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ASK FATHER: “I am struggling with my faith due to intense anxiety about death. What makes you believe in God?”

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Simple: What makes you believe in God. As a religious person do you have doubts and how do you conquer them.. If you have other priest’s reasonings please tell me their opinions as well.

St. Augustine called fear of death “our daily winter”.   In the ancient world, the pursuit of philosophy was “therapy” for fear of death.  These days, however, fear of death has driven most people to constant distractions, ever more hyped up stimuli or entertainments or… whatever.   This is a foundational question for the living of a good life and it has to be addressed.

The first place you must seek an answer to the God question, and fear of death, is in stillness and silence.  Only when the distractions are brought down can you go into that dark place where we all must face Mystery.   Christians, all, must confront the conundrum: If Christ conquered death, once and for all time, then why do we have to die?

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

In the Church’s prayer in Masses for the Dead, she sings: vita mutatur, non tollitur… life is changed, not ended.

When we lose the incessant distractions and settle into some stillness, there we can face this fear of death and be, in the facing, transformed with an encounter with the Mystery that is God, in whose image we are made, for whom we live and are destined to be with face to face.

This implies personal relationship.  Personal relationships take time to grow.  They are two way streets.  They include listening, not just talking.

Meanwhile, we can also look around at material creation around us and ask how it is even possible for it to exist at all.   Is what we see around us proportioned to some chance or accidental bumping of an electron or the mutation of some speck?  No, that defies reason.  There must be something behind it, something intelligent and thoughtful, with a plan.

I refer you to great books by men like Peter Kreeft, Fr. Stanley Jaki, and Fr. Robert Spitzer in regard to the reasonableness of the existence of God as seen in the observable world.  Also, here is a short passage from Fr. Thomas Dubay in The Evidential Power of Beauty. [US HERE – UK HERE].  It is a really good read. Dubay has such an engaging style.  He doesn’t patronize the reader, by dumbing anything down.  Still, it is challenging.   Dubay wrote (and, mind you, this isn’t perhaps exactly transcribed as it appears on the page):

Conditions for the huge jump from inanimate matter to the simplest cell are incredibly precise and must have been so from the very first beginnings and in the finest details. So also highly specific conditions were and remain necessary, that the human race could eventually have come about and continue to exist. From the first microsecond of the universe, matter had to unfold exactly as it did or there would have been no observers to describe, talk about, and write human history. Close approximations were and are not enough.

Advances in physics and astronomy show that give our early universe had been even minutely different from what it was, and was becoming, life could not have arisen. You and I, conversing through this written page, would not exist, could not have existed for a moment. Even the tiniest variation in temperature or chemical composition of those first moments of the universe would have made the appearance of human life impossible. As one astronomer has put it, a slight increase in nuclear forces would have resulted in stars made almost entirely of helium, stars which would have a shorter lifespan, resulting in insufficient time for life, for man to arise in the universe.

On the other hand, a slight decrease in nuclear forces would have prevented the formation of carbon atoms and other necessary ingredients of life. George Sim Johnston puts it well when he writes of these breathtaking specificities. If the cosmic expansion at the Big Bang at been a fraction less intense, it would have imploded billions of years ago. A fraction more intense and of the galaxies would not have formed. Picture a wall with thousands of dials. Each must be at exactly the right setting, within the toleration of millionths, in order for carbon-based life to eventually emerge in a suburb of the Milky Way.

God is real and God is personal.  He knew you before any of that creation business, with its nuclear forces and the formation of the bones of the universe.  He brought you – amazing as you are – into existence as part of a plan.

Our sacred liturgical worship ought to be a pre-eminent place of encounter with transforming Mystery, where we deal with our fear of death.

 

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