The great Fulton Sheen, who was an archbishop with his own TV show in the 50s once said: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
A pithy quote, and one that deserves consideration.
I struggled with believing in God for many years, especially towards the end of High School. In 9th grade I had abandoned being homeschooled to attend a private Catholic school, an experience which was nothing short of a nightmare. Imagine Mean Girls times ten, only I wasn’t nearly as pretty as Lindsay Lohan and my story did not have a happy ending. Dropping out after only one semester, I began a rapid downward spiral into depression. I was worthless. I could never be popular or have a boyfriend. I was going to be a frumpy, shy, and frizzy-haired homeschooler for the rest of my life. I doubted that God loved me, and if He even cared about me. I couldn’t understand why God would allow such heartbreaking things to happen to me in the first place. My diary entries during this time were so depressing that I just recently burned most of them.
It was tempting for me to just abandon my faith and stop believing in God, but I just eventually asked myself the question: Why NOT believe in God?
Another person just asked me this week “Why are you Catholic? Why do you believe in God?” I thought about it for a minute and then responded “Why not believe in God?”
I suppose some people say that God imposes too many rules. I thought this myself, until I went through the rules and realized that they were actually quite practical. Don't steal. Don't kill other people. Don't cheat on your spouse. Makes sense, I thought, not just for me but in general, for everyone.
God doesn't ask me for anything in return except that I love Him, and keep His commands. And because he gives me so much, that's easy to do.
Life seems to have so much more meaning when you believe that everything is a gift from a higher power and not just the product of random chance, an explosion of organic matter, or the result of one too many Angry Orchard Hard Ciders. I see the sun glowing through my bedroom window, I hear the robins whistling in the dusk, I bury my face in a slice of cold fresh watermelon, and I am grateful. I feel loved. I feel wanted. And I can tell God "Thank you," and love him back. It's a great deal.
Within my faith, suffering also has meaning; I used to think that there was no God because no god that is good would allow so much evil, hatred, murder, rape, and destruction in this world. But actually, all the violent chaos in our society has no meaning or significance outside of God. If we believe our pain has a purpose, that our suffering is not in vain, and that we will eventually see our loved ones again on the other side, it makes life that much more bearable. Opium of the people? Perhaps. But I would rather believe in a loving and merciful God, and have hope that this short earthly life is not all there is, and live as happily and as peacefully as I can, while I can, even if I am proven to be wrong and die only to find that there really is no heaven and no God.
There is a quote from The Silver Chair, a book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, that sums up what I'm trying to say quite nicely:
“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things---trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. Suppose, then, that we're just babies making up a game. But babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks the real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan’s side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as best as I can even if there isn't any heaven. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say.”
I won't deny that the Catholic church has its problems. It has many. It is run by human beings, and human beings are fallible, weak, and sometimes very, very stupid. But the fact that the Church has withstood over 2,000 years of war, corruption, schisms, and changing tides of public opinion makes me wonder if the Church is on to something. Catholics don't try to make everybody happy. We try to bring everybody to heaven.
Since embracing my faith, my life has not gotten any easier--on the contrary, it has gotten infinitely harder. It's easy to not believe in God. Catholicism—and real Christianity—is not for wimps. But I've always liked a challenge.
I don't believe because I've been told to. I don't believe because I'm afraid of going to hell or having my Hawaii Five-O DVDs taken away from me (which would be infinitely worse than eternal damnation). I believe because it makes sense.
Why would you not want to believe that you are loved, that your life has meaning, that you are here on this earth for a purpose other than to eat, reproduce, watch Sherlock, and die?
Perhaps all of this sounds too simple, too childlike, too good to be true. Maybe that’s why some people are afraid to believe, because it seems so incredibly nice and wonderful that it’s unrealistic. But why does something have to be complicated to be true? The best and most true things in life are simple. Jesus already did the dirty work, the hard work, by dying on the cross. Now all we have to do is thank Him, follow Him, and love Him. It’s really that easy.
God offers us a sweet deal. Why not take Him up on it?