A reader writes:
"I do not experience being Catholic as a choice any more than I experience being gay as a choice."
But as you must know, these are completely different things. It is one thing to have one's thoughts influenced or shaped by the tradition one was brought up in; I would think no one could avoid that. But affirming the truth of a particular faith is always a choice, and you always have the power and right to affirm the faith you were brought up in, or another, or none. I cannot understand any reason for pretending that one has no choice in the matter -- and to me it is pretending, and morally unserious, and in fact, dangerous.
Simone Weil wrote that Jesus wants us to prefer the truth to him, because before being himself, he is the truth. When we think we see a contradiction between the truth and Jesus, we have misunderstood one or the other, and should sort it out: Weil said that when we think we see Jesus standing apart from the truth, we must turn aside from Jesus, and toward the truth; but when we do so, we do not take more than a step toward the truth without falling forward into his arms, realizing that he was standing at the truth all along, and where we thought he had been standing apart from the truth was an illusion or a mistake.
Weil's view is my own. What I meant by the lack of choice is that there have been moments in my life when I have indeed sensed the loss of faith or its slackening or, at one moment, its inversion. But even in its inversion - fifteen interminable minutes when I didn't wonder if God existed, but if God really was evil - the despair was lifted by a force greater than my own.
What has kept me believing is not, as I have experienced it, a conscious act of will. It is more an acceptance of God's grace. My experience of Jesus will not let go of me, however much I would like to let go of it. This element of faith - its involuntary pull as well as its voluntary push - is how I have found it.
One can only describe here and say: this is what human life is like.
I mean no more than that, but the internal wrestling never ends. The search for truth must always be first; and religion is nothing if it is not true. Which is why doubt can never be a danger. Banishing doubt is the danger.
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