Not everyone who disbelieves in God have always lacked faith. Many people who grew up in Christian or Catholic families start to question God’s existence much later on in life. Some abandon the faith gradually while others could vividly remember that crucial point when they have lost their faith.
Why do people stop believing that God exists? When do so many lose their spiritual beliefs?
Here are some of the possible occasions when some people stopped believing in God:
1. Unanswered questions
Some people may find themselves asking significant questions about Christianity or Catholicism but they found no answer to satisfy their doubts.
It could be that they tried to ask these questions to the nearest believer they could find. Or they asked a person they thought had sufficient knowledge or authority but even that person failed to listen or to answer them properly.
2. Bad testimony
What’s worse than finding no one to talk to about the faith is witnessing a very bad testimony from a believer.
It could be a fellow Christian who behaves far from being a good person. It could even be a pastor or a priest who hurt other people instead of protecting and guiding them.
In the worst scenario, a person may have experienced a traumatic experience related to religion and that became the instant when one finally lost the faith.
3. Personal crisis
A person may have gone through a very difficult time in one’s life and found no relief from religion or religious people.
Someone very close to one’s heart may have been sick for a long time and one’s prayers for healing seemed to be unanswered. With the painful grief of losing a loved one, one has also lost faith in God.
4. Influence of other people
No one lives without the influence of other people. Some are influenced by one’s unbelieving peers from school. Others are influenced by celebrities and people they admired.
It could even be that one has read some articles over the internet. Social media, TV shows and movies may have contributed to the weakening of one’s faith.
This one is closely related to being influenced by other people. But this is more pervasive because this involves the kind of world we’re living in today.
In a world where people are more focused on their materialistic pursuits, one may fall into the trap of forgetting altogether about spiritual realities.
6. A temptation or sin that became a stumbling block
Being weakened by the secular world and influenced by peers and other famous people, a person can more readily fall into a sin that finally draws the line between believing and leaving the faith.
This can be done with awareness or in a more subconscious way. But it nevertheless turns the will away from believing in a God who clearly teaches what is right and wrong.
What Christians Can Do
If we want to stop more and more people from leaving the faith, we should think about the ways we can reach out to them without turning them away.
Here are some helpful tips when it comes to spreading the Good News of God:
1. Preach the truth
Don’t be afraid to let people know the truth about God. The world needs to hear what is right from wrong.
Know as much as you can about your faith and share your knowledge to others who need to know more about God.
Listen to those who sincerely want to ask questions about your faith. Don’t disregard those who doubt. We must try our very best to explain the basis of our faith without being irritable, impatient or judgmental to those we are talking with.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear…” – 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NABRE)
2. Be good witnesses of God
We often preach more through the witness of our lives. People may not always hear what we say, but they will see how we live.
Will people see us living holy and righteous lives? Are we preaching something that is far from what we’re actually doing?
This is all the more important for pastors and priests who should be models of God’s holiness, love and mercy.
When people approach you, will they see the gentleness and kindness of God? Will they know what having true spiritual joy looks like?
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSVCE)
3. Support others in love
You may not always have the chance to explain the catechism to everyone, but you will often have the opportunity to help someone in need.
How many people do you know who are grieving the loss of someone they love? How many people are living without a sense of hope or purpose in their lives?
You can offer your companionship to a person who feels alone and that would already be a significant step. Offer your time, your attention and your heart and let other people know that they are seen and valued as they are.
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-6 (NRSVCE)
People stop believing in God for various reasons, but they can also start to believe in Him again through the witness of our lives.
Let us be the very channels of God’s light that we may pass on the truth to those who need to hear it most today.
“Love builds a bridge over which truth can pass…” – Dan Burke