Faith No More

Yes, I see the irony in writing about my own personal lack of faith on a Sunday. But it is something that has been on my mind for a while, because spirituality is referenced a number of times in my treatment. In IMPROVE, one of the many acronyms for various suites of coping skills in DBT, the P stands for Prayer. I may eventually discuss the rest of the acronym, only the P is relevant for now. Even in programs like AA and NA, while they say no particular religious faith is needed, it is also referenced. So why is it that I don’t have any?

I used to have faith. I was raised Catholic, and when I was young I went through CCD classes like a lot of other young Catholic kids. I was an altar boy on occasion, if you can believe that, and I prayed. I went to a Jesuit high school, and I remember being genuinely moved on the yearly retreats we took. I felt the Jesuits had a very liberal (for the Catholic Church, anyway) view of things, and I sympathized with that. I wasn’t a strict Catholic, by any means; I was sort of a one-man faith, my own views and beliefs having evolved over time.

Then, in college, things changed. I wore a cross for a couple years, though I didn’t attend church – I didn’t feel the need to, since my faith was my own and didn’t really mesh with the teachings of the Catholic Church to any great degree. But gradually, I began to lose my faith. It may have been a result of the fallout of my failed relationship, or part of the onset of my depression, or just that kind of general distancing from parts of previous life that happens in college. But by the time I left college, I was effectively either agnostic or an atheist.

I was, and am, perfectly aware of Pascal’s Wager – the idea that if there is a god, it is better to believe in him than not to believe, and if there isn’t, belief in a deity doesn’t hurt you, so why not believe? But I just didn’t have any faith in some almighty being anymore. I felt that my life was going so poorly that no benevolent deity would subject me to such torment. Melodramatic, yes, But it’s how I felt. That part of me just felt empty, and I had nothing to fill it with, so it remained that way, and has ever since.

I find my lack of faith odd, because, much like Agent Mulder from X-Files, I want to believe. I just can’t bring myself to cross that threshold. I can understand religion and belief in an abstract way – enough to get myself into arguments and trouble – but I don’t believe in it. Strangely, my favorite sort of character in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons tends to be the paladin – a warrior for good infused with the power of his (or her) deity. Perhaps the difference is that, in these settings, there is real, obvious proof that divine beings exist; they are manifested through various powers and creatures in obvious ways. Here on earth, we just have to take things on faith, and that is something I can no longer do.

I can still go through the motions, of course. I still know all the basic Catholic prayers, and can follow along when I go with my family to church on Sundays. Not only that, but I have the Lord’s Prayer memorized not just in English, but also in Old English, the language Beowulf was originally written in. But there’s nothing behind those. This often means that I am at a loss in situations  where theological knowledge is required; I didn’t do very well in the last Theology class I was in, probably because of this.

I’m not really sure if there’s anything I can do about my lack of faith, though. Can faith be restored? Is there something that can make me believe again? What sort of event can rekindle a faith that has been gone for as long as mine? I don’t know these answers, but I’d like to. I want to know if my life would be made any better through the existence of faith. I’m not asking to be convinced of the existence of god – I’ve heard the arguments before, and none of them made any difference to me. You can’t be argued into having faith; I guess you just have to discover it, if it is even possible to find again once lost.

I guess what I’m looking for is a guide. Which is confusing, because a guide to what, I don’t know; I don’t know if my faith, once found, will still be a belief in Christianity, or something else. I don’t belief one form of spirituality is superior than any other, so I suppose it is entirely possible that my faith could come in the form of Hinduism, or Asatru, or something even more different than Catholicism. I don’t know, and I can’t predict anything. 

Can one have faith in the return of faith?