Thoughts on faith – faith in the world, what I inherited and what my schizophrenia gives me 

Upbringing

I was brought up in the Christadelphian church – or ‘ecclesia’ as they call it (an ancient Greek word for, um, church!). Christadelphians have some fairly specific views on the world. They like prophecy, don’t vote or join the army and believe that Jesus is going to come back to Earth and set up a benevolent world government in Israel. Prophecy is a big deal for Christadelphians. We were always reading the book of Revelation and Daniel and firmly believing that the world was about to end. It was at once scary and exhilarating! We apparently had ‘the Truth’ (note the upper case T – no room for postmodernism in the Christadelphian universe!)

Trying to be an atheist

When I was about eleven years old I came to a realisation. To be a good christadelphian woman I figured I would need to get married to a man, have a bunch of kids and have no opinions. I really didn’t want that to be my path in life. I had recently heard about lesbians and figured that was more the path I wanted to take. For the first time in my life I had doubts – not about the existence of God but about my role in life. A few years later I had a passionate interest in politics and particularly communism. At the same time there was a split in our Christadelphian ‘meeting.’ I had always known I was correct in my faith and the elders if the ecclesia had the correct interpretation of the Bible. But now they were arguing. I don’t deal well with conflict and I was totally thrown by the split in our meeting. I could no longer trust anyone in the church so I left and joined the socialists. 

Socialists were atheists (mostly) so I needed to be an atheist too. I actually struggled with this. I had always been friends with God. I would pray every night and saw God as a very influential friend but I managed to convince myself that I was an atheist for some years.  

Trying to be a christian

Life went on and I found myself no longer being a socialist. By 2007 I was Masters graduate and published author. I had experienced things which suggested that there was a supreme being who wanted me to succeed in life and who cared for me. I moved to Canberra to take up a new – and very well-paid – job . I asked my mum if she knew of any non-judgemental churches in Canberra and she put me in touch with a home church group. I was going to try to be a Christian. Sadly I was a very deficient Christian. I missed all the meaning and metaphor that my fellow Christians could see in the Bible. I didn’t think it was possible to have any kind of absolute ‘truth’ and I thought missionary work was just another word for imperialism and disrespecting the cultures and beliefs of people in other countries. I tried as hard as I could to be a Christian but I was mournfully dreadful at it so gave up!   

What psychosis gives me in terms of religion

My Christadelphian upbringing has left me with one very difficult thing. I have schizophrenia and a lot of my delusional beliefs when I am unwell relate to religion. I become terrified that God is punishing me, that I have sold my soul to the Devil, that I have died and am in purgatory or that spirits of the dead are haunting me. These are firm beliefs when I am unwell and they are terrifying. In fact none of those beliefs are things that Christadelphian beliefs but it all sort of ties in.

Religion and the world

I just want to unpack some thoughts I have heard about religion:

  • Does religion cause war? Yes but no. I think religion is often used as an excuse for war but it is not the cause in and of itself. I think causes for war tend to be a bit more complex than ‘they are Christian and we are Muslim’ (or whatever).
  • Are all Christians bigots? No. I haven’t said much about gender diversity, sexuality and religion here and it is an important topic. A lot of bigots are Christians but it is not the case that  Christianity necessarily causes bigotry. My parents are very devout Christians but they are not at all transphobic or homophobic. While in Australia at least, many bigots are Christians it does not translate that all Christians are bigots.
  • Why are so many terrorists religious? As with the war point, terrorists are often religious but there are probably deeper reasons to terrorism than religion alone. For example in Northern Ireland the terrorism and the ‘troubles’ seemed very closely related to religion and there was certainly a strong element of religion driving the violence but there was also a lot of history of colonialism and the UK being an occupying force.  There is a lot of terrorism happening right now which has no religious element but we simply don’t see it in our news. Religion causes war or religion causes terrorism are simplistic views to my mind. 
  • How do people with faith know they are are right? This one always gets me. My mum – who I should say is one of the most kind and loving and respectful people in the world – has a very strong and specific faith. I cannot do this. I always have doubts. I can’t say ‘my beliefs are right’ because I honestly don’t know that they are. This is something about religion which confuses me. However this kind of faith can be comforting to people that have it.

What I think and why it is probably wrong

I do have a faith, just a fairly sketchy one. If my life is challenging, such as when I am unwell with psychosis or depression, I pray and turn to the Devine to deliver me. And those prayers are actually often responded so and the issues resolved. I don’t have a specific faith. I can’t tell if Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or anything else is  correct. I have a long history of trying unsuccessfully to be a person of a specific faith. Simply It doesn’t work for me. But I do have faith and belief. I tend to think we go somewhere when we die and they there is a benevolent force in the world – and probably malevolent one too. I do think my path in life has been supported but I can’t pinpoint what or who did that. I tend to think that we are trying to find answers and we cannot have a ‘Truth’.  And I know my views are almost certainly ‘wrong’ but that is OK as they work for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s