Long after I stopped believing in God, I remained active in the church. The routine was important to me, and the rituals helped me stay reflective and humble. Church leaders knew of my atheism; I'd confessed of my disbelief, after all, and the priest didn't flinch. He had doubts too, and often. It was his struggle through those doubts that ultimately strengthened his faith.
Not me. I've often wrestled with faith--faith in a god, faith in friends, faith in family--but I typically end up on the losing side of the battle. The faithless side. Generally, I remain skeptical of humankind. We tend to be selfish, petty and greedy, often to the detriment of others. Giving up my faith in God didn't affect my life very much, but being reminded on a daily basis about the misery and hopelessness we humans can create is sometimes overwhelming.
And when we combine religion, selfishness and greed we're at our worst.
Doubt, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, addresses that very issue. The film's central characters, Hoffman's Father Flynn and Streep's Sister Aloysius, are terrific examples of the devastating effect that can result from combining human pettiness with religious authority. If Father Flynn really did molest young Donald Miller, then Flynn used his position as God's human authority to abuse an innocent, naive child eager to please the one adult who showed that child kindness. Sister Aloysius, despite the assertion she is protecting Miller, is really using her position to rid herself of a priest whose personal philosophy of his work is in direct conflict with the nun's belief of how those in The Church should conduct themselves.
Sister James, played by Amy Adams, represents the general parishioner. She's caught up in the politics of the conflict, even though all she really wants to do is serve and worship God.
Although I participated in mass for several years after I stopped believing, I no longer attend church. I miss the services; I always left feeling more optimistic than before I went in. The manner in which the Catholic leaders addressed the sexual abuse that came to light several years ago, however, forced my decision to stop attending. If, for example, I was a member of the Rotary Club (as if the Rotary Club would actually accept me as a member), and discovered officers in that club had molested children and that the leadership moved the pedophiles into other communities rather than have them arrested, I could no longer be a Rotarian. I'd leave the Rotary Club, just as I left the church.
Having no faith in a god is pretty easy. Having doubts about people and their motivations really sucks.