If I was never raised to believe in God, how do I start? How can someone start to believe in anything if they were never taught how?

I remember this very question from a friend of mine who identifies as Atheist. As he was fixing some of his fantastic spaghetti, I noticed that he was using a new kind of tomato paste, so I asked him, “Why are you using that brand?” He said that he saw it on a cooking show and heard that it was a good quality brand. “Is it safe to eat?” I asked. “Of course it is!” he said. I replied: “Are you sure that that very can you have in your hand has been packaged safely with nothing that could cause us harm? No consumer recalls? No rotten tomatoes? No canning malfunctions? No food poisoning? How do you know this very can is safe to eat?” He actually said, “Well, I guess I don’t know, but I believe it’s fine.” “A HA!” I shouted. “So you do profess to have a belief!” This was the start of a great conversation about the human capacity to believe.

Belief formation begins by touching base with our innate ability to believe, which comes from our inner quest for truth. Our lives cannot be lived without this innate ability to believe because certitude or full knowledge is impossible to attain with our limited capacity. So, your first exercise is to become more aware of how much you depend on your ability to believe in something that you do not or cannot fully know. Look at the presumptions that you base your day on and how you believe (without certitude) that certain things are going to be in place for you to do what you do, when in fact there is no guarantee that they truly will. Consider the relationships you have formed. Have any been the result of a feeling that a connection with a certain person was a good thing though you had no tangible evidence of that feeling? Remember those moments when you felt something was true even when you couldn’t articulate or prove it? These are some ways to get in touch with that hardwiring of ours to believe.

Once you have proven to yourself that you can believe in something, and in fact, already do, then move to the second exercise. Start learning about God from a variety of sources. Talk to a friend or family member who is active in his/her faith about their relationship with God. Attend Mass or another church event with a friend. Read the Bible. On a personal level, look for God in nature, see how God is moving through the works of truly compassionate people, or take a very popular suggestion and talk to God yourself by praying (read: having a deep conversation with God) followed by a moment of silence with God. And be sure to explore the stories of faith from contributors to BustedHalo.com. Through articles and videos, young adults share their personal experiences of faith. The Church teaches that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because [we were] created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw [us] to himself.” Therefore, the key is to open yourself up to God and become aware of how God may be moving you to a deeper belief.

from Fr. Steven Bell, CSP


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