Monday, August 14, 2006

Choosing Faith

A while back, Meera asked a question in the comments, and I always meant to answer it.  The question was, “How did you choose Christianity?”  It’s a question worth answering, and I should have gotten around to it sooner.  

Theologically speaking, I didn’t choose Christianity, it chose me.  While that answer is scripturally accurate, it’s a bit of a non-starter for this question.

I became a Christian when I was 13, so we’re not talking about someone at the prime of their thinking capacities.  I chose Christianity because it was very attractive; few other philosophical systems rely as strongly on the power of redemption.  How does Christianity become a starting point?  Well, in America, it’s part exposure and part culture.  Those can only take you so far, but they do factor in.  

However, the second part of the question becomes more important, “How do you choose Christianity over the many other systems of faith?”  First, that’s why I mentioned exposure before.  When I was 13, I didn’t exactly have what you would call a “thorough” understanding of other religions.  It just wasn’t there.

However, this is not to discount the value of faith as a journey.  I may not have known much about other religious systems when I was 13, but I’ve spent the last 10 years learning.  Honest faith is in a constant state of re-evaluation, examining beliefs and comparing them to the merits of other faiths as that information becomes available.

Nobody should be expected to know everything about every religion before they can choose one.  It’s not realistic.  There are so many religions out there, and so many variations on those religions, a man could spend a lifetime exploring each one and never know everything about them all.  

Yes, there is a measure of rationalization in this process.  Sometimes learning about other systems is done in a spirit of, “My faith is right, so I shall learn how this one is wrong.”  This isn’t unreasonable.  If you know your faith to be true, there is little need to constantly search for what is really true.  Of course, this must be balanced against the need for re-examining one’s faith.  Go too far in one direction, and your faith is unsteady and under attack from within and without.  Go the other direction, and you shelter yourself from the difficult questions, never achieving the growth that comes from having faith challenged.

I shall leave this answer as it is for now.  In the future, I may expand on some of what I’ve written here.  I hope, in the meantime, that this was at least somewhat satisfactory.  If nothing else, it’s at least something for Steve to get riled up about.  

4 comments:

Steve the Troll said...

I was starting to get the shakes, but you've given me my fix...

I chose Christianity because it was very attractive; few other philosophical systems rely as strongly on the power of redemption.

Could you clarify the above statement? I thought Christianity was all about forgiveness, and salvation through faith, not works, i.e., no redemption. Now, extremist muslims, on the other hand, get redemption in the form of a roomfull of virgins when they sacrifice their lives for their faith. I guess I don't see the redemption in Christianity.

Honest faith is in a constant state of re-evaluation... I couldn't agree more, but I disagree with the idea that nobody should be expected to know everything about every religion before they can choose one. That's a good argument for not choosing one, and probably part of the reason why I can't. There's really no way that I have found to validate one religion over another, so to choose one just doesn't make sense. I find it better to, as you said, spend a lifetime exploring each one and never know everything about them all because that is the scientific approach, and it happens to be fulfilling.

Okay, this is where I really start to freak out:

“My faith is right, so I shall learn how this one is wrong.” This isn’t unreasonable. If you know your faith to be true, there is little need to constantly search for what is really true. Hal, this is completely unreasonable and asinine. I'm pretty sure, by definition, that you can never know that what you have faith in is a sure thing...that's why it's called faith ("despite _________, I still believe it's true"). If it was factual, then there would be no need for faith at all.

Steve the Troll said...

I was starting to get the shakes, but you've given me my fix...

I chose Christianity because it was very attractive; few other philosophical systems rely as strongly on the power of redemption.

Could you clarify the above statement? I thought Christianity was all about forgiveness, and salvation through faith, not works, i.e., no redemption. Now, extremist muslims, on the other hand, get redemption in the form of a roomfull of virgins when they sacrifice their lives for their faith. I guess I don't see the redemption in Christianity.

Honest faith is in a constant state of re-evaluation... I couldn't agree more, but I disagree with the idea that nobody should be expected to know everything about every religion before they can choose one. That's a good argument for not choosing one, and probably part of the reason why I can't. There's really no way that I have found to validate one religion over another, so to choose one just doesn't make sense. I find it better to, as you said, spend a lifetime exploring each one and never know everything about them all because that is the scientific approach, and it happens to be fulfilling.

Okay, this is where I really start to freak out:

“My faith is right, so I shall learn how this one is wrong.” This isn’t unreasonable. If you know your faith to be true, there is little need to constantly search for what is really true. Hal, this is completely unreasonable and asinine. I'm pretty sure, by definition, that you can never know that what you have faith in is a sure thing...that's why it's called faith ("despite _________, I still believe it's true"). If it was factual, then there would be no need for faith at all.

Steve the Troll said...

Sorry about the double post...

Anonymous said...

Steve, so you believe everyone should know everything about every religion before they choose one?

let me ask, did you vote in the previous election? Did you know EVERYTHING about even the two major candidates before you voted? What if there were 10? 100? 1000? Would you not vote, simply because you wanted to spend your life deciding which one was right?

Not to be mean, but I also think the answer is a cop-out. I used to know someone who didn't think "religion" was important, there were other things we should be thinking about. However, if any major religion is The Truth, whether it be Judaism, Christianity, Islam or another, and there is an Almighty Creator, wouldn't that be high on your priority list to learn? Even just taking those three, all three teach that you should give our Creator highest priority in life. By not choosing a religion, aren't you by default beleiving them to be false. Which, by your own admittance, is WITHOUT KNOWING EVERYTHING ABOUT THEM, which is what you were explicitly trying to avoid.

Interesting, eh?