Have you ever tried to force yourself to believe?

This might sound a bit silly, but when I was younger I thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t believe in god. It was almost like I was left out. What’s everyone else seeing that I’m not?

I went to church with friends on a pretty regular basis as a young teen. I thought if I went to church enough, I would understand what everyone else cared so much about. 

I just couldn’t force it though. After months, the things that went on at church seemed just as ridiculous as the first time I went. 

I think this just proves that no one is born religious. My parents skipped out on the indoctrination part when I was little, so I remained a skeptical blank slate.

Has anyone else tried to force themselves to believe?


  1. blf says

    No. About the closest thing I can think of is I did once try to read that absurd book, but like many people (or so I’ve heard), gave up in the deep never-ending twisty morass & moral maze of “A raped B who gave birth to C who also raped B and bought slave D who was raped by E who took C hostage in revenge and they all lived happily ever after.” So I read Asimov’s Guide to that book instead, which firmly put an end to any speculation about teh magic sky faeries ever having been real.

  2. John Morales says

    No, but when I was a little child I just took people’s word that it was all real at face value, so I did the praying and stuff. Worked out it was all very silly by the time I was a bigger child, though.

  3. Bruce says

    A hundred years ago, some evangelicals forced themselves to believe their prophet person had told them the exact date and time of the rapture. So one guy went to the top of his barn and at the right moment jumped off, so he could fly directly to heaven. He was quite injured when he hit the ground.
    To me, trying to believe on faith is trying to ignore reality, which is dangerous.
    So, asking if one has tried to believe is like asking people if they have tried to jump off a ten story building and fly. That is, it sounds as if our discussion is encouraging people to commit suicide, which I know none of us want to do. I find it very disturbing even to raise such questions. Thanks.

  4. mailliw says

    @2 Marcus Ranum

    I tried to believe in democracy; that didn’t work.

    Sad, but true, believing doesn’t help much, we have to actually do stuff to make democracy happen and to preserve it.

  5. billseymour says

    I never “tried” to believe in any gods. When I was growing up (I’ll be 74 a few days from now), belief in some version of the Christian god was just the norm.

    I was raised Episcopalian; and during my high school years, I had every intention of becomming a priest. It was later as an adult, when I developed a little bit of introspection, that I realized that what I really liked was the theater of the church services and decided that that wasn’t a very good reason for that particular career choice.

    Over the years I drifted through various degrees of agnosticism and decided that I’m an atheist about a decade ago.

  6. lanir says

    Yes. And no.

    Yes in the way that I think is meant by the original post, where you realize there are issues with the dogma you’re being handed. I grew up in a family that took me to church every Sunday with a mother that insisted I appear attentive the whole mass. They sent me to Catholic school from first grade through senior in highschool. All choices about religion were false choices until college, although both my parents and their church tried to imply the choices they made for me were mine (first communion, confirmation, etc). But being inundaded with false moralities and nonsensical stories isn’t enough to shut off critical thinking. It just tries to do an end-run around it by being there when you just accept what you’re told, before you know to question anything.

    So I tried to believe because they kept telling me stories. But by third grade I was disbelieving their Genesis stories because I could dream up one that made far more sense to me. My story was that god just appeared from nowhere, quickly realized he was falling and made a planet (Earth) so he would have someplace to land and walk on. That’s it. My story obviously had holes (I was still in third grade!) but it made a lot more sense to me than a lot of the weird convolutions that happen in Genesis. And mine had the benefit of god not being a dick anywhere in it.

    That was the beginning of me trying to salvage the mess they wanted me to believe in. I tried for another decade or so off and on to make sense of it. But it’s hard to believe in rules and stories about rules when even the people telling you about it don’t care enough to follow them. They were hypocrites, jackasses, and thin-skinned authoritarian thugs. I can count the number of honestly good people I’ve met who sincerely believe in -any- religion on one hand with fingers to spare. And some of them are pagan.

    I tried neo-paganism after it became obvious the xtian thing was a toxic trainwreck. Well, years after that, but once I could get away from the mess and make my own choices. It didn’t work out. Even with prettier stories and less BS I still couldn’t find any way to believe. When I hold someone I care about and feel their warmth, there are no gods there. When I open a window and smell the rain while I listen to thunder resounding across the sky there are no gods to be found. They are nowhere. The wonder is in the person I care about or nature.

    But that was the Yes answer. The No answer is more about some of the comments above this one. I tried believing but I don’t think there was any point where I completely checked out of reality to do it. Some of the earlier comments felt like they were defining trying to believe as mostly involving behavior that risked your life. Go beyond large or you don’t mean it. I don’t think this is a binary choice but if that’s how you want to define things then I’ve never tried very hard to believe in anything.

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