This week: Don't Be Afraid to QuestionEdited by: Kittiara
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It is not a bad thing to question one's faith. Indeed, the answers you find can build a newer, stronger foundation.
This week's Spiritual Newsletter is all about exploring one's beliefs.
I grew up in a Christian family. My maternal grandmother’s branch of the Salvation Army was quite cheerful and relaxed. I enjoyed my occasional involvement. The branch that my great-aunt and great-uncle attended was a whole different ballgame. Those people were serious and formal and they did not welcome the questions of a curious child.
I have always had a mind filled with questions. I can’t help it. My great-aunt especially saw this not as an urge to understand life and the universe; rather, it was the influence of evil and, therefore, to be very much discouraged. I soon learned to not ask her anything, but her severe responses have always stuck with me.
It was, perhaps, inevitable that I would end up studying philosophy. If you want to explore the big questions it is the place to be. You do not necessarily find answers, but the journey towards knowledge and insight is extremely worthwhile. It nourishes a curious mind and helps you develop critical thinking skills. Even after years of study I feel that I have merely touched the tip of the giant iceberg that is philosophy, and it’s exciting. Someone less enthusiastic about my academic pursuits was my other grandmother – who was the co-leader of a Salvation Army branch-off - as she feared my studies might lead me away from God.
I did not understand her concern. Whilst well-meant and expressed out of love, which gave it a whole different vibe than my interactions with my great-aunt, I wondered why some people of faith fear that faith being subjected to scrutiny. When one bases one’s life upon a set of beliefs, oughtn’t one make certain that those beliefs are worth holding?
It is not as though the field of philosophy is inhabited by atheists only. Many famous philosophers were people of faith. Take René Descartes, for example, or Søren Kierkegaard. I do not believe that in order to be a person of faith one must avoid education, nor critical thought. To believe something, one must first understand it.
Of course, there is a difference between belief and knowledge. There is no point in my saying that I believe that my cats exist; they will make their presence known beyond any doubt when they want attention or feeding. A Higher Power can be more difficult to find. Yet, there must be a foundation upon which to rest one’s faith, and that foundation can actually be strengthened through questioning.
An unquestioning faith may be considered to be admirable by some, but I wonder about its stability. Because to be secure in one’s beliefs, it is surely essential to know why. Why do you believe this? If the answer rests along the lines of because this text says so, why do you believe this text over other texts considered to be sacred by people of other faiths? Do the moral guidelines align with yours? If there are instances where they do not align, why is this not an issue?
It is true that some people who question their faith find that it is not for them. That is natural. And it is not actually a bad thing. They may find one that is better suited. Others, however, experience a deepening of their faith, and find that security that they have been searching for. It makes them more resilient within their faith, and that can be a beautiful experience.
We human beings have questioning minds for a reason. We have this inbuilt curiosity, this thirst for knowledge, and it is this that has seen us rise to greatness. If we hadn’t used our ability to search, to learn, we would not have created awe-inspiring structures, composed music that touches the souls of generations, created breath-taking pieces of art. We would not have entered space nor found, step-by-step, the answers needed to cure once-deadly diseases.
The human mind is a gift. Let us never fear to use it.
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