The Requirement of Beliefs Part II

pxA few posts ago I explored the topic that some religions require belief in order to receive or achieve salvation. The word “salvation” can take on different forms depending on the religion. For this reason, I am using the term loosely in the present context. Having personally been brought up in the Roman Catholic form of Christianity I approach this topic from that perspective but really my question as to why this belief is required is not strictly limited to Christian dogma. In the blog post I specifically referenced chapter 3 verse 26 in The Book of John which reads, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” To properly explore this topic it is first necessary to examine what a belief is.
Beliefs are essentially ideas or thoughts in the mind. Accordingly, the question behind the exploration has to do with why would the gatekeeper of salvation care whether its adherents experienced these thoughts called beliefs? If the gatekeeper of salvation is divine and not dependent upon any external factors for its existence why would it be so interested in this one particular external factor? I suppose one answer to the question is that the belief is for the benefit of the person trying to achieve salvation and not for the benefit of the divine dispenser of salvation. But John 3:36 expressly states that not believing brings about the “wrath of God” which implies that God has some stake in this thought called a belief existing in the mind of that person seeking salvation. This could be metaphorical language but that is not at all certain. As such the question remains unanswered.
It must be understood that I am not questioning whether these beliefs are valid. I am simply questioning why these beliefs are required. If the comment section of Part I is any indication, this distinction seems to be difficult to understand for some people. Interestingly, the personality type represented in the comment section seems to be very threatened by any exploration of this topic. A perusal of the comment section of Part I of this blog will provide examples of this. For questioning this requirement of belief I was accused of hating God. My question was rephrased as an argument on my part that hating God should carry no consequences and that the actual consequence for making this argument (that I did not make) was my own annihilation. These counterarguments (made against an argument I never made) were written in sporadic ALL CAPS which gave the impression that this commenter’s emotions were raised and that his emotion guided his rhetoric. Also notice that the emphasis on the counterargument was not the merits of the requirement of belief itself but rather on how I was wrong as a person for even asking the question. Another interesting point is that this accuser denied John 3:36 even expresses a requirement for belief in the first place. I think any reasonable person would read this passage to require belief in the Son in order to have eternal life. Moreover, the passage also clearly expresses that if this requirement is not met then a punishment will be meted out. But the commenter seemed to argue that interpreting this passage as expressing a requirement was somehow in error although he did not clearly articulate a logical foundation for this point.
Mind you, I do not want to engage in another pointless debate with this person because I have been down this road so many times on this blog and it is indeed pointless. Accordingly any comment he posts will be deleted. The only reason I brought him up was to provide an example of the egoic push back this question receives. This quality of being threatened when beliefs are questioned seems to be emblematic of the ego. The fact that the ego seems so invested in belief makes the requirement of belief for salvation questionable in my mind. Let me be clear. I am NOT questioning the validity of beliefs or really whether the reason for the requirement is sound. I simply do not understand the reason why this requirement exists and am exploring this lack of understanding by articulating the thoughts that come to mind as I explore it. (I have no illusion this distinction will be meaningful to everyone who reads it).
I think it can be argued that questioning beliefs or faith can lead to a deepening of beliefs. An unquestioned belief has a shaky foundation because it has not tested itself against the facts that may disprove it. As such, the unquestioned belief has no defenses to these facts. However, a belief that has been tested against facts that might disprove it has been inoculated against those facts. But really, this argument is just intellectual play. It is the reinforcing of beliefs (which are thoughts) with other beliefs and thoughts. It becomes circular after a while and brings a person who engages in this sort of thing only so close  to the truth. So again I arrive at the question, why is there the requirement of belief and why are there those who are so egoically invested in keeping this requirement unquestioned?
There are examples of Saints who have questioned their beliefs. Saint Mother Teresa wrote on numerous occasions about how she questioned her beliefs. Saint Thomas the apostle of Jesus also questioned belief without direct proof. Jesus castigated him for this when he said “…Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). Again we see this emphasis on belief and from the same gospel to boot. Interestingly, in the Gnostic tradition, Thomas is revered for his questioning attitude. Equally interesting is the fact that Gnosticism was declared a heresy by orthodox Christianity.
So the question exists. Why is there a requirement of belief for salvation? Moreover, there also exists a force which is interested in blocking this question. Why this dynamic exists I do not know. But I think there can be no sin in asking a question. I think this is true because logically, no amount of questioning can undermine the truth for the reason that the answers to these questions (if truthful) should only serve to reinforce the truth. I suppose one could counter argue that by asking questions and receiving false answers one could be misled to a dangerous place. But if that is the case, then these unquestioned beliefs are robotic and lack authentism. If God requires belief then I have to think that He would want a whole hearted belief that has been tested and found to be true as opposed to a belief that was adopted for no reason or because the believer was socially pressured into believing.
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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Requirement of Beliefs Part II

  1. Modern people think that “faith” means believing something for no particular reason. (Modern people also think that it is rational to doubt God’s existence: modern people think all sorts of crazy things).

    What faith actually means though is believing because you trust the person who has revealed what is to be believed. Salvation is communion with God; Hell is eternal separation from God. Belief is required for salvation because it manifests trust in God-who-reveals, in the Divine Persons — trust despite competing claims or desires. Interrogators may pretend that your best friend has betrayed you and may present argument and evidence to that effect; you know better, though, because you trust him.

    Religious faith isn’t belief without any reasons to believe, which is by definition irrational. Religious faith is trust in God’s goodness, and in the veracity of what He has revealed; despite epistemic competition from your own desires, prejudices, metaphysical presuppositions, etc.

  2. I think that makes sense and I agree with your description of faith as more of a trusting attitude towards God than holding a particular belief in mind. However, I wonder if “faith” in this sense is what John 3:26 is referring to. Perhaps it is a translation issue.

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