I've been going through an ongoing spiritual crisis for about 20 years now. Up until I was 14, I was a very committed Christian - I read the Bible daily, prayed every night, and my ambition was to become a nun when I grew up. I can't explain where this came from; my mother is a lapsed Catholic who considers Quakerism to be the closest to her own beliefs. My dad doesn't talk about his beliefs. Of my younger siblings, one sister and my brother are avowed atheists, and my youngest sister converted to Islam from being agnostic in order to marry an Albanian Muslim. So we weren't a religious family by any means. All I know is I was given the Hamlyn Children's Bible at the age of 7, and thereafter it became my most-loved book and I literally read it to pieces.
Then my grandmother died of bowel cancer after suffering Alzheimer's for 5 years. She had always seemed to me to be the epitomy of a good Christian woman, and I couldn't understand why she had had to die in such a painful, undignified way. So I lost my faith. Maybe if I had been attending a church, a priest could have explained things to me, but I had no priest, and my Children's Bible didn't have any answers either - and I couldn't find any comfort in my mother's old school KJV either.
So I turned away from God; and instead I became a pagan. I joined my first coven (Alexandrian Wicca) at age 17; by 18 I was a High Priestess and leading a fledgling coven of my own.
All seemed fine; I found my own path, and was dedicated to my beliefs. Or so I thought. Despite being a practicing Witch, I found myself being fascinated by many of the things I had been intrigued by as a child - miracles, weeping statues, rosaries, stigmatism.
And then I started questioning my chosen faith; and the pendulum started swinging. Every time I think my mind is finally settled and resolved, it swings again. A couple of years back I was considering converting to Catholicism; then the pendulum swung the other way and I returned to being Wiccan; all the time though there was this feeling in the back of my head that something still wasn't quite right.
I do have a very basic, fundamental requirement for belief in a higher power. I also have a need for the comfort that comes from belonging to something greater than oneself. I think the latter is due to having always felt something of an outsider and never entirely fitting in anywhere.I have the feeling I could feel so much at home and at peace within the Church, if only I could stop questioning - but that's the problem. I can't. At best my idiosyncratic views can be viewed as heretical; at worst, apostate. There is too much about the Roman Catholic Church I'm just not entirely comfortable with - the idea of papal infallability for a start.
And of course I cannot discount the effects of faulty brain chemistry at play either; I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 8 years ago. It's not unusual for bipolar sufferers to "get religion" or go through spiritual crises. I just seem to have made it a lifetime's habit.
Anyway, it finally got to the point where I found myself making a list, trying to work out just what the issue was (this stuff is still in the process of percolating through my head at the moment, hence why it's just a series of questions):
- Am I pagan because that's what I truly believe - or just what I want to believe / feel I should believe? (add in here stuff about maybe subconsciously wanting to appear more interesting/unusual/cool/weirder than I actually am)
- Are my theological/philosophical ideas something I really believe deep down inside, or are they just a bunch of clever-sounding theories that happened to seem plausible at the time?
- Am I just looking for some sort of community to belong to?
- What is it about Christianity that I really have a problem with believing? Scripture or dogma?
- I want to believe. What is stopping me?
- Why do I swing to extremes? Ultra-pagan/ultra-orthodox (not enough to be pagan - have to be Wiccan; can't just be Christian - has to be Catholicism, etc) - High Ritual again.
- A need to belong to something "greater" than myself?
- Missing parental figure(s)?
Any words of advice or suggestions? I think at heart,I still believe in God, but after 20 years of this I'm just going in circles. I know I just can't commit to Catholicism, and paganism just feels too empty - like I'm just pretending, or trying to fool myself. But the "standard" C of E church is just too wishy-washy for me.
I just want to find somewhere I belong, where it feels right.