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Blamed for Curiosity

one too many questions
Graphic by David Hayward

Guest Post by Melody

A few days ago, I found myself commenting on Patheos, a part of which I will repeat here. It was about how God chose people — Judas, Jesus, etc. to play the role already laid out for them. Ultimately this makes free will more or less non-existent. The concept of free will combined with God’s complete foresight and knowledge often had puzzled me as a Christian.

If God already knew who would become his children and who wouldn’t, free choice didn’t really exist. Except God (and everyone else) said it did. I never could make sense of it and I so wanted to understand — that’s just how I’m wired — because I loved God and took it very seriously.

And then I wrote the following: “That’s one of the things that hurts, by the way, because questioning children and adults are seen as rebellious or irritating, whereas the questions came from a deep longing to understand and not from a negative or rebellious place at all. It did, however, ultimately show me that there weren’t any good answers to my questions.”

So I thought perhaps I should let it all out and rant for a while about this. I had questions, loads of them, as a child, teen, and adult. I had and still have a thirst for knowledge and I always assumed this to be a good thing. You should use your mind, shouldn’t you? Your reasoning, your God-given gifts?

Perhaps not….

Therefore, it can hurt a lot when people — parents, teachers or preachers — assume you are just being irritating and annoying for the sake of it; that you’re putting your finger on something to challenge their authority or to make them feel stupid, when all you are doing is trying to really understand and you are very seriously trying to find the truth — stubbornly so.

It doesn’t make for pleasant conversation, that’s for sure.

It does make for confused believers, however. Over the years, I learned that some questions were not allowed, that they were seen as challenging God himself, that I wasn’t supposed to ask them. In the end, I self-censored my questions and stopped myself from asking them out loud. It didn’t meant they had left me though. They had just gone underground.

It also made me disappointed. These authorities were supposed to have the answers and help us, the believers, in finding them. If God had all the answers, shouldn’t his representatives be able to answer? And if neither God, nor his representatives, provided one with any answers, is it really such a surprise people ultimately leave their faith?

You’d think they would at least understand that!

It has taught me that there are different kinds of believers — that some of them are okay with not knowing, with accepting all the unknowns about God; that not knowing doesn’t bother them in the least. That, presumably, they get a lot of other things out of their faith: community, a sense of belonging, meaning etc.

But that there are also believers who do long to know — quite desperately, even. They find their way to God through knowledge and if that method fails, will begin to look at faith and religion differently.

They become the kind of believers who then become what they have been accused of for ages already: rebellious and skeptical.

How were your doubts addressed by (church) authorities or family? Did you feel falsely accused of being rebellious or irritating when asking uncomfortable but honest questions?

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  1. Avatar
    Gene Stephens

    This article is more timely than you realize. Just today, a web site talking about “Christian marriage” from the wife’s standpoint published this article:

    This is a woman whose husband was an evangelical when they married. Two years later, however, the husband started asking the wrong questions. In his wife’s eyes, he is now an unbeliever. And what was her response?

    “He [her husband] was a believer when we were married, but during our second year of marriage he confided in me that he had been doubtful of his faith for the past six months. I was shocked. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or think or move. I didn’t know who this person was. I imagine feeling the same way if he had told me he was having an affair.
    Feelings of betrayal, deceit, and hopelessness flooded in. Those were the worst moments of my life. I went into our bathroom and cried and prayed.”

    Is this lady claiming to be this devastated simply because she wants to look godly? Or is she so brainwashed by evangelicalism that she actually views asking questions as on a level with having an affair?

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      I suspect it’s the latter. Asking questions is verboten. Evil. Supporting Satan. I grew up Catholic; I remember starting to question as a high-schooler, and getting horribly shot down at home. (I knew better than to ask the nuns at school.) The reaction to my questioning made me question more. Eventually I tossed religion, all of it, out the window (though that took awhile).

      Asking questions is worse, far worse, than having an affair. The bible is really loose about how many people a guy can legitimately screw around with; wife (wives), servants, slaves, whatever. Women doing that is unacceptable, but so goes a religion mostly invented by guys. Affairs are no big deal. Questioning? Absolute evil.

      • Avatar

        I was aghast at the dear lady’s worry that God might intervene in their lives so as to cause harm to her and her unborn baby, with the intention of teaching the husband a lesson.

        Really! God, knowing the husband has doubts, decides to give him a good kicking, though without leaving evidence it was god delivering the kicking! How low can these people sink intellectually? It just shows yet again the extent to which excessive religious fervour stifles so many of the very things it means to be human.

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          How low can these people sink intellectually?

          Because intellect poisoned with religion serves first a religious emotional need (prn) my guess would be that the low is somewhere the sun don’t shine…

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          “I was aghast at the dear lady’s worry that God might intervene in their lives so as to cause harm to her and her unborn baby, with the intention of teaching the husband a lesson.”

          Yes, me too, though I’ve thought things like that myself sometimes. In the Bible this kind of stuff happens all the time: David and Bathsheba’s first child dies, is punished for it’s parents sins and then God is being mercifull by giving another child. Same with Job where his kids and livestock get replaced eventually. (Like they can be easily replaced…)

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        “Asking questions is worse, far worse, than having an affair.”

        Yes, and how weird is that?! I think it has to do with an affair being a sin that can be ‘easily’ forgiven and swept under the carpet. But when you start asking questions you rock people’s faith to the core, and in some way become a kind of enemy, especially if you leave (their) church / faith all together.

    • Avatar

      Just looked at the article. She does go on to say she will keep loving him.

      But what I find sad is that Christians told her that God would strike their family with a tragedy to wake him up to his need for God (she thought God would kill her unborn child).

      So when we have questions that lead to doubt God prefers to give no answers but rather mess our lives up. Yeah that will help us understand x or y problem. Why not just give us an answer. Isn’t that what a father would do….

      • Avatar

        It basically treats God like an invisible Mafia boss who will hurt you if you get out of line, and people are so brainwashed they don’t rebel against this kind of intellectual dictatorship, but just react with fear instead.

        If the wiseguys burn down your place of business because you stopped paying them “protection”, it’s YOUR fault for trying to do things your own way. That’s basically what it boils down to.

    • Avatar
      J.D. Matthews

      OK, that article near about made blood shoot out of my eyes. And the comments, sweet fucking shitballs… The first one is actually ANGRY at her husband, and has been for years, and she lets their “friends” and her family treat him like shit, without defending him in the slightest.

      Most of these men would be better off if their wives had actually divorced them.

  2. Avatar

    Melody, your words here are an almost perfect description of my experiences as well. The simple asking of a question is threatening to many. My questions resulted in expulsion from the Christianity of my youth.

    Looking back, I still question whether or not that is a good thing or a stroke of luck. It is what it is.

    You are correct about there being “different kinds of believers.” I fall into that category. You say, “presumably, they get a lot of other things out of their faith: community, a sense of belonging, meaning etc.” I am part of the “etc.” you mention.

    My questions have placed me firmly outside the camp, with the rest of the unwashed and unclean. “Rebellious and skeptical” are some of the nicer things I’ve been called.

    How were your doubts addressed by (church) authorities or family? Did you feel falsely accused of being rebellious or irritating when asking uncomfortable but honest questions?

    Grandfatherly and uncle-ish types I had known since from childhood simply disowned me. Others dismissed and disregarded me like a plant on the table. The “authorities” called me out in public and during sermons–not specifically me, mind you, but the implications were obvious. Mostly just shunning and aloofness. I found myself and my family, alone.

    Except, we’re not alone. You, me, all of us here on the blog, people all over the country have had the same things happen. All for asking questions or daring to think for ourselves.

    I don’t know about you, but I think that puts us in pretty good company. (That is one of the reasons I remain a “type of believer.”)


    • Avatar

      Thanks! I’ve learned that faith can be many things to many people and that for me it was both emotional but also very much rational. And so the questions eventually got in the way of staying a believer. If faith is about trusting God, then my questions (without answers) caused me to stop trusting God and his truths and my faith sort of crumbled away in the wake of that.

      The way (strict) Christians deal with doubts and questions is very unhelpful to say the least, and downright hostile most of the time. I think because it is quite fragile and that’s why there’s not a more relaxed way of simply adressing them. I’m sorry to hear you and your family were treated like that. Shunning seems the answer to a lot of things, doesn’t it? Just disregard whomever disagrees with you…

      I’m glad for this blog and community where you are allowed to ask questions and be who you are. It’s not about what you believe but about being able to express yourself and your ideas. And it’s good to share experiences with others and feel less alone that way.

  3. Avatar

    Great post Melody. When I called myself a Christian I struggled to understand the explanations for ‘God’ hardening the heart of some people.

    I never once found a satisfactory explanation of the ‘Holy Mystery’ of how ‘God’ selected some for salvation before the foundation of the earth, yet still allowed freewill. If salvation was entirely “God’s” doing and could only happen if one was ‘drawn by the Spirit’ and further if that drawing was irresistable then clearly freewill does not exist in regard to ‘salvation’.

    Post faith I now see that these conflicts just show that the human frailty of the Scriptures rather than any divine inspiration.

    On my way out of faith I posed questions to some internet Christians, but their hostile reactions and their failure to seriously address my questions just confirmed my path out of faith.

    • Avatar

      Thanks! The two things don’t match: either God does it or people do, but not both at the same time. Hardening someone’s heart also takes away free will. I was always told that God only did that after some time had passed and that person showed they wouldn’t change. But that doesn’t match the 70 x 70 forgiveness of God.

      I often wondered about Christians that have the Spirit indwelling doing pretty bad things sometimes: how could they if God lived in their hearts? The percentages for all sorts of things: crimes, divorce, adultery are not different for Christians, whereas they should according to the faith. Now it makes much more sense why there is so little, if any, difference. We’re all humans after all.

      For me, eventually it was also looking up atheist arguments, a little apprehensively, and finding I couldn’t disagree with them anymore. Finding myself agreeing with them half of the time and wondering if I still could and wanted to believe. It was like seeing my own doubts and questions written in black and white and being confronted with even more discrepancies than I had thought of on my own.

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    I don’t know if the not being able to ask questions is the worst part or the insistence that christianity is true, and makes sense. Wouldn’t it be nice if they just came out and said it doesn’t make sense instead of making apologetics, and claiming to be interested in the truth while simultaneously demonizing people for asking obvious questions? Why can’t they just say “we have no interest in knowing the truth” or that truth doesn’t mean factual, truth is doing whatever someone who is threatening to tourture you says?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I have often argued that Christian belief is a faith proposition. Either you believe or you don’t. When apologists try to ” defend” their beliefs, they often make a mockery of Christianity. A good example of this is young earth creationists who try to defend their faith beliefs against overwhelming scientific evidence that contradicts creationism. They end up making not only themselves, but also their religion, look foolish.

      As science continues to push the boundaries of human knowledge, Evangelical Christians are forced to choose: rational, scientific facts or absurd, outdated theological beliefs. Many Evangelicals privately choose the former while publicly parroting the latter.

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Bruce Gerencser