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Why do you believe what you believe?

Last updated on March 9, 2019

By Yvonne Nachtigal

Faith is an uncomfortable subject for many people. Why is that? We would think that all the talk about diversity would have made talking about faith easier, but even in an atmosphere of tolerance, talking about a person’s religion or belief system tends to cause defensiveness. I think that is because it opens them to the possibility that positions held throughout their lifetime may be weak, which would shake the very foundation of who they are. Be it faith in God, Jesus, Allah, Krishna, or the belief that empirical science has all the answers, people do not want their worldview messed with. Still, the inevitability of our eventual demise is a compelling reason to give the object of our faith some serious thought.

Do you know why you believe what you believe, or do you just accept your pastor, or teacher’s opinion, or maybe the Zeitgeist film? Most of us base our beliefs on an argument that seems rational to us, but without fully following it through to the degree that we would be comfortable debating it. It could be argued “that’s why they call it faith,” and that is a valid point. But with the stakes as high as they are, doesn’t it make sense to give the object of our faith some serious thought and research? I think we might be pleasantly surprised to find that if we were able to discuss our beliefs with calm, educated confidence, people would be more open to have conversations about them.

Another reason people avoid talking about their faith is stigmas. Often, when the subject of our belief comes up, we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of first needing to dispel these before going further. Stigmas develop when people see the erroneous or extreme actions of people of certain faiths. When people follow a religion or belief by simply parroting, without critically looking into it for themselves, they come up with extremes that misrepresent the heart of that faith. The assumption that Christians believe God will torture people in Hell, is based on what is known as the “turn or burn” approach to sharing the Christian faith, which many people find annoying. It presents God as the ultimate overly strict parent. I think the people using this approach mean well, but they miss the point of who God is, and they get Hell wrong. God is not a torturer. I view it this way: if God is goodness and order and love, then any place totally devoid of Him would be evil and chaos and hate. That is torment. I trust God because of who He is, and I would not want to imagine being separated from His goodness.

Throughout history, societies have believed in a greater, spiritual reality. From worshipping idols in temples to deifying men on thrones, man has an ingrained belief that something beyond this empirical, temporal reality exists. Is there an afterlife? Is there a reality beyond the empirical? Is science on the edge of discovering it with quantum physics, as some claim? Or is that merely a return to the spiritual practice of alchemy? Karl Marx said (roughly), that “Religion is the opium of the people.” Was he right? Or is there more to man’s search for meaning than a desperate fear that death is the end of consciousness?

We’re busy. I get it. But in my opinion, there is nothing that outweighs the importance of how we answer these questions. I encourage the reader to critically look into the history of their faith as well as the faith of others. Talk to others about your faith. Dig deep. Look beyond what advocates of your faith purport. If truth is out there, and I believe that it is, then it will not shirk investigation.

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