I was talking with a Christian yesterday who has a lot of doubts about her faith. But she feels guilty about questioning God's existence. She knows that if God does not exist there is nothing to feel guilty about, but it is ingrained in her by years of church teaching. She asked me this question, which I'll now pose to this group: How did you get past the guilty feelings so that you could seriously consider the question of God's existence?

Tags: doubt, guilt

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In my case I started reading outside the box in order to defend my evangelical beliefs from my boyfriend's Catholicism. Along the way it occured to me that many of the arguments about the Catholic version of Christianity also applied to my side. It went from there.

Unfortunately I have to report that the process of losing my beliefs was traumatic, as it is for many others. The discomfit passed and I was surprised to discover that there was no "hole" which needed to be filled. I missed the emotional highs but found secular things did the same thing. I missed the "instant community", but that is being replaced by groups such as this one.

Your friend my find it more comfortable to start her god-questioning by considering the attempts of christian writers to defend it, then move on to read the subsequent discussions. Debates are less threatening than being dropped in the deep end.
I had LOTS of doubts, too, and it was very traumatic. Reading some atheist material helped--the more I solidified my beliefs that God didn't exist, the less guilty and scared I felt. It took awhile though, about a year before I stopped having nightmares about hell.
Maybe just support and education could help her to get past that. Recommend some atheist books and stories of people who have left the Christian faith.
I have just finished reading Darrel Ray's new book: The God Virus. It has excellent descriptions of the way we are indoctrinated and persuaded to maintain our religious views. It outlines the huge role played by the induction and enforcement of guilt. I strongly recommend you purchase a copy. (I bought mine via Amazon.)

Darrel has a page on A/N so you might like to talk to him about this problem directly. I will send him a link.
I've been without belief for a few years now and I still have fears. But I know that the fear is an emotional reaction based upon years of brainwashing, not based on evidence or facts. Any god who is worth my time wouldn't approve of adoration based on fear anyway.
In my experience, it takes a while for the emotional responses to catch up to the reasoning. It happens eventually. How long it takes depends on the length of time you were under the spell, how young you were when the fear took hold (it's harder to shift, the younger you were) and how much unconditional love and social support you get from those who do not believe in the things which cause the fear response.

Hanging out here should help.

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