How do I get my faith back?

I grew up Catholic. Always believed in Christianity. Never an issue. Until the last few years.

Then one day a few years back, I read a column (I think it was a Straight Dope column) that asked about December 25th being Jesus’ birthday. I discovered that we don’t know that it was Jesus’ birthday, that it was just a day that was picked to coincide with an end-of-the year pagan bash as Christianity was trying to gain followers. That was a shocker to me.

I started to begin viewing “the Church” as an institution unto itself, dedicated to (among other, honerable things) perpetuating itself and to gain followers to it’s particular “flavor” of Christianity. And which church is “right” anyway? I felt that rather than get force-fed a particular church’s brand of Christianity, that I should get it straight from the source itself: the Bible.

But then I realize: which Bible? Whose version? We know that what I read has been translated into English by way of Latin, Hebrew and (I think) Arimaic. And that it was written a long time ago. Given the way that language changes over time, it seemed to me that a lot could get lost or misinterpreted in the translation.

Then I stumble across this little ditty (again, courtesy of the Straight Dope) and my faith took another hit. This stuff wasn’t being written down as it happened? Some of it wasn’t wirtten down for centuries? Man, I don’t know many people who can give accurate accounts of what happened a year ago, much less 30-300 years! We don’t even know who these people were who wrote these “sacred” words? What if these folks were fanatics trying to push an agenda? Instead of “hearing God”, they could have had psychological troubles and heard other, less-than-divine-voices! I also went back and studied when the Jewish religion was being formed and it aligned to when the Greco-Roman myths we’re being created as well. And quite honestly, to me, a lot of Genisis (and Revelations, for that matter) sounds a lot more similar to Greco-Roman and Teutonic myths than they do to anything remotely resembling history.

So while growing up Christian I viewed athiests as poor, lost (or worse) people, only to now find myself one myself. Well, that’s not completely true. I still have a sense of a higher power, but place little, if any stock in Christian Bible (or any other religion’s) other than some excellent stories that give some very contradictory accounts about God and the world. I used to think I had a shot at heaven. Now I think it was just a myth. That sucks!! I want my peace-of-mind back.

Maybe you’re a deist or a theist. Do some google searches.

(I gave up on most of that crap a long time ago myself)

Hey, hon, welcome to being a “realist.” Nobody said it was gonna be fun. As Fran Lebowitz once said, “there is no inner peace. There is only nervousness and death.”

I’ve actually found this tool to be pretty nifty:

I was 100% Unitarian.

Better not read about Lorenzo of Valla then. Or about the problems that Martin Luther, William Tyndale, or for that matter any of the early Protestant translators of the Bible found, or claimed to find, with the Vulgate Bible. Or how about the late-medieval Catholics in England who attacked the Wycliffite and later English translations, arguing that the Bible could only be read in Latin? Your doubts and concerns have a long-standing and deep history.

I have studied the political, cultural, and social history of the translation of the Bible into English; I am not a translator myself, nor a particularly religious man. I do not believe in fundamentalism, nor Bible literalism. And even though I admire the scholastic efforts made by Tyndale, Miles Coverdale, and the early English Bible translators in attempting to draw back to the earliest sources, I personally believe it is impossible to get back to the “original” source of the Bible (which some scholars call Quelle or Q) at this late date. I have to say I agree substantially with Valla: that after centuries of translation, transcriptional errors, redactions, and honest human mistakes, no text of the Bible can ever be considered “fully correct.”

Where, then, is there any room for the believer? I may only point to a doctrine held by some of the early English Protestants. They argued that importance of a translation is not necessarily that the words are infallible (though many indeed do believe that), but rather that the words bring us closer to God. It is the message, not the medium, that is important. While those that held this theory were unsuccessful in bringing their ideas into the mainstream, I feel this doctrine is a useful counter-point to the perils of Bible literalism.

I don’t know if that will be at all helpful in getting your faith back. It’s hard for a largely faithless man like myself to do that. But I’ll offer it here.

I came out as 100% Traditional Liberal Protestant, which is not surprising to me.

What is surprising is that my beliefs align 97% with Traditional Quaker.

Huh…wasn’t expecting that one.

Yea, it’s interesting. If I recall right, I was 100% Unitarian, then came all the Buddhisms, then the New Age stuff, then the Ba’hais…

Hello You,

This can be a painful quest, what you’re going through. You have my sympathy, and my prayers. Considering how bad we are at communicating even with one another, it’s amazing we still have scripture with us at all, after all these years.

May I gently suggest that you try a little prayer; maybe something like:

  • Hey Jesus, I can’t find you now. I’m looking, but I can’t find you. So you come and find me. I want to know you, so touch my heart, come into my life.*

You can whisper it in a corner of your mind, you can scream it in defiance and anger at the top of your lungs.

Scripture offers us a lot of information to get closer to God, and know him better, and do his will better. But there’s remarkably very little that’s absolutely essential: That God loved you ** Hey You ! ** so much that he sent his Son to die for you, so you could live forever. (Paraphrasing John 3:16)

All you have to do is accept…

The rest is details. So so what if the details have gotten a little distorted over the ages. Or if some human organizations have tried to twist it to their advantages. Don’t let the details throw you off Jesus. Once you experience his love for yourself, you can worry about them later…

(Mods, my apologies if this doesn’t belong in this forum.)

My religion tends to emphasize asking God. Wondering if the scriptures are true/accurate/made up? Study what you’ve got, think it out as best you can, and pray about it. A lot. Answers can take awhile, and come in ways you don’t expect. (Speaking of going straight to the source…)

We do believe in the words in the Bible, “insofar as it is translated correctly.” IOW, we think it’s been messed with a bit, and has some inaccuracies. But the message is still there, although somewhat obscured.

I would say that you are only now starting to find your faith!
Believing in a book, no matter how beautifully written, is folly. Even if it were somehow written by God it would still be limited by the language in which it is written.
You say you believe in a higher power, that is a sign of a true beggining of faith. The religious books and dogma are useful tools in getting to that stage, but the book and dogma is not God, and God could not be explained in any way that is both complete and understandable to beings like us. You must now look for the truths which are important to you, and test them often, to find out what you can about the true God.

Do you think if I show my parents that I’m only 47% Protestant but 100% Reform Jewish, they’ll finally stop whining about my wanting to convert? If only my mom would stop weeping about how she’ll “never see me in heaven”.

Hey You, you have my empathy, as a fellow searcher. Find the things you can believe in and cling to them; give them meaning in your life. God is too big to fit in one religion.

There are many well-educated, intelligent believers–I’ve been criticized recently on these boards for implying that believers are idiots, so let me make it clear that I don’t think that.

That said, it sounds to me like you could be coming down with Mental Health. You mention a couple of Straight Dope articles as helping to shake your faith. Consider the stated purpose of the Dope: to fight ignorance. I won’t say that faith equals ignorance, but really, it is sort of the opposite of critical thinking and examination, isn’t it? The Dope may have a somewhat skeptical slant, which I consider essential in the fight against ignorance, but which might not help you bolster your religious faith, if that’s what you want.

It may be that what you really want is to come to terms with the changes in your belief system, rather than to maintain the belief system you were raised with. If that’s the case, some skepticism can help you. Maybe you just need to find what you actually believe about this higher power you sense.

I remember when I went off to college, the pastor of my church shook his head and warned me that a lot of people lose their faith when they become educated. He said it as if it were a very bad thing.

He was right about me; I did lose my faith when I became educated. And it was a bit lonely, at first, to see the things I had always accepted, always taken for granted and never questioned, crumble and turn to dust. I tried to continue believing, and I simply couldn’t. Once I accepted that, the loneliness was soon replaced by an enormous sense of relief. When I was a Christian, I never seriously expected to have a whiff of happiness until the day I entered the pearly gates. Now, I consider myself fairly happy most of the time.

However it turns out for you, whether you regain your faith or learn to live without it, I’d like to say that your OP is written in a level-headed, fair-minded way. It’s true, “the church” is dedicated to some honorable things, as well as the less honorable things that I tend to focus on most. I can’t pray for you, but I’ll wish you good luck.

It sounds to me that you are going about this in exactly the right way. You seem to be looking for all the data you can. Why would you want to pray to ignore what your head tells you is true? And if believing in a higher power is important to you, deism is a good way to go. It can give you faith that there is a reason for all this, it allows you to make up your own mind about what is moral, not get it from a book, and it is unprovable and unfalsifiable. I don’t need this faith myself, but I know of plenty of people who do.

Maybe you’ve come out of your search in a place that is right for you already. If so, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong.

Hey You - The good news (not the Good News) is that we Catholics aren’t biblical literalists. So having doubts about the translation of the bible isn’t a terrible thing. As for your comment about people not remembering things a year later, let alone a hundred years, think about this: 2000 years ago there were few literate people. Most tales, folklore, etc. was done by oral tradition. You may think that would open it up to a great variation, but in reality, storytellers, priest and other were trained to faithfully recall and relate these tales.

But faith is more than just believing in a book. I honestly can’t relate to a loss of faith, being a faithful Catholic, however, I do believe you get out of anything what you’re willing to put into it. Why don’t you start by setting aside a few minutes each day. Take 10 minutes and try clearing your mind of your daily hassles and focusing on God. If it helps, think about the crucifixition, think about Christ’s life. Don’t force it, just try to give it some undivided attention. You may try to read some of the lives of the saints or other religious figures. I find meditation and the rosary help me settle. Go to Mass. If you can, find a spiritual director, someone who is able to answer questions and give advice.

I hope this helps. Please pay no mind to the people who make light of a spiritual quest. If this is something you’re looking for, it’s worth working toward.


The Latter Day Saints explain The Book of Mormon as a book to re-establish the word of God on earth. Idea being that the Old & New Testaments were inspired writings of prophets (so they were able to write about past events), but which were corrupted sometimes in small increments, at other times in large increments, according to political or social “spins” until they no longer reflected the original Word.

The Book of Mormon was discovered in America, untainted and so is a more “correct” Word. Of course now the Latter Day Saints church has another book called Doctrine & Covenants which contains words of wisdom and ‘supplemental’ doctrine which the LDS adhere to.

If you want to go “By the Books” give LDS a whirl. It doesn’t work for me because I just have issues of belief in the whole image of God as presented by the Judeo/Christian tradition.

If I could find reliable accounts of what Druids were into before they were decimated…I mean, converted, I might give that a shot, but that would be MY thread, not yours.

I wish you the best in your quest, whatever you come to.

I was raised with Catholic views, I allow others to be what they wish to be. I have read the Old Testament and understand it is a historical document, The New Testament is a guide. I believe in god, Not the God, but god. I live by ideals set forth in scriptures, and do no harm, unless threatened. I also am ready to kill those who would deny me the way to worship the way I want. I can live with this, and I am ready to defend my beliefs in the BBQ Pit.

An old friend of mine was in a lack-of-faith quandary a few years ago. He asked a priest how to find faith. The priest had a simple answer. “If you want faith, pray for it.” If worked for him.

Trupa and AskNott - One of my friends recently converted back to Atheism after he realised that those prayers resulted in only feelings of self-affirmation that he created. A placebo effect.

As for words bringing us closer to God - if we don’t know what the bloody words mean, how do they get us closer to God?

You - good luck. I was once a happy little Reconstructionist Jew. Then I started to doubt. Then I questioned. Then I realised how wrong I once was. It felt lonely, at first, but in a very short time, I became very comfortable and happy in my new mindset.

Christ did do some strange stuff, in the Bible, that should also be given thought. In order to shoo away some demons after extracting them from a man, I believe, he purportedly sent demons into a village’s stock of swine (their demands, which Christ could’ve just not obeyed at all, since he was allegedly God), so that they ran off cliffs and died. The townspeople asked him to leave.

Matthew 8:32-34

Sigh. You know, there are a whole lot of us who put a lot of study, effort, and yes, examination and thought into our faith. We are not necessarily clueless, naive, or willing to swallow tele-evangelist tripe whole.

IMO the more informed your faith is, the better. God is a god of truth, after all. Searching sincerely and honestly for truth is what it’s about.