If this was a reflection paper for a religion class, I would probably answer it with some deep, philosophical mumbo-jumbo about how God is real because He created me and the proof of His existence is present in the little miracles He graces me with in every day of my life. Something like that. But don’t worry, I’m not going to quote the Bible to prove or defend anything.
Answering the question in the most logical and basic sense, the truth is, I believe in God because I grew up in a household that taught me religion. Most religious people hate it when people call out and challenge their faith and religion. Well, I’m calling myself out now and tell you that I was conditioned to believe in God. There’s no major life-changing encounter with God for me. I was simply born and raised as a Catholic. My whole life, I was taught to pray to God, to thank God, to fear God. To us, the Bible is the Word of God and it should be the way of life. Looking back, it was never really my choice to be Catholic. If I was born in a different kind of family, maybe a Buddhist one, then I probably would never be Catholic. Who knows? But now that I have a mind of my own, now that I can make my own choices, why do I still believe in a God?
You might be a non-believer, an atheist who thinks that God is just some made up concept based on a centuries old fairy tale book. Or you might also be Christian or a Catholic who, like me, consider themselves as a person of faith. Regardless, there are things that I want to share about what it’s like to believe in a supposedly all-powerful being who may or may not exist. This is something personal and does not in any way represent the sentiments of other religious people.
Do I even consider myself religious? I go to church every Sunday, I pray every night before I go to sleep, and I read the Bible sometimes. But I am not a religious person. No, not really.
But I do have a strong faith in God. Just not for the reasons people think.
One thing that irks me is when non-believers or atheists think of us as illogical, irrational, fanatic, occult, or simply “just a bunch of idiots” for believing in a make-believe “fairy tale.” Trust me, those words have been directed at me many times for speaking as a Catholic. While it is true that there are ignorant, bigoted, extremist religious people, calling us stupid doesn’t make them intelligent either. Just a bunch of jerks. Obviously, not everyone. Only the disrespectful, prejudiced fraction of them who can’t get it through their heads that we have the freedom to believe in something whether they think it’s ridiculous or not. (Sorry for ranting off like that. I’m still kind of hurt.)
You know, I completely understand actually. Explaining to them the existence of God is like explaining to them how the Earth is flat. Which is to them, both absolutely false. Their logic is Earth equals not flat, God equals not real. But here’s the difference, it’s already been proven that the Earth is in fact NOT flat. It’s a giant floating ball in space, circling an old star. But God? There’s no way to prove nor disprove God’s existence. Not even science can. Because what humans will never understand is that if a God really exists, His existence is beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal being. I’ll try to explain in a language you can trust: logic and math. Simply put, God is like absolute infinity, the infinity of all infinities. Can we measure absolute infinity? No. We can only give it a concept, one that we can never fully grasp, but we know that there is such a thing, though mind-blowing as it can be. There’s no physical, measurable proof of God’s existence because God should be way more than just “physical and finite.” Just because something is incomprehensible to the human brain, doesn’t mean it’s not true. We’re just too dumb for things like infinity or God, but it’s not impossible that they exist.
But that doesn’t explain why I am a Catholic specifically, it only explains why I still believe in a God. So, right, why am I still a Catholic? Why do I still follow the Bible and go to church every Sunday? Why didn’t I move to other religion instead, like Islam or Judaism? It’s practically the same, they have a God too, just a different name and group. Or, you know, just not follow any religion at all! I could just believe in a nameless, incomprehensible God.
When all your life, you’ve seen colors, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without them. I’m not talking randomly here. That’s what it’s like to be born into a religion. But that doesn’t mean I can’t stick nails into my eyes and make myself blind. It’s just that I choose not to. For me, being a Catholic is like that. I choose to keep seeing the colors.
I know this might be a little controversial to most Catholics and Christians, but it’s true. It’s hard to let go of something that has become a part of yourself, and sometimes I think it’s the only reason why I’m still Catholic. These Christian teachings have always been a part of my life and it’s something I can’t imagine my life without. It’s as essential as culture and identity to me. I don’t know what I would do if there’s no one somewhere out there that I could turn to and pray to when I feel like I’m breaking down and falling apart. This is also why I will never be an atheist. I can’t imagine a world without a God. It’s the life I’m used to.
But my faith is quite different than just something that I’m “used to.”
A favorite argument of non-believers is that if God really loves us, why is there so much suffering everywhere? But at the same time, the only source of hope for some people when others of their kind are causing their pain is a merciful God who promises salvation. Regardless if you’re convinced or not, I know it’s true for me. I’m flawed, I make mistakes, I go through hard times, life can be unfair, but what makes me survive and keep going is this strong faith in a God that I believe can help me get through those hard times, a God that I can even blame for when things out of my control get more difficult, and that is something hard to make other people understand. This is just me, and I don’t know if anyone would admit to the same thoughts, but I know I am weak and my religion is my way to get through life, kind of like a defense mechanism. I am aware that I am not strong enough to “live on my own,” so I need to get strength instead from an intangible being that is more powerful than any of us. But faith is not just a protective shield for me so I could live in comfort.
I know that there are questionable things that atheists love to pick on about religion, Christianity most specifically. The Catholic Church as an institution obviously has it’s imperfections as well. I admit it, too, we choose what parts of the Bible should be taken literally and what should be taken figuratively. Interpretations change and vary among people and denomination, so it gets really confusing. I have my doubts too, and I am skeptical about some parts of the Bible. Questioning my beliefs is also important, otherwise I’d just be a blind follower. Yeah, I believe in God but you know, you can never trust people and whatever the hell happened in the past, if they even translated the Bible right or maybe ripped some pages off and added fake passages here and there. I’m just being realistic, that’s all. History is a dubious thing. You don’t know what part you should believe.
But you know how the Harry Potter series taught us to believe in the value of friendship and the power of good over Voldemort—I mean, evil? Well, regardless of what you think of it’s credibility and authenticity, the Bible has taught me things like that, too, and so much more. It taught me everything I need to know about life, and these teachings always give me strength and wisdom. I am the way I am (flaws and everything) because the Bible guides me. Bible verses are to me like the book quotes you live by. Whenever I feel so clueless and hopeless, the Word of God (as what we call it) never fails to help me get through everything. Faith, hope, love, mercy, and compassion are the main recurring themes in the Bible. Don’t you think those are good virtues to live by?
Again to the non-believers, if you don’t know what to make of the Bible. Just simply read it as any other book and you will find a lot of valuables life lessons from it, whether the stories make sense to you or not. What? You were able to learn something from the wand-wielding kid wizard that sleeps in the cupboard under the stairs, right? Come on, you were willing to give it suspension of disbelief. A God that was born as a human being in a stable next to horses and sheep shouldn’t be any different. But just so you know, the Bible might actually be closer to reality than the Harry Potter books will ever be. (Of course, I am not forcing anyone to read the Bible because I don’t read it that often either, but if you do read the Bible, please look for the deeper meaning it is trying to convey and you will at least see why it’s still the most influential book of all time.)
Faith in God is something hard to define for each person. It’s a personal thing and it’s very private. But what I know for sure is that genuine faith is more than just believing in something you have no sure proof of. It’s living not only with it but also in it. Even your death depends on your faith. The concept of afterlife comes with religion for the most part. Do I believe in the afterlife? Well, we sure have Heaven and Hell in my religion, and even though I don’t want to think that there’s only oblivion and nothingness after death (that doesn’t sound comforting at all), I also don’t want to live my life as if I’m just preparing for my afterlife.
Believe it or not, I don’t really care that much about the afterlife. As a Catholic, I recognize the existence of Heaven and Hell but honestly, I don’t buy the if-you-want-to-go-to-Heaven-then-you-have-to-follow-God propaganda. (Yeah, I know. How dare I say such a thing as a Catholic.) Personally, I believe in God not because I want to secure a spot in Heaven. I sure do want to go to Heaven (who doesn’t?) but I don’t want to live my life simply for the sake of “salvation.” I believe in God because I honestly think that He really does exist and because I have faith that His Words (a.k.a Bible) will guide me to live a life as a stronger, kinder person. What I want is for my faith and religion to make me a better version of myself. No offense to my fellow Christians who hold on to this promise, but faith for the sake of salvation is rather shallow and selfish. I know that the Bible teaches us that faith will bring salvation all the time. (I could go on and on about how some Christian groups are claiming that they are the only ones “saved” and the Catholics are to be doomed in hell because we don’t have real “faith” unlike them, ugh, but that’s for another story.) But, I don’t know, for me the core message of the Bible is more than just salvation.
There’s a quote by Albert Camus that says, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is.” Most people use this against non-believers, which is not really a good argument as it is only playing the chances safe and cannot really be considered true faith, but if I’m going to live as if there’s a God, I would rather follow a God that will push me to live a life guided by teachings that are above all about love and compassion for others. This is the reason why I am still a Catholic and this is why I choose to believe in the Christian God despite harsh criticism we get from others. Live as if there is a merciful God that watches over you, and if you find out there isn’t, you still lived a life full of hope and love. At least, that’s what I believe.
Thank you so much for taking your time to read. For me, these things are always hard to talk about. Again and again, I’ve mentioned how this topic is very personal. I’ve been thinking of writing about this for months now but I never had the courage to do so until now. I’m afraid that people won’t understand and miss the point.
I am not forcing anyone to agree with my beliefs but I see a growing disrespect and intolerance towards the religious community. I know that there are also a lot of ignorant and bigoted people in the religious community, and there are all kinds of events recently that showed this, but it’s not right to insult us as a whole for our choice of religion. I simply want to show that faith and religion are a personal freedom and expressing mine doesn’t make me stupid or wrong. Believing in a God whose existence might be questionable is not stupid. It is a personal choice and people shouldn’t treat us with disdain and hostility regardless of their opinion. Everyone is free to argue against our beliefs, and I would love to entertain such debates, but disrespecting and antagonizing anyone for it is unreasonable, that’s all.