losing the faith

The good folks at summer madness have in a fit of craziness allowed the soapbox to escape from his usual tasks of walking around the Kings Hall site with a hi-viz vest, radio and clipboard looking busy and purposeful, and actually given me something to do. They have in effect given me a soapbox from which to rant. Potentially foolish. However I have been given some guidelines. I’m taking a seminar entitled

5 ways to lose your faith before you’re 25….

I clearly am a model example of how not to be a christian, either that or it is intended to be a somewhat ironic title. Now i’m no expert so I would like your help. I did grow up in this subversive jewish sect as some would say, although when growing up it didn’t seem too subversive but more about the rules, from which i eventually had enough and wandered off for a bit to check out some other options. I couldn’t escape though and figured that it was perhaps a bit of an imitation of the real thing i’d been shown, and this subversive, loving your enemies, upside down Jesus was worth following. I’m still here.

So if you’ve been a wanderer and wandered back to the way of Jesus – what are the things that keep you in this way? If you are a Jesus follower what are the things that help you keep the faith? Or if you’re not so up for all this God-bothering – why not? what turns you off Christianity?

I have an hour to fill so need some substance here…


33 thoughts on “losing the faith”

  1. Sometimes I seem so far from living my life all-out for Jesus that I feel a complete fraud calling myself a “Christian”. And yet, I still know that it is true and God loves me because Jesus died and rose again . That’s why I still cling to his cross.

    That’s not going to fill an hour for you.

  2. Ha ha ha!!! Getting desperate, huh?!? Well, replying to your email is on my To-Do list…

  3. Ways to lose your faith?

    Put God in a box. Boxes are easy to manage. Make sure the box has clearly defined measurements, and ensure the sides are inflexible. It’s best to use the Bible to create the measurements, so you can be sure you’ve made it exactly right. Have compartments in the box to put each of God’s characteristics. Don’t hear a word said against your box. Claim your box is superior to other boxes. Wave your box at people walking down the street.

    Keep your faith separate from the culture you live in. It’s ideal to be as counter-cultural as possible. The more abrasive you are against what people around you are doing, the more they’ll realise their own shortcomings. The best way to swim upstream is to stick only with those going in the same direction as you. It’s easier to get pulled downstream than it is to keep swimming the other way, remember.

    Don’t think about your faith. Faith is a matter of the heart, not the mind. Reading Richard Dawkins is a waste of time, he doesn’t have anything to say that isn’t a lie from the belly of Satan. Besides, if you’re counter-cultural enough to stay away from places his trash is discussed, like student bars and work parties, you’re not going to ever have to talk about him anyway.
    Nietzsche was a nut-job.

    Only watch films like Amazing Grace and listen to bands like Third Day. If you inadvertently end up in front of a TV watching Good Will Hunting, and you can’t reach the remote, spend the film tutting. After each tut, mentally note which commandment Matt Damon just broke.
    Bruce Springsteen seems harmless, but listen to Chris Tomlin instead; he sings about God’s holiness more. Be careful of Rebecca St James, she met the Pope a few years back.

  4. 5 ways… hmmmm…..

    Don’t keep up the faith affirming rituals of leader worship, group devotion, cell groups, prayer etc.

    Ask yourself what faith really is, and whether faith is always good, and notice that other religions have ‘faith’ but in the ‘wrong’ thing.

    Analyze the tenants of your religion without applying faith, to see if it still stands up to scrutiny. If yes, then why do you need faith? If no, then…well… why do you need faith?

    Ask yourself that if the ‘real’ messiah was to walk up to you tomorrow, turn some water into wine, heal the sick etc, and tell you that Jesus was another of the phoneys…. Is there anything that has happened to you in your life, which you had assigned to god/Jesus… which you couldn’t re-rationalize as just co-incidence and normal to and fro of life.

    Recognize the delusion in other people of faith… Christian and non Christian… healings/prophacys/visions/slain in the spirit etc etc … then notice that it isn’t very different from your own delusion, just taken further – perhaps more/better faith.

  5. thanks folks, keep it coming.
    Alastair – ever thought of writing satire? great stuff, and qmonkey i was awaiting you weighing in…

  6. 1) People get enticed/seduced by whatever vaguely intellectual mood is passing through the bookstore and decide that all this boring, conserative christianity is a bit of a chore and all the rather smug, know it all, performance related salvationists are all a bit tiresome. Then they simply walk away. Only to become slightly smug and self-righteous themselves, in their new, sexy, free, belief system.

    2) the mid-twenties crisis – graduated and employed and with house and maybe a spouse and no idea what the flip to do with life cause they’ve arranged their lives to provide maximum security (financial, emotional…) with minimal input.

    3) spouses/choice of friends – when significant others truly become more significant than anything else. And friends who are either yes-men and without the balls to keep you accountable or friends who you’re so keen to keep that you find it easier to let JESUS slide. Interestingly people are often brought into christianity (usually when they’re younger) by the very same method…

    4) pride – being a miserable sinner, who does nothing but screw up is one thing but it’s not much of a life. If there’s no GOD, then there’s no problem.

    5) forgetting where you put it. (sorry…)

  7. .>>> qmonkey i was awaiting you weighing in

    🙂 I’m your case study… I went to SM 4-5 years in a row and loved it. Headlined (ha) main stage a couple of times. You should interview me on stage!

    (don’t worry, that’s ironic aggrandizing)

    Nelly & I … I’m sure you’re not a million miles away with your list.

    Alistair, I’m afraid you are off the mark a bit. Do you actually know anyone who lost/escaped faith in the way you describe… by not thinking about it enough and keeping their faith separate from the culture they live in? That’s smells like wishful thinking… are madrasas and faith schools hot beds of people abandoning faith? Or is the opposite true?

    I’ll put you in touch with dozens who have left Christianity and I don’t think many will recognize your list. If you are genuinely interested, then I’m the person to talk to.

  8. qmonkey – You’re right, I am quite off the mark. Maybe for a different seminar, entitled “Ways to not engage with your faith”.

    Soapbox – I didn’t actually intend to write that, it just came out. Wouldn’t know where to start writing satire!

  9. Alistair is taking me to task… in the comments of my own blog (which i deserve 🙂 )

    but i actualy think the discussion would be helpful to SB’s seminar.

    Alister, If i’m honest. and i was in the business of helping people remain religious/faithful then i would say… be sure not to build the house of cards too high… if you find yourself believing that, say, Jesus/god/spirit/Allah/Tom Cruise physically heals people today or makes people speak in tongues or ‘closes a door and opens a window’ or gives people prophetic visions…
    then you decide .. oh hang on.. thats all a load of nonsense… you find you need to do a zero based re-assessment of it all to find out what’s actually worthy of faith. House of cards.

    Must make clear though – although it’s been tough, and it raises as many questions than it answers. I’ve no regrets. it’s like being born again 😉
    Faith isn’t something worth preserving at any cost… especially not at the cost of truth & facts or lack of them.

  10. Forgive me if I’m picking you up wrong. Are you suggesting care should be taken over how heartily you believe something, because the “house of cards” must be able to withstand a reassessment?

    And your last comment… how can you divorce truth and faith (assuming truth is objective and not absolute)?

  11. Oh, I thought about this last night, and started writing a blog post with the (quite good, I think) working title of ‘How We Can Destroy The Church Before Richard Dawkins Does’, but I’m not sure the post itself is really all that good. Not that that normally stops me.

    Anyway, I came up with some thoughts for you, failed to write them down, and have now forgotten them, but I think they were roughly these (some people have already said some of these things):

    1. Don’t think too deep. This allows you to base your faith on fuzzy feelings and singing nice songs. When any kind of challenge comes along, you will be unable to meet it and so give up. You can then feel all clever and superior to the ‘faithheads’, if you wish.

    2. Go for the trendy stuff. Read the books everyone else is reading; go to whatever events are cool. Be mainstream; do not move outside the box. This ensures that you are swept along by every current of thought and will never really be able to apply your faith to unexpected things. I think this point could even be backed up by a Bible verse.

    3. Do not take responsibility for your own spiritual growth. Make sure it needs to be regularly topped up with conferences, weekends away, and ‘good teaching’. Hold your minister entirely responsible, if possible. Avoid spiritual disciplines and do more exciting things instead. In this way, once you leave uni and go to work, your faith will quietly disintegrate, as you won’t have time for all the required activity.

    Also what Alastair said. If he started writing satire, I think I might read it. Perhaps.

    Hope these help. My friend Leanne is going to your seminar, and she will tell me whether or not you include them.

  12. there are clearly defined cross purposes… which is fine – thats part of the fun.
    So, yes the problem is that i think people lose their faith because they realize its not based on reality and is a religious fantasy. You think that when they lose faith because satan creeps in and fools them and they lose a gift freely given by the creator god etc etc.

    but of course, i would say that wouldn’t i… and of course all ex-believers would say that wouldn’t they. And you would say the later…etc

    Forgive my use of the word ‘truth’ i know there is ‘truth’ in abstract art, music, poetry and stories etc etc … i really meant ‘facts’ as in… is it a literal fact that Jesus was the son of god.

    Perhaps to understand my viewpoint you need to think of me not as an ex-cristian, but as an ex-(say)-muslim. In which case you’ll find my house of cards analogy valid.

    Whats the difference? you think that the ‘facts’ reported in the koran arnt actually reliable… where as you think the facts in the bible are.

    i don’t for a minute expect SB to stand up and say… ok dont analyze it too much becuase you’ll realize its shaky 🙂

    So i come baring gifts… im in contact with quite a number of ex Christians, i’ve shared my experience and them with me… i KNOW that there is a common thread… BUT i dont think this is the seminar Soapbox is actually being asked to give… i think his seminar will be along the lines of your first comment in this post. am i right?

  13. qmonkey i couldn’t promise mainstage – just a little seminar venue.
    I do remember those heady days in Gosford in that warm tent with the smell of sweat and grass (mostly the green growing in the ground variety) intermingling…

    I guess a lot of this comes down to the choices we make – to believe or not to believe etc.

    I certainly will be talking about wrestling with tough questions, none of this faith-lite that is warm fuzzy crap, and if something is to be genuinely held to then you should be prepared to count the cost of that and to make sure you own it because you’ve analysed the foundations.

    WhyNotSmile – now you are making me nervous…

  14. One suggested way you might lose your faith:

    Become a blogger and read other people’s blogs (no names).

    (NB. Tongue in cheek.)

    One suggested way you might not lose your faith:

    Choose to read an ancient text, full of teachings which at times seem uncomfortably at odds with the enlightened world around you and full of things you may struggle to explain to any rational, logical compadre.

    (NB. Tongue removed from cheek.)

    I’m walking the path between the two…

  15. >>>I guess a lot of this comes down to the choices we make – to believe or not to believe etc.

    Is belief really a ‘choice’?

    Why would people want to ‘work on’ not loosing their faith? do they not trust their intellect…

    I do understand the meta-drama, that faith is a tangible entity which can be lost, or wrestled away from us by devil/sin/screwtapes… but i return to the point that people won’t lose their faith as long as they are convinced that Jesus was who he said he was and did what the bible says he did…
    …if believing that to be true requires anything other than logic, reason and rationality then it deserves the same level of renown as other myths and legends… containing important truths but not necessarily facts. (5 ways to lose your faith that Merlin was great wizard)

  16. Here are my top 3:

    1. Do not allow your faith to speak into the deep, dark areas of your life. Pain, disappointments, ‘ouch’ memories and failures must not be brought to God (or anyone else for that matter).

    2. Believe there is one right way to understand and express your faith

    3. Under no circumstances make yourself accountable to an older, wiser christian.

  17. espero – have you ever seen any of those three things led to anyone you know leaving Christianity? Do you have many ex-christian friends or acquaintances ? and do they agree?

    how about these…

    – don’t forget how lovely and wonderful the leader (Jesus) is. Ask doubters ‘why are you rejecting Jesus gift of love’ (aka the ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ question)

    – surround yourself with like minded people to affirm and solidify your world view (a little like espero’s 3 i guess)

    – keep a culture of ‘questioning’, but make sure the boundaries are secure. ‘i’m really struggling to understand what Jesus meant when he said… ‘ etc

    – assign everything vaguely positive that happens in your life to the grace and love of jesus. But the bad stuff is the result of ‘the other guy’

    but the main thing is…. don’t forget that if you don’t believe in Jesus… then the world is more difficult to cope with, existence is even more of a puzzle. You will be saying that you will never see dead loved ones again. Walking away from Christianity is really really difficult and slow process… and once you ‘know’ … you sometimes wish you didn’t… and could take Neo’s blue pill and go back to cell group!

  18. “Choose to read an ancient text, full of teachings which at times seem uncomfortably at odds with the enlightened world around you and full of things you may struggle to explain to any rational, logical compadre.”

    Yeah, but the Koran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Atharva Veda, and the Tora are really hard reading with all the translations necessary. 🙂

  19. Forgive me if I’m generalising, but your entire philosophy appears to stand on the grounds that if you can’t define something in absolute terms, then it cannot be true.

    I’m not suggesting that we should believe unthinkingly. But that philosophy leaves no room for emotion – no inspiration, despair, hope, laughter. I can’t define why certain music makes me feel nostalgic, why some films make me feel insignificant. I can’t define beauty, nor could John Keats, who penned the line “truth is beauty, and beauty truth”.

    It appears to me that you rule out “faith” on solely intellectual terms, denying much of the essence of a human being.

    Note also that I’m not conceding the ‘intellectual argument’ over the validity of Jesus (I’m not learned enough) – just that I have a worldview that encompasses more than ‘theory’.

  20. Alastair – nope, you’ve missed the head of the nail again, i think.

    I’m afraid i agree with your entire 2nd paragraph. I’m an artist, I’m a musician, i sometimes cry when i listen to sigur ros… not sure how its relevant to the mater at hand though.

    And i also don’t rule out faith… i just think that the important thing is what the target of that faith is.. not the strength of the faith itself. Faith is a massive red-herring i think…because a Christian doesn’t just have ‘faith’ he has faith in the ‘correct’ thing (he will say). You don’t want people not to lose their faith.. you want CHRISTIANS not to lose their faith.

    >>Note also that I’m not conceding the ‘intellectual argument’ over the validity of Jesus (I’m not learned enough)

    you’ve lost me… so is it possible to have Christian ‘faith’ whilst being unconvinced re: jesus=god… and is it possible to have Islamic faith even though you’re unconvinced that Allah = god’s messenger etc etc. I’m confused now.

  21. My point was that, it appears to me, that you have ring-fenced logic, divorced it from emotion, feeling, as I take from your comments below:

    “Why would people want to ‘work on’ not loosing their faith? do they not trust their intellect…”
    “if believing that [Biblical claim of Jesus, comment 16] to be true requires anything other than logic, reason and rationality then it deserves the same level of renown as other myths and legends”

    Because, and you’ve heard it before, sorry, I’m emotionally and relationally involved in something that I realised 7 years ago I believed as truth. That is why I mentioned emotion and John Keats – not that you’re incapable of emotion (you robot :D), but that you don’t give much rise to it in the god debate. Why is that?

    “you’ve lost me”…

    Sorry, I put my comment in as a disclaimer, that other people know more about the ex-Biblical evidence for Jesus than I do. I remain convinced as I continue to study.

  22. Please excuse me quoting from my source material but Ephesians ch2v8+9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

    I suppose a lot of this comes down to what you actually believe ‘faith’ is (or ‘true faith’ as QMonkey would probably rather I said, but without the speech marks and with all sincerity). Do you believe that it is a gift from God? Or do you believe it is a matter of human choice i.e. I choose to have faith in this, he doesn’t?

    If the latter, then I think that there is some validity in what some have said about losing faith (or ‘intellectually growing out of your faith’ as seems to be suggested but never said…) If the former (as the verses above seem to suggest), then I think there is maybe another discussion to be had (but who’ll be brave enough to start the ball rolling on that???)

  23. Al, if I may call you Al

    If an event didn’t actually factually happen… I don’t think it matters how much I really believe that it did, or how emotionally engaged in the idea that it did.

    My grandmother told me that her father said he could literally fly on every full moon…. I’m not sure how impressive it is to you that I’m emotionally and relationally engaged in my faith in that … you’ll still want to see some decent evidence… if not, I think you’d be seen as quite gullible

    I say again, the amount and quality of the faith isn’t the thing… im sure you’d wish that Muslim suicide bombers had a little less faith. The key is being 100% sure about the thing you have faith in.

    >…>I realised 7 years ago I believed as truth

    I’m not really sure what that means.

    Sorry for spamming SBs blog… if you want to continues by email… you can send me your email address via the contact tab on my blog.

  24. qmonkey

    I think I was trying to articulate that unless you all your faith to really engage with the deep stuff of your heart, the really shitty bits that scare the hell out of you, then your faith will only ever be skin deep and easily lost.

    Yes, I have had several very good friends walk away from faith and it was not due to intellectual doubts in any of thier cases. You path is not the only path out and not the most common one out.

    I disagree with your inference that I am saying you should surround yourself with like-minded people. Quite the opposite. It’s just commonsense to have one more experienced person who you can trust for advice who’s been down the road a bit further.

    What you forget sometimes qmonkey is that when people comment on stuff like this sometimes they are speaking from the heart and not the head. I made my list based on those things that have helped me grow in my faith. Sometimes you toss these things aside with sarcasm which I find disrespectful and actually a bit hurtful.
    By all means disagree, just do it with a bit of respect please.

  25. >>>Yes, I have had several very good friends walk away from faith and it was not due to intellectual doubts in any of thier cases. You path is not the only path out and not the most common one out.

    people who leave the ‘faith’ but who are still convinved that the gospels are reliable, is just plain mad, surely.

    No dissrespect intended, or in inferred. I was just pointing out that your list was, as you say, more about how to ‘go deeper’ in faith… rather than not lose it (what ever that means). Understandable from a ‘faith’ point of view but im not sure its entirely common. I’ve read ‘testimonys’ from loads of people re: leaving faith and it always boils down to… no mater how much i wanted to, i couldnt belive the magic stuff in the bible.

  26. Well this has stirred up quite a storm. I have 2 contrasting thoughts to chip in:

    1. I agree with lots of others that there is an intellectual element. It’s vital that we think deeply and honestly about our faith and how it relates to life in this world.

    Staying sheltered from difficult questions might be the safest option (QM) but it’s just not possible in the long run. So someone who has grown up in an environment where they can’t asked questions and aren’t exposed to a diversity of views etc, will eventually come up against hard questions (at college, on the internet…) and that’s when faith can start to crumble. (That’s roughly what happened my dad while in Japan as a missionary.)

    So thinking deeply and widely is the only way to go. But I want to add that this thinking also needs to be in a spirit of humility and confidence, with a willingness to listen and learn, and not a spirit of defensiveness and fearfulness. So much Christian apologetics is aggressive and fearful (10 reasons why everyone else is wrong) which reflects a lack of faith. 2 things I remember impacting me deeply – a talk by Stephen Williams at QUBCU where he told us if we were afraid to examine questions and doubts about our faith it wasn’t worth holding on to. And a book by Tony Campolo called “We have met the enemy, and they are partly right” – looking at what’s true in criticisms of the church by Freud, Marx etc. That kind of humble apologetic increases confidence, whereas purely defensive apologetics I think may actually weaken it.

    2. Espero is absolutely, spectacularly right. We can totally overstate the intellectual dimension in this. Christianity is not just, or even primarily, a set of cognitive beliefs. At it’s heart, it is about what we love. Love of God and neighbour.

    Most of those I know who have walked away, it’s because they loved something else more. Usually a girl. Sometimes a career-path, a lifestyle, a social world. They have shuffled away step by step and justified it intellectually later.

    Even those I know who claim their path was purely intellectual, I’m a little skeptical. (Maybe QM and his friends at De-Conversion are unusual exceptions, or maybe they are in spectacular denial).

    I don’t mean to sound flippant. I don’t mean to imply that these heart-motivations are less substantial than intellectual ones. Quite the opposite. This is the heart of our humanness. So thinking deeply is not enough. We need to “guard our hearts” – which means paying attention to our deepest desires and longings and fears and hopes. The wisest Christian thinkers all talk about the conversion of our affections, the ordering of our loves and desires. We need friends and mentors who will take us into those deep places. A faith that is just about “right beliefs” and “right behaviour” doesn’t take much shaking.

    (I’m still trying to figure out how our evangelical culture manages to be both anti-intellectual and overly-cognitive at the same time…?)

    Here’s an interesting post on a related theme: http://adventuresinmercy.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/those-who-leave-christ-and-my-own-story-of-why-i-could-not/#comments

  27. I have no idea how a squinting smiley has appeared in my comment. I wish to make clear that I have never deliberately posted a smiley in my life…

  28. >>>Even those I know who claim their path was purely intellectual, I’m a little skeptical. (Maybe QM and his friends at De-Conversion are unusual exceptions, or maybe they are in spectacular denial).

    I would agree… to a point (humbly 🙂 ) (certinly one side or the other is deluded)… what i would say is that one has to withdraw from the faith structures by deliberate intent or laziness to get to a point where you can re-assess the evidence with out the prism of faith. and then maybe in somecases find that applying the prism of faith to pretty much any religion/cult/myth…. works. I’m still very open to be convinced otherwise by Jayber… but i still contest that the core is not the faith, its what the faith is ‘in’ therefore all those who realize that the Jesus stuff happened must be smarter or deluded.

  29. Daddy jayber has weighed in and done his usual of making me feel like a silly kid 🙂 who needs to play nice. I have bloggers remorse.

    Let me sum up my advice (not that its wanted) re:keeping faith.

    Sometimes it’s easier to see whats good about something, from the outside, you have something wonderful and you don’t even seem to know it….The main thing that Christianity has going for it, isn’t that ‘faith’ is great and should be kept at all costs…(faith can be a terribly bad thing if placed in the wrong thing)… what Christianity has…. is that it’s factually true!… Jesus actually did physically rise from the dead, he actually WAS the son of god (you’d say). All the other competing philosophies don’t have that, and that is the key. Don’t sell me on the ‘relational’ stuff, and the ‘faith’ stuff and the ‘prayer’ stuff… sell me on the main thing Jesus gave you, factual events that really happened and shook the world.

    I say the more faith something requires, the less likely I am to believe it…
    you don’t need stronger faith, you have factual events (a Muslim suicide bomber needs LOADS of faith).. this is the gift that Jesus gave you… along with reason and rationality to eradicate disease, build economies to help feed the poor and logic to construct great ideas of freedom and progress…
    don’t increase your faith… reduce it… and in doing so introduce the world to the glorious and beautiful uplands that is redemption from sin… you as the children of god owe it to the world to reduce dependence on faith. Soapbox, this is the seminar you should do.

  30. QM, the gift Jesus gave us is our ‘faith’ (see my quotation from Ephesians above). To me, it has always gone hand in hand with tried and tested reason and rationality (TBYC stands back and waits for the response…).

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Paul said that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christians were to be pitied more than most for clinging to a false hope and “missing out” on what the world has to offer. I also agree hold heartedily with jaybercrow that from my knowledge, people have started to drift from a relationship with God (either for a period or for good) when some of those things the world has to offer start to be just that bit too attractive.

    This is all great stuff BTW.

  31. Wow, this thread has really taken off… Soapbox, not sure when the seminar is, so if it’s not over yet, all the best for it – and if it is over, hope it went really well!


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