Mother Teresa's Loss of Faith

Time magazine this month has a rather amazing story about a decades-long crisis of faith in the life of Agnes Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa. A newly released biography, Come Be My Light, consists of numerous letters Teresa exchanged with her church superiors. These letters reveal that for the last fifty years of her life, she felt as if God had withdrawn his presence from her and would not respond to her prayers. Unable to feel any hint of God’s existence – “neither in her heart or in the eucharist”, according to Brian Kolodiejchuk, the book’s editor – she lived in a permanent state of silent misery and despair. Some excerpts from Teresa’s letters reveal just how tormented she was:

I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone … Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.

So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.

This crisis of faith began in 1946, the same year that she began her evangelistic work among the poor in Kolkata, and continued unabated, except for a few weeks in 1958, until her death in 1997. The church assigned a long series of priests and bishops to act as her confessors, trying to help her recover her faith, but all of them ultimately met with failure.

Despite her intense inner turmoil, Teresa always kept up a facade of cheerful piety in public, professing religious sentiments which she did not truly feel. Her letters reveal that this was a fully conscious act of deception. She called her smile “a mask”, and wrote privately to a confidant about one public appearance: “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love… If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’”

The inability to feel God’s presence is a common element of deconversion stories, but as Teresa’s letters show, it happens in people who remain believers as well. Of course, atheists should not be at all surprised by this, since we are well aware that there is no god there to feel. In the initial ecstasy of conversion, a new believer may convince themselves that they have felt God’s presence, but after the exhilaration fades, the sense of presence often goes with it. If this can happen to a believer as famed as Mother Teresa, it undoubtedly happens to others as well. It’s an open question just how many other theists may be going through similar emotional agony, struggling in vain to convince themselves that they feel the presence of God. Almost certainly, these struggles are severely underreported, because believers are loath to admit them – each one concealing their own torment because they are convinced they are the only one experiencing it, and thus contributing to the same misconception among all the others who are feeling the same thing.

Although her letters show she considered atheism on more than one occasion, Teresa never publicly admitted the truth about how she felt. (She asked the church to destroy her letters, but that request was not granted.) It seems that, like many believers, she became so locked into her religion that she never even considered leaving it to be a live option. Sadly, she is not the first and will not be the last person to put themselves through this unnecessary suffering by vainly clinging to false dogma. This is yet another of the ways in which unfounded faith ends up causing real pain and suffering to real people.

Teresa’s inner suffering was not helped by the Catholic church. If anything, its masochistic, pain-glorifying teachings only exacerbated her problem, by encouraging her to stay and suffer rather than seek a different path where she might have found happiness. Some of Teresa’s confessors told her that her darkness was “reparative” – in other words, a blessing granted by God that let her experience some of what Jesus felt while being crucified. As one advisor put it, “It was the redeeming experience of her life when she realized that the night of her heart was the special share she had in Jesus’ passion.”

Not only did these teachings prolong Teresa’s suffering, they further demonstrate the unfalsifiable nature of religious belief. When God’s presence is felt, that is evidence of God’s existence; when God’s presence is not felt, that is also considered evidence of God’s existence. These beliefs are formulated to be perfectly circular, immune to logic.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Brock

    I read about this too. What strikes me is that she was a person who was able to accomplish quite a bit, and as Christopher Hitchens has demonstrated, quite a bit of harm. If she had had a humanist orientation, think what she could have accomplished in a positive way.

  • Brock

    I read about this too. What strikes me is that she was a person who was able to accomplish quite a bit, and as Christopher Hitchens has demonstrated, quite a bit of harm. If she had had a humanist orientation, think what she could have accomplished in a positive way.

  • Valhar2000

    It seems that everything about her was a fraud.

  • Polly

    I feel that life is empty quite often. I used to be dismayed about feeling that way when I was xian. I thought to myself, I’m not supposed to feel this way, because I have God in my life; I pray and am even blessed by god. I would never have admitted something like that to any nonbeliever. God is supposed to be all sufficient, so why do I, and other believers, get depressed? I still get depressed often, but, I don’t see it as a failure on my part. Nor is it particularly vexing, anymore.

    This is just one more way that religion forces people to conform, even in their innermost lives, to the image of happy, holy god-filled people. Not all xians put on the happy face. But, many do because they are afraid of ruining their testimony-quite rightly IMO.
    If only there weren’t these unrealistic, and unnatural, expectations.

    You should no longer sin (1 John 3:6),
    you shouldn’t have evil desires,
    you shouldn’t love the world,
    you should be filled with love for everyone no matter what,
    you shouldn’t save money,
    you shouldn’t fight for your rights when wronged,
    you shouldn’t lust after women (yeah, tell that to a teenage boy)

    and on and on. These are all found in the NT. That many commands are disregarded due to sheer impracticality, doesn’t mean they can’t be a source of tremendous guilt. In fact, that’s a prime source of guilt.

  • Jason

    Wow, this is something I had not heard. I had the same thought as Brock. I have not read Hitchens’ book but I am familiar with the premise. That many people suffered and died in pain and poor conditions rather than receiving medical treatment because it was “a blessing” to suffer for Jesus or feel what he felt and that it would cleanse the soul some how. Since I have not read it I will not comment further but like to hear if anyone else has something to say about this.

    If Hitchens’ book is even ‘mostly’ true what implication does that have on the church that encouraged her to keep suffering and ‘doing his work’. Did she then just pass on this illogical bs to the poor who were dying there? Could an argument be made that they even contributed to needless deaths by supporting this belief that suffering somehow rewards people in the afterlife.

    I’m just throwing out questions and like to hear the perspective of someone who has read Hitchens’ book and can comment intelligently on the subject.

  • http://www.gretachristina.com/ Greta Christina

    Gee. I wonder if they’ll make her a saint now.

    I have read Hitchens’s “Missionary Position,” Jason. (It’s great: a must-read, and fairly short). And yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking when I read this post. If even half of what the book says is true, Mother Teresa was obsessed with suffering as a pathway to Heaven, in some totally creepy ways. Her so-called “hospices” were basically just warehouses for people to get converted and die: they offered lousy medical care, and little or nothing in the way of pain medication as a matter of policy. She told one person in one of her hospices that his pain was “Jesus kissing him.” (His response: “Can you tell him to stop?”)

    This new story puts an entirely different light on that. If she was in that much emotional torment, and was framing that torment as the core of her relationship with God and Christ, it sheds a whole new light on her whole fucked-up “suffering is a blessing from God” trip. It actually makes me have more compassion for her than I did before… but it also makes me angrier at her, for taking out her suffering on thousands and thousands of helpless others.

    And Polly, I was totally struck by your comment. Religion is so often presented as necessary because it helps people in their hour of despair and need. But it sounds like it made it worse for you, because it made you feel like it was your fault: your faith wasn’t strong enough. It reminds me of that amazing piece a few weeks ago in surgeonsblog, about how fervently praying for recovery from illness can make people blame themself when they don’t get better, and just how screwed up that world view is.

  • Brock

    Sorry I dropped that bit about Hitchen’s book in without explaining, and thank you Greta for stepping in. Some of the other things that the book talks about are her tendency to work with totalitarian governments, such as the Duvaliers of Haiti, to stump for anti abortion and even anti divorce legislation in such places as Ireland, and to amass huge amounts of money, while keeping her missions starved. Perhaps the most tragic and infuriating part of her legacy, however, was that while people were dying in agony in her hospices, she was checking into the best medical clinics in the world for her problems. Try searching for articles about her on the Free Inquiry website, as they published similar things, including, as I remember, an expose by a former Sister of Mercy who left the order in disgust at what was happening.
    I agree with Greta also in that as a result of reading about her problems with faith I feel more compassion for her than I did. It makes me wonder about other bible bangers in our culture. Do you think that Jerry or Pat ever feel this way?

  • Ric

    Well, it is admirable that Theresa kept doing good in the world, but I echo Brock’s comment that she could have avoided the harm she did by becoming a humanist. Also, this is just more proof that one doesn’t have to be religious to do good in the world.

  • http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com tobe38

    Great post!

    I often speculate privately that all theists must have at least some moments of faith crisis. To hear that someone like Mother Teresa lived most of her life in anguish over it is astounding. I hope that it encourages others who find themselves doubting their faith not to be afraid to question their beliefs.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Ric

    Well, it is admirable that Theresa kept doing good in the world

    What Good was she doing exactly? The money she collected never helped the poor people who needed it, those who were dying were not cared for and she needlessly made thousands of people suffer.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    The thing that’s interesting: I just saw the listing for this book on Amazon, and the bio isn’t being blurbed as being about a loss of faith. It’s all about “an intense trial of faith,” “a true dark night of the soul,” a “spiritual journey” in which her “heart was tested and purified.”

    A complete loss of faith for the last fifty years of her life — that’s some spiritual journey.

    And I’ll echo what Mrnaglfar said. Read “Missionary Position.” This woman did pretty much no good at all, and a great deal of harm. The image of the compassionate, charitable Mother Teresa, the pinnacle of human goodness, is total bullshit.

  • http://thestoneoftear.blogspot.com Callandor

    This was brought up on Real Time with Bill Maher, and a woman who was on the show’s panel discussed this and was towing the apologtist line. “This makes it more special since it shows someone great like her having a crisis of faith.” Right. I burst out laughing when she asked “How can you not have doubts in this world?” No shit! That’s the entire point. Faith demands no doubt; complete, unending, dedication all without a drop of proof.

    I also wanted to smack the lady since she said that she felt honored that Teresa “kept the documents for us to read.” Yeah, if you ignore the part about her wanting them destoryed, she did a bang up job.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hi all,

    I didn’t get into Mother Teresa’s unsavory activities because I didn’t want to write too much here – it’ll be the topic of another post. But it’s absolutely correct to say that she seemed more concerned with saving her patients’ souls than mending their bodies. Doctors from both India and the U.K. who visited her free clinics (Hitchens wasn’t the only one making these observations – see Aroup Chatterjee’s Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict or Robin Fox’s article in the Lancet) were horrified by the absence of effective treatment, the lack of adequate pain relief, and the squalid, unsanitary conditions (needles were reused so many times they became blunt, often without proper sterilization in between).

    Needless to say, the donations Teresa raked in could have built a dozen fully-equipped modern hospitals. To this day, I don’t think anyone knows where all that money went. And, as others have noted, when Teresa herself needed medical treatment, she went not to her own clinics but to the very finest and most expensive hospitals in the West. On one occasion, she said that she thought it was beautiful to suffer like Christ and that the world was being helped by the suffering of the poor. Evidently she didn’t count herself among those fortunate ones.

    The thing that’s interesting: I just saw the listing for this book on Amazon, and the bio isn’t being blurbed as being about a loss of faith. It’s all about “an intense trial of faith,” “a true dark night of the soul,” a “spiritual journey” in which her “heart was tested and purified.”

    Sounds to me like some copy editor didn’t get the message. The general idea in a “trial” of faith or in “purifying” the soul is that the believer’s faith is supposed to return stronger than ever in the end. That’s the usual coda to these apologist Hallmark stories. But that wasn’t the case with Mother Teresa. As far as anyone knows, her state of faithless despair lasted right up until her death. Of course, mentioning that isn’t likely to drive book sales among the target audience…

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  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    How incredibly tragic. When I think of her story being used to encourage more people to ignore their own sweet reason it seems more tragic still. Mother Teresa seems to have had an incredible drive to do what she perceived as ‘good’. It’s a pity she never came to conceive of goodness in non-religious terms.

  • Alex Weaver

    other Teresa seems to have had an incredible drive to do what she perceived as ‘good’. It’s a pity she never came to conceive of goodness in non-religious terms.

    Is it also possible she was simply a sadist and rationalized this in terms of “ultimate good” from a spiritual perspective?

    I’m just sayin’…

  • Yoyo

    The very saddest thing is this is the first thing i have heard/read about her that is at all positive. If she had been able to be honst about her feelings and lack of belief maybe she would not have commited such perversions is the sky fairies name. Perhaps she may even have been able to work to reduce pain suffering and poverty for her fellow humans, particularly women.

  • http://badnewsbible.blogspot.com XanderG

    Echoing what Brock said, it makes me wonder how many theists out there, who put up the strongest displays of their faith, are actually having massive doubts about what they believe. However because of the stigma attached to atheism and disbelief, they keep up the pretence and twist themselves into bitter people.

    What’s depressing though, is that so many think Mother Teresa was a lovely person, and don’t actually know the sordid truth. But then it wouldn’t be the first time large religious denominations, especially the Catholic Church, have ignored unpalatable truths.

  • Valhar2000

    Xander, churches are full of sociopaths and social dominators who have no need for the concept of god except insofar as they find it to be a means to an end. Religion is the perfect tool for those people to use, since it turns normal people into credulous obedient blobs that can be easily manipulated.

    Do you think that the televangelists who bilk the poor for all they’ve got, the preachers who rail againsts gays and then solicit male prostitutes, and the ones who advise others to “lie for Jesus” are in any way sincere? Some will be, I suppose, but I am quite sure most are just in it for the money and the power, and know full well what scam they run.

  • http://entomologiya.blogspot.com Entomologista

    Incredible. I wish more people would come out of the atheist closet.

    Valhar, you make a very good point. You should read “Conservatives Without Conscience” if you haven’t already.

  • http://entomologiya.blogspot.com Entomologista

    Incredible. I wish more people would come out of the atheist closet.

    Valhar, you make a very good point. You should read “Conservatives Without Conscience” if you haven’t already.

  • Judy

    Here is the text of an editorial from The Dallas Morning News on 8/29/07:

    Mother Teresa’s Torment – One must be human before becoming a saint

    When we think of the saints, it’s common to imagine them as serene figures, going about the world doing good works, floating above the temptations and doubts of ordinary people. The truth is more complicated. Holiness is not the same thing as goodness. In fact, it’s spiritual heroism.

    Now come stunning revelations that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was tormented by doubt that God existed. In private letters to her confessors now being published on the 10th anniversary of her death, she referred to Jesus as “the Absent One.”

    In 1946, Mother Teresa had a mystical vision in which she believed she heard Jesus calling to her to “come be my light” to the poor. She did. And then he withdrew, leaving the Catholic to dwell in the abyss of doubt for half a century. In the letters, she described her smile as “a cloak that covers everything” and agonized over whether she was a hypocrite.

    You could call her that. Or you could see in the famed humanitarian’s life a spectacular triumph of the human spirit. She persevered. She endured. She did not abandon the wretched of the earth, nor falter in what she believed was her divinely appointed mission – even though she received no consolation that God was even there.

    How? Hope.

    Hope is not mere optimism. Hope is the conviction that despite all available evidence, our lives, our work and our sufferings have ultimate meaning. Most people, religious and secular, at some point experience doubt about their purpose in life; many doubt whether life has purpose at all. But the moment passes. It did not for Mother Teresa, who felt forsaken by God for the last half-century of her life.

    And yet, because Mother Teresa did not let her inner darkness overcome the light, in poverty-stricken South Dallas and in more than 130 countries worldwide, poor people find help and compassion through the Missionaries of Charity. Though Mother Teresa was desperately poor in spirit, what faith she had was enough to move mountains.

    To learn of her radical doubt is not to lose respect for Mother Teresa. It is rather to be awestruck by what she accomplished despite her all-too-human fears. In her weakness, the rest of us may find strength. Ten years after the great and good woman of Calcutta’s passing, we now know that she was no plaster saint. She was one of us.

    ***

    Sounds like they’re saying, Oh, well, she may have had doubts, like we all do from time to time, but she still deserves to be a “saint”. I would think that “god” would be the one to designate someone a saint, as he/it would know the true person, but isn’t sainthood something that’s bestowed by men? I wish the editorial board of this newspaper had exhibited enough courage to pursue the STORY behind the story: Could it be that there really is no god?

  • Judy

    Here is the text of an editorial from The Dallas Morning News on 8/29/07:

    Mother Teresa’s Torment – One must be human before becoming a saint

    When we think of the saints, it’s common to imagine them as serene figures, going about the world doing good works, floating above the temptations and doubts of ordinary people. The truth is more complicated. Holiness is not the same thing as goodness. In fact, it’s spiritual heroism.

    Now come stunning revelations that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was tormented by doubt that God existed. In private letters to her confessors now being published on the 10th anniversary of her death, she referred to Jesus as “the Absent One.”

    In 1946, Mother Teresa had a mystical vision in which she believed she heard Jesus calling to her to “come be my light” to the poor. She did. And then he withdrew, leaving the Catholic to dwell in the abyss of doubt for half a century. In the letters, she described her smile as “a cloak that covers everything” and agonized over whether she was a hypocrite.

    You could call her that. Or you could see in the famed humanitarian’s life a spectacular triumph of the human spirit. She persevered. She endured. She did not abandon the wretched of the earth, nor falter in what she believed was her divinely appointed mission – even though she received no consolation that God was even there.

    How? Hope.

    Hope is not mere optimism. Hope is the conviction that despite all available evidence, our lives, our work and our sufferings have ultimate meaning. Most people, religious and secular, at some point experience doubt about their purpose in life; many doubt whether life has purpose at all. But the moment passes. It did not for Mother Teresa, who felt forsaken by God for the last half-century of her life.

    And yet, because Mother Teresa did not let her inner darkness overcome the light, in poverty-stricken South Dallas and in more than 130 countries worldwide, poor people find help and compassion through the Missionaries of Charity. Though Mother Teresa was desperately poor in spirit, what faith she had was enough to move mountains.

    To learn of her radical doubt is not to lose respect for Mother Teresa. It is rather to be awestruck by what she accomplished despite her all-too-human fears. In her weakness, the rest of us may find strength. Ten years after the great and good woman of Calcutta’s passing, we now know that she was no plaster saint. She was one of us.

    ***

    Sounds like they’re saying, Oh, well, she may have had doubts, like we all do from time to time, but she still deserves to be a “saint”. I would think that “god” would be the one to designate someone a saint, as he/it would know the true person, but isn’t sainthood something that’s bestowed by men? I wish the editorial board of this newspaper had exhibited enough courage to pursue the STORY behind the story: Could it be that there really is no god?

  • OMGF

    If she goes to her grave as a devout believer it’s “Oh, isn’t that great how god did this for her and she did so much for others because of god.”

    If she goes to her grave as someone severely doubting the myth it’s “Oh, isn’t that great how god did this for her and she did so much for others because of god.”

    How ridiculous.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The real problem that all these editorials overlook is that Teresa lied. She had no faith, but she continued to act and pretend as if she did. As her own letters show, she was fully aware that she was being a hypocrite. That’s the point we shouldn’t let anyone forget whenever someone praises her for showing dedication despite her lack of faith.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The real problem that all these editorials overlook is that Teresa lied. She had no faith, but she continued to act and pretend as if she did. As her own letters show, she was fully aware that she was being a hypocrite. That’s the point we shouldn’t let anyone forget whenever someone praises her for showing dedication despite her lack of faith.

  • Yoyo

    As ebonmuse said she lied consistently, publicly for year after year. Not only that she judged her “faith” to be so important that she baptised non-consenting adults of other “faiths”. Can we posthumoustly baptise her a feloow flying spaghetti monster follower?

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Actually, I think that pointing out that she lied is missing the point. In continuing to have faith and to profess happiness with her situation despite the way she felt, I’d say she was lying to herself as much as to anyone. Being open about the way she felt, instead of speaking only to church superiors who would consistently spout the church line, would probably have forced a more dramatic confrontation of her cognitive dissonance and might have allowed her to renounce religion and find a better way.

    The editorial above assumes that inner doubt is ‘inner darkness’ — that’s its biggest fault.

  • Brock

    I note an article today about the woman who was “cured” of a “lumpy tumor” by Mother T on the first anniversary of ehr death, and whose “cure” was instrumental in the old hag’s beatification is complaining that the Sisters, who were oh so solicitous and helpful to her during the beatification process, have completely abandoned her, and she is living in abject poverty. I guess the lesson of using people for holy purposes and then discarding them is one they learned well. Of course, this does not mean that the woman is any less devoted to Mother T as an abstraction.

  • Sharon

    Just found this website–it is excellent and I applaud the fact that atheists are growing in strength on the internet.

    Why is it that the Roman Catholic church in particular glorifies suffering? It is throughly in love with the stories of martyrs, the bloodier the better. It loves to show and revels in videos and pictures of starving, injured and/or dying people, especially children. The church is a sick and depressing entity who will try to convince people to send in money to help the “poor and suffering” while the Vatican grows ever more rich.

    Imagine the good this woman could have accomplished without the shackles of religious belief. She was nothing but a propaganda tool of yet another mythology which constantly strives to entice the public to enrich the coffers of its leaders using sympathy as a tool. The church had a field day with this woman. What a shame people are so easily duped.

  • Sharon

    Just found this website–it is excellent and I applaud the fact that atheists are growing in strength on the internet.

    Why is it that the Roman Catholic church in particular glorifies suffering? It is throughly in love with the stories of martyrs, the bloodier the better. It loves to show and revels in videos and pictures of starving, injured and/or dying people, especially children. The church is a sick and depressing entity who will try to convince people to send in money to help the “poor and suffering” while the Vatican grows ever more rich.

    Imagine the good this woman could have accomplished without the shackles of religious belief. She was nothing but a propaganda tool of yet another mythology which constantly strives to entice the public to enrich the coffers of its leaders using sympathy as a tool. The church had a field day with this woman. What a shame people are so easily duped.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Why is it that the Roman Catholic church in particular glorifies suffering?

    This is a good point. The Catholic church, even more so than most Christian denominations, glorifies pain and suffering. Just think of their canonical symbol – a man nailed to a cross and writhing in agony. Most other Christian churches are content with the empty cross, which is horrible enough in its own way, but at least less graphic.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Why is it that the Roman Catholic church in particular glorifies suffering?

    This is a good point. The Catholic church, even more so than most Christian denominations, glorifies pain and suffering. Just think of their canonical symbol – a man nailed to a cross and writhing in agony. Most other Christian churches are content with the empty cross, which is horrible enough in its own way, but at least less graphic.

  • Sharon

    And don’t forget the lurid tales of their martyrs. Filled with horrid stories of tortures of the worst kind. Although many must be taken with a grain of salt. Many of them are just variations on various pagan gods. I can remember as a young child in Catholic grammar school reading about these sickening stories. And in our church was a large statue of St. Stephen, I believe, with arrows sticking in him, painted blood dripping down and his eyes looking upward towards heaven. What a terrible vision for a young child to see. To this day I can still remember what it looked like.

    If this concentration on torture, including flaying alive, boiling in oil, whipped to death etc. isn’t indicative of some sort of sickness, then I don’t know what would qualify as a cruel and ugly state of mind. And don’t get me started on the sickening “relics”…

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Sharon –

    Your point would be spot-on even without the 300-year history of the Inquisition, which seems to me be indirect support for the concept of desensitization. The tortures used in that evil attempt at thought control point to psychopathy. That it was offically sanctioned for so long says much.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Sharon –

    Your point would be spot-on even without the 300-year history of the Inquisition, which seems to me be indirect support for the concept of desensitization. The tortures used in that evil attempt at thought control point to psychopathy. That it was offically sanctioned for so long says much.

  • Carlos Cheng

    What important here is her devotion to help the poor. The mere happiness seeing a being pull out of suffering appears in our mind. That is all it matters. Whether there is God or not, to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man counts. Mother Theresa may want to do more by asking God for help to alleviate the suffering of humanity. But this will not going to happen. This may distress her as God does not response to her calling. Mother Theresa is a true Boddhisatva. With all the quality of love and compassion in her mind, she leave this world with a saintly mind and indeed with love of humanity above her suffering, she belong to the quality of a saint that we revere. I am not a Christian and I understand the frustration of Mother Theresa. Maybe she be reborn in heaven with the Gods like her or higher to the realm of the enlightment being

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Except that she glorified in the suffering of people, thinking it brought them to god. I suggest, Carlos, that you look up the real mother theresa. Ebon has a later post on her that illustrates just how bankrupt her morality really was.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Except that she glorified in the suffering of people, thinking it brought them to god. I suggest, Carlos, that you look up the real mother theresa. Ebon has a later post on her that illustrates just how bankrupt her morality really was.

  • NightShadeQueen

    @ Carlos Cheng.

    Sadly, though, the “Mother-Theresa-helped-the-poor” idea is only a myth.

  • Ambrogio

    What is mythical about the fact that she repeatedly helped people by picking them up from Calcutta gutters where they were neglected and took them to a place where they could be washed, cared for and given food? It’s pretty uncomplicated and factual. No need for cynical analysis.

    The argument that all the money could have been used to build sophisticated medical centres is really rather juvenile and shows the difficulty of comprehending the scale of the problems of poverty and some basic ethical questions about the distribution of resources in health care.

    But there is mystery sure; but not myth about the faith of Mother Teresa, as these letters show. Surely, what she showed was infact and in deed, her faith. Without any comfort of sentiment, she continued, believing in the value of the love she showed. She wasn’t dishonest! She was honest enough to question whether she was a hypocrite. She questioned herself, she was human, she was challenged by the questions of life and suffering and what is true or good or right. And yet she continued to carry out her work in faith that simple acts of kindness are what please God and that God is very human too,incarnate infact in both the giver and receiver of human acts.

  • Ambrogio

    What is mythical about the fact that she repeatedly helped people by picking them up from Calcutta gutters where they were neglected and took them to a place where they could be washed, cared for and given food? It’s pretty uncomplicated and factual. No need for cynical analysis.

    The argument that all the money could have been used to build sophisticated medical centres is really rather juvenile and shows the difficulty of comprehending the scale of the problems of poverty and some basic ethical questions about the distribution of resources in health care.

    But there is mystery sure; but not myth about the faith of Mother Teresa, as these letters show. Surely, what she showed was infact and in deed, her faith. Without any comfort of sentiment, she continued, believing in the value of the love she showed. She wasn’t dishonest! She was honest enough to question whether she was a hypocrite. She questioned herself, she was human, she was challenged by the questions of life and suffering and what is true or good or right. And yet she continued to carry out her work in faith that simple acts of kindness are what please God and that God is very human too,incarnate infact in both the giver and receiver of human acts.

  • Geoff Ringham

    What interesting and enlightening information.

    Although I am not an atheist, neither am I a religious person. In fact, I find religion manipulative. It’s interesting that when a person’s prays are allegedly answered the person says “Praise be to God!” When not answered they say “It must be Gods will!” instead of the logical response “xxxxx to God!” The simple answer of course is that, regardless of their prayers, the outcome was probably simply preordained by natural chance.

    However, being contantly surprised by what science keeps discovering, I’m prepared to believe that some form of energy power force could possibly be governing natural events and keeps everything in some kind of balance and order. BUT! It’s not a God in the convention sense of the word. It’s beyond the human mind to comprehend and therefore not open to discussion or contact.

    There is however, if one wishes to research, lots of evidence to substantiate the existence of other domains or dimensions after so called death. But that’s another subject.

    Geoff

  • Arch

    Suffering is part of being human. God shows us the meaning of suffering through the cross.
    This post is failing to recognize that faith is not about feeling “happy” or never facing struggles in life. Faith and a life of prayer require devotion and perseverance. Though Mother Teresa went through spiritual sufferings, her faith in Christ was so much greater than her fears or sorrows. She trusted that through giving her all to God, her suffering had meaning. If you see true footage of her life or take the time to read her writings or speeches, you will recognize the joy that persisted in her life, despite any sufferings. Joy is not synonymous with sentiment as our world often upholds it to be, but rather, true joy occurs through knowledge of the truth which is fully experienced only through the God who loves and created us.
    Again, I recommend you see who Mother Teresa was and hear from her yourself so you can know truth about her. Rent or purchase the documentary, “Mother Teresa”–by Jeanette Petrie…
    http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Teresa-Narration-Richard-Attenborough/dp/B000WOYRUI

  • Arch

    Suffering is part of being human. God shows us the meaning of suffering through the cross.
    This post is failing to recognize that faith is not about feeling “happy” or never facing struggles in life. Faith and a life of prayer require devotion and perseverance. Though Mother Teresa went through spiritual sufferings, her faith in Christ was so much greater than her fears or sorrows. She trusted that through giving her all to God, her suffering had meaning. If you see true footage of her life or take the time to read her writings or speeches, you will recognize the joy that persisted in her life, despite any sufferings. Joy is not synonymous with sentiment as our world often upholds it to be, but rather, true joy occurs through knowledge of the truth which is fully experienced only through the God who loves and created us.
    Again, I recommend you see who Mother Teresa was and hear from her yourself so you can know truth about her. Rent or purchase the documentary, “Mother Teresa”–by Jeanette Petrie…
    http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Teresa-Narration-Richard-Attenborough/dp/B000WOYRUI

  • Brad

    Arch,

    1. EM’s post doesn’t say what faith is really all “about.” That’s not the point of this essay. It’s conclusions are about the illogically circular nature of it (in the mainstream), as well as the painful effects of it to Teresa’s (and by implication, others’) life.

    2. Compare Teresa’s private letters to the public image made from and out of her. Which do you think is more accurate – by geting at the true heart of her inner life – and why?

    In sum: please read the linked article and then the original post.

  • Jerri

    It never ceases to amaze me how critical people can be of others who have done so much good in this world. The excerpts that you have taken from Mother Teresa’s letter show nothing other than her undetermined faith, and belief in God. Yes, she may have felt lost or alone as many people of all religions do at times. In the world that we live in it is often extremely hard to feel close to God. It makes it even more difficult when religion is constantly attacked by atheists. For example, posting ads on the side of city buses stating things such as ‘there is no God, so go on and life your life already.’ If the expert that you posted is true and Mother Teresa did write it, your comments are typical. That is typical of someone who has no faith. Mother Teresa showed how much trust and belief she put in God by continuing her work through him. The fact that she felt alone at times and sought help from priests and the Pope but continued to follow God further gives reason as to why she was beautified. As far as you comment of the presence of God fading after the “exhilaration” is gone, God never fades. Mother Teresa saw God all around her, in the people she helped every day. If she didn’t feel God in the slightest way, or didn’t know in her heart that this was what God wanted her to do than should would have never continued her work.
    Really do you note have anything better to do with yourself, I mean than try and corrupt an image of a wonderful women. If you truly believe that God does not exist, than go on and live your life … and stop concerning yourself with others who live theirs through God.

  • Nes

    Jerri,

    It’s not often (ever?) that I post something like this, but…

    Haha hahaha hahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Also, get it right: There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Jerri,

    Mother Teresa showed how much trust and belief she put in God by continuing her work through him.

    So, propping up dictators and causing suffering to others by lack of medicinal care while hypocritically getting the best care in the western world is what counts as doing good works and doing god’s work? Hey, who am I to argue?

  • Mathew Wilder

    I wish people would get over the sick fantasy that Mother Theresa was doing good by letting people rot in her death houses.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    Jerri:

    You seem concerned with atheism being shoved in your face – the comment about the bus billboards; “religion is constantly attacked by atheists,” “stop concerning yourselves with others who live their lives through God,” etc. We’ll make you a deal: Stop shoving God in our faces and we’ll reciprocate. You must admit, religious people attack atheism a whole lot more than the other way around. And we’re only 10-15% of the population. What are you afraid of?

  • Plowfish

    I just want to applaud EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this comment board, fully supporting an atheist point of view (and) criticizing someone who, IF YOU LOOK AT THE TRUE FACTS, TESTIMONY, AND OUTCOME, and NOT AT CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS ABSURD story, was a great help to all HUMANS and, in fact, did more good in the world through her FAITH than everyone else on this board has done with their lack there of.

    Two things to think about
    First, Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Theologian/Philosopher discussed the concept, Leap of Faith, in which he holds that Faith is not something which is easy to come by and must be pursued and sought after every day.
    Second, to all of you SO incredibly secure in your atheism, remember Karl Popper and falsification. Theories cannot be proven, they can only be falsified. WHAT? Go home and light a candle for Dawkins and pray that he is right, you wonderfully egotistical atheist internet bloggers :)
    oh and i applaud you who actually have read Come Be My Light, and not just this post and Christopher Hitchen’s book. to those of you who have read Hitchen’s book and are now an expert on Mother Teresa, pull your head out of Hitchen’s ass and research something yourself.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Ah, the love of Christians! Great lulz there Plowfish. Have you happened to read, for example, the article in The Lancet about the terrible conditions and ridiculous farce for what passed as medical care in those death houses? Mother Theresa was a hypocrite who took money from crooks and tyrants and, instead of at least trying to do something useful with it, like, oh, I don’t know, give an analgesic to a dying person, wasted it on gold trinkets for Jebus, all the while procuring the best medical care for herself. There’s solidarity for you! She was a twisted woman who thought suffering was a divine gift. I’m not sorry I don’t find her fucked up views attractive.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    First, Soren Kierkegaard, Christian Theologian/Philosopher discussed the concept, Leap of Faith, in which he holds that Faith is not something which is easy to come by and must be pursued and sought after every day.

    So, you’re saying you have to try to keep up your fantasies? Cognitive dissonance anyone?

    Second, to all of you SO incredibly secure in your atheism, remember Karl Popper and falsification. Theories cannot be proven, they can only be falsified.

    And, what about it?

    Go home and light a candle for Dawkins and pray that he is right, you wonderfully egotistical atheist internet bloggers :)

    Pascal’s wager? Really?

  • Plowfish

    “I’m not sorry I don’t find her fucked up views attractive”
    Well Mathew, who knows? Who knows if The Lancet article was actually correct or if you weren’t just referencing The Lancet article as did Hitchens? It’s almost impossible to argue about this and come to the truth except for this: Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, after much criticism and questioning by the Catholic Church. In 2009, the Missionaries of Charity have expanded to include most of the world. The Missionaries of Charity was NOT founded as a primary care giver and thus should not be judged as one. It was meant to give HOPE and the promise of LOVE for those who are in no situation to have hope or feel love. Hope, regardless of where it comes from, can sometimes be the greatest gift of all. Also, while you are judging and citing articles, search articles on PRIMARY CARE GIVERS who NEGLECT patients, TURN AWAY PATIENTS who lack means of payment, and PUT PATIENTS ON WAITING LISTS FOR MONTHS. “Her fucked up views”? What are you great views which help give hope to people suffering, or, do you have a greater gift than hope? Truth? Scientific fact? Modern medicine? The TRUTH is that no matter how far advanced SCIENCE gets, MODERN MEDICINE is not available to everyone in the world, in no small part because the egotistical bastards in science and medicine are as self centered as anyone else. Except Mother Teresa. She was not self centered. Call her crazy, insane, a religious nazi, whatever, but, she was not selfish. She gave millions hope and helped ease their inevitable suffering. Show me an atheist who has given people hope and I’ll show you a snobish fuck who is obsessed with grant money and publishing articles for peer review journals.

    “Pascal’s wager? Really?” No that was a joke. Not meant to be taken as “You better believe in God or else…what if he exists?”

    What I meant is, I remember that some fuck up once wrote on another blog, “We are all born atheists…” and that in effect, we were just “indoctrinated to believe in religion. If that is true, then why is it that in early times, before great science, people looked up to the stars to find the answers about life. People seek a god. All people have seeked a god or gods. Even those of you, you weary quitter, you weary student of atheism. By Dawkins you have found your truth! Once you lost your security blanket as a kid, you tried to find god, but it wasn’t there. You were lost! But then you found TRUTH. That’s right, scientifically verifiable TRUTH! You can argue for truth! You can turn your nose up at those who cling to their fantasies. In your palms, you hold the casket to every theological argument for god. Your scientific truth will defeat the “faithful’s” ideas on god. They have faith. You have truth. You win. If their faith is “deep” enough, they win.

    Really, I felt compelled because after reading the article about Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith was intersting. More interesting were ya’lls (^) comments. After reading ya’lls comments, I forgot who the real saint was, Mother Teresa or Christopher Hitchens? Haha…go count your dick.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    “We are all born atheists…” and that in effect, we were just “indoctrinated to believe in religion. If that is true, then why is it that in early times, before great science, people looked up to the stars to find the answers about life. People seek a god.

    Not really. People tend to see intentionality in all sorts of things that actually have natural causes. Yes it’s a human condition but doesn’t imply there actually is an intelligence behind any of the things that happen. We have better explanations now.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Who knows if The Lancet article was actually correct or if you weren’t just referencing The Lancet article as did Hitchens?

    If you have evidence that it is incorrect, then you should publish it. Either way, referencing the article does not invalidate the article.

    It’s almost impossible to argue about this and come to the truth…

    Except for the fact that these things are documented. Your obstinate refusal to look at the facts is what makes it impossible for you to “come to the truth.”

    What are you great views which help give hope to people suffering, or, do you have a greater gift than hope?

    Yes. It’s called medical care.

    She gave millions hope and helped ease their inevitable suffering.

    No, she didn’t. That’s the whole point. She didn’t ease suffering, she revelled in it, thinking it was a gift from god.

    Show me an atheist who has given people hope and I’ll show you a snobish fuck who is obsessed with grant money and publishing articles for peer review journals.

    I’m sure that atheist doctors who participate in doctors without borders would not agree with you for just one example.

    What I meant is, I remember that some fuck up once wrote on another blog, “We are all born atheists…” and that in effect, we were just “indoctrinated to believe in religion. If that is true, then why is it that in early times, before great science, people looked up to the stars to find the answers about life.

    Steve Bowen answered pretty well. Although I would say that we (AFAIK) are not born believing in god. We may have a natural tendency to attribute intelligence to things, but not to specific gods.

    By Dawkins you have found your truth!

    Many of us were atheists before we read Dawkins. But, I see what you are doing here. You’re trying to make atheism into just another dogmatic belief, with high priests, etc. You are wrong, of course.

  • goyo

    plowfish:
    What does lighting a candle have to do with anything? Does that help god heal someone, or change their heart?
    How can you falsify creationism?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Plowfish:

    Also, while you are judging and citing articles, search articles on PRIMARY CARE GIVERS who NEGLECT patients, TURN AWAY PATIENTS who lack means of payment, and PUT PATIENTS ON WAITING LISTS FOR MONTHS.

    Those things are all terrible, I agree. What does that have to do with the demonstrated evidence that Mother Teresa neglected her patients, permitted them to suffer unnecessarily, and deliberately withheld all but the most rudimentary medical care? Does it excuse her if other people do bad things too?

  • Alex Weaver

    Really, I felt compelled because after reading the article about Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith was intersting. More interesting were ya’lls (^) comments. After reading ya’lls comments, I forgot who the real saint was, Mother Teresa or Christopher Hitchens? Haha…go count your dick.

    Okay, I think it’s time for you to go back to your GI Joes…

  • Jose

    I hit this blog in search of Mother Teresa’a loos of faith. Just a personal research. And I have again verified that I find the group of mortals that call themselves atheists very prone to proselitism. They spread their faith (sorry) with more devotion and dedication than the catholic priests that educated me. At the present time I might call yself a non believer but I have never taken my position as something I have to spread around. I take my position as something personal that nobody has a need to know about it.
    I hit this place by accident but I will return in the expectation of a good healthy non belgerant explanation.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    And I have again verified that I find the group of mortals that call themselves atheists very prone to proselitism.

    Jose – I think you overstate the case. It is true that if you visit an atheist forum you will find plenty of people who staunchly advocate the position. It doesn’t mean that we all go out preaching the word, unless of course the theist assumptions of others prevent us from expressing our own philosophies.

  • Andrew

    You know I must say, I’v never had a religious experence, and I’m not the least bit bothered by that…

  • Danikajaye

    And I have again verified that I find the group of mortals that call themselves atheists very prone to proselitism.

    I don’t think it is proselitism that you are witnessing from athiests. I think many athiests are merely defending themselves against an onslaught of religious dogma that they often find thrown their way despite the fact they in no way seek it out. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong but I would say the majority of athiests strive to make the public sphere a secular environment. I identify as an atheist and I have no interest in converting anyone. What I personally strive for is a secular government so that no person is caused pain, suffering or segregation due to religiously influenced bigotry intruding on government policy making. Freedom of religion is key civil liberty so I seek to keep government and religion separate so that theists have the right to practice their own beliefs in private without fear of negative ramifications.

  • Jose

    Steve:
    Please understand that we are talking perception not convictions. When you say
    ‘people who staunchly advocate the position” in my opinion you are doing what precisely I do not understand.I have a crooked eye (a bb gun shot when I was a kid) and I have never “staunchly” defended the position of my equals. I am not being sarcastic. This staunch advocacy really comes across as something uncalled for. I continuously come across TV channels (while browsing) where there are preachers telling about their believes. I don’t feel attacked I just follow my travel through the airwaves. At no point in time in my life I have felt “theist assumptions” preventing me to express my ideas. I did live in Cuba under Castro and he indeed prevented me to be free. So much that I served 16 years in his prisons.
    Danikajaye:
    “onslaught of religious dogma”. Don’t know what it is. I laugh, I am surprised to hear some things they say, they irritate me when they extend their beliefs and pull “logical” political actions, I am not going to expand in my firm believe in the need for a secular goverment without religious beliefs. I voted for Obama and firmly oposed Mr Bush for this reason among others. You do not need to be atheist to advocate the separation of state and religion. There were a lot of belivers among the Founding Fathers and that’s the way they ordered our nation.

    Please don’t be ofended but there is a lot of emotions among any organized self labeled group. I don’t care about my crooked eye and I have never associated myself with my equals and the two eye people do not suffocate me they simply see better (they percive the three dimensions and I don’t). Please notice that I said I don’t. I did not associated myself with the group.


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