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sparrow

Convince me about Jesus

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sparrow

Please forgive the grammatically suspect title and contents of this post. There was once a time when I could write well, but those abilities seem to have evaporated over the years. I’m also not especially smart or informed and may fuck this up by being clumsy or in want of a refresher course in political correctness. If I offend anyone, I apologize.  My intentions are genuine. I promise I’m not a troll. And if this belongs on a different board, or has already been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere, please point me in the right direction and I’ll be on my way.

I want to go to a church. But the trouble is I dont believe in Jesus.

I believe he existed and that he was an amazing person who had all sorts of wonderful things to teach people about life. But I don’t think I believe he did all the magic stuff. I don’t believe he was the son of God any more than the next person. I don’t believe he is God or part-God, or that he literally rose or that he’s literally alive or that he’s literally coming back. I don’t understand the idea that he had to die to make up for our sins. That exchange makes no sense to me and my understanding of God. I do t understand why I’m supposed to pray to Jesus and not God. I don’t believe that Jesus is the gatekeeper to heaven or that those who believe in him have a monopoly on anything. The idea of worship makes me terribly uncomfortable.

The rational observer may wonder then why I care about going to church, since Jesus is kind of the whole point of church.

A little background is probably necessary at this point. 

My mother was a lapsed Catholic who sent me to CCD and told me to say my prayers. My father was an atheist. Both very antisocial. I’m an only child. We only went to Catholic Church a handful of times. Currently live in a rural-ish area that lacks access to much cultural diversity. A Unitarian Universalist Church, while perhaps the most aligned with my beliefs, is not nearby, nor what I’m really hungering for. What I have access to, and what I’m hungering for, is one of the “regular” “mainstream” Christian churches. 

I don’t know WHY I’m hungering to be a part of one of these mainstream churches. But I’ve had this feeling since I was probably in middle school, and it hasn’t gone away. The best way I can describe it is that I want to believe so that I can be one of those people. But so far, I just don’t believe. And it makes me sad.

I know it’s possible to attend a church and not believe. But I would feel like a fraud. I actually want to believe.

I’m wondering if it’s possible to be served the kool aid in such a way that it takes. Maybe I’ve only had bad-tasting kool aid. Maybe I just haven’t tried the right flavor. Or the right preparation. I just dont want to feel like an outsider to Jesus’s religious club anymore.

 

 

Edited by sparrow
Riffles

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singsingsing

So here's the thing: belief isn't really a choice. You can't force yourself to believe something that you don't. Trust me, I tried. I was basically just like you. I believed that Jesus existed (I don't even believe that anymore, haha), but not that he was God or anything like that. But I wanted to go to church and I desperately wanted to believe, and I tried and tried and tried as hard as I could to believe for years. There were times I thought I believed, but it never actually took. I attended church faithfully, I tried out different theologies/denominations, read all the apologetics, prayed, read the Bible, just pretended to believe to see if it would eventually get me there - nope.

My recommendation would be to do all those things, but also balance it out by seeking out atheist/agnostic/non-Christian arguments on the other side. If you go to church, pray, read Christian apologetics and so on, you might get yourself to the point where you're convinced, but what's going to happen when you suddenly come across a really compelling atheist argument against Christianity, for example? If you look at a good balance of arguments in favour of Christianity vs. arguments against, you'll end up with a much more solid foundation, regardless of what conclusion you come to.

I know you said you'd feel like a fraud by attending church without believing, and that's totally reasonable. But there are lots and lots of people who attend church without believing, especially in more liberal mainstream protestant churches. Hell, there are even some pastors who are agnostic or atheist. Look up John Shelby Spong, he's an episcopalian minister who I believe is either agnostic or atheist (he definitely doesn't believe in any of the supernatural elements of Christianity, anyway). I'd also recommend the book Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue. 

I've been where you are now, and I know what's it's like to so desperately want to believe. Honestly, I still have those feelings. I miss the community and the other good things I enjoyed about church. I've toyed with the idea of finding a liberal church to start going to again, or even going to the Baptist church down the street from me despite it being completely misaligned with my beliefs (or lack thereof). Humans are social creatures, and unfortunately much of our sense of community is rapidly disappearing and we haven't really come up with a good substitute for churches yet. 

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nolongerIFBx

Singsingsing has given good thoughts.

I am a believer but I was raised in church so I freely admit that believing was easy for me. While I have stepped away from a lot of the rules that I was taught, my belief is part of my identity. But if I decided that I wanted to be Hindu instead, I would have trouble believing in the deities (although I do find a lot that speaks to me in their teachings).

If you do want to seek to believe, I would start with John in the New Testament. Find a version that works for you (which is probably not going to be the KJ version unless you really enjoy Old English). My pastor teaches (at colleges with some level of accreditation) Biblical languages and his preference is the NASB. I like the ESV but am currently reading The Message, which isn't strictly a translation, but it is easy to read. After John, check out the other gospels. You could also look into Lee Strobel's books. He is an educated man and someone who came to his faith as an adult. Also David Limbaugh's “Jesus On Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel”-- yes, he's related to "that" Limbaugh, but also a Mizzou Law grad (yay!) and came to faith as an adult.

I know that many of my acquaintances who are not comfortable in mainstream churches do really enjoy the community of the Unitarian Universalist Church so I am sorry that there isn't one convenient to you. I've found that my friends who are Episcopalian churches are usually the most liberal so that could be a mainstream church that might be right for you.

I hope you find somewhere where you don't feel like an outsider. We're ALL still learning, none of us "do" Christianity perfectly, it isn't something where you think, "I've arrived, I have attained Christianity." It is a relationship journey that lasts your entire life. 

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keen23

Perhaps you should look into Judaism? Just saying, if the Jesus part of the religion is what you're stuck on, remove it from the equation and look outside Christianity.

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justoneoftwo
1 hour ago, keen23 said:

Perhaps you should look into Judaism? Just saying, if the Jesus part of the religion is what you're stuck on, remove it from the equation and look outside Christianity.

This exactly.  Look into religions that are not Christianity.  Judaism is a good option, but there are others.  Try them and see what fits for you.  

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Pecansforeveryone

Also remember religion and religious belief is heavily determined by your surrounding culture. If you had been raised in Idonesia, you would be asking us to prove to you that Allah is God alone and Muhammad was his prophet. If you had been raised in India, you would be asking us to prove to you that Krishna and Shiva are truly divine and why karma and reincarnation are real. Humanity has pondered the existence of the Divine since the beginning of time. I see the burden of proof being on an almighty deity to reveal themselves and any incarnations of themselves to you in an undeniable, indisputable way. I hope you find a community that works for you. 

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molecule

I struggled with some of these things for many years. Although I now believe all that woo-woo stuff about Jesus, miracles, dying for my sins, etc., I still pray to God, not to Jesus.

You mention several things you don't believe. May I suggest you begin by embracing what you DO believe?

Years ago, I recognized that I truly believe there is God, even though I couldn't explain what it who God was. My journey with Jesus also started with what I believed--that he was a good man who understood God. He used his life to teach us what it means to love people--even to the point of dying. I didn't get the whole thing about sin, but I knew I could believe that Jesus was the best possible example of being human. His example taught me to be a better person. In that way, he saved me from my baser nature.

Embracing what I believed meant that I tried to figure out how to live those beliefs. I believed Jesus was just a good guy who set an example--and that meant I had to try to apply his lessons in my own life. I tried to do my utmost with the beliefs I did have.

You say that you believe in God and that you believe Jesus was a good person. You also believe that there is something worth searching for--so do that. Many churches are seeker-friendly. It is okay to show up and be in the presence of God while you continue to figure out what you believe. Experience what it means to be part of a community centered around God.

Much of my own journey involved going through the motions while having a ton of doubt. With time, I accumulated countless conversations about how others live their faith. I witnessed examples of faith in action. I surrounded myself by people of great faith. Somehow, I absorbed some of it.

I felt like a fraud all the time. Sometimes, I still do--and I am involved in ministry! Others seem to pray better, have a good grasp of theology, know the right answer, etc. I feel like I have no business doing the ministry I do. But then, I remember to embrace what I believe and do it fully. When I do that, my fraudulent feelings evaporate.

So, I'm not going to try to convince you about Jesus. What I will say is to start with the beliefs you have, live them to your utmost, and attend a church where you will have a chance to interact with others as they live out their faith.

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singsingsing

I'd highly recommend avoiding Lee Strobel's books (which I have read), or any author who's presenting an extremely biased, one-sided argument in an attempt to convert you rather than to actually examine the facts. Or at the very least, if you're going to read heavily biased stuff like Strobel, you'll want to even it out by reading heavily biased works by atheists and by apologists for other religions, and of course try to find less biased, more honest and academic sources as well.

I was going to add the caveat 'unless you're okay with basically tricking yourself into believing something' - but I can tell you from personal experience, that will not work long-term even if you are. If you're questioning like this now, you may be able to fool yourself for months or years, but eventually you will question it all again, and if the foundation is that shaky it might just all come crashing down.

Oh, and I can tell you from personal experience as well that the desire to be 'part of the Jesus club' is indeed very powerful. It's an exciting feeling, like you're in the know, part of the in group, one of the chosen ones. But it can also be a very lonely feeling if you have even an inkling in the back of your mind that you've fooled yourself into it. That you're not really a 'true believer'. That you seem to think things and think in ways that the other Jesus club members just don't. That you can never really seem to grasp faith like they do. Etc. Etc. Sometimes being in the Jesus club can feel lonelier and more anxious than being outside of it.

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Pecansforeveryone

Please feel free to explore religious beliefs and communities, both past and present. I feel more connected to humanity when I realize the journey of searching for "truth, understanding, and enlightenment we are on." You can Google why Jew' s don't believe in Jesus. There are plenty of reasons why the Jewish people didn't believe Jesus was the Messiah. You can practice rites and rituals without belief. You can pray and meditate all you want. Meditation is comforting for many people of diverse beliefs. 

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elliha

I was very much in your position and I am now a more traditional Christian but this was a process of years. I do however believed that because I opened up myself to the possibility of there being a truth to the Christian message I did find my way into it too. I don't belong to the perfect church or congreation but it corresponds with some of the important points on my list and I have a place there. I do dream of taking the step to become a minister in my church at some point but for the time being I am a church warden and I will probably soon start taking a bit of extra classes and such about the church. 

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Daisy0322

Im not sure this is very insightful but... I enjoy going to church. I've noticed when I go my life tends to be more positive and I tend to be happier overall. That's enough for me. Did the magical stuff happen? Maybe, maybe not. I don't take it all literally. I didn't grow up in a religious family ... or a happy family. But I used god as someone I could talk to when I had no one else. I think that feeling of not feeling alone or like you've been heard is where my believing comes from. That and something inside me has always been drawn to church. I think people can turn religion into fire and brimstone but in the stories Jesus was kind, he was forgiving, and he looked out for the "little guy". I think that is what we should take away from it and use it as an example. There was once a study on Jesus from a non religious point of view that I think sums everything up. Jesus and his entourage would roll into new towns and he would set out a meal in the middle of the most populated area. The kings and high up "important people" would think it was for them but he would turn them away. He would invite the tax collectors and the prostitutes to sit with him for this meal. Why them? That's many peoples question. The tax collectors were frequently described as bad guys trying to wrangle money from people but in reality often that was the only job they could get. These men had deformities, were mentally disabled, or otherwise shunned.  The postitutes were often young girls (10, 12, 13 years old) who had been sold into Slavory by thier family (who couldn't afford to care for them) and they were treated so horribly that they weren't expected to live past 18 or 19.  Jesus wouldn't tell them to repent he never questioned thier life he simply said "The kingdom of heaven is yours my child" because he knew these were society's rejects and cast offs. He knew they had no options no quality of life and no prospects. They all would die soon and they all were shunned yet he welcomed them when no one else would. I like using that as my guide for treating every person like a human being with real feelings and life inside them. That's good enough for me. Just that there was someone willing to do this magic or not that's a good person and a role model in my mind. 

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Daisy0322

@feministxtian  do you have any thoughts on this? I remember you speaking about your personal faith before. (I hope you don't mind me tagging you)

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feministxtian

My beliefs are in many ways an oxymoron. I consider myself a fundamentalist Christian, attending an IFB church. BUT...I avoid the bastardization of Rethugican politics and Christianity. My political beliefs are formed from my religious beliefs. Matthew 25:31-46 is the base of what I believe along with Micah 6:8 and James 1:27. 

I was raised "cultural Catholic" in the immediate post Vatican 2 era, 12 years of Catholic schools and emerged basically an atheist. After my kids were born, I started feeling a pull to raise them in some sort of faith tradition and well...back to the RCC I went. I went head first into it. But it was hollow for me. It felt more like ticking off the boxes to earn my way into God's good graces. The horrid divorce didn't help either. Anyway, after I moved back to my hometown, I ran into an old friend who was attending this sort of hippy-dippy start up church. I started going and came to realize a few things...mostly that it didn't matter how much I tried to gain God's favor, it didn't work that way. The hubs was NOT pleased. Seriously not pleased. So...even though I believed, I didn't do much about my faith and slowly drifted away again. 

Then came, as I like to call it, "the great awakening". Mr Xtian screwed up real bad and woke up in a jail cell having no clue what he did to get there. He was locked up for almost a month (I refused to bail him out) and was forced to face himself. THAT was when HE decided that maybe there was something about this God thing. So, since I no longer felt I had to hide my faith, it made it easier to fan the flames again. When we moved here to LV, we bounced around a couple of "mega-churches" but none of them felt like HOME. So, we were home watching TV one night (back in the days when we were too broke to pay attention) and we saw this church on TV that had done this huge Christian outreach. The name of it was the same as a church in VA that my son had gotten involved in due to some of his friends (youth group and stuff). He decided he wanted us to check it out. So, that's where he finally dropped his bullshit and dedicated his life to Christ. We were both baptized not long afterwards. 

For me, my faith is part of pretty much everything. I definitely ain't perfect and I have absolutely no right to tell someone else they're fucking up. That whole "judge not..." spiel the fundies use is utterly misinterpreted. The real meaning of it is to not judge someone else's salvation or lack thereof because only God sees the heart (unless it's DJT and crew). My faith is the reason I reach out to folks who are also going through shit. My faith is the reason I get so goddamn pissed at the self-righteous, legalistic fundies (Lori A, JillRod, etc) for twisting the message of love and grace and redemption that Jesus taught. 

I'm not necessarily 100% on board with what all the church believes (political bullshit, "pro-life") but I feel safe and secure and loved there. It's a multi-cultural, multi-racial congregation of about 1000 people...not too big, not to small and our pastor actually knows our names. For an IFB church, it's rather liberal...pants are cool on women, working women are cool, heavy duty patriarchal shit is NOT cool (and Pastor Dave will tell you that in a minute). It's a restful place that brings peace to my soul. 

for more info... experienceliberty dot com. 

tl:dr..my faith, my relationship with my Savior is pretty much the only thing that keeps me going

PS...if you want to talk more in depth, feel free to DM me. 

Edited by feministxtian

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feministxtian

Part 2...yes, my church is KJV only...and that's fine with me. I know it's not a great translation and I prefer NIV/NASB for serious study but I love the language in the KJV and somehow it makes it easier for me to memorize passages of scripture. Beyond that, I'm on board with the rest of the core beliefs. 

I do believe that John 1 is literal truth regarding God and Jesus (In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...). I do believe He did what was written about him. Why? Most of the NT was written while there were still people alive who witnessed Jesus' miracles. They witnessed the empty tomb. If the apostles were lying, it would be so easy for someone to point out "hey...it didn't happen that way...". BUT, instead this itinerant preacher, the Son of God in the flesh, made enough of an impact on his culture/society that people were willing to be essentially thrown out of their community for believing He was the Messiah. 

This is something I pondered long and hard...IF the tomb was not empty on Easter Sunday morning, why did the soldiers lie and say "uhhh...someone stole the body"? If the body of Jesus was still in the tomb, well...the soldiers wouldn't have been beheaded. 

Feel free to bombard me with questions. I ain't askeered...

A couple of books I can recommend 

https://www.amazon.com/Grasping-Gods-Word-Hands-Interpreting-ebook/dp/B006BJECNK/ref=pd_cp_351_4?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B006BJECNK&pd_rd_r=3d4049be-af39-11e8-8742-1712fd196554&pd_rd_w=1YRhU&pd_rd_wg=yTQP6&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=ef4dc990-a9ca-4945-ae0b-f8d549198ed6&pf_rd_r=J2P8DF7V5WP8SDE0HTG3&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=J2P8DF7V5WP8SDE0HTG3

https://www.amazon.com/NIV-Story-eBook-Continuing-People-ebook/dp/B004OR18FG/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1535952190&sr=1-2&keywords=The+Story

https://www.christianbook.com/niv-question-answer-imitation-leather-brown/9780310941514/pd/941514?event=Bibles|1002749

And yes I've read Dawkins and Hitchens and a variety of other authors too. My faith is not blind. 

 

Edited by feministxtian

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AliceInFundyland

You can’t force religion. What everyone else said is correct. 

I suppose I fall in the not damaged by religion so what do i believe camp?

Well. Secular/cultural/ethinic Jew but atheist Dad plus Mom raised in Unity church. Unity is very similar to the Unitarians, but not. Metaphysical Christians is how they describe themselves. Not big on Jesus.  

And now I find myself...identifying with a higher power, who I call God. And I have a very strong connection to Judaism.

But worship? It’s tricky. I never did it. I long for it at times. The sense of community. The shared experience. The ritual. Especially when I was younger and in the Midwest.

I think about Jesus like “ he was probably a very good man who did good things.” I don’t think I can take it farther without the ‘ahem’ “divine revelation.” And you know, I don’t discount that. But waiting for it is not going to work if you want to kickstart the spiritual growth.

I hope that was a bit helpful. Just wanted to relate.

Also, I’m tagging @nausicaa - Aren’t you going to an mainstream church that’s fairly liberal right now? I thought you might have input here. (hope it’s ok)

Edited by AliceInFundyland

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nausicaa
11 hours ago, AliceInFundyland said:

Also, I’m tagging @nausicaa - Aren’t you going to an mainstream church that’s fairly liberal right now? I thought you might have input here. (hope it’s ok)

Yep! I am active at an Episcopal church but still consider myself an agnostic. I pray, go to church, and practice a lot of the liturgical calendar traditions because I find them soothing. I also love history and think it's interesting to reflect on how many people have done these things over the years and why these traditions developed (agnostic answer: because they are soothing and bring humans a sense of tradition, purpose, and community). From the people I've talked to at my church, a lot seem to be like me. 

To the OP: As others have said, you can't force yourself to believe. I'm not sure I will ever believe the way others do, no matter how many times I fast and wear black on Good Friday or pray the St. Andrew's novena over Advent. 

If you want to go to church because of you enjoy it and want the sense of community, I completely understand and don't think it's superficial or hypocritical. There's a reason so many people went to church in the 50s-- churches met the social, welfare, and psychological needs of communities. I'd recommend checking out an Episcopalian church, assuming it's not one of the few  conservative ones left. The liturgy will likely be fairly traditional and similar to a Catholic mass. You might also check out an ECLA Lutheran church if there is one close to you that's a better fit. 

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danvillebelle

Not necessarily related but this thread is the best place to put it...

Reading Zealot by Reza Aslan and The Islamic Jesus by Mustafa Akyol has kinda rocked my world lately.  

The super-quick upshot being...if the Romans had not sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD thereby wiping out the Jerusalem church (headed by James)...things could have (and would have IMO) turned out QUITE differently.  The older I get the more I start to think that Christianity as we know it is solely Pauline.  

Obviously as a professed Orthodox Christian, that kinda throws a monkey wrench into things.  I'm working it out and taking my time.  

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Pecansforeveryone

Christianity was recognized and imposed by the Emperor Constantine in 373 AD (or so) as the official religion of the Roman Empire. This was absolutely pivotal in Christianity becoming a major world religion. Prior to that, Christianity was considered a small, oddball sect of Judaism with maybe 5,000 followers. Please bear in mind a lot of Christian doctrines were put to popular votes with the doctrines of St. Augustine winning the popularity contest. Christianity is where it is today largely due to Constantine and Augustine, and as @danvillebelle pointed out is largely Paulinian in nature.

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SilverBeach

I don't think anybody should try to convince anyone about Jesus.  Matters of faith are personal. Institutional Christianity has little to do with Christ, and instead is centered on Paulist bible idolatry (I know Catholics don't practice sola scriptura, but the Pope is not Christ). If it works for you and isn't harming anyone else, believe whatever you want to.

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