With So Many religions out there, how can we have confidence (without being arrogant) that ours is the right one??? Inferno Leader, Justin Watson, weighs in (video below) and the Inferno Chaplain, Father Chance Billmeyer, shares his thoughts in this blog post:
Should we as Catholics learn about other religions or do we have enough to learn on our own within and about the Catholic faith?
The answer to this question is: it depends. I have spoken to many Catholics, especially cradle Catholics, who have expressed the desire to know their faith more. There are always questions that remain unasked or need greater clarity. Does the church really teach this? Can we take RCIA or something similar? We should always be growing in our relationship with Christ, deepening our love for and with Him ...
If we are not growing we are stagnating, or worse, we may be growing away from the very life Christ offers us. If the pastor permits, I suggest that parishioners sit in on an RCIA program or a program designed specifically for them. The side benefit of this is that they get an infusion of excitement from the candidates because of their enthusiasm for the Catholic faith, and many of the most basic or challenging questions are answered because of their openness to learning.
Ideally, one of the best things any Catholic could do is to receive the education provided by a four year or longer seminary or university, barring this, RCIA is an excellent way to solidify our faith and to answer those questions definitively. If you are short on time, and I know most of us are, every RCIA has a schedule of classes one can pick and choose from. Once a firmer foundation, or refresher in the faith has been made, it could be a good time to learn about other religions. It is much easier to compare and contrast our faith with others when it is fresh/solidified in our minds. I have had many conversations over the years with people who express their opinions about other religions. Some have personal experience and know other religions well. Others have limited information and may provide a perspective or summation which doesn’t accurately reflect the “others” teachings, at least not fully or impartially. This is the first answer to depends. Many of us are more than satisfied, and justly so, to learn about and have our questions answered within our own faith. I can certainly attest to the amount of time it takes to learn about our faith. I am still learning. I have also taken the time to learn about other faiths and a) I find it helpful to know the differences because it helps me to know my faith better and to commit to what I know b) look for those things we hold in common so as to create opportunities for mutual growth, and c) when discussing other faiths I can discuss similarities and differences, compare and contrast ideas with greater accuracy and compassion.
In today’s video we hear from Justin Watson and his experience. His experience is common to those who come from other faiths, those who still have questions, those who do not have a firm commitment to their faith and are searching, those who enter college or university to learn more, or those who simply begin a journey of learning about other religions. For many, a class on world religions may be their first introduction to other faiths or this may take place through friends or acquaintances of varying faiths who invite us to participate in service projects or worship services. This person may have grown up in a faith practice where they did not find the answers they were looking for, had a bad/unwanted life or faith experience, or simply wanted more so they began searching for answers. For many people they settle for where they feel most accepted, for what came first, or which religion extended the greatest effort to reach out to them and keep them engaged. Ultimately and hopefully we will all find the religion which holds the Truth, has the answers we’ve been looking for, the people who follow the truth, are good, find joy, purpose, and meaning.
We are all searching for acceptance and to be loved. Being accepted means being a member, a person who follows the precepts and beliefs of that particular religion. Sometimes people take membership over beliefs, they follow along even though they may not know the faith well, or follow all of its precepts. This may lead to greater exploration and knowledge, but being among friends and people who care about them is usually the most important factor.
For many people it is what or who came first, what we were born into, what our parents faith was and is, or the first religious person whom we met that showed an interest in us and connected with us in some way. What came first is always important. It forms the foundation of our relationship to the world and with others, for good or for bad, in healthy ways that are dynamic and fruitful, or in distorted ways that can hold us back and arrest our development, limit our worldview or act as a “what not to do” life strategy.
There are also religions that constantly engage through modern technology, music, and lots of stimulation through activities, people and challenging ideas. Bridging religion with psychology, social issues, politics, rights, and medicine for example creates a high tension dynamic that keeps people aware and interested. These religions often take today’s issues, both enjoyments and challenges and tie them too scriptural precedence to teach important institutional and societal values. Like the news on television, followers are engaged as often as possible.
If you are like me, I have an interest in and want to know the answers to the big questions in life. Every religion sets out to answer these big questions: Who am I and why am I here? How did everything come into being? Why do humans suffer, ie. why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people who do bad things seem to flourish? Who or what created all of creation? Who sustains all of this? What is our end, our destiny? Is there an afterlife and what does that look like? Is there such a thing as good and evil and what impact does it have on the world? Can I attain my end on my own or do I need the help, the intervention of something or someone else who is wiser than me? Every religion answers these questions in different ways. The more we know about our own faith, the easier it will be to draw our own conclusions, to answer any doubts we may have, and to solidify our beliefs.
RCIA and the Catholic faith have always been, and will always be about people coming to the Truth as their truth. It is also the recognition that God has called me first, that this faith I have is from God. How I answer these questions will determine the religion I fit into and the one which matches my beliefs, the biggest belief being what is the Truth. A great deal depends on trust, my trust in the witnesses of the faith both past and present, and my trust in God. It is good to question. We call this apologetics. It is also good to be open, be humble enough to learn life’s lessons, and be able to hear the truth. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:9 For us as Catholics, it isn’t just our truth but God as Truth. Sometimes it takes extra effort, some additional work for us to find the truth that the Church teaches. This is the whole point of this article and video: take the time you need to get the answers. The Church offers a very rich tradition of knowledge and many of us who are drawn to the Christian faith have come to appreciate the incredible wealth of wisdom and knowledge, discovery and rediscovery, that people like St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and all of the great fathers and doctors of the Church have to offer. For us, this Truth is that which is Christ and Christ’s body the Church. After all, He is the Truth, the Way, and the Life. This does not mean that followers are to take this merely at face value but are always encouraged/challenged to go deeper. So today and in all ways, what are you searching for? I pray that it is the great “I AM” and look forward to answering those questions and perhaps posing new ones that offer greater insight throughout this series of videos and articles.