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Old 02-01-2013, 09:01 AM
 
142 posts, read 432,026 times
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To give you some background ... Nobody in my family is particularly "religious," though most of us believe in some sort of "God" or higher power. We come from a traditional English background, and I was raised in the Anglican / High Episcopal church. I was baptized and attended regularly until I was 12 years old, then stopped going shortly after my first communion. For many years, I thought I didn't believe in God at all, and considered myself agnostic/atheist. Deep down, though, I realized that I believed in something, and gradually began to appreciate the religious traditions I was raised with.

Anyhow, about 3-4 months ago, I was going through a rough period in life. I'd just come out of a long-term relationship, I was struggling in my career, and I was dealing with several issues with my mother, including supporting her financially because she was out-of-work. One afternoon, I was having a really bad day at my job, and went for a walk on my lunch hour. I walked past a huge Episcopal cathedral (I work in downtown Chicago) and on a whim, decided to go inside and just sit alone with my thoughts.

When I went inside, a Eucharist service was going on. I didn't want to be rude and leave, so I sat down and tried to follow along. After a few minutes, I started crying and began to pray for help with the issues I was dealing with, then I went up to the altar and took communion. When I left afterwards, I felt strangely uplifted and at peace with myself...

The next day, I spoke with my mother and she told me she had found a job! Then, over the course of a few weeks, good things started happening to me. I felt more positive and upbeat, my own financial situation improved and my credit score went up, I began connecting with old friends, and I met a wonderful new guy. I felt like God had listened to me and answered my prayers, so I started going back to the church once a week to listen to the Eucharist service and take communion. Come Christmas time, I took my mother to Midnight Mass at the church, and it seemed to help her emotionally and spiritually. I finally began feeling like my life was heading in a good direction, and I promised God that if he helped guide me on the right path, I'd make more of an effort in my life and spirituality.

Thing is, since then, I've begun feeling this odd sense of "religious guilt," like I'm not living up to the promise I made to God. I'm inherently a good person, I work hard and I treat other people as I'd want to be treated. (This has always been the case for me, even before I began attending church again, it's just who I am.) I don't feel I've done anything wrong, per se, I just don't feel like I'm doing enough. For example, I want to quit smoking cigarettes, and I've prayed about it several times, but I still can't kick the habit. I've made an effort to treat my mother better and foster a good relationship with her, but we still argue and fight about her financial problems. I've even begun feeling guilty about things that never used to bother me - like drinking a little too much when I'm out with friends ... or, um, thinking about (and having) sex with the guy I've been seeing.

Lately, everything I do, I worry that God is judging me. I've found myself going back to the church near my work several times a week, and praying almost every night. I'm afraid that if I lose sight and slip in my convictions, that God will punish me. I'm worried that I'll lose my job, that something will happen to my mother, and most often, that I'll lose the guy I met (who I'm trying to pursue a relationship with).

I know I'm being ridiculous ... but it's almost as though I've experienced some sort of religious conversion, and now I'm afraid that I'm not living up to my promises to God. I know I'm a good person, and that whatever the nature of God is, "he" is benign and not vindictive. Still, I'm afraid of what might happen to me if I don't live up to my promises.

Any advice on how to deal with this guilt I'm feeling? Thanks in advance for your help.
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Old 02-01-2013, 11:54 AM
 
Location: Log home in the Appalachians
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It's good that you have gone back to the religion of your childhood and if this is what you wish to believe in there is nothing wrong with that. Most everybody needs to have something to believe in, but don't let it cause you to have doubts in your abilities, you say you're a good person and that is something that you have accomplished on your own, you have chosen to do that, let your instincts guide you, not your guilt.
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Old 02-01-2013, 04:19 PM
 
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You should repent of sin and ask Jesus to come into your life in the way He plan, and for His Holy Spirit to come and baptize you , ...Ask the leaders of your church to pray for you ......
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Old 02-01-2013, 05:22 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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It seems to me that you have always wondered if your drifting away from your faith would result in ill consequences for you. That is why you're willing to suppose that during a particularly difficult time, an uptick in your fortunes in close proximity to an emotional experience in a church service are somehow connected ... and that now that that emotional release or peak experience has inevitably faded, you're worried about a resulting downtick. I would suggest to you that at a deep level you believe god is capricious and putative. The reality is that life is random and indifferent, and stuff happens, and in an attempt to make sense of it you have projected this onto god. All this has done is make you anxious.

You should ask yourself if fretting about someone judging and second guessing you and making their love and care for you conditional on your ability to reconcile how your life goes with their supposed benevolence, is really worth it.
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Old 04-25-2014, 07:26 PM
 
Location: Upstate SC
792 posts, read 496,574 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hljc View Post
You should repent of sin and ask Jesus to come into your life in the way He plan, and for His Holy Spirit to come and baptize you , ...Ask the leaders of your church to pray for you ......
Or... Maybe there is no Jesus or Holy Spirit and maybe just live your (short) life however you like and stop worrying about stupid superstition and enjoy yourself.

Or tie yourself to some magic thinking to occupy yourself until you die.
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Old 04-26-2014, 01:03 AM
 
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OakparkV,
Congratulations on your decision to do the right thing. Many, or perhaps most of us, have at one time or another in our lives rejected God, choosing to instead follow our instincts and desires in life, even if they are in opposition to what God wants from us. So much so that to quiet our conscience we go as far as making a case for the nonexistence of God, or simply choosing not to care either way.

Our conscience is like out sixth sense, given to us by God to guide us through life by pointing out what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is not, what is good and what is evil. We were also given a free will so we must then choose what road to take in life. One will take us to a joyful and peaceful path and the other will lead us in just the opposite. You have already chosen the right one. Trust in God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind. God is very merciful, always willing to forgive us if we turn to Him with a humble and contrite heart. God loved you as you were when you first came to him, He loves you now as you go through the process of conversion. God will never stop loving you. I once heard it said that God's love and mercy is like all the water in the oceans and our sin is like a drop of water. If we were to throw our drop of water in that ocean, would we ever be able to find it?
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Old 04-26-2014, 09:54 AM
 
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This is the nature of superstition - taking two or more unrelated events and somehow connecting them. To think that God was somehow withholding success and peace of mind from you until you wandered into a church, well, is that the kind of God you would even want in your life?

But perhaps more importantly, many of those things that happened to you were in the works long before you stepped foot in that church. I doubt very much that your mother applied for a job and was hired on the same day. No, the process of choosing her for the job had started days if not weeks prior to going to church.

I think the key statement in your entire story is: "I began to feel more positive and upbeat."

THAT'S when things began happening for you, not because you went to church. While yes, going to church might have inspired a positive feeling, it would be a crying shame for you to think church and religion are necessary to obtain that feeling. If that is the case, then it's little better than a drug addiction.

As an atheist, I just want to take you by the shoulders, stare you in the eye, and tell you that church, God, and religion had nothing to do with the upturn in your life. I would tell you to be humble, because believing that a universe-creating, omnipotent God is directly micro-managing your life is the height of hubris. I say that because what about everyone else whose prayers were NOT answered and whose lives continued to scrape bottom - perhaps all the way up until their deaths?

You would have to see yourself as very special indeed to think that a simple walk into a church made God suddenly turn your life around - whilst others who worship and pray and read the Bible every day are still living in misery, poverty, hunger, pain, and sickness.

I'm not necessarily trying to convert you to atheism, but I will point out the dangers of looking to a supernatural force for the answers.
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Old 04-26-2014, 03:47 PM
 
Location: Free State of Texas
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Jesus dealt with your guilt on the cross. Accept His free gift of salvation today. Then go about serving Him by serving others.

Ephesians 2:8-10

8 By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
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Old 04-28-2014, 09:15 PM
 
Location: Southern Oregon
17,071 posts, read 10,916,184 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oakparkV View Post
Lately, everything I do, I worry that God is judging me. I've found myself going back to the church near my work several times a week, and praying almost every night. I'm afraid that if I lose sight and slip in my convictions, that God will punish me. I'm worried that I'll lose my job, that something will happen to my mother, and most often, that I'll lose the guy I met (who I'm trying to pursue a relationship with).
It isn't God that is judging you. You made a conscious decision to change how you were dealing with your life. That doesn't happen overnight and nobody waves a magic wand and nobody, including God, thinks that you can do it on your own. Just acknowledge that you are not doing as well as you would like to, pray for a little help, do something like apologizing to your Mom for the last blow-up and work it out. Sometimes God works in little increments and that's fine. You don't need a miricle, youjust need a new direction and you already DID that. Keep moving in that direction.
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Old 04-29-2014, 09:32 AM
 
Location: New Jersey, USA
618 posts, read 540,862 times
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Hello oakparkV.

In her own way, I think Shirina nails down my thoughts in this matter here:

Quote:
You would have to see yourself as very special indeed to think that a simple walk into a church made God suddenly turn your life around - whilst others who worship and pray and read the Bible every day are still living in misery, poverty, hunger, pain, and sickness.
Regardless of whether god exists or not, let's examine your situation logically.

You returned to church shortly before improvements occurred in your life, leading you to draw a correlation between worship and the occurrence of good. This is perfectly sensible and leads to the formulation of a testable hypothesis: the worship of god leads to good things in your life.

One way to test this hypothesis would be to stop going to church and observe any negative effects. Even if this were not the very fear you are expressing, it would still rely on a very small sample (yourself) and therefore be subject to random variables. More reliably then, we could extrapolate your hypothesis to the general population. If it were true, we would find that atheists are generally less wealthy, more lonely, and less successful overall than religious individuals. To my knowledge, no such relationships exist. Indeed, religious dedication is found across all economic groups - from the very wealthy to the very poor. There are lonely religious people (just ask ChristianMingle.com) and happily married atheists. Therefore, your hypothesis can be rejected, unless you want to speculate that you alone are chosen by god to live on a highly structured reward system.

None of this speaks to the existence of god per se, but don't dedicate yourself to religion under an illusion of cause-and-effect. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a deep crisis of faith the first time something goes wrong in your life and god refuses to "fix" the problem in spite of your devotion.

Thanks.
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