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The Catholic Church Has Its Hooks In Me.

I'm not a lapsed Catholic, I'm a trapped Catholic. I am miserable and anxious when I try to practice Catholicism. I feel like I will fail my children if I bring them up in Catholicism. I have been disenchanted with the Church for something dumb like 9 years. The time I have spent unhappy as a Catholic is several times longer than the time I spent happy there.

But I can. Not. Leave.

I grew up as an Episcopalian, in a pretty liberal but nominally religious family. I became conservative, traditional, and super religious as a teenager, then converted to Catholicism in an uber-traditional parish. By 2 or 3 years later, my problems had begun. I realized I wasn't that conservative, unquestioning person I tried to become. I finally separated from the church and spent 2 years happily practicing as an Episcopalian. But the Church drew me back. I returned to Catholicism and became miserable. I dreaded going to church, but went every week, just like I was supposed to.

Six months ago, I started on antidepressants. That cleared my mind enough that I was able to resume my practice with thr Episcopalians. But now, the draw to Catholicism is grabbing me again, more forcefully than ever. I can't go long without thinking about it. I torture myself by listening to Catholic radio. I scour websites and forums for answers and hungrily read all the articles about how anyone who chooses the Church and then leaves it has no chance of salvation. I went to Mass yesterday in secret and told no one because I knew it was bad for me. I was deeply depresed for the rest of the day.

I am afraid I will always be this way. It has already been 9 years; if I haven't sorted this out by now, how will I ever? I feel very strongly that I would be much happier as an Episcopalian, but I can't make that oficial break. I am too scared. Scared of changing my mind again. Scared I will reach my death bed and regret it. Scared I will die and realize I had the chance to be saved and threw it all away. Scared of hell.

What do I do?
SadSearcher SadSearcher 31-35, F 9 Responses Jan 15, 2012

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I went to Catholic school and left the RCC at the age of 19. I no longer believe in "Immortality" or Jesus's Divinity. I believe he was a human Jewish teacher who was executed by the Roman Empire because they thought he wanted to be "King of the Jews." My long story is at the beginning of "Recent" on this website. Martin Luther King's paper on "The Influence of the Mystery Religions on Christianity" was helpful to me. I am too down to earth for organized Christianity. I don't believe there is an afterlife of any sort; therefore, I don't believe in an eternal "hell." I believe what science (knowledge) has to say about atomic energy and evolution creating the universe and earth's creatures. My time here on planet earth is what I get. It takes courage to stand up and speak my truth which does not agree with The Bible. It was written by ancient mostly unknown writers long after the events described occurred. I don't believe in the paranormal that defies the scientific method. I don't know if this helps you, but there it is. The human Jesus probably said something like God will forgive humans who amend their mistakes and wrongdoing and try to make better choices the second time around. I think he believed in second choices.
No one else can tell you what to do. You must learn to think for yourself. What do YOU believe, or not? Perhaps this is the moment where you have to really ask yourself those hard questions and not just go along with institutions that depend on a book written in the Iron Age. I wish you the best on your quest.

You don't get to choose, woman. Your "feelings" don't matter. Ask yourself this one question: Do you actually believe in the truths, doctrines, and dogmas of the Catholic church as promulgated by the Magisterium. The catholic faith is an ascent of the mind to the teachings of the church. How you feel about these things does not change whether they are true.

I strongly disagree that SadSearcher's feelings don't matter. It is HER LIFE we are talking about here. The RCC is patriarchal. Apparently, so are you. The Bible was written by ancient, mostly unknown, writers that had none of the information we have today from modern science (knowledge). Virgin births are impossible. Corpses don't come back to life. Everyone is mortal--even YOU! I think the human Jewish teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, probably said (paraphrased) that God will forgive humans who have made mistakes and wrongdoings if they amend their ways and make better choices the next time. All the paranormal, non scientific, hocus pocus is not necessary to believe that. Many of "the teachings of the church" will lead to very unfortunate consequences in the REAL world on planet earth. The Pope's position on no condoms to stop the AIDS virus from spreading, or to stop poor women from having way too many babies, are two glaring examples. How living humans feel about any philosophy has everything to do with whether or not it is true. Incidentally, have you ever had a science course? The earth was not created in seven days like it says in The Book of Genesis. I hardly think a teenage boy has the right to tell a grown woman how to live her life. I hope the day eventually arrives when you realize you don't know everything.

I never claimed to know everything. I am human and omniscience is God's domain alone. That being said, the Church is perfect, and God has preserved Her deposit of faith from the taint of almost two thousand years' time in a world full of wicked heretics who sought to corrupt the souls of the faithful. Whenever I speak in precise and uncompromising accord with the Church's dogmas, I cannot err.

By the way, as far as condoms are concerned, have people ever considered not indulging their carnal passions. I've never known that method to fail. You people work hard enough to justify the acceptance of heresies that it's truly breathtaking. You've gotten to the point where you really don't see reality anymore, merely whatever perversion of that actuality suits you and makes you feel justified. I don't know if you're a heretic or just ill informed, but it wounds me that you people so assail the Church. Are the pride and hedonism and all the other grave sins that you've rationalized really worth it? I hold out hope that the day arrives when you realize that, even though you're fifty and odd years my senior, you don't know everything either. I'm not perfect, I probably deserve to be in hell by now, but I've never been arrogant enough to act as though either of those was not the case. Good day.

Get real with yourself, it's the most responsible thing you can do. You will not burn in hell for seeking truth in your own life.

What makes the Catholic Church above any other? If you don't like it, leave it. There's no sense continuing an abusive relationship that's not working for you. For crying out loud, I grew up a pretty devout Catholic and rarely EVER immersed myself in Catholic radio.

I am a Catholic born Atheist. I also spent many years in church and spent my formative years in catholic schools. I can tell you this. You can leave. I did. I threw away all of that miserable garage and now live quite happily. If a bit lonely, as I am an Atheist living in bible belt America. Growing up catholic stunted me socially. I don't have any clue as to what trust really means, or even know how to properly make friends. However, the best move I ever made was leaving my catholiscism in the past. You can leave, you just have to learn how to stand on your own two feet and stop using religion as a crutch.

My friend is Episcopalian and what I know of his community is that they are pretty curious about spirituality as a rule. You're afraid of hell--and I know that's a truly moving fear because I've felt it myself. But have you ever considered spirituality outside of ideas about cosmic justice? It was a really watershed moment for me, for example, when someone asked I consider how very useful religion is to worldly leaders that need to exercise control over people--if the real police don't catch you, the cosmic police will. Hence come our ideas of hell. (This 'someone' was actually a Youtube video of a lecture by the late Alan Watts--I highly recommend him.)
All of these things take time. As many others are pointing out, the Catholic Church really does have very affecting ways of maintaining a terrified following. I hope the best for you.

I can identify with this "siren song" of Catholicism -- one thing that might help is to allow yourself to grieve over what you lose when you leave -- because there are some good things that we do lose. For example, the emotional connections, the sense of culture, the songs, the "smells and bells," the familiar words and motions, etc. All of these things are deeply comforting in their own way, regardless of what we might believe about the religion itself. Allow yourself to miss these things and to be sad about losing them. Listen to old music that you miss. Allow yourself to remember the good parts. Ask for the wisdom to know what to do next.

When I was going through the process of leaving the church, a message I received in prayer one day was hugely helpful -- "Stay Catholic for as long as you can." I did -- I stayed until one week when I just knew that it was the last time. That way, I had fewer regrets. Be gentle with yourself, take your time, and remember that you are not just switching hairdressers or grocery stores here. It's like leaving a relationship that is harmful, but also can be so beautiful. "It's complicated." It's all right to feel like you are both right and wrong for leaving. And if you feel like you need to stay for a while, to really remember why you left, maybe you need to do that. Faith is a journey, and it's all about just putting one foot in front of the other. Catholicism demands constant perfection, but Christianity doesn't. It's okay to be a human. Cheers and peace to you!!!

Dear Recovering Catholic,<br />
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Sometimes a group or organization can assume the same role in our minds as a person with whom we are co-dependent. The relationship can be abusive, and utterly magnetizing at the same time.<br />
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ba<x>sed on how many times you wrote the word "scared" in your last paragraph, I'd say you're already living in a bit of a mental hell. <br />
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Jesus did not teach that life should be torture, he taught that he is Love and God is Love and we are all brothers and sisters on this Earth. <br />
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You are so courageous to even consider the risk you feel you are taking, that courage is what I feel that Jesus is most proud of. He doesn't represent oppression in our lives, but the courage to remain open when life is scary and we're not sure how people will respond to our courageous acts.<br />
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God is love, is light, is love.<br />
<br />
Patty

Hey there. Your story completely breaks my heart. I hope I can help at least a little bit...<br />
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I was raised Catholic. My family went to mass every Sunday and on every day of obligation. I went to confession at least once a month. I never missed a single one of these unless I was very sick until the day I moved out of my parents house at age 16. (I just couldn't take it anymore!!!)<br />
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I know how that guilt feels. That's how the church has so much power. Think about it: Jesus' message was all about love, right? He really didn't say much at all about hell. He talked about forgiveness and hung out with hookers and sinners, telling them about God and salvation and what not. Jesus is all right, but the church is COMPLETELY corrupt and flat out evil. (let's not even get into the whole *********-protecting atrocities that have been carried out and hidden for YEARS... but that alone is enough for me to leave the church forever!) They use guilt and shame to control you. What better way to keep a person coming back for more when the threat of eternal torture and damnation looms over their head all the time? Just as one example of the way the church controls people, think about this. It is supposedly a sin to **********, to have 'impure thoughts' about another person, premarital sex, etc. Sex drive is an inevitable aspect of human existence, yet the church says these thoughts and feelings are sinful. Why would God design our bodies to naturally and frequently do things he would have you burn eternally for? <br />
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The ways the church controls people from an early age are countless. Trust yourself. You are not as powerless as the church would have you believe. your body and your mind belong to YOU, not a parent, not a spouse and not God. Would a just God want you to act in a way that you felt in your heart was wrong? It sounds like torture the way you describe attending mass. Don't allow the clergy to use their guilt trip nonsense to make you distrust yourself. If you know and feel in your heart something is truly wrong-- not because some guy told you to, but because YOU feel it-- then don't do it. You are better than that. The church is powerful but it doesn't have to have power over you.<br />
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And just remember, just because the Bible says something doesn't mean it's true... I mean, this is a book that was written over 2000 years ago, and has been edited and translated countless times. Nobody even wrote about Jesus until 80 years after his death!!! So much of what the Bible says has literally no relevance to us today. <br />
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Please, just trust yourself. You are a competent and smart person and you have the freedom to choose how you worship, and if you even worship at all.

Amen, sister! My long story is at the top of "Recent." I think you would enjoy MLK, Jr.'s paper entitled "The Influence of the Mystery Religions on Christianity." Christianity = portions of the life of the human Jewish teacher, Jesus of Nazareth + five pagan cults circulating around the Middle East during the time of the Roman Empire. Like your name "SwampSwine" may imply, My ancestors also climbed out of the "swamps" during a long process of evolution here on planet earth. So far, science has shown this to be the only planet that can sustain the life of mammals. I'm not buying "Pie in the Sky."

Best wishes with your Journey - I think you already know the right answer.