This short video comes from Vision Fudge, an organization which makes films in order to help people explore life’s big questions. Whether or not God exists is definitely one of those questions. In the video they ask three questions about belief in God: Does anyone believe in God? Why do people believe in God? If there is a God, why do bad things happen?
A Deeper Look
Although this video is titled “Does God Exist?” I can’t help feeling that the question they are really trying to answer is more like “What on earth is He playing at?!”
Let’s start with the first question, about whether anyone believes in God these days. The answer to this is a resounding, “YES!” Believing in God is as important and relevant today as it always has been.
In August 2011 more than 1.5 million young people, from all over the world, gathered with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid, Spain at World Youth Day. There are millions of other Christians, young and old, throughout the world. Sometimes it can seem like we are alone in our belief, but this isn’t true. It has been said that we live in a ‘global village’. Maybe we need to look online, rather than next door, to find someone who believes in God, but that doesn’t mean that nobody else does.
The Holy Father said recently, “In some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers.” (Message for the 47th World Communications Day). The international Catholic-Link team would certainly agree that this is true! Most of us have never met one another (we are spread as far apart as London and Lima, Manila and LA), and we don’t all speak the same language, but we know that we are part of this “worldwide community of believers”.
The next question, about why we believe in God, is as much about human beings as it is about God himself. Faith, belief in God, is the friendly invitation of God to have a relationship with Him, to believe in Him; it is also our response to that invitation. It is our saying “yes” to God. This response is also a gift from God: He invites us to be closer to Him, and He enables us to be closer to Him. But He does not make us believe in Him, or force us to do so.
A Gift and a Choice
That is why, although faith is a gift, it is also a choice. God gives us the grace to believe in Him (enables us to have faith) but we have to choose whether to accept that grace; we both ask for the gift and allow Him to give it to us. Choosing to believe in God (accepting the gift of faith) is a very human act. We are inclined to believe people, and believe in people, so believing in God and believing Him (what He says) are normal, natural, human things for us to do.
Once we have accepted the gift of faith, we then have a responsibility to look after it. It is like a spark: we need to help it grow into a flame, and then a fire, and just like a fire it will go out if we don’t take care of it. God is our loving Father, believing in Him means loving Him (you don’t usually hear people saying “I believe in my Dad”), and in order to love Him we need to know Him: we cannot love someone we do not know. Once we know about God, and love Him, we want to do what will make him happy. This is also a normal, human thing to do. We want the people we care about to be happy, we try to be nice to them and do nice things for them. We don’t do these things to make them love us more, but purely because we love them. So because we love God, we try to do what He asks of us. God, in return, loves us so much (a lot more than we can love Him) that He wants us to be happy, and so He only asks us to do things that will make us happy. This is also part of faith, because faith is not just a mental exercise, to believe in something or someone, but is also lived out through our actions.
The last question, about why bad things happen, is one they answer in the video using the comparison with dentists. Again, the answer is about choice. God has given us all freedom. This is an amazing gift (have you noticed yet how many gifts God gives us?!) which shows how much He loves us: He gives us a gift that means we can choose to have nothing to do with Him. He really wants us to be free! Using our freedom in this way is not a good use of it, but it also doesn’t make God stop existing, or stop loving us.
God has created us free, and we can use this freedom to choose between good and bad things (things which will make us happy, and things which will make us unhappy), but it would be better to use our freedom to choose between good things and better things (things which will make us happy and things which will make us really happy). All the bad things they mention in the video are a consequence of people using their freedom in a wrong way, making choices which lead to unhappiness. And we make those kinds of bad choices (even if only in a small way) every day. We call this wrong use of freedom ‘sin’. Believing in God is just the first step on the adventure of a lifetime, the adventure of Christian Life.
- Helping faith grow – through prayer we can deepen our faith and get to know God better, asking Him to help our faith to grow and developing a closer relationship with him. Through study we can learn more about how God wants us to live through Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Revelation (the teachings of the Church). Community and friendship are also important means to growing in faith.
- Taking care of our faith – we need to avoid making bad choices (sin) and practice making good choices (virtue). Try to identify if there is anything you do which harms, or could harm, your faith. We can get very confused if we do things which contradict what we believe (this includes ignoring and avoiding). Make the most of Confession and Holy Communion (yet more gifts)!
- Find a good example – the best example we have of how to follow God is Jesus Christ. We can read about his life in the Gospels. We also have many good examples in Mary, His mother, and the Saints. As well as imitating them, they are also good friends who can help us grow in faith.