of those starter plants that you can buy and plant in their biodegradable containers; the containers break down and become part of the soil so the plants' roots are free to unfold and spread out to more nourishing sources as they become ready.

I'm guessing that the biodegradable containers may even provide some protection for the baby roots in the beginning, and then as the plants mature and they no longer need so much protection, the containers disintegrate and get absorbed and the now stronger plants are able to keep growing without hindrance.

In the case of spiritual development, I think some of us have found ourselves closed in by starter-boxes that were made of non-biodegradable manmade synthetics. Maybe we were raised in them from birth, or maybe at some vulnerable point of our lives we saw them as safe havens, and preferred the security of having answers to our questions rather than questioning the answers.

It's not impossible to free ourselves from these manmade starter boxes -- but it's also not often without some pain. I recently got an email from a friend where she was sharing a quote from a book that really spoke to her. The quote was all about separating ourselves from the world and everyone around us and just focusing on God and the truth.

I haven't been so open with my Christian friends about my ongoing spiritual transformation -- but I felt led to share with her (and some of the others who were listed in the original message with whom I also share some history) some of the things I've shared here about how my joy now comes from my increasing sense of oneness with all of life.

I said I now see separation as the lie, and connection as the truth, and shared how I now believe that we were never really separated from God, we have just felt alone and separated for far too long. So I am now on a journey to fully experience the truth of my oneness with Life.

I also shared my evolving ideas about why Jesus died (which I also shared in my earlier post here). The friend who sent the original email is the only one who has responded so far. She said it broke her heart to learn that I had turned away from Christ.

It makes me sad that she sees my evolving views as a "turning away," since I see them more as an opening up and embracing and experiencing the fullness of life and of love. I do not see it as a rejection of Christ to grow into a different view of His crucifixion -- but I understand that from where she sits in her box, she can't see it any other way, and I honestly would have seen it the same way a few years ago.

I understand that many Christians are likely to feel a need to distance themselves from me, while praying for my soul of course, and I feel okay about just accepting this while leaving the door open for some of them to possibly start to see things differently and seek to renew our friendship.

Anyhow, this is where I am now at. As I am growing in my sense of my aliveness and connectedness, I am also growing in my conviction that our family will soon be part of a nourishing community. We just need to stay open and friendly, willing to be true friends and share ... there are bound to be some others nearby who are looking for the same thing.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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