Tag Archives: Religious

doubting my faith

In the months since I left the UK for Norway, a lot has changed for me. Especially with regards to my faith and beliefs.

I was more or less a Christian from I was a little girl. Believing in, and praying to God, was as natural to me as breathing.

My parents were not Christians, but I grew up in a foster family as well in which the father, my dad number 2, is a priest in the Lutheran Norwegian Church. However, I was raised with a nice kind of Christianity only focusing on positives, no Hell and I was never really told God and Evolution were really conflicting.

Believing in Jesus and that he died for me was a choice I made myself, though I can’t remember exactly when I did so.

I have always been interested in religion, philosophy, ideas and how different people live. I read about many different ways of life, and in my teens, I had a brief flirtation with some faiths, although I think I always believed in Christianity deep down.

I didn’t become a serious Christian before I lived in Edinburgh where I studied. A friend of mine took me along, a little unwillingly, to a church service one Sunday morning I’d rather sleep in. But this was a cool church. They had a band, the preaching was done using contemporary props such as videos and music, there was dancing during worship and doughnuts afterwards. Oh, and the people were very welcoming. I wanted more and I had discovered Evangelical Pentecostalism.

I kept going back, and soon found myself both speaking in tongues, singing songs I believed came from God and even getting the whole congregation to join me and generally becoming a proper bible basher.

I got baptized and found this rebellious in some way since my father refused to have me and my brother baptised as babies. The church believed I had prophetic gifts which I showed through my singing. I was a great example of a devout and faithful Christian woman.

Moving to London, meant me needing to find a new church, but I didn’t feel at home anywhere because I never felt the same welcoming feeling I’d had in Edinburgh.

A couple of months ago, when I still considered myself a Pentecostal, I wrote a post on faith healing and disability, and being blind, made me a natural target for wannabe healers.

I decided to give up finding a church. I didn’t exactly live a Christian lifestyle then. I dated a couple of guys who were bad for me and had a negative attitude to life. I never lost my faith though and always felt guilty for not being pure and going to church.

But one day, as my life was at a low point with my mother being diagnosed with terminal cancer, the same friend who had introduced me to Pentecostalism, introduced me to some people in London who went to a Pentecostal church with attendees from all over the world.

I didn’t immediately love that church either. Not only was I told I needed healing, but that “the spirit of blindness” was living in me. I was tempted to leave, but I made friends among the people my age who were more accepting of my blindness, because I would get healed one day of course, in God’s time, and that would be a happy day. I also joined the worship team and I was made leader of a bible study group for young women, because the youth leaders had faith in me.

I loved the girls in my group and we had a great time discussing every topic under the sun from guys to Spiritual gifts. As much as I dislike and feel angry with the Pentecostal church today, this is the one good thing I’ve taken away from the experience and which I would change for nothing.

But there was a problem which became increasingly bigger as time went by.

I could not become religious. By that, I mean that I didn’t really believe the bible was the true word of God to be taken literally, that the earth was 6000 years old, that sin was anything other than destructive behaviour which certainly didn’t cover two people living together outside of marriage, or two people in a loving homosexual relationship and that a loving God would send most people to Hell. Because, most people weren’t and aren’t Christians.

I was also angry with God for all the suffering and unfair things in the world and didn’t want to quite accept that this happened because we were all sinners.

But being well indoctrinated by this point, I didn’t dare to question those things too much. I was scared that if I did, I’d lose my faith which would send me to Hell for eternity.

Being an evangelical Pentecostal, means taking everything in the bible literally and so I found myself forcing to agree with stuff I didn’t want to agree with. I was taught all thoughts of doubt came from Satan so I prayed for Jesus to rebuke them.

Leaving London, I wasn’t planning on never finding a church, but it didn’t happen and I could list lots of excuses as to why, though I now suspect I didn’t want to. I did though, take the time to read the bible and the more I read, the more questions I got.

First of all, I questioned original sin. If God knew what was going to happen to Adam and Eve, why would he put them in paradise, create some dangerous trees they would eat from and then throw them out again? And why would their sin have to reflect on all the rest of mankind for all time to come?

What about free will? Certainly if we are told that we have free will, but choose the wrong because only one thing is right, we’re going to suffer eternal punishment, and then is that free will?

In the New Testament, Jesus clearly states that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but fulfil it. However, it would not be fulfilled until his return. Didn’t that mean we’d have to practice all the stuff from the Old Testament? Killing gays, burn adulterers and so on. Not adhering to this meant we were picking and choosing something we humans should not do is the Bible was divine.

And then, the claim by Christianity that being saved only meant having a relationship with Jesus and not a religion, but having a religion after all because the Old Testament was still valid?

This literal way of reading the Bible, is not so common I think in the Lutheran denominations, but I learned to understand and read it as a Pentecostal and so for me, it’s either the case that everything is true, or nothing.

I asked a lot more questions, such as why would God create the sun on the fourth day and why would he rest on the seventh day? And I am still asking and raising questions. But from my Evangelical understanding, I have come to the conclusion that there is so much in the Bible that isn’t divine that none of it can be divine. It’s a beautiful piece of literature with some great stories in it, but many of which are irrelevant today. A divinely inspired book would be just as relevant today and would not need so much human interpretation to be made sense of.

A divine book from a God who loved unconditionally, would also not say that the condition for his love and eternal bliss would be to believe in him/her/it in only one way and it would certainly not be possible to use this book to abuse mankind. Take the crusades, Spanish inquisition, witch burnings and killing of Jews for example.

I do not want to put a label on myself just yet, but I don’t think I can be called a Christian anymore. Perhaps I’m an Atheist, Agnostic, or Deist, but what is more important to me now than what my label will be, is to learn to shift my focus and live without Christianity which no doubt will be a hard process to which there are no quick fixes. God has always been there and now I have to put my trust in myself and the wonderful people around me.

I didn’t leave Christianity because I don’t want moral guidelines. I think they won’t really change because Christian or not, we can all agree that lying, steeling and killing is wrong. Or that drinking in excess or taking drugs lead to no good. I am the same person now as I was before. Only now, I think I’m good enough the way I am. I’m human and I have shortcomings, but so do we all. And now as then, I feel a great responsibility to make my life count for something. Greater now in fact that I’m not sure there is an afterlife.

Someone who is doing right in fear of eternal punishment arguably has lower morals than someone who does right for right’s sake.

I will inevitably lose friends over this, but I will have many left and both they and my two fantastic families will support me whatever I choose to believe as I will support them whatever they choose to believe.

(This post was originally written on June 29 2012, but rewritten and edited on July 12 2012.

Hands on not required. On faith healings and disability.

Today, I’d like to talk about a topic which I am feeling strongly about. Faith healings and healers.

Being a Christian has been mostly a positive experience for me. Through my faith, I have gained an inner strength, joy and peace I did not have when I wasn’t saved. But the bit I find hard when it comes to my faith, is interacting with Christian strangers. I especially hate joining a new church.

Why?

Because often within the first hour of me being in a church, some well meaning, but clueless person walks up to me and offers prayers of healing. “Being disabled was never part of God’s plan”, or “You should pray for the spirit of blindness to leave you in Jesus name!”

I used to get beyond furious when people like that approached me and if I could, I’d get a rude comment in there, or just turn my back on them.

I still get angry, but as I am maturing, I realise that me turning my back on those ignorant people won’t teach them a thing. In stead, I try reasoning with them in the most Jesus like language I can think of such as “Would you give a rich man a million dollars?” or Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning” or simply, “I realise eye sight is practical for many reasons, but I don’t understand how, apart from that my life would improve.”

Some get it. Most don’t. And as a result, I only feel comfortable in churches where people pay me no attention, where I have a friend I can escape with after the service or a church where people know and accept me for who I am.

I know many disabled people of any faith share my opinions. Religious people and I don’t call myself religious by the way, are trying so hard to be compassionate that what they actually end up doing is talking to you like you are some kind of inferior being. They try to comfort us with stories of so and so who lives in a remote village in a country on the other side of the world that got healed. I’ve also heard of the blind man in Scotland who got healed and is now a bus driver. Seriously, wouldn’t he do something a bit more high flying than driving a bus if he got his sight back?

I don’t think these stories are true at all. Do I believe faith miracles can happen? Yes I do. But I find it strange that they only happen in remote places and that there’s no news of them otherwise. Wouldn’t someone who suddenly become sighted or hearing be on the news? I certainly would speak quite publicly about it as I simply wouldn’t be able to keep it from the world. I also think they are exaggerated. One woman in the church I used to go to in London, asked me after pointing out that I’d be a more complete human being if I could see that she got healed from sight loss. I asked her how this could be, and it turned out she’d had cataract or glaucoma, can’t remember, and but that whatever she had got removed by surgery and that now she could see again. I heard of a lame that suddenly started walking. But on asking questions, this was a person who learned this with the help of physio.

These can be called miracles or healings in their own right, but it’s not the kind of laying hands on healing these religious people keep talking about. And healing can also be a mental process. For example, there are people who claim to have lost pain in their bodies by having had hands laid on them, but often, these are the results of believing it will work and then, as a result, they feel better after such a healing meeting.

Fake faith healers unfortunately exists. The greatest example of someone like that is Benny Hin who has been exposed in the media for trickery in making people believe they’ve been healed. And those faith healers are clever. They make those who wish for healing write down their prayer request along with their names and financial details on little cards. Then, the Faith healer’s right hand man or woman communicates with them through a walky-talky device giving out people’s names which the healer then communicates in the audience. “Is there a p, Peter J, I feel a name starting with J, Johnson, Jackson?” AT this point, poor Peter Jackson jumps up, goes to the stage and gets a prayer of healing. He really wants to believe that he’s healed of whichever affliction he suffers from. He doesn’t want to disappoint the healer with a bad result and it would also destroy the great shows those kinds of healing meetings are. So he’ll claim that “Yes I am healed” to which the fake healer responds” In the name of Jesus! He has been healed in the name of Jesus! Glory be to God Almighty for an evil demon has left him” or something very similar.

These people are dangerous. Darren Brown once made a programme about fake faith healers where he got a normal man to pose as one. In the program, we heard of people thinking they had been healed from for example cancer and then stopped taking their medication and treatment. They died of course. Darren Brown successfully put up a service for the fake faith healer and at the point the healers normally ask for donations, this man gave a speech warning the audience of fake healers.

I have also been made to feel awful because I refused healing. A pastor at my London church right out told me I wasn’t brave enough to want to see, or had enough faith. If I was meant to be healed, his faith would have been sufficient according to the bible. So I went up and asked for healing, reluctantly and it was awful.

The worst time though, was at my friend’s mother’s wake. After commemorating her life with worship and a sermon, I went up to the pastor to ask for prayers for my own mum who was in the terminal stage of cancer. I wanted to pray for her peace and for no pain. However, on seeing that I was blind, he turned the attention to me. I may have needed prayers in regards to keeping strong through the difficult times, but none for my sight. I left feeling nothing but disrespect for someone who thought a healthy person’s eye sight was more important than a cancer patient’s well being.

Christianity is simple. So simple that many of us, me included fail to grasp the simplicity of it. Love. Simply love. Loving means accepting people for who they are and not try to change them. If you truly love, you won’t go up to that new wheelchair kid in church assuming they want healing. For by being who you are created to be, you fill some sort of roll in the world. I believe in the resurrection, and when that happens, I will no longer be blind. It will be wonderful, but for now, I am who I am. I have found my place in the world and in Christ and through being blind, I have been given a perspective on things which I believe has made me into a better person. I thank God for the blindness just because of this. Not having a certain physical ability, does not mean you’re not a perfectly healthy and strong human being who doesn’t have a lot to give.

So to you lovers of healing, you’ll do a lot more good and cause more healing in a disabled person’s life by including them in the church. Let your first question b if they’d want another doughnut or what they thought of the service rather than asking if they feel incomplete. If a disabled person wants faith healing, they’ll go to the appropriate person. Someone they trust.