Why or Why Not

At a certain point in my journey toward Catholicism, I realized I was no longer requiring some kind of proof that it was all true. I knew I didn’t have to believe, but the issue was that I wanted to believe, so I wasn’t looking for something completely airtight. I just was checking everything to make sure that it was intellectually defensible before I gave my assent. I just needed to know that it was possible to believe these things and still be a reasonable person.

I wasn’t asking, “Do I have to believe this?”

I was asking, “Can I believe this?”

Once I had made that move, I started gaining a lot of speed.

A skeptic or a non-believer is going to ask why Catholicism (or any other belief system, really) is demonstrably true and so the whole journey is quite uphill. People do come to faith in this way, but painfully, slowly, and often unwillingly. You can’t prove the Resurrection of Jesus or any other matter of faith because such matters are not repeatable phenomenon that can be tested in a lab. Sometimes, people are given convincing proofs such as miracles and visions and so on, but that experience is quite rare When someone is asking the question, “Do I have to believe this?”, it has to be proven true beyond a reasonable doubt before they will assent to it. So people who ask, well, why should I believe that, are going to be much more resistant by nature.

By contrast, people who hope something is true, who find it desirable and attractive and pleasant, are more likely to be looking for all the reasons that they can believe something. They’re only going to be talked out of it if it can be shown, demonstrably, to be false. When I start asking the question, “Can I believe this?”, usually it needs to be proven false before I will let it go. When I’m asking, well, why shouldn’t I believe this, I’m already giving something the benefit of the doubt, and I’m going to be much more credulous by nature.

The thing is, I’m not sure what flips the switch, so to speak, from “must I believe” to “can I believe”, other than desire. People rarely believe what they don’t want to be true. Something has to change in what a person desires before much headway can be made in what they believe.