Faith is a tricky thing for a lot of people.
For me, it’s pretty clear-cut: you can’t choose what you believe. You either believe something or you don’t.
Faith is like an emotion. You can’t choose to be mad or sad or happy or anxious. You just are. Think about it for a second. Can you suddenly think yourself angry?
How about now?
Of course you can try to will yourself happy, but it’s not that easy, is it?
When I’ve shared this idea with religious friends, their immediate reaction was that a person should try to believe, that faith is hard work sometimes, that it gets challenged and you have to persevere.
You can’t choose to believe something any more than you can choose to disbelieve.
If you think I’m wrong, choose right now, this very second, not to believe in your faith. Choose not to believe in Jesus, Yahweh, the Earthmother, Shiva (my favorite on the list), whatever. Just elect to not believe it anymore.
What? You can’t?
Well, the same thing goes for everybody else–nobody chooses what they truly believe. You can try to kindle some spark of belief, of course–that’s what a lot of unfortunate people spend their lives trying to do.
Example: you grow up in a Taoist family (I’m going to pick on Taoists, since I love their philosophy), doing Taoist things with all your Taoist friends. Everyone around you is a Taoist. But let’s say Taoism never really strikes you as being true. As you get older, you feel pressure from your community to be a Taoist, even though you’re not. Eventually, you start feeling guilty for not really believing. You desperately want to fit in, to believe like you’re “supposed” to, but you just don’t feel it. Of course you know there’s something wrong with you. Tao just hates you or something. That’s why you don’t feel it. Hopefully you don’t live your whole life feeling ashamed of your inadequacy. I sure hope not, but sadly, a lot of people do this for decades.
But what you believe isn’t up to you (or anybody else).
I think this realization is important for 2 kinds of people:
1. People who struggle with trying to believe what someone else tells them to (parents, friends, society, you name it). I don’t want you to feel ashamed for not believing what they tell you. It’s not good for you. Be your own person.
2. Holier-than-thou people. I know far too many people who feel superior to anybody who doesn’t share their faith. We all do, don’t we? You need to stop thinking you’re better than people who don’t see the light like you do. If you fall into this group, you probably wouldn’t admit feeling superior, but search yourself and see if it’s true. You might be surprised.
Maybe looking at faith this way will help somebody get a little clarity. I sure hope so.
Do or Do Not. There is no Try!