The Longer Ones

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Skepticism and Faith

            Last night I was talking downstairs with this other student, and he wondered how some people can have faith while doing so many things contrary to their beliefs. Consider this quote by Pres. Boyd K Packer, “Save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness and your capacity to forgive. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.” And because of that, it gave me faith that at the very least this church was the one going in the right direction.
            One aspect of faith that most people forget is free agency and our ability to see things in different perspectives. Consider this parable that I sorta made up. Imagine there are two guys in a bar in the Canadian wilderness. One is religious, the other is an atheist, and they are debating about the existence of a God with the intense honesty you can only get after your fourth diet soda. The atheist says to him, “it’s not like I don’t have my reasons or I’ve never experimented with the whole God thing. Just last month I was stuck in a blizzard and I prayed to any and every God that if he would save me from that blizzard, I would believe in a God.” The religious man responds with, “then you do believe in a God, don’t you?” he responds with, “No, there just happened to be Eskimos walking by at the same time that saved my life.” The purpose of this mini parable is to show you that regardless of Heavenly Father’s work and miracles in the world around us, there’s always a choice to believe or not to believe in him. Now that doesn’t make free agency a bad thing, but we need to realize its role in opposition. In a naturalistic perspective, free agency isn’t about spiritual dogma; it’s simply truth. That regardless of being an atheist or a theist this is one of God’s gifts that no one can ever deny. That you have a choice. Regardless of faith or evidence, you can decide what has meaning in your life. If you currently don’t have a testimony, I’d advise to look up 2 Nephi 2:25, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” One of the reasons why I believe in the church is because that’s what Heavenly Father wants from us. Because contrary to the bleak beliefs of atheism, I believe and have faith in free agency and the plan of salvation because ultimately Heavenly Father wants us all to be happy.
            I’m not sure if you are aware of this but the idea of faith is being attacked. One of the fastest growing demographics is called the “The Ominous Rise of the ‘None’ [or nothing].” Basically atheism and agnosticism for 18-30 years olds has risen from 12% to 33% in the last 7 years. And that’s sad because now there are so many who are willing to give up this chance to find truth... and it feels like I should always be doing something more. Most of my friends back home were atheists too and I pray for them whenever I can. I told them about this statistic and I asked them what made them believe there is no God. They called us by one name and it stung like hell. They are atheists because they believe the ones who do believe in a God are hypocrites.
            I’m going to simplify for right now, but they called us this because in their experience, they thought we weren’t acting in faith. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). It is not enough for you to have faith or to hope for things, which are not seen, which are true. You have to act by faith too. To be clear, this means following the Lord’s commandments. This means loving one another. This means having the capacity to forgive. When I was 15, though I didn’t have a testimony at the time, I stayed in the church because I believed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints had the greatest capacity to hope, to love and to forgive. So please don’t make a liar out of me. Another way we can exercise faith is through love and acceptance. Because isn’t that how Jesus Christ taught us? As Elder Oaks said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ is based on love, respect, and agency,” so shouldn’t we preach or go though our lives with love, respect and agency too? That was my friend’s complaint. If we were really taught to love and respect one another, then why don’t we show it more often? Now I don’t necessarily mean this directly towards you, however we are part of the same environment that has allowed it to exist. Though you may not be part of the problem, you can be a part of the solution by preaching the way Heavenly Father wants us to; not by Bible-bashing or hate, but by love. That is our obligation, no, our responsibility to having faith; by defending it and maintaining its integrity, without degrading theirs.
            Now of course, it’s good to mention that we’re not the only faith in the world, so what should we do? There’s missionary work going right now and that’s pretty cool, but I’m not serving a mission right now, so what should I do? One way we can spread the teachings of Jesus Christ is by leading with religious tolerance. Just because we believe we have the most complete religion, doesn’t necessarily make theirs wrong. For example, let me read you a passage from the Qur’an, “So let not this present life deceive you from the truth and glory that is the Lord thy God” (Surah Fatir 5). In the Torah it mention, “You must repeatedly give your brother and let not your heart to feel bad when you give him because of this your deed, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all the labor of your hands” (Deuteronomy 15:10). The verse from the Qur’an teaches us that we must keep our eye single to the glories of the Lord. The verse from the Torah teaches us to have charity for our fellow man. And aren’t these teachings true? Just because other religions may not be as complete as ours, that doesn’t make them wrong. In my research looking for the main themes of each religion, what I found was something unexpected. That almost all of them preach the same three themes: love, respect, and hope. That is what faith is centered around, so shouldn’t we give them the respect they deserve? This past year has been filled with an intense negativity towards religion. To those who wish to restrict someone’s civil rights because of their faith, I need to say, how dare you politicize a religion you know nothing about. Trying to remove them because of simply what they believe in. Regardless of your reasoning, it will give off the same effect, that you are taking away someone’s agency to believe, that you are ostracizing others from believing in any God in general. It took me 17 years to find joy and faith in our church, how dare you try to take away theirs. That’s not what Heavenly Father wants from us. He does want us to preach and proselyte the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, but not in a way that will deter them from the truth.
            Now of course, I’m not saying that this is the only right way or that this is how you should live your life, because it’s hard. There are different ways to think in these situations, and depending on the person you are dealing with, it can even be the opposite. But if I let myself get stuck in that default setting that my faith and my desires and my needs are more important everyone else’s, I’m only going to feel angry and frustrated with the world around me. It’s possible to believe that the Lord loves every one of us, and that they are only committing sins because it’s the only way they were taught. It’s possible to believe that, that one jerk in your hall is actually just suffering from homesickness and depression, and is only acting out because they don’t know how to handle the stress. It’s possible to believe that, that slow guy in traffic just went through a major car accident, and the only way he can feel safe is to drive 5 miles below the speed the limit in a huge SUV. Now of course, these things aren’t likely, but they’re not impossible either. If I choose to not act in faith, to not show love towards my fellow man, if I stay in the default setting to love only those who agree with me, then how am I making the world a better place? Now I don’t want to discredit the difficulty of doing these things, because they’re hard. To be honest there will be times when people challenge your faith to an extent where you flat out won’t want to love. But if we are diligent, if we maintain the integrity of our beliefs and honor them, I promise you that in any situation, you can feel the spirit in your life. It will actually be within your power to be in a congested consumer hell type situation and feel the love and hope and charity with the same intensity as he who lit the stars.
            This probably isn’t the happy-go-lucky kind of post you were expecting from me. What this is, is the truth with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. Because isn’t that the reason why we repeating lessons and morals throughout our lives? So that in the end of the day we can tell ourselves, over and over, this is the truth. This is the truth. 

1 comment:

  1. Kewls dewd. I had a conversation with one of my roommate's mom about different religions and the similarites. One that I focused on is having compassion and respect for everyone. I believe that bringing out the best in people with compassion and respect will reflect onto them. When there is respect for one another, there is peace.