How Much Faith Must the Faithful Have?

Exactly how much faith must the faithful have? If I had a dollar for every time a believer smiled serenely at my pesky questions and then replied with the ultimate slap in my logical face: 

“God requires that we have faith,” 

I’d have accrued a sizable little nest egg by now. It’s the deal breaker reply for me and the believer. Stop the train! Let me get off right now. There’s nothing else that I can say. The ardent believer really BELIEVES that they won the argument with a non-argument. God’s tricky like that, apparently. If I insist on proof that she’s there, she gets offended. 

Why can’t I just believe? 

What’s wrong with ME, not what’s wrong with the expectation that I’m required to just have faith that some kind of god is out there, minding my personal business no less. 

Yet, the believer seems to have no idea that believing that god exists in some form or fashion is just the beginning of a long, long trail of things they must embrace through faith.

In fact, it’s my opinion that the list is practically endless. To be able to practice faith, we must suspend logic, the fear of miscalculations, concerns that we’ve missed a detail, the strong possibility that we’ve been persuaded to follow a false prophet and an equally strong possibility that we didn’t get it exactly right.

Could there be another religion out there that represents the truth?

Is it possible that most believers end up practicing the wrong religion? Maybe they can't choose wisely because their own sinful nature’s harden their hearts, convincing them that they were serving the one true god while in actuality they wanted to avoid the truth. We probably all have different tastes when it comes to religious lifestyles. Some of us would hate to wear a strange hat and give up our favorite foods for the rest of our lives. Yet, we've been told that the path to righteousness is a straight and narrow one and few will follow this path. So, we should beware the temptation to take a detour just so we can eat meat.

With all of the religions to choose from in the United States alone, home of some of the most unusual Christian belief systems currently available to humankind, how would any person of faith ever know for sure that they’ve joined the right group?

How do we choose even if we wanted to serve a god? Christians love to ask me, with a little glint in their eyes no less — What if I'm wrong? That question has been asked by many believers with the intent of haunting me into submission out of fear. Fear is a great way to control people. We see it all the time, not only coming from believers trying to save nonbelievers from hellfire and brimstone, but also from politicians trying to convince us that some imminent horror is almost on our doorstep and we best do what they suggest in order to protect ourselves. It works, too!

Yet, this age old question always manages to create a bunch of new questions for me. 

I’m forced to ask the believer how do they know whether they’ve picked the right path to god. What if they’re wrong? You see, even if I decided tomorrow to accept the existence of god by faith, I still would feel insecure about choosing a path to follow.

What if I find out that sprinkling wasn't enough? That, in fact, dunking was required by god. What if I found out that divorce and remarriage really is adultery in the eyes of god and that I'd only managed to fool myself into believing that I could get away with it because I was weak and willful? Until not too long ago, divorce was one of the big social taboos with strong religious condemnation much like homosexuality is now.

Suddenly everyone is divorcing in almost every Christian religion and god's cool with it? That appears to be a bit suspicious. 

What if the Jehovah Witnesses were right and not the Mormons or the Baptists? What if there really is a middle step called purgatory? What if I'm not supposed to cut my hair or dress in short skirts? Is it possible that women really are responsible for the sin of lust in men by exposing their flesh? What if I'm not supposed to eat pork or drink alcohol? What if the Seven Day Adventists are right not the Scientologists? What if it's a sin of greed to hang on to material wealth? Should I cover my head when venturing into a place of worship? Do I need to be in subjection to my husband as the head of the house? Should I cut my hair and wear a wig? What about the burka? Should you be talking in tongues? Is there a way to dress that pleases god? Which hat, bonnet, prayer cap or veil is in style in heaven? Can a Christian kill in war or are we to be pacifists? Is there a proper direction to face when we pray? How much money must you contribute? How often should we pray? Can we buy insurance and still claim to trust in god? Can we indulge in worldly pastimes? The list of "what ifs" is practically endless, but hopefully, you get the point. By choosing one thing to practice, you shun another, and it requires a lot of faith that you’ve made the right decision.

Not only aren’t we allowed to see god’s face, we can never be sure what the hell god wants from us.

There is no way of knowing if you've picked the right path from amongst the thousands available today. You might as well draw a belief system from a hat or spin a wheel. You could be devoting your entire life to the wrong belief and suffer the consequences in the end. Supposedly false prophets abound. So beware! But how do we know who is a false prophet? They all claim to be selling the truth.

So I ask the believer — What if you've been fooled into following the wrong path to god? 

One thing the believer and I agree upon is that it requires faith to accept god's very existence. Lots and lots and lots of faith. Believing that there is a god in the first place is just the tip of the iceberg. From that day forward, the believer must hope they are giving this god what she wants. That if this is a test, they’ve chosen the right answers from the multiple choice exam. And, there’s no way they can study for this test and ever know for sure that they’ve chosen correctly from answers A,B,C,D,E well, you get the point. They must dig in and stubbornly have faith that god is there in the first place and that the path of rules, restrictions, requirements, routines and rituals they’re traveling is even headed in the right direction.

When do they get to know for sure that they’ve passed the test, you may ask? 

Why after they die, of course. That’s when the test ends. That’s when we no longer need faith. That’s when the wizard of OZ reveals herself. I wonder if they’ll be disappointed. What if they’re wrong?

So, how much faith must the faithful have? 

Well, it turns out a lot more than they like to think. And, the sad part is that all across the world, millions of people are living lives full of ridiculous restrictions based on faith, banking on the idea that they’ve stumbled across the truth and that although they’ve never seen god or heard her voice, they know what she thinks.

That's pretty risky business if you ask me.