Aren’t we exercising what some call the “primacy of conscience”, for lack of a better term, when we determine to follow the teachings of the Church, rather then, say, the teachings of a Buddhist sect? How does one answer the question about why they believe in God- and specifically God as taught by the CC as well as other Church teachings? Is it too personal to ask to describe what happens inside of a believer-how they’ve come to believe what they believe? I think the answers could be interesting, informative and beneficial.****
Yes, it’s answering the primacy of conscience when we choose to follow Christ in His Church.
We can see that with St. Augustine. He struggled with his own conscience. He actually went against his conscience. He also knew that he was wrong when he was a heretic but it took him a while to fully admit it. Then he finally followed his conscience fully as God kept calling him.
So, a response to an unbeliever who asks how or why a Catholic believes in the Church’s teachings on the existence of and the nature of God -and various other teachings- as opposed to believing in the teachings of another religion, could be that Church teachings conform to a model already present within us, but which aren’t readily apparent, so we may need to struggle but so long as God continues to call we will eventually hear clearly? So it’s like sheep recognizing the shepherds’ voice? That’s a good answer, if I’ve understood it correctly, but I wonder if people have any others.
Why you believe in X religion versus Y religion is a complex question because many factors are involved. It comes down to two basic components however, faith and reason. Faith is first and foremost a gift of God, and why people display different levels of faith (from unbelieving atheists all the way to saints) is a combination of His grace and our cooperation. Reason is also a function of grace/revelation but it also includes our God given abilities to look at the facts and make a good case for this or that.
When you say “primacy of conscience” that shouldn’t be interpreted to mean one opinion is as good as another. Rather it should mean that you look at the facts and build a case and go with what fits the evidence. This is what a “well formed conscience” is all about. Catholics generally start on the foundation that there is one Truth and that we must seek out who holds this Truth. I believe after looking into the issues and thinking about them that the Catholic Church offers the best explanation for the major “why” questions of this life. For example why is there so much evil in the world, I think Original Sin best explains this. The question of how we all got here and realize we are different from animals and plants is best answered by having a Creator and us being made in His Image.
As for your mention of Buddhism, on the Journey Home last week (Jan 7, 2008, archived online) Marcus interviewed a former Buddhist and it was amazing to see the serious flaws in Buddhism like reincarnation and the non existence of God and such.