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June 5th, 2013
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


Today’s homework assignment: Think of something in this world that you know but cannot prove (similar to the tomato paste example above). Then speak with someone you know who has a strong faith and talk to them about why their faith is important to them. You can also write or ask them three questions about how they practice it.

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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • beggarsfarm

    How simple minded can you get? Comparing ones belief in the contents of a can of tomatoes with a belief in a supernatural being? One IS verifiable (One can go to the tomato canning factory) the other is NOT (unless Bell can give us access to heaven?!!). Belief must be based on something! In the case of the tomatoes experience of past use and no reports of rotten contents is evidence. In the case of a supernatural, what verifiable evidence has ever being submitted?

  • Des Farrell

    The kind of evidence that might appeal to empiricists is considered very dangerous territory by many. I’m talking about the darker supernatural experience, spiritualism, evidence of miracles, the occult. I would rather be introduced to the god of the Gospels, God as love, rather than have my first experience of God in the negative, the world that no one talks about anymore, demons and their boss, fallen angels. It’s a subject mocked by many and spoken about rarely in churches. It’s the easiest subject in the world to mock and yet, I would respectfully suggest, worthy of rational investigation. John Hardon SJ has written some interesting articles on the subject.

  • Dawna Williams

    The fact that the brand didn’t have recalls (that he heard of), was on a shelf with other FDA approved foods (FDA isn’t perfect granted but it’s safer than when beef in a can could actually be snake & there were no consequences) that he’s consumed most of his life, and perhaps had looked up a recipe which uses it. All of that is EVIDENCE. Weak sauce evidence for sum, but real evidence. It’s not a belief system that claims a fiery lake will kill you if you lie,you can live three days inside of a large marine creature, it’s perfectly ok to sacrifice your child on an alter, and All of that is from a God that only showed himself to a bronze age desert people but is really the one loving God for the whole world. You have to see your comparison is not apples to apples. It’s apples to space apples grown in the womb of a sex goddess.

    • Swiftright Right

      We believe is a God of Love. Further more Catholics do not believe hell is a place were you get slow cooked over lava during a big Demonic BBQ. Those are metaphors used for the spiritual pain resulting from a separation from the Lord metaphors coined by people who were every bit as sophisticated as you or me. (Ref Pope John Paul II)

      Also whats up with the trend of downing on humans from the bronze age? Those men and women were every bit as mentally advanced as you or me. The only difference between me and a man living in 2500 BC is that I have the benefit of several thousand years of accumulated wealth and knowledge available.

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