What is the *point* of belief?

What I mean is, why does it matter what I believe? I have never understood this. Of all the traits necessary for eternal life, I belief is the most terrifying. For years, I thought it meant you had to believe that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Then it came to mean that you believed Jesus was Son of God and died for our sins. Now, apparently, the whole structure is built on belief from the Church to the Bible. What is belief?

Why is belief necessary? Can’t I just do the best I can with what I know and try to follow all of the commandments and rules? How far does the belief go? If many biblical narratives are allegorical, what parts do I need to believe in and how concrete must these beliefs be to be valid. Furthermore, if eternal damnation is on the line, why is the whole thing so muddy? Simply within Christianity, some folks hold fast to different translations, traditions, and interpretations. I’m saying this as an incoming convert from non-practicing Southern Baptist. Look, these folks aren’t out here intentionally believing in the wrong thing. They aren’t. They are doing the best they can with what they have. Also, they aren’t going to change, because from birth they have been taught that changing one iota from their tradition means eternal hell. So, I mean they are set in their ways. Yet they BELIEVE it and are SURE of it’s truth. It’s also one of the problems I have with the doctrine of Hell (like it cares what I think). If I had really, truly believed in Hell like I was brought up to believe, I would have been too scared to even consider Catholicism. In fact, I will go so far as to say that changing or doubting your religion while holding to the presupposition of Hell is insanity. It makes no sense to challenge or ask anything if you could have an aneurysm mid-thought and go to hell forever. Yet, because of its consequences, I switched to Catholicism. But if I had taken it seriously, I never would have looked up from the KJV bible.

I have so many doubts. I didn’t until I started to become Catholic. Just seeing another set of people with immovable faith that think they have it correct has been shattering. Although, I believe Catholics have the best claim to this faith. Most people in my area say Catholics aren’t Christians and that they are going to Hell. Catholics say they have the fullness of the faith. Honestly, I understand the rebuttals and arguments from both sides of the aisle, but a solid question remains. How is it that literal souls are in the balance yet two (or many more) groups believe opposing things while claiming to believe in the same thing? Assuming there is no malice here, it just seems odd. It especially seems odd that it will throw them into Hell. I mean, I was raised to think Catholics were the Devil.

Part 2 in comments

1 Like

Part 2

Do you have ANY idea how psychologically crushing it has been to convert? I’m not being dramatic by saying it has shredded any rubric I have ever had about truth because by my own upbringing and indoctrination (which everyone has to one extent or another) I just joined up with the Anti-Christ. So I mean, what do I know about anything? Apparently I can be convinced of anything. What’s worse is I did it to myself without anyone’s help, I don’t know any practicing Catholics.

I have highly neurotic tendencies and my thoughts swing every which way looking for any nook or cranny to dig into. For months I have been obsessed with Christianity. I do mean obsessed, I haven’t really done anything else but read. Yet, instead of being comforted, I keep getting more and more uneasy. The more I learn the less I seem to know about any of it. On one hand, I am just trying to learn as much about my faith as I can, on the other hand, I see all these different beliefs and I just don’t understand how they can all hold something to be true to the point of martyrdom and be wrong. It makes me uncertain that I can be certain about anything. The opposing beliefs of others has strained my belief greatly. I’m tired and I just want to know the truth.

Yet anyone that claims to have the truth asks me to believe! Believe like what, those guys over there? Or maybe this church over here? Because I mean, they are handling snakes, they really believe! I wish there was a a cut and dry “here you go, don’t lose your soul” guide that didn’t leave anything up to me to rummage through because there are too many choices to make an irrefutable and accurate decision within the lifespan I have.

Lastly, what else must I believe? Do I have to believe in Marian apparitions? Stigmata? Eucharistic miracles? The Shroud of Turin? Veneration of images? Private revelations? As far as I can tell, I do NOT have to believe in those things. Yet, how are they different than biblical miracles? I want to believe in those things, but I see no real reason to other than to bolster my claims. I don’t understand basing a significant portion of your faith off of a private revelation anymore than taking Mark out of context and drinking poison.

1 Like

This sounds to me like an excellent start. Pray for God to help you with your faith/ belief.

As for all the private revelations, Marian apparitions, etc. , as you noted you do not have to believe in those, and right now they are just adding layers of noise and confusion to your picture, so just put them aside for now. If they’re not helpful, you don’t ever have to come back to them. Remember that some of us were raised from toddler age with this stuff, it’s natural to us, but somebody who just walked in and heard about it doesn’t have any frame of reference to put it in or understand it, and that’s normal.

When I was in high school, I remember there was a whole elective class that looked at Belief and Unbelief for an entire semester. I didn’t get to take it (we were only allowed certain electives) but the fact that they’d have a class suggests to me that you’re not the only person who struggles with it.

As for “going to Hell”, “souls being in the balance” etc, Jesus is probably not going to send someone who loves him, accepts him as savior, and honestly tries to follow his commandments, down to Hell. We are taught to trust in Jesus’ infinite mercy. For that reason, it’s better to not view choices between Christian belief systems as some sort of game show where if you pick the wrong door you get the “fail horn” and tossed into Hell. Instead, focus on which church is offering the fuller and brighter path to God.

People go to Hell because they reject God. Someone honestly struggling with belief is not rejecting God. They are struggling with a cross that God gave them, that of struggling with belief. In some cases there can be a mental dimension to this. In some cases there can also be a difficulty of letting go of beliefs that one was taught and embracing a new set of beliefs.

Perhaps you could try making it more simple, more basic, when you feel overwhelmed. John 3:16 and go from there.

2 Likes

I enjoyed your reply. I cannot shake nor do I want to shake my basic belief in Jesus. I can’t make sense of the world without Him. Having said that, I wrestle with understanding a lot of it. I am joining the Catholic faith for one reason and that is the Eucharist. I’ll eat any other teaching the Church throws out because I don’t see anyone else doing that one very important ritual correctly. Pope? Sure. Sexual rules? Whatever man, I do not care anymore. I’ll do it, I’m just here for the Eucharist anything else is just commentary.

I also do not see God as a game show host or the angels as a group of oompa loompas pulling the lever on people to open the floor beneath them and then singing about the wrong choices. However, it is often taught that way. As far as “belief”, the only thing I can assuredly say is I believe in Jesus, I don’t know everything about Christianity, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can.

I feel like studying has to be good for your faith. Otherwise, like I said, people can force an interpretation of anything. If you go on pure “faith alone” you could end up believing some gnarly stuff. I like studying because it helps me to place my faith into context and to actually understand it. As a Protestant, saying “I believe Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior” seems pretty hollow if I have no idea who He is. Maybe that is enough for some folks, but I like to be thorough and that can mean questioning in order to find an answer (not in order to disbelieve). When I question and find a roadblock, I just assume I don’t have the full story so I go study some more. I’m not sure that this really counts as disbelief as much as an “I don’t know, at the moment I can’t explain that at all, let me do a little research”.

1 Like

I think that’s how a great many Catholics feel. Probably including myself.

2 Likes
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.