Why would God hide and punish us if we find the wrong version of Him?

Please know this is NOT a troll post, it is a very fundamental question which I have no answer for.

I understand that men have interpreted God’s word through the millenia, so it’s not He who is confusing the question, but why would there be punishments, (or if not punishments, at least a lesser “oneness” with him) if you happened to be born in a Muslim country, for example, than a Christian or Catholic environment? Every religion thinks it has the “Truth” and that all others are either completely wrong or have lesser versions of the truth.

It is a dangerous trick or riddle that each person has to figure out. Seems to me that this feeds the idea of relativism, that perhaps God is the only truth and how we interpret Him and believe in him is less important than how act. There are other truths that seem to transcend this, like treating our fellow man in a certain way. But whether we think cows are sacred or (forgive me for this!) whether we think Jesus is alive in the Eucharist is harder to discern. Also, the fact that there is a lesser oneness depending on what religion you believe is not necessarily “Truth.” Or, maybe it is. That is my question.

Remember that God’s mercy is limitless, and his justice is perfect. He takes into consideration the earnestness with which we sought to find Him. He takes into consideration the quality of virtue we had in our lives. Many (most, I would say) are born into circumstances where Christianity is not the “default” option. Those people go throughout their whole lives without really hearing the message of the Gospel. But they live great lives regardless. Are they punished? I don’t think so. That would not be just.

Here is my issue though. Sure there are many in our world who don’t hear the message of Christ, or hear an authentic version of it. But what bugs me though, is that in Western society, how can one not find out about God and what correct beliefs are. It always annoyed me when my priest would tell me about how Baptists in the South probably weren’t at fault because there isn’t a Catholic population in many places. That might have been true even 25 years ago, but today, someone in an area w/no Catholics can go online to Catholic Answers, or other resources. I know that the internet can also lead to Jack Chick:eek: or a host of Anti-Catholic stuff, but it can’t be that hard.

because Just as you were raised by people who taught you that Catholicism is the Truth (as was I,) there are lots of other people out there who taught their loved ones that there religion is correct and that Catholicism is not. Somewhere on some other forum, there is a protestant who doesn’t get why we don’t KNOW that we are wrong and they are right.
here’s hoping Archangelic’s answer is correct!

You question is a good one, and a big one. You won’t get a complete answer in this Forum. You are going to have to read some books, my friend!

But I’ll offer a couple points. Maybe they will be of some use.

First, maybe God is not hiding, and maybe he is not so unknown.

Consider this from the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament:

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Well, just to wrap up, the Catholic Church of today does not say that people fail to gain Eternal Life in Paradise because they have wrong concepts about God. The documents of the Vatican II Council strain and labor to make this point.

Yes, in the past, for a period of time, the Catholic Church in union with the Catholic State was involved in prosecutions and punishments of Catholics who professed erroneous concepts about God. But that did not occur in the first three centuries of the Church. And it has not happened in the Church for the last three centuries. We don’t have to be controlled by what went on in some in-between centuries.

Well, this message may be in error, and if it is, I hope it is in error mainly as a result of being too short.

There are many “teachers” out there today who confuse and mislead. “Seek and you will find,” Jesus says, and I think that applies to the Truth. Good luck, God bless.

First, that was a great quote from Paul, thanks. But the issue isn’t about punishment or salvation. It’s about the thinking that one is even a little bit more right than the other, and perhaps has a closer or more perfect union with God. The CCC does teach as you said, but it also teaches that other religions have a lesser amount of truth. And that determination is ultimately made by men. It COULD be exactly what God says, but the fact that we can not know for certain leaves us hanging. So, the quote from Paul’s epistle says to me that God is within me and as others have said, he just wants me to seek him. And maybe if I do, he will reveal the amount of Him that he wants me to have.

But doesn’t that fly in the face of this idea that if I don’t seek him as a Catholic (I’m not leaving the Church, by the way, just a rhetorical…) then I am seeking him in a lesser truth?

Hello. I am making the leap that the sentence fragment above expressed the heart of your struggle and anguish.

I wish I could write one sentence that you would read and find all your pain vanquished, much as a good pain killer disappears a toothache.

I must rank as one of the laziest person in the world, so I am always looking for someone to “boil things down” for me.

But, the only remedy I can recommend for what ails you is some serious reading of good people who’ve taken this issue seriously and taken the living of their lives seriously.

First, I recommend Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi. A significant chunk of it is directly on your subject. It is online at the Vatican web site.

Second, I will recommend a dangerous book, by a man who was I think a good man, and who was a Catholic (he got a big Catholic funeral anyway), but who also struggled mightily with doubts about the Faith. His name is Miguel de Unamuno. He died in 1936. He was a professor in Spain. The book of his I recommend is The Tragic Sense of Life. It is available online, in English, on the Gutenberg site. This is a dangerous book, since in the course of his struggles with doubt and faith, Professor Unamuno writes some terrible heresies. His writings were condemned by bishops in Spain in his time, though he was never excommunicated. I’ve found a few quotes by Unamuno on the Vatican web site, so I guess he is not a persona non grata in Rome. It’s a pretty long book, but seeing this good and wise and fallible and highly educated (in the Faith and in worldly philosophy) Catholic man struggle with certainty and uncertainly has been helpful to me. One thing that Professor Unamumo emphasizes is that LIFE is not the same thing as REASON. In other words, our LIFE is something bigger than and more than the logical thoughts that we have in our heads. I’m probably not saying that so well, so, if you want, go and see how Professor Unamuno puts it. If you find any value in what Professor Unamuno has to say, you will of course want to know more about WHO he was, HOW he lived his life in this world. The Wikipedia article on him isn’t bad. Good libraries will have a biography or two on him.

Vaya Con Dios mi amigo!

I believe we are right, simply because it was Jesus Himself that gave us this faith and this religion.

Every other Christian “religion” was made by man. That in itself should tell you all you need to know…

The answer to whom has the full truth, it’s always going to be “the Catholic church”. Where you are standing right now is where every member of every denomination should be, asking questions, because even if we could live 100 years it is not enough to learn all that there is to learn from the Catholic church. Jesus did not left us a bible when He ascended into heaven, He left us a church full of people with errors but guided by the Holy Spirit. Consider it this way about the Catholic faith, if you wanted to travel to Europe from America, wouldn’t you rather take an airplane instead to try to swim all the way over there! The church is your best vessel to salvation. God bless you!

I agree with you. Judaism teaches that we are judged by our righteous deeds, not by whether we are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist. This applies to atheists as well. And by righteous, I don’t mean buying one’s salvation in heaven or prosperity on Earth, but rather doing good toward one’s fellow human (and non-human) for the sake of goodness itself and “repairing” the world, not in hope of reward.

Why is there such an emphasis in Judaism against converting to a different religion?

That is because if one is born Jewish (meaning one is born of a Jewish mother), one bears a special responsibility toward G-d to live according to the Law’s commandments. By converting to another religion, one is in effect saying to G-d that one is unwilling to assume this responsibility and rejecting what G-d has given you to do. While some (Orthodox) Jews believe that conversion cuts one off from both the Jewish people and G-d’s mercy, I don’t believe this is the case.

Hmm. Thank you for clearing that up. I know less about modern Judaism than modern Christianity.

The fullness of the divine is revealed to Christians and is preserved in the Catholic Church. There is lesser “oneness” just like Euclides was a great mind but Lobachevsky showed that there was such a thing as a non-Euclidean geometry (which he ignored)…just like Einstein was one of the greatest physicists we ever had, but was very opposed to the idea of quantum physics (for a very long time, at least).

God does not reject non-Catholics or non-Christians if they are shielded by a truly invincible ignorance. But you cannot expect someone who is, respectfully speaking, ignorant to some degree of the fullness of the truth, to be as united to God as an apostle who lived side by side with God himself, or as those who by his words believed in Him without having seen him directly. You cannot consider equally united to God the man from X religion that prays with all his heart and the devout Catholic that in Communion is physically united to God in the Eucharist.

This is why Christ gave the Apostles one last command as He ascended into heaven:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of time.”

I wonder if this is not the case where we assume God exists for our sake. God suffered for our sake. He loves us so much, He would even humiliate himself for our sake. But if God chose to not save any of us from mortal sin, then I don’t see how that would be unjust.

I very much doubt more than two human beings above the age of reason have lived an entire life without mortal sin. We have all technically condemned ourselves. God gives us the opportunity to reconcile with Him in confession and mass. But if we do not avail ourselves of that, then how would that be unjust?

Or thought another way, if a cruise ship sinks in the North Atlantic, and you have passengers all scattered around in the water, a rescue ship can toss down life preservers. If a person chooses not avail themselves of that rescue, or if they didn’t happen to be near a preserver, then have the rescuers behaved unjustly?

Perhaps to hope that all souls are rescued is to place hope in His infinite mercy rather than perfect justice. Because perfect justice without reconciliation implies condemnation. At least, it would seem so to me.

Though as a Christian I ask myself whether or not Judaism and Christianity are truly two separate religions, or simply two different modes of a same religion.

I believe Judaism and Christianity do have some overlapping principles; after all, Christianity does not separate itself from the Books of the Old Testament even though Judaism does not accept the New Testament as divinely inspired. However, when one examines the specific doctrines of each religion and even the basic dogma, one can find many significant differences as well. Starting with the most fundamental understanding of the “form” of G-d, differences emerge since Jews are not trinitarian but unitarian in their understanding of G-d. Then the whole notion of salvation differs. Whereas Christianity is a salvation theology, Judaism is focused on the here and now. This distinction is based on the understanding of original sin. While Christianity believes that although we are born in the image and likeness of G-d, we are also born in original sin, hence the need for baptism, Judaism does not believe we are born in original sin. Linked to this, the concept of the Messiah in Judaism is not one who serves as a savior who takes upon himself the sins of the world, but instead a redeemer in the sense of one who brings peace among the nations of the world and faith in G-d. So even comparing the basic tenets of each religion, let alone many other doctrinal distinctions as well as practices and customs, we can see they are not really the same religion despite their common and shared ancestry founded in ethical monotheism.

If you think God hides and punishes us, then indeed you have found the wrong God. As scripture says, even a bad father does not give his child a stone when the child asks for bread, so why would you think God would do so?

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Trust that God, who desires all to be saved, will actually offer all the means of salvation. This does NOT mean that it doesn’t matter if one is Catholic - only in the Catholic Church does one find the fullness of grace and the fullness of truth.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

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