Choosing a denomination

I apologize if this is not in the right place, but considering my question, it seemed to be appropriate. I have been an atheist my whole life, but recently, for personal reasons, I have come to the belief that there is in fact some sort of ‘god’, although I am unsure as to the nature of said entity. Anyway, I feel that the Christian faith, as much as I have loathed it throughout the years (I have lost almost all respect for Christianity, mainly due to the fact that if you really balance it out, religion has done almost no good, and only hindered science, social, and philosophical development.), has some merit above other faiths that I have looked at. I have read the Tao te Ching, the Koran, and a few other scattered essays and papers pertaining to religion, but something is different about Christianity - or specifically, catholicism. Every non Buddhist person that I have met in my life has treated me as if I was some terrible person, just because I believed there was no god. Although I would hardly call them Christian, considering Christ’s teachings, throughout the entirety of elementary, middle, and high school I have been told that I am going to burn in hell no matter what, over and over. And you can imagine how that would just fuel my belief that Christianity is a horrible and worthless belief, if all of the people I have met treated me in this manner. In fact, even adults have treated me in this manner. I was in the Boy Scouts for some ten years (including cub scouts), and yet I was barred from attaining the eagle scout rank because of my beliefs.

The exception to this has been catholicism. I met my best friend, noel, in sixth grade. He, and his family, are all catholic. Now, he had been home schooled prior to this, so as you can imagine he was rather socially awkward. I am a rather tactless and abrasive person, and I treated rather poorly. But even knowing that I was atheist, and that I had treated him in this manner, he still said ‘hi, Ian’ every morning, and never once berated me for my beliefs. This sort of surprised me, so I gave him a chance, and since then I have become very close friends with him and his family. Not once, in all the years that I have known them, have they ever berated me, or said anything negative about me, because of my beliefs. This is what I feel sets catholicism apart, and what surprised me the most. It had been my impression that catholicism was one of the strictest denominations, and thereby the least accepting. I am very impatient with people, their patience and acceptance of me is something that I greatly admire. How can they find the wherewithal to deal with me every day- to accept someone so radically different into their family? I want to convert to catholicism, but I demand substance out of things, and I want to truly believe rather than just saying that I do. Why are you catholic, as opposed to any other denomination? Can you help me sort this out in my head? People always talk about how they can feel god, but all I feel is a terrible loneliness, a vast nothingness greater than any abyss that is able to be comprehended by the human intellect. It is overwhelming, and I don’t understand why I am being singled out. I am struggling to find the words to express this… I consider myself a pretty logical person, but this is the most crushing emotion I have ever experienced, and I struggle on a daily basis not to crumble. I don’t know what to do…

First let me say thank you for comming here in your search for truth.

I am a Catholic because if one is to accept Christianity, it is the one that makes the most sense. It has clearly laid out beliefs so that all within the Church can be of one faith, protestant churches the range of tolerated beleifs are very wide. It is the only Church that historically can show that it is the same Church founded by Christ( The Orthodox can be pretty convincing, but theirs simply do not square with the role that Rome had in the early church, as clearly shown by the epistles of St. Clement).

You mentioned above that you feel religion has done only negative things in the field of science and such. Catholicism though has given us a wide range of acheivements in many fields. Natural selection was shown by a Catholic augustinian canon, proof that the sun was the center of the solar system was shown by Copernicus( and a little known fact is that the Papal astronomers during the Renaissance beleived this as well, Galileo was punished for demanding the Bible be rewritten to fit his heliocentric model), the Church pioneered the first hospitals, the university system used accross the whole world, had countless philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Augustine, and others. The Church was at the forefront to end racial discrimination against Blacks in the 60s and speaks out regularly against social injustice.

I am not sure if I really answered your question, for me the second paragraph there is not really a reason for being Catholic, but it does at least answer some of your concerns or at least I hope.

You did answer some of my questions. Perhaps the combined effort of multiple individuals’ responses can finish it. I apologize if it was poorly written, I had lost my composure at the time, and have since regained it. The english language alone is not suited for this kind of thing, at least without face to face conversation. Thank you very much for your prompt response.

The first piece of advise I would give to you is to begin to pray. Even if the prayer is just something like “God, I’m not even sure if you are there, but if you are, please help me to find you, and find the true religion”.

God really does love us all, and accepts us where we are. That doesn’t mean he wants us to stay where we are, but He cetainly does accept us where we are and will begin to work with us in our present situation and condition. As such, He doesn’t expect a great faith from someone who is just beginning to believe. A simple prayer to Him as described above would be a great place to start.

I think your Catholic friends have been praying for you. Just as God accepts us where we are, so too your Catholic friends accepted you where you are and have been praying that God would lead you to the Faith. I believe what is happening to you is God answering their prayers.

Regarding the difference between Catholicism and the various denominations: The Catholic Church is the original Church. Virtually all of the denominations we have today trace their roots to the Protestant reform, which took place in the 16th century. Before that, Christians were all Catholics. After the Protestant reformation, the various Protestant goups began to divide amongst themselves. As of 2001, there were over 30,000 separate Protestant denominations.

One thing that I think you will really appreciate about the Catholic Faith is that it is very logical and, although simple, can be very intellectual. Some of the greatest thinkers have been Catholics.

To learn about the faith, I would recommend reading the Baltimore Catechism. It is in a question and answer format, and teaches the basics of the faith very clearly.

I’ll be praying for you.

thanks… a lot.

If you will tell me where you live, I’ll try to find a good priest in your area that you can talk with.

Hi Ian, it sounds like you are experiencing some of the same things I have experienced. I used to be an atheist, I now have faith that God exists. I can’t explain why, it has just grown on me. Everyone in my entire family (immediate and extended) is an atheist. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I find this belief rational-it isnt’. I can’t prove the existence of God anymore now than I could disprove it when I was and atheist. However, as whacky as it may sound, I have (for lack of a better word) an “awareness” of the existence of God.

The existential void that you are floating in can be painful. My advice would be to recognize the beauty you see in the world and pay attention to it. The kindness you have described in your friend is a type of beauty. Treasure it and recognize it for what it is-a reflection of God. Not all Catholics (nor other people) are as tolerant as your friend and his family. The ability to live in peace with others who believe differently is a virtue. I happen to be Catholic because my spouse is Catholic. If the claims of Catholicism (the “original” church of Jesus, apostolic succesion) help you on your journey then definitely use them. Ultimately, to be Christian is to emulate Christ. If there was one thing that Jesus did, it was to be perfect as God is perfect and to demostrate the immediacy of God and the care that God has for his children. Take comfort in this and live your life in such a way that if everyone emulated you, the Kingdom of God would be said to exist on earth.

Catholicism is about submission to truth, which is if you want to be a “good person” and honest person is what it is all about.

We all think we are “good people”, even the criminals but we all know deep down inside that we are pretty rotten and would like to be better. The only way to do this is to change and be honest with yourself. Unless you are seeking excuses, ways to hurt others and yourself then you should re-examine the word good.

Catholicism is all about truth and sometimes it does take some changing of yourself to admit it. What I have found that Catholicism is perfect in that all it is, is a submission to truth.

So as an example lets talk about morals, regardless of the failures of Catholics, lets talk about the ideals as that is what Catholicism is all about what we should do, not what joe blow Catholic does, but what we should do. Shouldn’t we be good, shouldn’t we eventually seek to be great? Since Catholicism claims to be perfect, it opens itself up for examination and will hold up to it’s claim if you are honest about investigating it. It makes an impossible claim, that it is perfect and they invites people to examine it and submit.

Check it out, it will at least make you smarter and wiser, at the most you will find what exactly you are looking for.

God Bless
Scylla

God bless you on your journey. God works in mysterious ways, He knows the kind of person you are. You seem to be into facts and reality. It seems as though you are rather scientific as well, and being so you probably know that feelings serve a purpose, but are certainly not the basis upon which we determine truth. I’ve noticed that people can do the worst of things and appear to “feel” just fine with it and feel close to God even when they have closed themselves off from His grace, while others (take for instance Mother Theresa) can be remarkably faithful people almost always choosing to do good, and they feel … nothing.

If your feelings are keeping you from embracing Catholicism, there is a work by a great Catholic Saint, St. John of the Cross. It is called the Dark Night of the Soul, and you may be able to find its text on-line. It deals with the phases of a believer’s faith life, and focuses primarily on the role of feelings, and the reality that if one is going to strengthen in faith, there often comes a stage in which God allows most feelings of closeness to Him to be removed from the believer. That stage is called the Dark Night of the Soul and it is designed to eliminate reliance on feelings which can be deceptive and dangerous.

I guess the moral of the story, so-to-speak, isn’t all that helpful, but here goes … don’t rely on feelings to determine what you do or do not believe. They may be good to you for a while, but it won’t last.

Ian, I have been a Catholic since the cradle days and wexdept for a short period of time in the mid-sixties never questioned the Catholic Faith. I won’t waste your time with my lame arguments, but would recommend a book for you to read because of your above stated belief. I am a retired Ph. D. scientist and have never felt that my Faith interfered with my science; rather it complemented it.

Thomas E. Woods Jr.'How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" available at a reasonable price from Amazon.com. In it Woods points out the actual contributions that members of the Catholic Church and the Church itself were strongly instrumental in the formation of our Western civilization and institutions, including the platform that allowed modern democratic forms of government to arise. The book is well footnoted and many of the foot notes are to sources independent of the Catholic Church. I think you will enjoy it.:thumbsup:


Going through the Dark Night of the soul and you’re not even Catholic yet; God must have a special plan for you. It’s hard to follow Jesus in this world where everything seems to be opposed to Him and when those who believe in Him all profess different beliefs.

When a teenager I left the Church for the occult and became anti-Christian, very ani-Catholic. One thing I did do though was read up on the Marian apparitions (Fatima, La Salette, etc) and the private revelations of Jesus and Mary to the Saints. That ultimitely is what God used to bring me back. There was so much comfort in their writings, in the words of Jesus and His Blessed Mother, so much love. I highly recommend you getting a copy of Divine Mercy in my Soul, the autobio. of St. Faustina. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve opened that book when I’ve had a problem and the answer was right in front of me.

This loneliness you’re feeling now is the devil trying to keep you from God, and God is allowing this temptation only because He will give you the grace to come through it stronger than you were before. He’s also trying to draw you to Himself; people, at times, are a distraction. Focus your energy on Him, pray, and He will give you guidance. All you have to do is ask for His help. Jesus Himself felt abandoned, so He knows exactly how you feel. He did not despair, He turned to His Father, our Father, and an angel was sent to comfort Him. Turn to our Father and He will do the same for you. You will be in my prayers.

Ian I think in your heart you already know what to do. I know a couple who is going through the same thing you are, and they finally went to a Traditionalist priest who encouraged them to make the leap to the Catholic Church. Sometimes we just need a little push to get the ball rolling so to speak. This couple admits that they NEEDED the push, or they wouldn’t have ever committed to what they knew in their hearts is the Truth. They kept wanting to read more and more, which is quite admirable, but when they came to the conclusion they HAD to become Catholic, they kept dragging their feet and wanting more proof. Thank God they were led to right priest. I suppose we can list the accomplishments of certain Catholics who changed the world with science, music, the arts, etc. all day long, but what you cannot gauge is the love of God in their hearts to serve Our Lord and make this world a better place for their neighbor. Their virtues far surpass any temporal accomplishments.

I will pray for you tonight when our family offers our rosary. If you can, ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain from the Holy Ghost faith, hope, charity and discernment for the Truth. It may hurt as you are being led, there is always a little suffering, but she will lead you to her Son and His Holy Church.

God bless you Ian…

PS…Ian don’t worry about “feeling” anything. Use your intellect! It appears God gave you a good one and that is what you need to use instead of searching for a feeling. Now I don’t mean there may come a day when you feel alot of joy for becoming a Catholic, but to overcome the trials and doubts we must rely on what is coming from our mind. There are lots of days my prayers do not get answered and it gets me down, but then all of a sudden something will get answered, NEVER how I expect it to, and I know there is God.

The loneliness you feel is very likely the profound longing of your own soul to know its Creator. As St. Augustine famously wrote in his Confessions: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” This may very well be God’s way of driving you to himself, of giving you the opportunity to know him, which, as Jesus teaches, is the very purpose of this life: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know You, the only true God, and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).

As a convert to the Catholic faith myself, I can relate to much of what you wrote. My advice is to pick up a copy of the *Catechism of the Catholic Church, *and read it often. In the meantime,here are a few brief articles that you might find helpful:

catholic.com/thisrock/1996/9605fea2.asp
catholic.com/library/How_to_Become_a_Catholic.asp
socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/12/what-is-gospel.html
catholic.com/thisrock/1998/9807conv.asp
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_notable_people_who_converted_to_Catholicism

May God bless you as you seek him in truth,

Don
+T+

I think I understand, Ian. And I think I’ve experienced something similar to what you have experienced.

One of the reasons why I am a theist-- a Catholic theist specifically-- is ultimately for this very reason. I was unable to find anything but loneliness and nothingness in the universe except with this view. It seemed to me that all other roads led to nihilism except for this one. It seemed to me that except for this I would have to say that all is lost. Words can’t describe adequately what you feel, but your will undoubtedly finds utter repulsion at what it is experiencing.

I doubt you are being singled out. If your experience is similar to my experience then truly neither of us have been. In my prayer subsequent to my reversion I have thought about this. One passage I read in the prophet Jeremiah, recently, reminded me of this.

Jeremiah rebukes Israel with the words of God, saying:

What fault did your fathers find in me that they withdrew from me, Went after empty idols, and became empty themselves?(Jer 2:5)

The Israelites, “withdrew from God” and in doing so, “became empty themselves.” They experienced the terrible absence of the living God.

I think this is how God deals with us. When you or I think we can live in a way which idolatrous and sinful-- at its root, a way of life which denies that we are created beings who are dependent on God for our fulfillment and happiness-- that is when God withdraws from us. Or rather we withdraw from Him. And, in doing so we become empty. We reject the source of life and of happiness; ultimately we can only peer into that terrible abyss of non-being-- peering in horror!-- with which we have aligned ourselves.

When this is the case we are all the more susceptible to recognizing how insubstantial and inadequate all of creation is to fulfill our desires and make us happy. I don’t think this is different for the theist or the atheist. Neither can, in my opinion, affirm that happiness or fulfillment is found in the order of created things. The difference is what this realization inspires in the person. In the theist it is something which must be realized ever more deeply-- that all creation is radically insufficient to fill the infinite depths of his soul; that to gain all he must renounce all. But in the atheist it inspires terror. He realizes the emptiness of the created order but does not recognize the divine. Hence, there is only despair and loneliness.

The Christian can not only accept the insufficiency of the world, but also embrace it. The Christian looks at the world and sees that it is not God. In doing so he renounces placing in it the end of his desire, and so can appreciate the universe for the good that it is. What is more, he can find a certain type of dark consolation in the very emptiness of the universe-- the greatest saints had a tremendous desire for God and that desire remained unfulfilled in its entirety while on earth. They can rest in knowing they are doing God’s will instead of on sensible consolations. They look forward with great hope to the promise of God-- eternal life with Him-- and they live in the great love which God showed to the earth in His Son.

If you find the darkness disturbing, do not be afraid. Look to the example of Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane he suffered terrible agony, and yet He became the model of all Christians in dry prayer-- He resolved to submit to God’s will. Look at Christ on the Cross. While suffering terrible physical pain, and indescribable spiritual desolation (“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”), He nevertheless stayed united with the will of God and loved us all to the end. Think too of the terrible silence of the Second Sabbath, when God, exhausted from His labors of recreating the world (working redemption for all people), rested-- dead in the tomb. These all are, perhaps, suitable objects of meditation. Identify with the God who became man and identified Himself with you. Realize the awesome truth of the theological formula that, ‘God became man that man might become god.’ And don’t forget, for all the agony which Jesus underwent, He was gloriously raised on Easter Sunday. This too awaits those of us who endure the trials of this world with the love of God.

-Rob

P.S. Sorry for such a generalized tract. Feel free to ask me further questions or to PM me if you wish to talk more.

I’ll keep my Orthodoxy in check (it’s all over the Eastern Church Forum, btw I dispute some of post #2). Anyways.

I would agree with what the Latins are saying here. If you are asking why Latin over Protestant, because the church is not into quick fixes and in for it for the long haul. Don’t fall for cheap grace.

Btw, I was an Evangelical Lutheran, and quite happy. But since leaving for Orthodoxy, I see nothing but a decline in the Lutheran church as a whole. Quite sad, no sense anymore that the church of today has to have a connection with the Faith of the Church of the Apostles. Modernism:mad:

Btw, hell fire doesn’t take up as much theology among the Latins as among some Protestant circles (almost Islamic): Boogey man theology, worship God or ELSE! Makes a poor Faith.

As far as the intellect goes, Faith is a gift, but you can, by intellect, find the leap of Faith the only rational choice.

I believe that human beings are meant to have faith. In other words, without faith in something, like a higher being or God, our lives are empty and missing something that for it is essential. God made us this way.

I think that atheists enjoy fighting this natural human desire for faith. They see themselves as being different and standing out of the crowd and they wear that as a badge of honor. But in the end, this fight only leads to loneliness and emptiness. God gives us comfort, and a feeling of security that an atheist could never have, and knowing that there is a better place at the end of this life is for so many the very thing that keeps us going on this earth. I could not imagine waking up every morning and going off to work without the knowledge that God is waiting for us, waiting to give us eternal peace and happiness.

The Catholic religon to me is the “complete” Christain religon, while so many denominations just take bits and pieces. I would rather follow the religon that Jesus himself passed onto us in its fullness than a religon that was formed maybe a couple of hunded years ago and has no connection to Jesus and his Apostles.

The very best of luck on your journey, and as an old Army saying goes, “there’s no athiests in a foxhole!”:smiley:

The Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox are both parts of the original Church founded by Jesus and the apostles. Who are the right to leadership is another thing. Both in my opinion are good choices. But is you are science minded the Western Catholics are in my opinion a better choice because of the universities and schools.
BTW, have you realized that the modern scientific method was developed by english franciscan friars, that genetics was founded by a austrian agustinian monk.
Some one recomend reading Dark Night of the Soul by St John of the Cross. Also i recomend you the chapter 9 of Story of a Soul by St Therese of Lisieux, Dark Night. And the book written by anonimous english franciscan monk, one of those franciscan monks mystics that where setting the groundwork for moder science “the Cloud of unknowledge and the Book of Privy Counsel”.

Dear Ian,

God bless you on your spiritual journey. It will be the most difficult and rewarding experience you will ever undertake. I only have one thing to add to a bunch of great advice: go to Mass. Become familiar with the way Catholic’s worship as a community. I would suggest prior to going you do a few things:

1.) Do a internet search on the Mass and read up on it. Just be careful on what’s out there! It will be extremely helpful to know the general structure of what is happening when before you go, so you can have some familiarity with the service. This might help:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_(liturgy)#Structure_of_the_Roman_Rite_of_Mass

2.) If you can, go with someone (maybe your friend?). Talk with him or her about the Mass before you go.

3.) If you have the guts, speak to a priest. Let him know you are interested. It seems like a scary thing (I thought it was when I first did!), but it really isn’t. A priest can offer you some great insights into the Mass. If you aren’t ready to talk to a priest that is OK too. That desire will develop with time.

You are in my prayers,

SC

Ian, you sound very well read. You might start by picking up some apologetics books by Scott Hahn, Stephen K Ray, etc. Or visit www.scripturecatholic.com and definitely pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These will point you to the doctrinal truths of why you should accept Catholicism. Also, Catholicism did not hinder science or philosophy, but actively promoted both fields. The Church wanted Her people educated, not stupid. This is why the monasteries of old were the schools and the hospitals. Monks were the scientists and promoted medicine, studied philosophy and hammered out theological questions. St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas More, etc.

GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc are both great English Catholic writers/philosophers – you should check them out as well.

The reason that I stay in the Catholic Faith and not some non-denominational Evangelical Protestant sect is because we have been around 2 millenia and have already had our growing pains and growth spurts hammered out. Our Faith is the same as Justin Martyr’s in the 3rd century, if you read his Apology

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