The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Barefoot Living

Questions without answers

Religion can inspire us to strive for that infinite love and understanding that must be at the very core of God, but at the same time, religion has acted as the justification for grossly inhumane acts perpetrated through mankind’s terrible hatred and fear.

The common element driving both ends of this spectrum (between love and hate) is a strong belief constructed over the course of a person’s lifetime through which one interprets and understands reality. The difference often comes down to a simple matter of common sense.

It is the purpose of this article to highlight the power of personal belief and the immense importance of developing one’s belief system by questioning the contradictions inherent to all religions because in the end, one’s religion is never set in stone. One’s religion is just the name given to a constantly evolving, personal system of beliefs.

Think about how subjective my definition of religion is. Even people who claim to ascribe to the same faith will inevitably disagree at certain points, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with disagreement! Everyone has his own set of life experiences resulting in his own unique perspective made up of unique beliefs. Thus all beliefs are equally valid. The totality of one’s beliefs, unique as a fingerprint and changing with every new experience, is one’s religion.

So many people waste their lives looking for concrete, objective answers to the big questions like, “Is there a God?” or “Why are we here?” or “What happens when we die?” Or even worse, many people give up searching because either they believe that they’ve arrived at the right answer or because they believe that they have more important concerns with which to fill their days.

Life is not some kind of multiple-choice test with inherently right or wrong answers, and the purpose of this journey is not about finding answers to the big questions. In fact, there are no such answers. Rather, life is about coming to deeper and deeper understandings of what the big questions entail about the nature of the human condition.

I’ve talked to people who are completely beyond questioning their faith, as if questioning one’s faith equates to a personal affront against God. Here, devotion reverts from a virtue to a pitfall, because these believers behave as if they already know everything they could possibly need to know.

Such arrogance! Such pride! Such folly! These unfortunate souls seek refuge from the real world in comfortable blindness and stunt their spiritual growth by avoiding the spiritual pain necessary to achieving that growth. They prevent themselves from gathering any new evidence that could undermine their faith, and avoid any new experiences which contradict what they already “know.” Bottom line, these people are deathly afraid of what happens when such questions are given their due consideration. In short, these people are afraid of change.

All organized religions are riddled to the core with contradictions, but instead of undergoing the pain of addressing and sorting out these contradictions, blind faith leaves such concerns to the supreme wisdom of God. “I don’t have to worry about whether or not good people in India are going to hell because it’s God’s job to worry about that.” This line of reasoning cuts out the personal responsibility associated with holding any particular belief and leaves the believer beyond the reach of accountability.

Think about a tangled mess of knots in the muscles of one’s back. The only way to alleviate the strain of such knots is to work through them, but this working through must hurt. We all have these “spiritual knots,” but whether or not we choose to work through them, endure the spiritual pain and feel the flexibility and relief is a personal choice.

It’s easier to just swallow contradictions whole than to work through them, just like it’s easier to sit on a couch and watch TV all day instead of jogging a few miles and reading a book. The former is comfortable and easier, but the latter is immensely more rewarding and beneficial to one’s overall well-being.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that other people have the answers we seek. We all want so badly to put our doubts to rest, so when someone comes along preaching “truth,” we are steeply inclined to eat it up without a word of protest. It’s easier to accept a belief simply because our parents told us so, or because the Bible tells us so, but common sense questions can go a long way toward developing and refining, and in the end, strengthening our beliefs.

Don’t misinterpret me. There are many credible teachers in this world with valuable insights into the questions that drive us toward putting meaning in our lives, but any teacher espousing the end-all is almost certainly a false prophet.

Asking questions without answers builds character and sharpens perception. Pain can be a good thing when it leads to growth. Go out and ask the tough questions. Keep asking them till you lose yourself. Keep asking them till you find yourself and the wisdom of not knowing.

Keven O’Toole is a junior philosophy major and can be reached at [email protected].

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