This I Believe

Hima - San Diego, California
Entered on May 22, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: question

Origin of Faith

According to a 2001 US Census survey, over 80% of Americans have a religious affiliation. The remaining 20% includes those who believe in God even though they aren’t religious, those who say there is no God, and those who simply aren’t sure. The bottom line? An overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God.

My question for all you believers is: how can you be so sure? Don’t you ever have doubts? How do you keep your faith when a family member suffers from cancer or a hurricane devastates an entire city? Where does your faith come from?

My boyfriend says his faith is 50% experience and 50% tradition. He was raised to believe in God. Yet he’s been out of his parents’ house for years and continues to believe. “I feel it,” he says. He feels that God exists. Did his parents’ priming him help him feel it? Probably. When your parents repeatedly tell you things throughout your childhood, you’re more likely to believe them as an adult. Don’t talk to strangers. Never tell a lie. Trust in God.

I know a few people who have had experiences for which they can find no explanation other than “God had a hand in this.” Perhaps they can invoke the explanation that “God wanted me to live” or “God put me in the right place at the right time,” because they were coached to believe in God at some point. Maybe I’m wrong. Some really bizarre events may have the power to convert even the stalwart atheist into a believer.

Why are there so few people who feel the way I do? Where are my brethren? I don’t know whether God exists. I’m not searching for the answer. I feel that it’s not my place to challenge other people’s faiths. If you are sure that God exists, who am I to argue with you? Maybe you’re right.

I suppose I take after my parents. I never saw them pray. I’m not sure if they even believe in God. They never expressed a strong opinion one way or the other.

My boyfriend’s mother is surprised that he’s with someone like me. Belief in God is a virtue that she has passed on to her son, and she expects him to pass this trait on to his children. She probably thinks that my being part of the picture will make that more difficult, and she’s right.

If I have children, I will tell them about my beliefs as well as their father’s and trust them to make their own decisions when they are ready to wrestle with the topics of faith, religion and God. I will be giving them the opportunity to not believe, and my potential mother-in-law finds that disturbing.

People like me are often considered wayward souls or even a threat to our country’s values. If belief in God is a virtue, the absence of faith is a vice. If God is omnipotent, not acknowledging him is a sign of disrespect. If most people believe in God, not believing is an aberration.

Honestly, I’m jealous of you believers. No matter how tough life gets, you know there is someone watching over you. Everything happens for a reason because it is part of some bigger plan. That must feel so comforting. I wish I had what you have. But, for whatever reason – upbringing, experience, or intrinsic inability – I just don’t “feel it.”