This site has been a wonderful source of comfort to me in the face of overwhelming anxiety about losing faith in the Christian God. I do hope my story can be of comfort to those who have been faced with the same fears. Some of what I have written below are some of the most awful thoughts that have ever entered my head and ultimately are what caused me to realize that something had to change.
Now for a little background. I was born into and Baptized into a Catholic family, though I say Catholic in the loosest of terms. My family went to church weekly and I attended a Catholic grade school, but ultimately I never prayed or even thought much about God outside those terms. I liked church, quite a lot, and frankly I still do. I like looking at all the beautiful statues, stained glass windows, and other decorations in the church. The worship music is still my absolute favorite part of it, especially when the organist is part of the music team.
Throughout my upbringing I was always taught to look at things critically, science was always encouraged, and that led me to think about the world very objectively. I always believed in evolution (though Catholics do support this), was a liberal in terms of social aspects of society, and was never ever concerned about evangelizing. Basically, I was a “lukewarm” Christian at very best until I hit 30 and then something happened that caused me to seek out a greater faith.
In 2010 I had suffered a miscarriage and it devastated me. This was right around Christmas time and I remember praying at mass for God to bless me with a baby if he saw fit. Fast forward a few weeks later and I was pregnant again with my daughter. This delighted me and pushed me towards being more devout in my faith because I felt God had his Hand in this, so I started attending church weekly and praying daily to show my thanks to God.
I was so happy to have my daughter and 17 months after she was born, a son, and I was just so grateful to God for all of it. In this time I had started attending a Presbyterian church (PCA) because I had liked the sermons, still continued with the Catholic church because I felt most close to God there, and also started attending a Bible study. Now, I had never studied the Bible outside of Sunday mornings, so this was very new to me. The study is heavily influenced by Baptist doctrine, though I’m not sure what flavor of Baptist, regardless they believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and once saved always saved.
My first year in the study I noticed a few doctrinal difference between the Catholic and Protestant churches, but ultimately I sided Catholic because I had grown up with them. The cognitive dissonance wasn’t that great at the time. By the time the 2nd year had rolled around I started looking deeper into Catholic history, beliefs, and stumbled upon the Catholic Catechisms and was horrified.
Reading the Catechisms sent my anxiety through the roof cause of what sins would send you to hell, basically any “mortal sin” which was defined as breaking one of the 10 Commandments (the first set, not the 2nd in Exodus) and a few others mentioned in the Pauline Epistles. In order for you to avoid that fate you had to go to confession and so I did, which made me more anxious because I’m an introvert and loathe speaking to people when I don’t have to. I spent my days making sure I didn’t sin, checking especially to make sure it wasn’t mortal, and now I was truly worried for my whole family and their fate after death.
This led me to study the Bible even further to see if this was even a concept in it and the verse that the Catholics use to show this is true says nothing about priests, just that you are to confess your sins to others. I spent the next several months praying and hoping God would reveal to me a sign, any sign, that the Catholics have it wrong and that if the PCA church I was attending is the better choice. After months of silence, I made the leap to switch. My cognitive dissonance had settled and I had found trust in God that he would help my family make it to Heaven….at least for the time being.
My 3rd year of Bible study was the book of Revelation. I honestly didn’t want to attend this one cause I very much dislike the use of imagery when trying to convey something concrete and true. My leader always quoted the “Bible is equally true, but not equally clear”. Cognitive dissonance at its finest! Through the first 2/3 of the book I was happy I decided not to skip it, but then cue in Ch. 14 and the winepress combined with a fire and brimstone substitute speaker and I was sent into a full blown panic attack. Sermons like that didn’t happen in Catholic churches, that’s for sure! I spent the next month physically ill with panic and the worst thoughts I ever had entered my head.
I was so worried for my husband, who pretty much a free thinker but he doesn’t label himself anything, my children because they would be influenced by him and his worldly views, and the whole rest of my family who are very liberal Catholics. I thought about running away with the kids so I could just expose them to biblical teachings. I was regretting having them, and by this time my 2nd daughter was born, because if I didn’t give birth to them they would never had the chance of going to hell. Other thoughts like those who are having abortions are saving babies from the chance of going to hell too. At least those who had the abortions could repent if they wanted. All the while in the back of my mind I didn’t want to do any of that and that I KNEW THOSE THOUGHTS WERE CRAZY.
This is what led me to this site and most especially the testimonials section. Reading your stories, looking up your references on the history of the canonization, mistranslations, forgeries, and everything came tumbling down. Now I’m not sure where I stand on God, maybe agnostic, maybe deist, but I would rather not label myself regardless.
Through this awful experience I was able to see that my underlying anxiety was a source of my decision making. It wasn’t only Christianity that had given me severe anxiety, but a variety of events and situations over the years. Medication and therapy have helped immensely and it’s something I should have started back in high school. At this point all I need is tools I have gained for positive thoughts to help through any anxiety provoking situations. I’m enjoying my life right now and although I do have some “what ifs” thoughts in my head, for the most part I know that’s all that is, in my head.