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Was Mother Teresa an Atheist?

Mother Teresa [wiki], who worked tirelessly to help the poor, sick and orphaned in Kolkata, India, was a symbol of religious compassion - she was even beatified after her death (a step toward sainthood).

Now, letters written by Mother Teresa revealed her deep and unending spiritual torment:

Shortly after beginning work in Calcutta's slums, the spirit left Mother Teresa.

"Where is my faith?" she wrote. "Even deep down… there is nothing but emptiness and darkness... If there be God — please forgive me."

Eight years later, she was still looking to reclaim her lost faith.

"Such deep longing for God… Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal," she said.

As her fame increased, her faith refused to return. Her smile, she said, was a mask.

"What do I labor for?" she asked in one letter. "If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true."

The letters were gathered by Rev. Kolodiejchuk, who said that the insight will actually help Mother Teresa reach sainthood:

"Now we have this new understanding, this new window into her interior life, and for me this seems to be the most heroic," said Rev. Kolodiejchuk.

Link


Sounds more like an agnostic to me. An atheist has decided that there is no God; an agnostic isn't sure or has doubts. As a nun, such doubts would naturally raise a spiritual conflict within her. If she were an atheist, she wouldn't be a nun (or would have left the order, even if she continued doing charitable work), and wouldn't have wasted time searching for something she "knew" wasn't there. All the same, she continued to do what she knew to be right, even if she wasn't sure about God (and therefore couldn't honestly hope for a reward in some sort of afterlife), and that is very important.
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Introspective questions like that are a common part of Christian spirituality and may even be exhortations intended for the benefit of the reader.

Consider these words of Paul to the Romans:
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."

And to the Corinthians:
"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
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"who worked tirelessly to help the poor, sick and orphaned in Kolkata, India"

If by "worked" you mean "left them to die in crampt dormitories without having access to their families" and by "tirelessly" you meant "traveled the globe amassing vast amounts of money from various uninformed benefactors", then yeah, right on the money.

Whether she was atheist/agnostic or not is indeed another question, though in my book only someone blind by devotion (not necessarily religious devotion) could do something like that.

Linked from the wikipage: http://www.salon.com/sept97/news/news3.html
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Wow, this tiny article really, really takes strides to be inflammatory and take the letters out of context. I haven't read them but the editorializing around them is atrociously insulting. Everyone on every spiritual path struggles in a similar vein. It's part of the step BEYOND "blind" faith. To say as they do in the article "Perhaps now we know why" in reference to why she wanted her articles destroyed is a slap in the face to her spiritual development as a whole.

Stupid.
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Ugh, how depressing. I understand being scared of believing there isn't a God because it means you have to acknowledge how unimportant you are in the scheme of the universe, which is neither healthy nor useful to the scheme of the universe. The depressing thing is how important she really was, despite her doubts.
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To be fair, not having read the book, it's really hard to judge how deep Mother Teresa's crisis of faith was. But the article did make it seem like she was just carrying on a charade, which was sad because she was revered for helping those cast aside by society.

I don't believe that Mother Teresa "traveled the globe amassing vast amounts of money" for her own personal gain.
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Doubting faith is a very common part of any religious life. We all feel times of spiritual dryness. Even in the oldest biblical history, many of the great patriarchs sometimes had great periods of time where God was silent and did not speak or intervene.

Anyway, the quotes are probably taken out of context. Taking a sentence here and there or even a letter here and there out of a lifetime just doesn't cut it. And accusing her of schmoozing with the rich and abandoning the poor is just as out of context. The salon.com news article above is poorly argued to say the least. Accepting a reward for philanthropy is no crime. Defending a person who gives to the poor is no crime. Forgiving a dictator is no crime. I'd argue that they're philanthropic in and of themselves. I'll remind that even Jesus shared meals with tax collectors and prostitutes (the sick are the ones in need of healing...) And if you think that traveling the world to gain donations for philanthropic causes is somehow wrong and should be frowned upon, then... well... fortunately, no one agrees with you.

I'd argue that the salon.com does quite well at arguing the opposite point it is trying to make. It states her political postures as wrong, while most Christians would say they are mostly right. LOL. Just goes to show that some people have no concept whatsoever of what religious people value and what they consider to be right and wrong.
From the article:
"It seemed more than probable that money donated by well-wishers for the relief of suffering was being employed for the purpose of religious proselytizing by the 'missionary multinational.'"
Let's rephrase:
Donations by well-wishers for the relief of human suffering were spent sharing the truth of the saving grace of Christ with the nations.
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"Sigh, always a huge debate. This is why I don’t give money to religious charities."

Well that's a silly thing to say. I assume there's a huge chain of logic there you didn't bother to type out.
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No, she wasn't an atheist. Truly intelligent people who happen to believe question whether or not there is anything out there believing at all. You can argue though whether or not she had given up that God gives a shit, though, or is personal in nature so that maybe he would've saved some of those poor soles she spent her life helping. I also think if she were an atheist she would have cut practical ties with the church, not partaken in Mass, etc. She'll be a saint before long.
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I wouldn't do to a DOG what this pygmy did to the poor of Calcutta.

You know that most would have survived if given any medical assistance.

There is no god, I know, she knew it too, the evil little Albanian witch.
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"Well that’s a silly thing to say. I assume there’s a huge chain of logic there you didn’t bother to type out."

Silly? Every religious based charity I have come across has an ulterior motive. They don't do their good works out of the goodness of their hearts but to push their message and improve the image of their faith. Mother Teresa did spend money that was given to her to improve the lives of the poor and sick on opening convents. I'm an atheist, I don't want my money spent brainwashing people.
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Everyone has questions about religion...The definition of Faith is "belief that is not based on proof".

If God came and talked to each of us independently, then there would be no cause for faith. Everyone would be good, and everyone would spend eternity in Heaven....But it's not that way. We have to have "faith".

Now I'm sure somebody will reply to this with a snide remark...well, go ahead. It won't effect my relationship with god any.
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Thank goodness the Ghoul of Calcutta can do no more harm.

Nicholas Dollak - You've only defined one kind of atheist. For many of us it's not a decision at all. For plenty, often angry ex-fundamentalists, it does take on a rather rebellious nature.

People should also be aware that it's possible to be an atheist and agnostic at the same time.

Troy Dean - You have a scary god there. Faith is more important than the countless condemned to suffer in hell? What's so wrong with the idea of a god who talks to each of us in an undeniable way? Anything else is rather elitist and horrifying.
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The real problem is the Catholic Church decideding Doubt is evil. Indeed, doubt is a major part of "carry your cross and follow." (Luke 14) Christianity is not easy - you face some combination (different for every sinner) of persecution from the outside and psychological terror from within, both from within your soul and from within the church and its many false prophets and hypocrites. I would point out that the meaning of "faith" has nothing to do with unquestioning belief, though some degree of that may be necessary to get anywhere in anything from Christianity to Mathematics. It is also, however, immensely rewarding. My mind has been spectacularly expanded since I followed, my relationships have deepened, my character has grown full and rich. Even my very scars, bleeds, and bruises I consider a mark of pride. Thanks be to God!
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To clarify, what doubt actually has to do with is trusting God, not teachings about God, not the existence of God, but God himself. To not live in fear or distrust, including of doubt.
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