This I Believe

Claire - Rolling Meadows, Illinois
Entered on May 18, 2007

The Strength of a Question

I believe in questions. For the first thirteen years of my life, I was given “the answers.” While attending a Catholic grade school, I did not have much to decide—my beliefs, my morals, and even my school clothing were prescribed by parents, teachers, and priests. This conformity never bothered me; I knew nothing else, so I accepted what I heard with little dissent. However, at age thirteen, I attended an Evangelical camp and received the Protestant version of “the answers.” For the next few years, I wrestled with the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, and my religious struggle intensified when I entered a public high school and heard even more answers. Everyone from conservative Christians to skeptical atheists had his or her version of the truth. Although I was a Christian, I thought that other faiths could also be valid, but my tradition clashed with this pluralistic view.

Unable to determine the “right” answer, I debated, promoting Christianity to friends with different beliefs. Sleepovers turned into intense arguments throughout the night, lasting until my friends and I realized the futility of trying to change each other’s beliefs. People learned to never bring up religion if I was in the room. Luckily, I joined a church youth group, and although my catechist was a devout Catholic, he appreciated open-minded discussion. He taught me to differentiate between important tradition that is essential to the Catholic faith and nuances of the Church that do not need to affect one’s personal beliefs. For example, I believe in the Holy Trinity but disagree with the Church’s opposition to women priests. More importantly, my catechist told me that one’s questions and one’s search for answers are more valuable than finding the answer itself. The “answer” may not even exist. I may never know how one attains salvation or which religion holds truth, but my curiosity has strengthened my spiritual and intellectual development.

Some traditionalist Catholics may call me a “Cafeteria Catholic,” a critical label for one who claims to be Catholic but disagrees with some Church doctrine. However, I think that questioning my beliefs have made them more valuable, and I am happy that I went through a few years of religious doubt. When I attended Catholic school and knew no other points of view, I did not possess the enthusiasm for my faith that I have now. Questioning my beliefs led to an affirmation of what’s important to me instead of what other people define as the truth. I believe that the importance of questioning extends beyond one’s religious doctrine. Whether one supports a political cause or a philosophical idea, this belief will mature if one questions it, investigates it, and supports it out of one’s free will.