The agnostic and the believer in my head

13240613_10206290139038637_5289369345436948456_nI remember going to my local book store as a kid, eagerly seeking books that would teach me about God. I remember the bitter disappointment I felt when, time and time again, the “Jewish” shelf contained The Diary of Anne Frank, a handful of other Holocaust books, and little else – nothing pertaining to the study of the faith itself.

So I’d reluctantly go to the “Christian” section, which never had a shortage of devotionals and what seemed like spiritual “self help” manuals. I remember flipping through the books that seemed to be written for a teenage audience, trying to figure out which ones contained the least amount of references to Jesus so it would be applicable to me. Sometimes, after I purchased them, I’d go through each book with a pencil and cross out “Jesus,” and squeeze in “God.” But the references to dying on the cross weren’t such an easy fix.

You can see how Christianity was sort of a default for a young kid who wanted a relationship with God. As much as I’d love to say I was being lead on a path to discover The Truth, the reality is, if I grew up Jewish in Utah, I might have found “truth” in Mormonism, or maybe in Hinduism if I grew up in India.

I didn’t choose Christianity because it was convenient (although it was) – it was a religion with a community ready and waiting to help me and guide me. As introverted as I am, it’s pretty difficult to do faith in complete isolation, with no communal guidance whatsoever. Growing up Jewish in Hudson, Ohio, there was no one to build me up when I doubted, no one to pray with me or for me in the only language I knew. No youth group, no Bible studies (Torah studies?), no field trips. It was a frustrating spiritual journey. A lonely one.

Today, I frequently turn to the words of Lauren Winner, the only Jewish-to-Christian writer I’ve been able to identify with, in her memoir Still: “Maybe it’s not that my faith is riddled with doubt, but that my doubt is riddled with faith.” I can’t think of a better summation for the place I find myself now.

For the last several months, I’ve felt a pull toward the Anglican church. The liturgical structure of the service, the call-and-response participation from the congregation, and dependence on ritual reminds me of the synagogue (which was, for years, a borrowed church) where I grew up. I’ve missed being part of a tradition that spans back thousands of years, threading the past to the present, refreshing the words of saints and sages that, despite the antiquated language, are still relevant today.

I recently purchased the Book of Common Prayer, and have found a spiritual intimacy there that I just wasn’t finding in the evangelical church I’d been attending with my husband since I moved to northern Colorado.

But even discovering a new tradition doesn’t take away the lingering question, Is this even true? It doesn’t take away my questions about projecting antiquated ethics on a modern society. It doesn’t take away my doubts about this way being the only way, and that everyone who does not follow it is doomed to eternal punishment.

It is for that reason why, even though “Anglican” feels like a more appropriate spiritual label than “Christian,” it’s actually “agnostic” that better describes where I am spiritually. Not because I doubt the existence of God. Not because I have any issues with Jesus. Only because some aspects of this faith I’ve chosen make perfect sense to me, while others border on disturbing and obscene. I don’t know how to reconcile all those things: redemption with hell, human decency with original sin. I fear turning into the sort of cherry-picking believer that I used to despise.

But if “agnostic” is my identity now (the word still tastes a bit like chalk), I’m a very unusual one. I still participate in small group at my former church, the one my husband still attends, because theological discussions are what I live for. I still snatch up every commentary, every spiritual memoir, every new devotional I can get my hands on, because I’m still enchanted by the message of redemption; still fascinated by a God in human skin; still, more than anything else, clinging to the hope that eventually, the spark of faith will return. I still write in my prayer journal on a regular basis. Still read my Bible and attend a Bible study.

I guess, to quote my friend Laura, I still have the heart of a Jesus-follower even if I possess the brain of a skeptic. And it’s Judaism that produced my inner skeptic, I think: the best rabbis and scholars have mastered the art of debate and disagreement when interpreting ancient texts. A tradition that is genetic as it is spiritual can’t be etched out like lasering off a tattoo. The drive to ask questions and refuse to settle for easy answers is in my blood.

For that reason, I don’t think I could ever become an atheist – I don’t think I could ever comfortably believe that all this spiritual stuff is nonsense when there’s no hard evidence either way. I do still have faith. Shaky faith, but even a faint pulse signifies life.

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About Beth Caplin

Just an author, blogger, and editor working hard so my cats can have a better life.
This entry was posted in Theology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to The agnostic and the believer in my head

  1. Hi SarahBeth! I like the way that you question everything. It’s kind of hard to explain, but (whether they admit it or not) all atheists are actually more like extreme agnostics. No one knows for sure, but we are certain enough to come to the conclusion that we don’t believe in deities. Most atheists are over 90% positive that there is no god, but at that point, we aren’t really undecided. What I’m trying to get at is this: you say you would never become an atheist, but atheists aren’t 100% sure either. No one really is. I understand that agnosticism errs on the side of caution, but depending on what “percent” sure you are about a god’s existence, you can probably make a statement on what you believe given the evidence you have and what you know. After all, agnosticism is a statement of knowledge, and atheism is a statement of belief.

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  2. Peter says:

    I read this after searching for ‘Agnostic’. I didn’t look at any of the comments but I did look at a few of your posts. We have a lot in common. I was treasurer of an Anglican church in the UK for 8 years in the 1960’s (I’m now 81). I was disillusioned by a lack of ‘radical’ Christianity and an inability to get answers to some of my questions. Some years later I became a member of a Christian Sabbath-keeping church – keeping the biblical Holy Days and treating Christmas and Easter as Pagan festivals. That all changed in 1995 when the church we were attending announced that much of their theology was misguided. The church leadership were welcomed with open arms by several members of the National Association of Evangelicals in America.

    This forced me to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught – for the second time! That was the beginning of an on-going ‘wilderness experience’. I created my first web site 16 years ago – the forerunner of subsequent blogs. It was only last week that I wrote a new introduction to my blog. What do you think?
    https://outsidethegoldfishbowl.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Melody says:

    I think there is a clash betweeing feelings and emotions on the one hand, and clear logic and skepticism on the other.

    In my former faith there wasn’t much place for logic and thinking but all the more for feeling and emotion. As a non-believer, I do miss the emotions that faith brought me sometimes as my faith was full of them, highs and lows. Agnostic atheism doesn’t bring me surges of Jesus joy, but no longer despair about hell or the curse of sin either.
    My religion brought me both and no space to ask questions. I know that a more progressive view of faith may provide more of a space for that.

    My father and brother have a much more stable and far less emotional faith than I had. Their faith isn’t so much about spiritual experiences and they don’t miss it much either. I, on the other hand, do miss it a little as my current world view does not provide for that part of my personality. Fortunately, there is music and that does help.

    I guess you can’t have everything…. My faith gave me things and disregared an entire part of me; my non-belief provides for that side, but doesn’t do much for the emotional side of things. There’s relief about a pretty large reduction of my fears but a sense of loss over some of the emotional highs of feeling close to God/Jesus.

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  4. ratamacue0 says:

    Hi Beth,

    Thanks for pointing me to your post here, from when I asked you about your current thoughts in this discussion on patheos. Apologies for my delay in replying – part busy-ness, part… ADD.

    Are you interested in some discussion (challenges) from me on some of your points? I ask first mostly because sometimes I can be pretty direct, and I’m not sure how diplomatic I’ll be.

    Considering the honesty and compassion I’ve seen in your comments, and the invitation to this post, I figured the courteous thing to do was to ask. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beth Caplin says:

      Challenge away 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • ratamacue0 says:

        Can I use the same pseudo-excuse for delaying twice? Ha.

        But even discovering a new tradition doesn’t take away the lingering question, Is this even true? It doesn’t take away my questions about projecting antiquated ethics on a modern society. It doesn’t take away my doubts about this way being the only way, and that everyone who does not follow it is doomed to eternal punishment.

        …some aspects of this faith I’ve chosen make perfect sense to me, while others border on disturbing and obscene. I don’t know how to reconcile all those things: redemption with hell, human decency with original sin. I fear turning into the sort of cherry-picking believer that I used to despise.

        These are solid reasons to ask that question – and to doubt, IMO. (In fact, the question of the “eternal fate of man” and my subsequent research led to my asking that question. I wrote about that on my blog.)

        I still participate in small group at my former church, the one my husband still attends, because theological discussions are what I live for. I still snatch up every commentary, every spiritual memoir, every new devotional I can get my hands on, because I’m still enchanted by the message of redemption; still fascinated by a God in human skin; still, more than anything else, clinging to the hope that eventually, the spark of faith will return. I still write in my prayer journal on a regular basis. Still read my Bible and attend a Bible study.

        Is this something different than wish-thinking? If so, in what way? If not, is that a good thing? Why or why not?

        The drive to ask questions and refuse to settle for easy answers is in my blood.

        Excellent!

        I don’t think I could ever comfortably believe that all this spiritual stuff is nonsense when there’s no hard evidence either way.

        Where does the burden of proof lie? Do you think there’s some real “supernatural” phenomenon behind every religion? If there are some with no such backing, might they all have that in common?

        Do you think the same of other tall claims? Leprechauns, magick, Russell’s teapot, etc.

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  5. socalkdl says:

    Well Beth, I did it. Swallowed my pride of not having all the answers and started my first ever blog post 🙂 I feel invigorated! And a bit scared, :/ no turning back now! The world awaits breathlessly, lol. God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. socalkdl says:

    Beth, I have been really enjoying your blog posts. Admitting you do not have all the answers, yet putting yourself “out there” takes courage as well as puts a target on our back. I have been procrastinating on my first blog post, blaming my reticence on my work schedule, but in reality, I think it’s more my pride of wanting to have all the answers. I have been steadily whittling away at my doubts and finding answers, but fear if I have to be totally certain about every aspect of my Progressivism, I’ll never get around to writing my first blog!

    Evangelicalism is so easy to criticize, there are so many chinks in the armor. But there are chinks in my Progressivism too. I haven’t nailed down Hell yet nor the universal aspect of the Gospel/salvation. Just beginning to look at the “relational theology” of Thomas Oord and Clark Pinnock. Carl Sagan’s book on the search for God is gathering dust on my shelf. Aargh! So many books! LOL, I need to just sit down and write something! Part of the problem is my brain is going so many different directions.

    You are an incouragement, keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. th3platform says:

    Please check out my page for my current and upcoming theological posts. It may give you som insight to the truth. Be open minded. God bless.

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      I would appreciate if you add something to the conversation before you go promoting your own blog, thanks.

      Like

      • th3platform says:

        Sorry didn’t mean any offense. I just saw that you are feeling agnostic and a lot of my posts are about proving Christianity. I’ll expound a bit here if that’s what you want though. In the doubtful gray area type state that I feel agnostics are in isn’t a fulfilling state of mind in my opinion. The question of what is the meaning of life begs at the door of your mind. By settling for agnosticism you essentially feel like you can’t answer that question or you don’t trust the answers you’ve seen. With that in mind, take an open minded look at what I have written in my theological posts. It’s not just to promote my writing but to give people answers. God Bless.

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        • Beth Caplin says:

          No, agnosticism isn’t ‘fulfilling,’ but it’s an intellectually honest place to be, and I’d hardly call it ‘settling.’ When surrounded by people who are so certain they know The Truth, being the I Don’t Know girl isn’t fun. It isn’t for kicks and giggles. In fact, it’s downright painful at times. So how about you take your own advice and be open-minded about my writings as well?

          Liked by 1 person

          • th3platform says:

            I’m clear cut and firm on my beliefs. You are not given you are an agnostic. I’m open minded to political solutions but as far as religious beliefs there is no consideration for anything else other than the inerrant truth of the Bible. By asking for open mindedness I’m only asking you to give Christianity another consideration

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          • Beth Caplin says:

            I don’t think I’ll ever give up pursuing faith, but I can’t promise or much less predict that the questions will go away. I think some will not be able to be answered.

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          • th3platform says:

            Well I’d like to encourage you to continue to seek answers. I’ve sought answers and found them so. Some of them are presented in my theological posts. Since we differ politically, id rather you focus on my theological posts.

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          • ratamacue0 says:

            I’m open minded to political solutions but as far as religious beliefs there is no consideration for anything else other than the inerrant truth of the Bible. By asking for open mindedness I’m only asking you to give Christianity another consideration

            This is a hypocritical request.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Beroli says:

            Quite straightforwardly so, too. I wholeheartedly believe “By asking for open mindedness I’m only asking you to give Christianity another consideration”–as in, I believe th3platform would be truly appalled if their appeal for open-mindedness led to someone becoming Wiccan, or Buddhist, or anything at all other than Christian.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      I did peruse your site, by the way. The moment you projected religion into politics and espoused blatant ignorance about the so-called ‘transgender movement,’ I lost interest. You don’t seem that invested in being ‘open-minded’ whatsoever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • th3platform says:

        Um my Christian views in my political posts are sparingly used for things such as abortion and LGBT rights to an extent. In fact I understand that the Constitution supports gay marriage and even though it’s morally wrong to me I don’t mind it being approved nationwide. As for the transgender issue I understand there are some good intentions to these policies but they still have negative impacts. I cited three examples. The worst of which is the fact that transgendered, or people posing as transgender are sexually harassing and abusing women and children. That’s a fact. Also the military shouldn’t be paying for these optional operations. Thanks.

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    • socalkdl says:

      Th3, I searched in vain on your blog site for an article on abortion (you mention it below as a topic) as the conservative stance on it represents everything wrong with Evangelical cherry-picking and an inerrant text. On the one hand, Evangelicals use a number of scriptures to support the belief that life begins at conception, therefore abortion is “murder,” but the texts used don’t directly address abortion. On the other hand, the one scripture in Numbers 5:5-31, that actually deals directly with abortion is ignored, as it doesn’t fit neatly into the conservative’s presuppositions. One cannot hold to an inerrant text while claiming the Bible shows abortion is evil.

      I am sympathetic to the belief that life is sacred, that all lives matter (to use an over-used phrase), even that of a fetus, but the Bible is problematic in this regard if it is indeed, inerrant. One can use the various “proof texts” given as a “trajectory” of Bible intent for the reduction Of abortions, but not an outright ban. In fact, the Numbers 5 passage is much more supportive of the “Pro-Choice” views, as it clearly shows everything wrong with the historical male domination of a female’s reproductive choices.

      This problem supports Beth’s general thesis of being, in some fashion or another, Agnostic. In other words, being a Christian Agnostic is more a matter of honest confession that one doesn’t have Absolute Certitude On all theological issues, but one has FAITH in spite of doubts. The Fundamentalist quest for theological certitude is more an outgrowth of Aquinian philosophy than true faith. Which brings us to another problem associated with theological certitude, lack of humility.

      When one is absolutely certain of their belief set, the tendency is towards theological superiority, similar to the problems Jesus faced with the Pharisees. Moral superiority hampers the ability to have empathy and compassion for the less fortunate, as people become either “sinners” or the “elect.” Either right or wrong. In the case of abortion, the underlying problems that real women face are ignored in favor of theological arguments.

      Hope this sparks some new thinking on your part. God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth Caplin says:

        Your last two paragraphs. Wonderfully put.

        Liked by 1 person

      • th3platform says:

        That’s quite interesting. Given that I am just starting up my blog, I have yet to write an article specifically on abortion. I’m glad you sympathize with the life of an unborn child. I’m gonna try to put this shortly but still logically. The example you give in Numbers is one of many Jewish practices that are no longer applicable to society today. The moral values of the Old Testament, mainly the 10 commandments and Proverbs, apply. People were bound to the law which represents the Old Covenant. In some form or fashion, the wages of sin is death and other consequences. The Flood was the result of wickedness all over the earth. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the result of wickedness. The death of King David’s new born son as the result of adultery was the result of wickedness. At the time, the atonement for sins consisted of many different form. The main was the sacrifice of burnt offerings (also not applicable to today). Thankfully the New Covenant was made, as you know, through Jesus. Faith in Him as the Savior is the only way to eternal life now. With that in mind there is no need for these strange punishments. The Lord doesn’t command people to stone adulterers or kill wicked people in today’s society. He seeks to save people through believers that show His love and share the gospel. The context and circumstances of punishments implemented millennia ago are not to be used as an example of inerrancy if they do not line up with today’s society. That is the purpose of the New Covenant.

        As for theological certitude, I consider it a process of elimination. You start from creation versus evolution. Then you move towards which religion is right. Inerrancy of Holy Text is key. The Bible is inerrant truth compared to any other text. You move further along towards the teachings of the Bible. If you follow them, you live a prosperous life. It’s very simple. My parents are living proof. They’ve been faithful to God and in the face of extreme tribulation they went from trailers to millionaires. Nothing to something. The evidence is all around you. You just have to seek it with the right mindset. However, if you allow yourself to reject the truth and follow the prostitute that is false religion and worldly views, the mind will betray you into believing lies.

        I Corinthians 1:18-21:
        18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

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        • Beth Caplin says:

          Your points here prove what I’ve been saying in this post: you are simplifying things that aren’t simple at all. I’m glad faith comes so easily to you, but to the rest of us, it comes across as naive. You could spend a lifetime studying the opening chapters of Genesis alone.

          As for your parents, one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that the prosperity gospel is unbiblical. Jesus didn’t die so we can have nice things. That view is extremely abhorrent and insulting to the number of faithful Christians who are living in poverty and being martyred.

          Liked by 2 people

    • socalkdl says:

      I am replying to your reply to me further down the post. There doesn’t see to be a way to reply directly to replies :/
      Your separation of “moral values” in the OT from the rest of Mosaic Law is problematic in that it is a totally arbitrary convention used by many Evangelicals. The OT Law was treated as a unit, with no one part being unnecessary. All of it was considered moral in nature. We Gentiles were never under the Law, not even the Ten Commandments. We are still not under the Law, not even a part of it.

      But you are missing the point I am making about inerrancy. If the Bible is God’s Word, that is, God speaking, Numbers 5 has God saying to Moses something that is abhorrent. God is telling Moses to instruct the priests to abort children of jealous husbands. You are faced with a decision: either God approves of abortion of children if they are suspected to not be the husbands, or God did not actually say that to Moses. You can’t have it both ways here! But, hey, it gets worse. Not only does God order the abortion of children in the womb, but He seems content with ordering the murder of women and children of Israel’s enemies as well, going far beyond “mere” abortion and killing infants and young children as well.

      It is not useful to simply write off these actions as “no longer applicable” as if they were morally excusable then but not now. Killing children, even those of one’s enemies was common among Semetic tribes then as well as amongst tribal ware fare today, but that does not excuse it. Jesus showed use that enemy hatred was not of God and that children in their innocence represented the Kingdom of God. An inerrant Bible cannot honestly deal with these problems.

      Part of the problem for Evangelicals, is what I would call the “Precious Promises” mentality towards Scripture. I know, for I read the Bible from a devotional standpoint for most of my life. In this hermeneutic, only the the passages that are “uplifting” are read, the ugly passages either ignored or “spiritualized.”

      Your passage from 1 Corinthians is about the scandal of the Crucifiction, not inerrancy. God chose to use a method to reach put to a sinful world that was revolting to the Jew and foolishness to the Gentile (1:23) This is not a carte blanche to accuse those who don’t hold to inerrancy as following the foolishness of the world. It is quite common to see Evangelicals accuse Christians who don’t agree with them as “believing lies.”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. mnb0 says:

    Some remarks and questions.

    1. How did the jump from judaism (you crossing out “Jesus”) to christianity occur? Because you couldn’t find an active jewish community?
    2. Do you realize that atheism is a tradition that spans thousands of years? Not only Greek philosophers questioned the gods, so did Indian philosophers. You might want to look up Charvaka on Wikipedia.
    3. If you think atheism urges to stop asking questions and doubting the answers you would be very mistaken. That is a very wrong reason to reject unbelief.
    4. Atheism doesn’t so much mean that all the spiritual stuff is nonsense; rather the radical version (there are also spiritual atheists) means that all the spiritual stuff prevents people to ask good questions and have relevant doubts.

    http://atheistspirituality.net/

    Liked by 1 person

    • socalkdl says:

      Atheism in its Western form seems to center around science and a scientific worldview. Unfortunately, Evangelicalism has inherited from Fundamentalism an unhealthy distrust of the scientific method and its conclusions. This has been an ongoing battle since the invention of the telescope. My father in law, for example, has been all in a tither over something called “The Truth Project” at his church which looks like the same old binary worldview that scoffs at scientific theory and raises straw windmills to tilt against.

      The main failure of traditional, orthodox Christian teaching is a failure to adequately account for randomness and evil in a world supposedly run by a provident God. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the difference between a traditional Aquinian Kantian, etc., “modern” scientific method and the newer field of Quantum Physics. Western Atheists I have come into contact with seem to favor an older scientific worldview that sees direct cause and effect determinism. Quantum physics deals with randomness and the lack of true predictability in nature.

      I think the juncture of atheism and science bring valid questions to the nature of God and the belief that God is in control of every aspect of human/natural existence. This goes beyond the usual silly arguments about “proving” God exists (or doesn’t) and shakes the foundations of religious exclusivity. What makes a religion “true?” How does the traditional Christian teachings on God’s Will and foreknowledge deal with randomness? I am reading an excellent book on the subject by Thomas Orr: “The Uncontrolling Love of God, An Open and Revelational Account of Providence.” https://www.amazon.com/Uncontrolling-Love-God-Relational-Providence/dp/0830840842/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472234793&sr=8-1&keywords=the+uncontrolling+love+of+god

      In the end it is ignorance and religious pride that fosters something like “The Truth Project.” Science answers many of the questions religion does not and visa versa.

      Liked by 1 person

      • socalkdl says:

        Thomas Oord not Orr (James Orr is an early Fundamentalist who didn’t hold to inerrancy). Sorry about the confusion.

        Like

      • mnb0 says:

        “Quantum physics deals with randomness and the lack of true predictability in nature.”
        As I am a teacher math and physics you won’t get any points for guessing my position on the determinism vs. probabilism issue.
        Here I’d like to remark that I don’t claim Quantum Physics disproves any god; it contradicts many god images. Take for instance the famous Cosmological Argument. I think it can be reformulated in a probabilistic way. “Let there be light” then becomes “let there be quantum fields that are the bearers of elementary particles, of which the photon (which is responsible for light ao) is one.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      1. I wrote an entire book about that (mostly because the answer is book length). The longing for a community is only part of it, but my theology has always leaned toward Christian.
      2. Yes
      3. Not how I meant it, but okay.
      4. Nonsense, unnecessary, untrue…a lot of better words could have been used in that sentence.

      Like

  9. Lovely post!

    I think what is happening is your being guided never to short change your life and the big things it needs 🙂

    Your blessed as a writer and I think your life is going to be one that is incredibly fulfilling!

    Make sure to share those big insights and wisdom with others!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My folks went to the Anglican church for quite a few years. I know my dad especially really liked the “liturgical” feel of their worship. He called it “smells and bells.” 🙂
    I think it’s awesome that you have such a strong faith in a loving God, even though you have some doubts about some of the tenets of Christianity. The church I was raised in wasn’t perfect, by any means, but I found the community pretty loving; we certainly didn’t preach Hell and damnation. I’m sure there’s something out there that’s right for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really very strongly relate to this. I’ve been visiting Catholic and Anglican churches since leaving my husband’s Pentecostal home church. I love reconnecting with my childhood Catholicism, and I attend Taizé prayer with the Anglicans. As an introvert, too, the quieter forms of worship have been much better for my anxiety… But still, my doubts run very deep. I told my husband on the weekend just past that I’m not sure I’m even a Christian anymore – I’m definitely not one by the definition of my previous church. That was very hard to admit to myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      I think if a person is intent on knowing and following Jesus, they are still a Christian. Even if nothing else seems to make sense. I know I’m too concerned about the state of my own faith to play Salvation Police with anyone else, no matter how much their views may clash with mine.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Mark Sackler says:

    Mark Twain said, “faith means believing what you know ain’t so.” I agree with that, but might add, “agnosticism means not believing something just because you’d like it to be true.”

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’m Roman Catholic (by choice), but also believe there are many paths and journeys in our connections with God (The Bible seems to have more than a few folk questioning God & God’s motives and one of two compromises along the way).
    Thank you for a thoughtful and interesting post.
    I wish you all the best in your own journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Melody says:

    I so recognize your reference to crossing out words. That’s what I used to do with curse words, but in the end it makes you notice them even more! My grandpa used to either paste pages about evolution together or cross it all out or comment on it in the marges. My parents did the same if references were made to it in say a nature program on tv. Scoffing, or uncomfortable laughing, making sure we knew that it wasn’t true and that we shouldn’t believe it.

    Anyway, that was a little trip down memory lane. I agree with letahawk that I love how you are sharing your struggles and vulnerabilities and are so open about it all. About your search and how your views change over time.

    I’m a bit on the other side of this. I’ve become an atheist but still mostly like Jesus and some of his messages. (I cannot make myself hate him, not after loving him for so long, and I don’t particulary want to either though I understand and agree with the critism against his promises) I often find myself getting angry at how the Bible is used to hurt and abuse people in various ways, but still care about the stories and how it is a way of making sense of the world. So much of our culture has been build around it or is derived from it, good and bad, and I am glad that my knowledge of it helps me to understand some of these things. In a way I feel that because I now feel freed of the burdens that religion placed on me personally, there is more room to appreciate the Bible as literature and as a valuable historic source.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mnb0 says:

      As I have never been baptized I can’t say I ever loved Jesus. That doesn’t mean I hate him though.

      Like

      • Melody says:

        You’re right. I was sort of responding to this idea that I sometimes encounter where it feels like you have to be or become an anti-theist if you come from a religious (harmful) background. I don’t believe that is necessary, though allowed, of course, just not for me.

        If you don’t come from a religious background it is a lot simpler to see Jesus as just a person, and not in extremes in either way, good or bad. Because you start out from a neutral and more objective place whereas as a former believer it can be hard to not have strong emotions when it comes to religion.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. letahawk says:

    I just love reading your posts. I love that you embrace your doubts and your questions, even though they make you uncomfortable. I love that you keep seeking to define who you are. I love that you find and treasure the things that are meaningful to you.
    One piece of this post that really spoke (screamed) to me was that you find meaning in the liturgies of the Anglican church. I’m currently attending a Pentecostal church, and while I’ve accepted that this is where our family needs to be right now (my children are growing in their faith by leaps and bounds, and I will not uproot them to suit myself), I miss the liturgies of the UCC church I grew up in. I’m sorry if those liturgies seem to “put God in a box and don’t let the Holy Spirit move,” but I feel that they ground me, let me focus, and help me to draw closer to God.
    I guess I’m still struggling with faith as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Kirk Leavens says:

    Beth, excellent post. Being an agnostic and a believer are not mutually exclusive terms. Bless your heart, you’ve been taught in evangelicalism that questioning is a sign of lack of faith, I know I have been in evangelical churches all my life. Having no questions of God, having absolute certainty of belief is actually a sign of spiritual stagnation. It is through questioning we learn of God. If we knew all the answers, how boring our spiritual lives would be. In actuality, conservatives don’t have all the answers, but they learn to fake it as though they do.

    The easiest thing to do is blindly accept everything the Bible tells us, no questions asked. The harder and more honest approach is to read the Bible ethically, and question when it seems to hurt others. This is where Judaism enters in. As you know, there is a long history of questioning God within the church’s mother religion. Unfortunately conservative Christianity lost this tradition very early on, and has pursued a course of doctrinal certitude ever since. In other words, the church has taken the path of the Pharisees rather than Christ in its interpretation of Scripture.

    I would recommend you read Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood and The Sin of Certitude by Peter Enns.
    God bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I very, very much relate. Since I too am pretty much agnostic who can’t be a firm atheist, while still believing in resurrection, and wanting to follow Jesus’ way even though I don’t know if he was God (though I hope he was).

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Once again a post I can relate to. I love a faith that embraces doubt; for me that makes it seem more authentic, causes the person to really search things out. Like I say on my own blog, I’m a Christian, a freethinker, a believer, a skeptic, a seeker.

    Liked by 3 people

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