Faith crises are all the rage. Everybody’s
talking about them. Okay, well not everybody. Mainly the people who have gone through them.
Most other people are probably wishing that the people who keep bringing them up would
just go away. They are like the Debbie Downer of religious circles, or your local family
reunion. Be that as it may, chances are that at some
point in your life you (or someone you love) will be faced with a crisis of faith. Depending
on what faith your crisis originates from, the experience can be quite devastating. This
post is going to give you a single simple trick to fix a crisis of faith – but, before
I reveal this trick to you, there is some groundwork that must be laid involving what
it means to “fix” a faith crisis. The Crisis
What is a faith crisis? A faith crisis occurs when you discover factual information about
your religion, its founder, its doctrine, or its history, which would seemingly contradict
the claims of that religion. The psychological and emotional distress that comes as you process
the impact of that possibility on your life and identity which have been shaped by those
beliefs is what people describe as a faith crisis.
Level of Commitment A faith crisis is modulated by the intensity
of belief of the individual. Someone who is in a religion and remains skeptical of its
claims and uncommitted to adherence of its rules would probably not feel much psychological
trauma in discovering it to be false. In contrast, someone who was a devout believer and deeply
committed to religious adherence would have a much more difficult crisis, because of the
greater depth of their personal commitment to and identification with the faith.
Flavor of religion A faith crisis is further affected by the
nature of the religion from which it arises; some religions are more traumatic to experience
a crisis in than others. For example, Unitarian Universalists‘ primary
goal is a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning” allowing each member
to determine for themselves what their spiritual identity and relationship with the divine
is. There are no set rules for how or what you should believe, and no exclusive knowledge
of the nature of God, existence, or the universe is claimed. It would be difficult to have
a traumatic crisis of faith in such a system, because in it you are guided by your own spiritual
voice; and are not made to rely on an external authority whom you may lose faith in.
On the other hand, if you were a Jehovah’s Witness and lost a child to illness because
you had been taught that blood transfusions were not approved by Jehovah, then in a crisis
of faith you would have to face the possibility that the death of your child was unecessary
– a potentially devastating thought to confront. Furthermore, there are many other rules and
restrictions that would have affected your life, family, and identity, most of which
would demand a great deal of adherence from a devout believer. A crisis of faith in this
religion would cause a faithful member to have to re-evaluate their entire life, and
would carry a much greater psychological trauma. In general, the more a religion exhibits the
following features, the more traumatic a faith crisis in the religion becomes:
The religion/leaders are the sole source of Truth
Members are God’s elect people Theology provides an exclusive path to salvation
Teachings provide a high degree of direction in how members are to view the world, live
their life, and interact with others Special knowledge about metaphysical things
such as the purpose of life, nature of God, and the afterlife
Religions that carry these features are considered “high-demand religions”.
The reason that it can be so devastating to undergo a crisis in religions with these strong
characteristics, is that members who shape their lives in and around the teachings of
these religions make important choices based on the assumption that the claims of the religion
are true. The more the dictates of the religion affect the choices of the individual, the
more the individual’s identity is tied up in the faith. Discovering the faith to be
a fraud then causes the individual to acknowledge that intimate aspects of their life and identity
were shaped by the deception. Furthermore, the members would have likely
trusted the religion’s special knowledge of the metaphysical world, and usually found
comfort in those answers to life’s tough questions- where we come from, why we are
here, and what to expect after this life. If the faith that they have trusted so deeply
turns out to be false – then the members lose the comfort that that special knowledge
previously provided concerning their place in the universe. People have described it
as having “the ground crumble beneath their feet”, because they don’t know where they
stand anymore; comforting knowledge that they previously trusted disappears, and they are
left without a “Truth” to rely on. If you have not experienced such a feeling,
do not underestimate the impact that it can have on someone who is going through it. It
is a devastating psychological and emotional trauma, that can only be understood by experiencing
it first hand. Faith Crisis Bad?
A faith crisis is not inherently a bad thing. To someone in a high-demand false religion,
a faith crisis is a necessary- although often painful- ticket to liberation.
To most people in Religion A, a faith crisis is a good thing for someone in Religion B
to go through. It frees people up so that they can be guided to the truth of Religion
A. Religions that engage in proselytizing are actually engaged in a systematic effort
to induce faith crises in members of other religions.
“Fixing” a crisis While a crisis of faith can be a painful experience,
it is not a final state of being – it is a transitional state. The waves of uncertainty
and doubt that accompany a crisis will eventually subside, but only after the conflicts which
gave rise to the crisis have been resolved. What are the forms that this resolution may
take? One way for a crisis to be resolved is reconciliation.
In this way, new understanding comes to the troubled individual, which helps them reconcile
the conflicting evidence which gave rise to the crisis in the first place. An apparent
contradiction in scripture might be explained by further exploration of other scriptures.
A troubling event in church history might be less controversial if viewed in the cultural
context of that time rather than compared to modern social norms. Whatever the form
of reconciliation, the key point is that the conflict that gave rise to the crisis is resolved
with greater explanation and understanding. This is a relatively quick process for a single
issue giving rise to a crisis, but can be a more lengthy and in-depth process when there
are numerous conflicting issues to address. Another way for a crisis to be resolved is
by impeachment. In this way the troubled individual comes to the conclusion that the conflicts
which gave rise to the crisis are legitimate and impeach the authenticity of their religion.
This is a much more difficult resolution to come to, because there is usually so much
trust invested in the faith that there is a great deal of motive and incentive to find
a way to maintain belief. Individuals who come to this resolution have usually gone
through many cycles reconciliation with varied success, ultimately finding issues for which
there are no satisfactory reconciliations. While this form of resolution can take the
longest time to come to, once it is achieved the many other issues which may have demanded
a great deal of explanation and apologetics quickly fall away, because the individual
is able to accept that the reason the conflicts exist is that the religion is false.
It is important to acknowledge that you cannot tell which form of resolution is the desired
form. “Wait! I thought this was supposed to be a trick to fix your faith crisis! Doesn’t
that mean that it is a way to help me keep my faith?” You might think that is the correct
way to approach a crisis of faith, but generally speaking if your concern is a pursuit of truth,
you must acknowledge that a strategy for resolving a faith crisis which is focused only on means
to achieve reconciliation falls short. To help explain, look at the difference between
how you might view someone having a faith crisis in your own religion compared to someone
having a crisis in another religion. “Fixing” someone else’s crisis – Placation
vs Liberation When thinking about your own religion, you
are likely going to see these means of resolution I have described above – reconciliation
and impeachment- as “good” and “bad”. Reconciliation sounds like a good thing, helping
someone return to a state of faithfulness. Impeachment sounds like a bad thing – like
they are casting off something in a negative way.
Now imagine that we are talking about someone in a high-demand false religion, who is discovering
aspects of that deception. Reconciliation is no longer a good thing because it drags
them back into the false system of deceit – it is better termed placation and is hopefully
just a temporary thing. Impeachment is a good thing because it frees them from the false
system of control – it is more appropriately termed liberation.
Any strategy to “fix” a faith crisis must have the power to reconcile people to truth,
while liberating them from deceit. It must not placate the individual to get them to
accept a lie, and it must not impeach the truth.
We are almost ready to disclose that one weird trick which will help fix any faith crisis,
but more explanation is needed first. Make Believe
Triangle of Religions Triangle of Dubious Religions
For the purpose of this exercise, we are not going to focus on your crisis of faith. Remember,
our goal is to show a trick that can fix any crisis of faith – not just your own in your
particular religion. Instead, we are going to imagine that you are a member of some other
religion and from that perspective we are going to evaluate how you would counsel a
loved one who had gotten involved in some different religion which you knew to be false
from your own perspective. So, if you are a Jehovah’s Witness I want
you to pretend that you are a member of the Unification Church (also known as “the Moonies”)
and your son was recruited into the Church of Scientology. If you are a Scientologist,
imagine that you were a JW and your daughter was taken in by the Moonies. If your religion
isn’t listed here, just select one of these three and play make believe for the rest of
this exercise. Take a look at the triangle of dubious religions
displayed here. If you imagine that you are in one of the religions, you can look out
at the other two and know for sure that they are both false. This is because each of these
religions has a mutually exclusive worldview with the others. If the JW’s are true, then
Scientology and the Moonies are false. If the Moonies are true then JW’s and Scientologists
are bunk and so on. Perspective on your loved one
With this in mind, I want you to consider how you feel about your loved one who is trapped
in one of those other religions. I say “trapped” because each of these religions are high-demand
religious groups. These religions require a great deal from their followers and there
are strong social and psychological aspects that amplify the intensity of a faith crisis.
Each of the religions also strongly discourage their members from reading or trusting any
material that is not published by their own official sources. These powerful forces keep
members from learning about the conflicting issues, asking questions, or expressing doubt
– minimizing the chance of a crisis of faith. Knowing this information, you would likely
feel a great deal of compassion for your son or daughter, and want them to be able to discover
the nature of the deception which is keeping them bound to that false religion. You would
want them to have a crisis of faith. Not because you want them to experience the trauma that
goes along with that crisis, but because you know that in order to escape that false system
and be free to find truth on their own, they must go through a faith crisis.
Rejecting what is wrong Keep in mind that since you are pretending
to be in yet another false religion yourself, you mustn’t be concerned that your child
necessarily has to learn about your pretended religion in order to escape their own religious
prison. You see – their escape from the deception of a false faith is not dependent
on another faith being true. The lies, cover-ups, conflicting doctrine, deceptive practices
and harmful effects of a false high-demand religion are the things which show that it
is false and your loved one can come to that knowledge without having to immediately adopt
another faith. You don’t have to know the truth in order
to reject a lie. Think about Thomas Edison trying to discover
just the right filament to put into a lightbulb. He need one that would last a very long time
and not melt under its own heat. He tested thousands of different filaments. He didn’t
have to already know the right filament in order to reject all of the filaments that
were wrong. The wrong filaments were wrong regardless of what the right filament turned
out to be. The faith crisis arrives
Now that we have set the stage, imagine that your child comes to you one day and explains
that they have come across some information which is causing them serious doubt about
their faith. Their faith crisis has arrived. How would you advise them to proceed?
Tread Lightly Remember that from your pretended perspective,
it is obvious to you that their faith is false. You cannot simply tell this to your child,
however. They may be still standing with a great deal of confidence planted in that faith
and are simply discovering that the footing might not be sound. They likely still revere
certain aspects of their faith, and if you assertively exclaim that it is false, chances
are that your loved one will perceive that as an attack. Each of these faiths have strong
teachings about why and how members outside their religion will attack them for possessing
“the truth”. Bashing their faith may simply recall these teachings to the mind of your
loved one and give them reason to believe that your persecution is enough to prove to
them that it is true, washing away what doubts they may have had.
Ways Of Overcoming Doubt woodtoolsInstead, think about what such a
person in a false faith is likely to encounter when they turn to the leaders of that faith
with questions and doubt. Since we are playing make believe lets suggest that you tell your
loved one to go and ask the leaders about their questions.
Your son or daughter earnestly and sincerely does this and they are directed to individuals
in the organization who they are told are familiar with all this troubling history and
have explanations that can help clarify and resolve those concerns. Your child does this
and for each point of conflicting history and doctrine that is raised, an explanation
is provided. Many of the explanations sound plausible. Others require more faith and patience,
rather than understanding. The purpose of every explanation is reconciliation to the
faith, however since we know these faiths are false – they are really just forms of
placation. Each of these explanations and rationalizations
can be considered a different tool used to resolve doubts by placation. Let’s call
them Ways Of Overcoming Doubt or WOOD tools for short. The apologists of these other false
religions have whole metaphorical boxes full of these WOOD tools – each with the sole
purpose to placate the questioner and keep them bound to their respective false religion.
WOOD tool examples Doubts about things which are false are good!
they represent truth finding its way in though a crack in the protective armor of lies that
these false faiths build up around themselves. A strategy which causes someone to ignore
such a doubt is one which actually works against truth. It perpetuates a lie. It snuffs out
a earliest rays of the light of freedom before they have a chance to take hold. Such WOOD
tools only have the power to placate – and they work no matter what religion you are
in. Since these WOOD tools can be used to specifically shut out the truth from a seeker
in a false religion, they have no place being relied upon by anyone who is sincerely devoted
to discovering the truth no matter what faith they are in.
What do such Ways Of Overcoming Doubt look like? They are answers to questions which
would keep someone in a false faith bound to that deception. This is only a small selection
of the WOOD tools, but each of them have the power to quell doubt in a false religion,
keeping the seeker trapped: “It’s not important for your salvation,
don’t think about it anymore” “We weren’t there at the time so we can’t
judge the actions of our founder and early leaders”
“We can’t judge behavior in the past by today’s standards. Things which seem wrong
today weren’t so bad back then” “If God commands something, then it is right
– even if it would otherwise be considered wrong”
“We will find the answers to your troubling questions in the afterlife – until then
we must simply have faith” “That is a mystery which God uses to test
our faith.” “You should be more concerned about doing
what we tell you is right, than asking questions which tear down faith”
“Our leader was only speaking as a man when he said that troubling or incorrect thing.
You can trust what he says when he is speaking as our leader”
“You cannot trust anything that is not published by our own official sources”
“Your personal failure to keep our rules has led you to doubt. Start focusing on fixing
yourself rather than tearing down our faith” “The answer to some questions are too precious
or sacred to be given at this time” “If you pray harder and read more of our
official publications, then you will understand. Your doubts are proof that you haven’t studied
enough” “It’s okay to have these questions, but
you should never share them with anyone else – just your leaders in private. You should
trust the judgement of your leaders over your own”
“Don’t listen to ex-members of our faith. They are evil”
“You previously believed that this was true – you should trust that feeling and stop
questioning it” Each of the above WOOD tools would keep someone
trapped in a false faith if they were to be successfully employed by the leaders of those
false religions. Another way of looking at it
Since such answers do not have the power to liberate someone from a false religion, then
they should not be relied upon by anyone who is sincerely seeking after the truth – no
matter what religion they are in. This is a critical point which is necessary to understand,
in order for the single weird trick that will fix any faith crisis to work. To help clarify
the point, another analogy will be employed. Let’s imagine that we have developed a test
which may be applied to a patient when there is suspicion of cancer. You are a researcher
and you want to find out how good the test is at detecting cancer, so you gather 100
patients who you know ALL have cancer. You apply the test to all of these patients and
in every case, the test comes back negative – the test tells you that there is no cancer.
You know that the patients all have cancer, because you have seen the tumors on x-ray
and have tissue sample and biopsies proving it.
Now suppose that there is a reason that you need to test your child to see if they have
cancer. You apply that test to your child and it comes up negative. Do you trust it?
If that test did not have the power to detect cancer when you knew that it was present by
other undeniable means, then why would you trust it to clear yourself or a loved one
of disease? In the same manner, if a Way Of Overcoming
Doubt does not have the power to detect a false religion where you know it is false
– why would you want a loved one to rely upon it when they are seeking answers in their
own faith? Seeking Truth: Education, Erudition and Liberation
steeltoolsIf a WOOD tool simply quells doubt then it is absolutely harmful. If the WOOD
tool instructs your child to silence their concerns from discussion with others, focus
on daily duties the group has prescribed, wait for answers in the afterlife, make unreasonable
allowances for human imperfection or to spurn logic and rationality – then that WOOD tool
is complicit in keeping your loved one trapped in a system of controlling deception and lies.
The thing about WOOD tools is that they don’t last. Because the problems that the seeker
discovered have not gone away, but instead have simply been covered or pushed away – they
will return to the mind sincerely searching for truth. This is because the goal of these
strategies is misplaced from the beginning. Overcoming Doubt is not a worthy goal in and
of itself! It pre-supposes that your doubt’s are wrong. Overcoming doubt in a false religion
is a bad thing. The real goal for those who are starting to
ask such pressing questions is SEEKING TRUTH. Answers to those questions and ways of dealing
with the seeking heart should simply have truth as the goal – wherever that may lead!
The seeker should have unconstrained freedom to Educate themselves – from any and every
source they find. The seeker should be empowered to use logic and reason in a Erudite manner
and let those conclusions stand for what they are. The seeker should be free to assimilate
that knowledge and reason and if necessary Liberate themselves from deception and error.
Seeking Truth by Education, Erudition and, if needs be, Liberation are STEEL tools which
can be relied upon no matter what faith one is found in. They will last. They can be applied
without reservation or restriction to any question that arises.
STEEL tool examples What are examples of answers that fall into
this category? They would be answers which could empower someone to discover the deception
of a false religion and free themselves from it.
“Look at any and all information you can find from both official and unofficial sources”
“Talk to anyone about your questions and evaluate all answers”
“Find out what other people who have had the same questions say – both current and
former members” “Trust your own moral compass for what is
right and wrong” “Allow yourself to follow your conclusion,
even if it means rejecting something that you previously thought was true”
The list is not as long because there are fewer mental acrobatics that have to be employed.
The seeker is simply advised to learn as much as possible from anywhere and use their God-given
mind and conscience to follow where truth leads.
It should also be observed that Liberation doesn’t mean that you have to leave your
religion. You can be liberated from the false beliefs of a false religion and still hold
fast to those aspects which uplift and are positive. You can have a more balanced and
realistic view of the faith, appreciating it’s rich and colored history and your own
heritage among its members while rejecting the toxic features. Many people liberated
in such a manner work to improve those aspects of the faith which are hurtful. They may be
seen as a significant force which drives these institutions to evolve and progress.
It should also be noted that some particularly high demand religions would reject and expel
people who do this. Equipping your loved one for their faith crisis
Now think about your loved one trapped in the false religion. Would you want them to
be given WOOD tools or STEEL tools to apply to their crisis of faith? I hope the answer
is clear to you now. In a deceptive high-demand religion, WOOD
tools would keep them trapped and bound where STEEL tools would empower them to escape that
bondage. In an honest religion, WOOD tools would typically
not be employed, because deception is at the heart of every WOOD tool. If they were employed,
they would simply keep seekers less informed. STEEL tools would empower the seeker to learn
more about their faith, blemishes and all, and the individual would be free to stay or
go as their conscience directed. The One Weird Trick – Conclusion
Okay – We have defined a faith crisis and demonstrated that a “fix” to a crisis
of faith may have one of two outcomes. We have explored a make-believe scenario so that
you can look at the issue more objectively. We have explained and demonstrated the value
and difference between WOOD tools and STEEL tools as applied to a faith crisis.
It’s time to learn the one weird trick to fixing your own faith crisis…
… which you can learn by purchasing a book, authored by me, for the low price of..
I kid! I kid! I hate things like that.
The one weird trick is this: In examining doubts about your own religion
you should only rely on answers to your questions which have the power to discern truth from
error. This doesn’t mean only accept answers that
are disparaging to your religion. It simply means that an answer which would keep someone
trapped in a false religion cannot be trusted to exonerate your own – just as a test that
cannot detect cancer in a known case cannot be used to exclude disease in your own.
A false religion will not be detected by the WOOD tools described above, however the STEEL
tools are essential for someone in such a tradition to identify and escape it. A religion
based on honesty and truth will survive both the WOOD and STEEL tools applied to itself.
Look at the list of WOOD tools above. If those are the only answers that you are being given,
then you should be alarmed. It doesn’t mean that you should march out right now – just
that you should understand that it is okay for you to take up your own STEEL tools and
start working on the problem with out having to rely on the WOOD instruments that are being
handed to you from others.