Evidence and Struggles in Faith

So, it has been a while since I last came here and read or posted. The reason is that I began to find it unhelpful, causing me to struggle in my faith and I needed time to look inside and think about whether I am being honest.
There have been a number of points during the time I have been away that I have strongly considered leaving the church. Many such times have been occasioned by a desire to not be a hypocrite, to not claim to believe at the times I question whether I truly do or not. Currently I am still in, but hanging on by a thin thread. I thought it would be interesting for folk to hear about how the forum made me struggle and how the interaction may sometimes affect people like me.

One of my main problems kicked in as a I saw arguments abounding that just seemed to be based on a misunderstanding of science. How can I say that there is a misunderstanding… well the fact that these have often been based on zero academic study in the relevant field was a good clue in many cases. The next reason was that when pushed on key parts by credentialed scientists it just seemed that the initial argument was held to more firmly, allowing no flexibility or nuance, the argument just had to be won and no concession given. Without an ability to deal with the science on its own terms, sincere misunderstandings just seemed to be pushed as evidence.
This experience of watching it over and over again just made me question how much of what I believe are good reasons for my faith are actually just more of that. Things I assert without knowledge, believing they are correct, whilst not allowing counter-arguments to filter through and change my mind. Without realising it, I was listening to fellow christians outside the forum making statements with sincere confidence, and just found myself wondering whether there is any truth to these either.

I don’t think that it is a problem of poor reasoning in some arguments by some Christians alone that made me struggle. It became more interesting to watch the arguments and the discussions as a form of entertainment than it was to actually engage with my faith on its own terms. I have other struggles beyond the subjects on this forum that I don’t need to go into, but certainly it isn’t just an issue of science and evidence that is causing me to question.

Whilst some of the interaction from the atheists here has also caused me some struggle, largely it has been in a reasonable way of actually wanting to see evidence for things which often times I cannot

Mix in a healthy dose of repeated depression and the above just led me to need time away. Dealing with complex topics or heated debate doesn’t work well with me at such times, my ability to process information and attitudes is basically stripped away so life becomes a tad harder.
So, I am back for now and hoping to catch up on things but likely to try to take it slow and visit infrequently. But a question comes out of all of this…
What is the honest thing to do when struggling to work out whether you believe? Head down, repeat the arguments you have heard that were convincing before and hope they stand up to scrutiny? I am guessing not many would affirm that this is the correct response.
Or do you question everything and start from the bottom and try to see what stacks up and what doesn’t. How do you even consider doing that when you just know that you don’t have the knowledge or the skills to evaluate properly a lot of the arguments and the supposed evidence? Again, I am guessing many won’t advocate this as the best course of action, but I would bet that a larger proportion of the atheists would be more likely to approve of it than the theists.


I can’t help much, never having had that sort of struggle. But I don’t think religious belief is based on argument or evidence. It seems more based on feeling, personal revelation, and things not accessible to evidence. Lacking that inner basis of faith, I don’t see how belief can persist. Perhaps you should determine whether you have that.


Hi, I’m an atheist who deconverted from Christianity several years ago. That quote above summarizes what I did. But I think it’s very important to add that the things I was questioning weren’t “evidence” in the standard sense. Scientific facts were never a problem for my faith and they didn’t enter into my “question everything” project. So I probably don’t have anything more to add to the conversation. I wish you the very best and I truly hope you find a place that works for you.

Thanks John.
Agreed it isn’t based on argument or evidence, and the concern I have is around the depth or strength of why I feel / don’t feel. The issue of whether I really have any good grounds for my faith just really bought that doubt home to me.
Without evidence perhaps I am just deluding myself, as I would have to say many religions cause people to do. If so with them, why is mine any different is basically where I am coming from.

Not an easy slot in church for the “I think I believe but hey - it is really shaky at the moment” type of confession.

First of all, you’ll be in my prayers. Second, you didn’t ask for advice on this, but I’ve felt with depression and didn’t deal with it until it kinda morphed into post-partum anxiety with kids and I really dealt with it after my second child. I wish I had advice then even if I never asked for it. Medication was helpful and necessary but counseling was what allowed me to be healthy again. I’d highly suggest finding a counselor even if you have lots of reasons why not. I did. But now I’m in a much healthier place and a bit more honest with myself.

I’d also talk to a trusted Christian friend or pastor about your doubt - ask them just to listen at first without giving advice unless you ask. They’ll likely tell you, it’s completely normal which it is. If you feel condemned, go talk to someone else. Honestly there may be people in your life that would love to help you, they just may not know you’re hurting or struggling.

But all of that also depends on how important your faith is to you. If you value it, then reach out to Christian counselors, friends, church members.

What you’re talking about is kinda the buzzword of the day: “deconstruction” - which I would consider what you’re describing about questioning everything and building back up. Honestly I think that’s too much for anyone to handle. Also may not put you in a healthy place if you dealt with depression. I’ve watched some really good YouTube videos from Christians analyzing deconstruction recently and I could link you to them, but mostly they said, learn from others who have questioned the same thing and reach out to others. Find books from Christian authors that have covered those questions. No one can know everything and be able to answer every question. Think about what questions are most important to you right now. Give yourself grace.

Social media is also not a really good indicator of reality except for showing the sin and evil in the world. It has its purposes but I know it puts my own faults on display. I’ve often thought how I always need to keep this verse in mind and sometimes just disengage altogether with it:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Mostly, don’t be hard on yourself in a time of doubt or struggle. We don’t have to do anything to deserve God’s grace. It is a gift and you are loved.

Please forgive me for any unwanted advice. I know I went beyond your questions.

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I guess I went through some of that. I can’t really help, because you have to make your own decisions.

I became a Christian at around age 11, and I left about 11 years later. When I became a Christian, I understood that to be a decision to live my life in accordance with some ancient traditions. In a sense, it was never about belief. I really don’t understand the word “belief” as it is used in theology, or as it is used in philosophy. For me, beliefs are never more than tentative.

When I became a Christian, I accepted the resurrection. But that was a tentative acceptance, based on what I was being told. I understood that I owed it to myself to check it out when I was able to do so. When I did later check it out, the account (in Matthew) seemed too fantastical. So I came to doubt that there was a physical resurrection. I continued to go with the idea of a spiritual resurrection, mostly because that was at least somewhat consistent with the conventional views within my tradition.

As for science – I never saw a problem there. If God was creator, then he created the world as described by science. Scientists are just people trying to come up with honest ways of describing our world. I didn’t accept evolution at that time, but I also didn’t reject it. I saw it as explaining a lot of what we see in the biosphere, but at that time I didn’t know enough to make a decision. I took an allegorical view of the earlier parts of Genesis.

I went off to Graduate school, still a Christian. I decided to attend a local community church, rather than the on-campus groups. And, within 6 months, I quit Christianity. The ostensible reason is that I was questioning the divinity of Jesus. He often called himself “the son of man”, and I had trouble squaring what he said with the belief that Jesus was god. In reality, though, I had been questioning that for some time even before I went off to grad school. So perhaps that wasn’t the real reason.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, to welcome the stranger. And here was I, a stranger, and I did feel at all welcome in the church that I was attending. So perhaps that’s the real reason why I left.

Somehow, too much of organized Christianity has abandoned what I had taken to be the core teachings.


I can’t help either as I have never even as a child felt any connection with the religious culture that surrounded me then.

What seems fair to me is that anyone should be free to make their own choices and those choices should not involve life-threatening consequences.


Thanks for your comments, I guess to some extent a year of lockdown and stuck in a house by myself hasn’t been the most healthy. Certainly has meant I have been reduced in my discussions with people and opportunity to be open about things.
I wasn’t aware of “deconstruction” - something I will have to look around for. Difficult to get the balance of wanting to be intellectually honest and realising that I will probably never be satisfied with almost any answer as there is always more to learn about it.


Hi Matt
I think there is evidence for the Christian faith but without connection with the Holy Spirit it appears difficult for people to understand the evidence. The following passage from John in which I used in a private message to @Chris_Falter as we were discussion the meaning of the word Faith. Here is part of my discussion with Chris.

Upon seeing Jesus in the flesh with his own eyes (and possibly touching the wounds), Thomas proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Jesus responded with one of the most powerful and prophetic statements about faith in all of Scripture: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

In both these cases the empirical evidence from observation ( miracles plus the Transfiguration) was not enough to see objective reality yet it was telling us what objective reality is.

Thomas had been provided empirical evidence (healings and restorations to life) to believe in a resurrection yet still doubted. Maybe he is missing connection with the Holy Spirit? Peter appears to be missing the Holy Spirit the same way by abandoning Jesus (cock crowing three times) despite seeing all the miracles and personally witnessing the Transfiguration.

Later they were willing to die for their faith maybe because they had been endowed by the Holy Spirit.

So we have common ground that faith is not based empirical evidence alone but empirical evidence along with help from the Holy Spirit. Thoughts?

I think the honest thing to do is to be honest with yourself. To ponder the qestions of why are you doing the things you do, and why do you believe what you do? I suppose you really just have to look inside to find the answers to this.

I don’t think it’s really possible for a person to construct everything from the ground up without having to rely on other people. Partly because there’s too much knowledge and rabbit-holes of investigation for a single person to be able to really verify and comprehend everything at an expert level. It just can’t be done. So ultimately we all have to rely in part on people around us, certain experts, some community of people.

You’re going to have to decide for yourself where to put that trust, and how strongly. I suppose one important thing I would pass along, regardless of what direction you go on these matters, is that you’re not on a timer, you don’t owe anybody instant answers or to swear allegiance, and you’re allowed to later change your mind if you learn new things that persuade you in a different direction.

And perhaps most importantly of all(but also very difficult to accept and live with): Some times you just don’t know. You don’t have to pick an option. Some times there just isn’t enough to go on, and then you really do have the option of saying “I just don’t know, it seems like nobody knows, and so far it’s largely all guesswork”. Some times the honest (but very annoying and unsatisfying) thing to do is to admit when we just don’t know. This applies to anything from politics and economics, to science, philosophy, and theology.


One of the things that I have found helpful in similar situations is not to focus on what you believe or the correctness of religion or science but to focus instead on.

  1. What would it mean to you if the science is correct.
  2. What would it mean to you if the science is not correct.
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Thanks all for helpful comments. Late here so I am not going to reply to much in particular but it has given me things to think over.

That notion of not being on a timer is a good one, something I will keep in mind. My tendency is to want to resolve the difficulty quickly. I also appreciate your comment about being able to change my mind, not always an easy thing to contemplate. Your comments about ground up construction is also useful - I am nervous that I don’t even know where I would start with such a project even while conteplating it. @sfmatheson has my respect for actually having done that

That is also a really helpful comment, and not really something I have been considering much beyond a surface level “how will my life change” sort of way

I will give this one a ponder over the course of the long weekend. I once went off the deep end doing a grammatical study of the Greek of John 20:28, nice to be directed back to it in a non-study type way!


Here’s an explanation from someone who went through something like that:

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I had wondered about that too, and had never verbalized the question, until I heard someone explain the Bible better and figured it out. An important reference is in Daniel 7. It explains Jesus’ human nature and that he will be the Messiah, but also divine.

“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

I assume you meant you did not feel welcome? I was thinking about writing to @ho_idiotes too. Any rational person will always be disappointed by Christians and Christianity because it’s full of sinners. (Thankfully the Bible gives us lots of examples of disappointing sinners) Yes, you may know it’s true, but that’s not enough. You have to know and experience grace or I think it doesn’t “click.” Only Jesus will never disappoint. I think honestly people leave church because being a cultural Christian and hearing cultural Christianity is not enough. Churches have to preach Jesus and the gospel. Otherwise, it’s legalism, hypocrisy, or something else.

Yes, if you’re basing your faith only on evidence and not a relationship with God through the Spirit, it’s just knowing something.

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I can relate. Having been a Christian for over 40 years, it’s only in the last couple that I haven’t struggled with doubt. Interestingly, it’s only in the last couple years, after going through a process of completely re-evaluating what I believe, and the reasons for it that I no longer have doubt. Before that faith was a difficult thing for me.

The result for me has been to move away from a literalist, YEC interpretation of the Bible. My change was mainly based on spending time (and taking courses) on how to study the Bible (hermeneutics), and learning about how a wide variety of other Christians understand the Bible. The result for me has been much less certainty around theology and doctrine, but a much deeper & stronger faith.

So I would encourage you to look at the evidence, but to remember that faith in Jesus is ultimately not based on the evidence but whether or not he is real and alive today. So don’t just look at the evidence, but seek be open to him by reading, and studying the Bible as well. Humbly ask Jesus to be real to you and be open to what he does. If he’s real (and I obviously believe he is) you may be as surprised as I’ve been about what happens.


For my partner and I, it’s been a somewhat regular process, and we realized several years ago that we have done it semi-automatically for all of our lives together. We do it more intentionally now that we’re older and so much wiser. :slight_smile: It’s a process that is roughly similar to Marie Kondo: put everything out on the table and think about it. Ask why each thing is there and whether it should stay. For us, it’s about all the things that matter (or seem to matter) and not just about the gods (who did not survive the process). There is no expectation that things will be discarded or even changed, only the expectation that they must justify their presence in our lives. It is just as likely that the process leads to deeper commitment and appreciation for something, and I think that others who engage in this kind of assessment have discovered a deeper religious faith.


@ho_idiotes , thanks for the honest and transparent post here.

I agree that the problem of seeing so many Christians making bad arguments is unsettling.

For me, Jesus is worth following, even when Christians don’t make sense.


Yup, and also “The Son of Man” is a Messianic title that makes sense in original cultural context. See the book of Enoch.


In practice we have difficulty questioning “everything.” When you start drilling down it becomes evident that there’s a lot there. But what we can do is critically evaluate the questions we are particularly concerned with, and try in so doing not to allow beliefs of the past, or notions we have never properly scrutinized, to slow us down.

The fact is that while we think of ourselves as though we are natively good at reasoning, we’re not. If reason and evidence are a 16-speed transmission with syncromesh and overdrive, we are by nature more like a two-speed 1950s slushbucket automatic. But we can learn to be better at it, and this requires a certain focus upon method. It’s a kind of mental hygiene: make sure that your methods for handling propositions are sound, and this will clean up a good deal of the mess and bother. My advice on method, then:

I would say that the first principle is that you have got to remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with facing a difficult and complex problem, especially one where the evidence is at times puzzling, and saying “I don’t know.” Discomfort with not knowing is a handicap for people; we really do like stories to have endings and questions to have answers. But investigating a problem for yourself and concluding that it is, at least by the evidence available to you and the methods employable by you, presently unsolvable, IS a good answer to a question. It may not be the last answer but it is better to stop there, when the situation warrants, than to let the desire for answers drive you into some corner or other where you’ve got to accept X as the answer because not-knowing is too awful.

Second: separate merits from consequences. It’s very hard to reason about things in which one feels one has a stake, either because one would like to live in this sort of universe rather than that, or because other people will judge you this way or that. When you are dealing with a question of how facts actually ARE, none of those things actually matter. I’m fairly sure I’m not the possessor of an immortal soul; I’m fairly sure I’d like to be, and indeed, if I think about it I have a strong preference that it should be so. But it would be a grave intellectual mistake to think that my feelings in the matter have any bearing upon whether it is so or is not so. When you stand in the position of trying to fairly judge a fact, it will never do you good to be partial in the matter.

Third: remember that when the question is a question of fact, evidence is always the key. There is a tendency for people to feel that large amounts of “argument” will do substitute duty for evidence, or to feel that certain types of questions of fact can be answered purely by resort to abstract philosophizing. But when you have got to consider the truth or falsity of the proposition that such-and-such a thing exists, or does not, evidence is the only thing that can possibly be of any use. This is true for essentially all questions of any importance. Argumentation can come into it when one is trying to figure out what to MAKE of the evidence, but argumentation does not amplify evidence and it doesn’t supplement it; at its very best, it explains it.

Fourth: that a proposition is not well supported by good evidence is no excuse for expanding one’s notions of evidence just in order to have something to rest upon. Evidence that really does not bear upon a question – just like argument – cannot do substitute duty for evidence that does.

Fifth: buyer beware! It is good to spend a bit of time studying the fallacious modes of thinking about evidence into which people fall, and to that end, it doesn’t hurt to read about fraudsters and mountebanks of today in order to understand their methods. Humanity has never been without the fraudster, nor has it ever been without the self-deceived. Prophets and mystics of all sorts are still with us today, and their methods are still available for us to witness first-hand, and for us to form, thereby, an opinion of the value of those methods in revealing the truth.

Sixth: always be sure that the evidence which you consider is of a kind, character and quality to bear upon the question at issue. If you’d like to know what the Duke of Marlborough had for breakfast prior to the Battle of Blenheim, history will of course be your best recourse. If you’d like to know what sorts of forces and principles explain phenomena in the world today, it will not. And if you’d like to know whether seemingly impossible things are probable, it absolutely will not: Huxley’s excellent essay on The Value of Witness to the Miraculous is a good read on that subject.

Seventh, and then I’ll shut up: don’t carry around a bifurcated epistemology without explicitly deciding to do so. If there’s one kind of truth for ordinary real phenomena and another kind of truth for out-of-the-ordinary phenomena (I think there is not, but propositions like this that lie at the very base of reality are hard to test), then don’t mix your terms. Accept one thing on evidence and the other on the basis of whatever-the-heck instead if you must, but keep them on separate bases and know when you are thinking in the one mode and when you are thinking in the other. Sloshing ideas about between the two of them will only get you in a muddle.


I haven’t read any apocryphal books but need to do that soon.