“To utter one’s deepest fears about their faith is for some only slightly less risky than buying heroin on a street corner…” (Peter Enns)
For several years I labored under the mistaken impression that I was the only doubting Christian around and that there was no-one I could turn to with my questions and thoughts. In my narrow-mindedness I felt that, either one was a Christian, getting on with one’s spiritual journey and presumably growing closer to God, or one was an unbeliever, out in the wilderness. I on the other hand was somewhere in between, trying to hold on to my faith in the middle of a storm of doubt. Where did I belong?
I was careful not to “bare my soul” to anyone, not even my closest friends, as I didn’t want to be responsible for causing them to question their own faith. In no way did I want them to experience the pain I was feeling, of being an “unbelieving believer”. I realize now that I should have spoken up a lot sooner, and that in fact at some stage I crossed the line into hypocrisy (or at the least, deception by withholding the truth). I thought I was simply being a weak Christian for having all these questions and doubts, and that I needed to pray more diligently or read the Bible more consistently/prayerfully/faithfully in order to find my way out of the wilderness. The trouble was, when I prayed or read the Bible I was confronted with ever more questions. The cognitive dissonance I was experiencing was tearing me apart, and I never felt it more keenly than when trying to engage with a God who for many years I had regarded as my Father, my Comforter, my source of wisdom and truth. It was a dark night of the soul, where week after week at church I would be confronted with the ever-growing distance that stood between my fellow believers and I.
After years of having a passive approach to these questions (hoping that they would magically resolve themselves – has anyone ever had success with this approach, I wonder?!) I started reading about other Christians who also struggled with their faith. Some of these fellow believers moved from fundamentalism to a more nuanced version of Christianity, while others left the faith altogether. I found unspeakable encouragement in discovering the journeys undertaken by others, knowing that I was not alone – far from it, in fact. I was surrounded by “a cloud of witnesses” without ever having realized it. This is what enabled me to find the courage to face my own questions and to “come out” as a skeptic.
I have listed some of the most helpful books and blogs that have encouraged me on my journey, on my Resources page.