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 Post subject: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:00 pm 
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Is choosing the correct path a rational decision? How do I choose?
I've reached a point in my life where I want to see if there's something I've been missing. Jesus said seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. But which door to knock? Where to seek? Do I choose based on rational understanding, some sort of emotion in my heart, or something else? Religion X says this is the right path, religion Y says no this is the right path, religion Z says all paths lead to God, atheists say there is no God, agnostics say there is no way of knowing. Where do I begin to make sense of all the competing claims and choose wisely, correctly, and not be misled? If I choose to believe in God, how do I choose between religion X and religion Y, and all the other religions from A to Z.


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 8:10 pm 
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Well, I can't do your thinking for you, but I asked the exact same thing when I was in college. Just decided to get to the bottom of it all. At the time I guess I was like a lot of college kids, in some ways, but was still, very much imperfectly, a practicing Catholic. It didn't take me long to eliminate most world religions and the choice between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox was fairly short. Catholicism was simply the only logical choice.

Bishop Sheen has a bit called Line up the Claimants that addresses this very issue. It is, I believe, in his book Life of Christ, I can check in my handy copy of you like, and is in his series called Life is Worth Living. The mp3 is almost certainly easily findable on the internet if you google line up the claimants sheen.

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:02 pm 
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In what way is Catholicism the only logical choice? Are all the apparently intelligent non-Catholics not logical?


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:07 pm 
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Denise Dee wrote:
But which door to knock? Where to seek?

Start from where you are. There are answers to your questions, but you've got to narrow things down a bit to get started. Your post isn't like "hey, I'm definitely a Christian, but I'm not sure whether to stay in my Lutheran church or maybe become Catholic." It's saying "hey, for all I know, atheism is right, or Mormonism is right, or Hinduism is right. How do I decide?" First things first. Where are you coming from?

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:38 pm 
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Denise Dee wrote:
In what way is Catholicism the only logical choice? Are all the apparently intelligent non-Catholics not logical?

I guess not.

I'll see if I can work up a few answers for you when I'm rockin', baby!

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:22 am 
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Being an atheist never worked for me. Oh, the devil planted seeds of doubt, but I got over it. It was at that time I was examining things as we are talking about. My first decision was whether I believe in God, and I decided that I do. At least I was going to move forward under that framework. Then I decided that every religion and pseudo religion has the supernatural communicate with us to some extent. I guess those two points were where I started.

Then I took a look at the various religions. Frankly, most of them can be rule out quickly. None of the aboriginal religions really have any vigor to them. If God is real and made us, he would have been with us from the start, and they are at least ancient.

The Eastern religions also didn't last long. Buddhism and Confucianism aren't exactly even religions. Hinduism I can't remember about.

Judaism was the only one that made any sense to me. The depth and breadth of it, the continuity, and what it teaches. From there it was on to whether Christ was the Messiah. I think an objective look at the overall picture demonstrates that fairly well, without even getting into the specifics, which also support the idea.

From there we now have the Bible. What the Bible and the New Testament directly says about religion and the Church that Christ found eliminates schisms, at least in my mind. So, all the ones that come after Catholicism are pretty well out. Catholicism is clearly the Church that Christ founded. Unless there is some mechanism in the Bible that allows you to go start your own church, it's over. So no Islam, Gnosticism, Baha'i, Mormonism, Protestantism, or Orthodox. Orthodoxy, and, to an extent, Messianic Judaism, are the only ones I deemed worthy of any serious consideration.

Of course I looked a little deeper than I can really explain, and it has been a long while now, but Catholicism emerged as the only logical selection.

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:55 pm 
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gherkin wrote:
Denise Dee wrote:
But which door to knock? Where to seek?

Start from where you are. There are answers to your questions, but you've got to narrow things down a bit to get started. Your post isn't like "hey, I'm definitely a Christian, but I'm not sure whether to stay in my Lutheran church or maybe become Catholic." It's saying "hey, for all I know, atheism is right, or Mormonism is right, or Hinduism is right. How do I decide?" First things first. Where are you coming from?

Up until now I've been vaguely Christian, definitely not an atheist, but I have a lot of questions about God, I'm theologically agnostic. I was raised a Catholic, confused by all the different types of Christianity. Quite a lot of Buddhist teachings make sense to me.

Since shortly after my daughter was born I've started going to mass occasionally but not every Sunday.

Is that enough information?


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:00 pm 
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It gives a starting point. If your questions are intellectual questions, then they're not easy to answer. The internet is really not your friend, because of its inherent tendency to dumb down and fragment. Books are your friends. Here are two to start with, which any library system can surely get ahold of for you.

1. CS Lewis: Mere Christianity
2. Frank Sheed: Theology and Sanity

Lewis defends generic "orthodox" Christianity, of the sort shared by the Anglicans (at the time, though not so much now), some Protestants, the Orthodox and the Catholics. Sheed is a Catholic and gives a rousing introduction to Catholic thought.

If you're a big reader, then there are some great fictional works that you can read at the same time. Here are two very different kinds of suggestions.

1. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
2. Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited

To get some insight into what the spiritual life is like (or should be like, I should say), you can read these.

1. Dom Huber van Zeller: Spirit of Penance, Path to God
2. Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard: The Soul of the Apostolate

If you find it helpful to read other peoples' spiritual journeys, then it might not hurt to start with these.

1. Thomas Merton: Seven Storey Mountain (warning, Merton went of the rails later in his life)
2. St. Therese of Liseux: Story of a Soul

A work on religion in general that in retrospect was hugely influential on my own conversion was Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane.

That's a lot of books to throw out there. The first two are the ones I'd really suggest as starting points. The others are kind of gestures at stuff you could try, as well, depending on your interests and such. Everyone on here will have his own two cents about what you should read. Maybe they'll contribute to this little list, and that's lovely, but don't get discouraged by the list. Start with Mere Christianity, which is a short and readable book, and just read that one. Let the list get as long as it likes, and you'll get there someday maybe. Journey of a thousand miles, first step, etc.

I can't close the post without mentioning that you should of course read GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy, too. And his Autobiography. But I have found the occasional person doesn't love Chesterton like he ought to, so I don't want to suggest these as starting points in case they turn you off. So keep them in the back of your mind for later!

All this said, if you have any specific questions, this is a good place to ask.

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 6:11 pm 
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gherkin wrote:
It gives a starting point. If your questions are intellectual questions, then they're not easy to answer. The internet is really not your friend, because of its inherent tendency to dumb down and fragment. Books are your friends. Here are two to start with, which any library system can surely get ahold of for you.

1. CS Lewis: Mere Christianity
2. Frank Sheed: Theology and Sanity

Lewis defends generic "orthodox" Christianity, of the sort shared by the Anglicans (at the time, though not so much now), some Protestants, the Orthodox and the Catholics. Sheed is a Catholic and gives a rousing introduction to Catholic thought.

If you're a big reader, then there are some great fictional works that you can read at the same time. Here are two very different kinds of suggestions.

1. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
2. Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited

To get some insight into what the spiritual life is like (or should be like, I should say), you can read these.

1. Dom Huber van Zeller: Spirit of Penance, Path to God
2. Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard: The Soul of the Apostolate

If you find it helpful to read other peoples' spiritual journeys, then it might not hurt to start with these.

1. Thomas Merton: Seven Storey Mountain (warning, Merton went of the rails later in his life)
2. St. Therese of Liseux: Story of a Soul

A work on religion in general that in retrospect was hugely influential on my own conversion was Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane.

That's a lot of books to throw out there. The first two are the ones I'd really suggest as starting points. The others are kind of gestures at stuff you could try, as well, depending on your interests and such. Everyone on here will have his own two cents about what you should read. Maybe they'll contribute to this little list, and that's lovely, but don't get discouraged by the list. Start with Mere Christianity, which is a short and readable book, and just read that one. Let the list get as long as it likes, and you'll get there someday maybe. Journey of a thousand miles, first step, etc.

I can't close the post without mentioning that you should of course read GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy, too. And his Autobiography. But I have found the occasional person doesn't love Chesterton like he ought to, so I don't want to suggest these as starting points in case they turn you off. So keep them in the back of your mind for later!

All this said, if you have any specific questions, this is a good place to ask.


To add to this:

Lewis was a protestant, Tolkein was a traditional catholic. They were very good friends.


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:57 pm 
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Granting for the sake of argument that Christianity is true (and Catholicism, in particular; but I'd contend this goes for any Christian tradition), then while it's certainly true that being a Christian and following that "path" is rational, it's not only, merely, or even primarily a "rational" thing. To expand:

1. The assumption of the truthfulness of the Christian claim needs, I think, to be granted for this conversation to be terribly meaningful, for if it is denied (or just not granted), then why suppose that there is any such thing as a "right" path at all? On the other hand, if Jesus really is who He says He is, then it matters a great deal whether or not it makes sense to follow Him;

2. To emphasize, given the truthfulness of Christ's claims about Himself--and if you prefer, the Church's claims about Him (and herself?)--it is absolutely true that it is rational to place your faith in Him. While there are a great number of things about God and Christ that can only be known by faith, there are a great many that can be known rationally; and what can only be known by faith not only is not irrational, but it is highly fitting with what we do know rationally, and the general call to faith itself and the call to faith in Christ in particular is incredibly rationally warranted;

3. Even given how very strong the arguments for Christ are (and the strength of the arguments for the absurdity of every conceivable non-Christian position!), it is folly to suggest this is a mere matter of cold logic. It is the claim of Christ Himself that we respond to His call. We come to Him in faith and that by grace. Eternal life is not the reward for solving the riddle of life, but rather is the free gift of God given to sinners who believe Him. Your question, taken too far, can lead to a heresy you'll hear a lot about if you stay here very long, and that is called Pelagianism: at root, it's the idea that somehow we can save ourselves. No, "choosing the right path" is far more about responding to the call of God to faith and repentance. You don't have it in you to save yourself. God has in in Him to save you, and it is the one who comes to the place where they can cry out, "Have mercy on me, a sinner!" who is justified. Not the scholar who, by his or her wisdom, figures out "the right path." That's one of the big differences, I think, in Christianity and Buddhism. It's not about you or your path . . . not finally speaking, anyway. Yes, you have to cooperate with God's grace, but always remember that God is the first mover in all things, starting with your own salvation. So in that way, it's not merely or even primarily a rational thing; it's a deeply spiritual thing. Not irrational. Not arational. The foolishness of God, Paul talks about . . . beats the wisdom of man any day of the week and twice on Sunday. ;)

The upshot: prayer is a good thing. The road may be narrow, but be it the width of a spider's web or the breadth of highway, you're in no more or less danger of falling off if you're following the One who has walked it perfectly and is calling you to Himself.

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:37 pm 
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Denise Dee wrote:
gherkin wrote:
Denise Dee wrote:
But which door to knock? Where to seek?

Start from where you are. There are answers to your questions, but you've got to narrow things down a bit to get started. Your post isn't like "hey, I'm definitely a Christian, but I'm not sure whether to stay in my Lutheran church or maybe become Catholic." It's saying "hey, for all I know, atheism is right, or Mormonism is right, or Hinduism is right. How do I decide?" First things first. Where are you coming from?

Up until now I've been vaguely Christian, definitely not an atheist, but I have a lot of questions about God, I'm theologically agnostic. I was raised a Catholic, confused by all the different types of Christianity. Quite a lot of Buddhist teachings make sense to me.

Since shortly after my daughter was born I've started going to mass occasionally but not every Sunday.

Is that enough information?


I encourage you to go to mass weekly, for a Catholic...the sacraments help us to get the spiritual nourishment that we need. I find that the latin mass demonstrates the essence of whats most important about the mass. Christ's sacrifice for us. Others may disagree who prefer the novus ordo missae. Regardless, going to mass weekly is important.


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:39 pm 
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Bombadil wrote:
Being an atheist never worked for me. Oh, the devil planted seeds of doubt, but I got over it. It was at that time I was examining things as we are talking about. My first decision was whether I believe in God, and I decided that I do. At least I was going to move forward under that framework. Then I decided that every religion and pseudo religion has the supernatural communicate with us to some extent. I guess those two points were where I started.

Then I took a look at the various religions. Frankly, most of them can be rule out quickly. None of the aboriginal religions really have any vigor to them. If God is real and made us, he would have been with us from the start, and they are at least ancient.

The Eastern religions also didn't last long. Buddhism and Confucianism aren't exactly even religions. Hinduism I can't remember about.

Judaism was the only one that made any sense to me. The depth and breadth of it, the continuity, and what it teaches. From there it was on to whether Christ was the Messiah. I think an objective look at the overall picture demonstrates that fairly well, without even getting into the specifics, which also support the idea.

From there we now have the Bible. What the Bible and the New Testament directly says about religion and the Church that Christ found eliminates schisms, at least in my mind. So, all the ones that come after Catholicism are pretty well out. Catholicism is clearly the Church that Christ founded. Unless there is some mechanism in the Bible that allows you to go start your own church, it's over. So no Islam, Gnosticism, Baha'i, Mormonism, Protestantism, or Orthodox. Orthodoxy, and, to an extent, Messianic Judaism, are the only ones I deemed worthy of any serious consideration.

Of course I looked a little deeper than I can really explain, and it has been a long while now, but Catholicism emerged as the only logical selection.


Steve Ray's book Upon This Rock makes a great case for why Christ founded the Catholic church


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:31 pm 
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theJack wrote:
Granting for the sake of argument that Christianity is true (and Catholicism, in particular; but I'd contend this goes for any Christian tradition), then while it's certainly true that being a Christian and following that "path" is rational, it's not only, merely, or even primarily a "rational" thing. To expand:

1. The assumption of the truthfulness of the Christian claim needs, I think, to be granted for this conversation to be terribly meaningful, for if it is denied (or just not granted), then why suppose that there is any such thing as a "right" path at all? On the other hand, if Jesus really is who He says He is, then it matters a great deal whether or not it makes sense to follow Him;

2. To emphasize, given the truthfulness of Christ's claims about Himself--and if you prefer, the Church's claims about Him (and herself?)--it is absolutely true that it is rational to place your faith in Him. While there are a great number of things about God and Christ that can only be known by faith, there are a great many that can be known rationally; and what can only be known by faith not only is not irrational, but it is highly fitting with what we do know rationally, and the general call to faith itself and the call to faith in Christ in particular is incredibly rationally warranted;

3. Even given how very strong the arguments for Christ are (and the strength of the arguments for the absurdity of every conceivable non-Christian position!), it is folly to suggest this is a mere matter of cold logic. It is the claim of Christ Himself that we respond to His call. We come to Him in faith and that by grace. Eternal life is not the reward for solving the riddle of life, but rather is the free gift of God given to sinners who believe Him. Your question, taken too far, can lead to a heresy you'll hear a lot about if you stay here very long, and that is called Pelagianism: at root, it's the idea that somehow we can save ourselves. No, "choosing the right path" is far more about responding to the call of God to faith and repentance. You don't have it in you to save yourself. God has in in Him to save you, and it is the one who comes to the place where they can cry out, "Have mercy on me, a sinner!" who is justified. Not the scholar who, by his or her wisdom, figures out "the right path." That's one of the big differences, I think, in Christianity and Buddhism. It's not about you or your path . . . not finally speaking, anyway. Yes, you have to cooperate with God's grace, but always remember that God is the first mover in all things, starting with your own salvation. So in that way, it's not merely or even primarily a rational thing; it's a deeply spiritual thing. Not irrational. Not arational. The foolishness of God, Paul talks about . . . beats the wisdom of man any day of the week and twice on Sunday. ;)

The upshot: prayer is a good thing. The road may be narrow, but be it the width of a spider's web or the breadth of highway, you're in no more or less danger of falling off if you're following the One who has walked it perfectly and is calling you to Himself.


I find your third point confusing and contradictory.

You appear to be saying that choosing a correct path, a correct religion, does not depend on me

Yet you say "you have to cooperate with God's grace" and you say that I should pray.

If I cooperate with God's grace, and pray, will the outcome be different than if I do not cooperate and I do not pray?

If the answer to that question is yes, then it certainly does depend on me. Yet you seem to be saying it's heresy to believe that it depends on me.


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:50 pm 
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The Jack is not Catholic, and although I'm sure he's making every effort here in Cath 101 not to say anything contrary to Church teaching, it's still worth noting that he's speaking as a Protestant. That said, his point #3 gets you into the mystery of Providence and it's extremely hard to say anything much in that area without ending up confused. There are no short answers to questions like this, as I mentioned in a previous post.

That said, the shortest answer is the cliche that we have to work as though everything depends upon us, and yet pray as though everything depends upon God.

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:52 pm 
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It's an error to believe that it depends on you first. It depends on God's call and grace first and your response second. Your response matters, but you are responding, not originating.

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 4:38 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
It's an error to believe that it depends on you first. It depends on God's call and grace first and your response second. Your response matters, but you are responding, not originating.

Yes, okay, I never suggested it depends on me first, but my response depends on me, otherwise it wouldn't matter if I cooperated or not, or if I prayed or not.


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 4:39 pm 
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gherkin wrote:
The Jack is not Catholic, and although I'm sure he's making every effort here in Cath 101 not to say anything contrary to Church teaching, it's still worth noting that he's speaking as a Protestant. That said, his point #3 gets you into the mystery of Providence and it's extremely hard to say anything much in that area without ending up confused. There are no short answers to questions like this, as I mentioned in a previous post.

That said, the shortest answer is the cliche that we have to work as though everything depends upon us, and yet pray as though everything depends upon God.

That makes more sense to me.


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:03 pm 
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As gherkin notes, I'm not Catholic. I'm being intentional--or trying to be intentional, anyway--to speak in the terms of the aforementioned C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, including making use of specifically Catholic language (i.e., cooperation with God's grace). As far as being confusing, gherkin, as well as Obi's point later, offers some helpful clarification. I'd only add that pretty much any theological question you ask gets confusing once you start to dig very far at all into them. The "correct" answers, stated as propositions, are usually pretty clear. It's when you start asking what is under those propositions or how they all hold together that it starts to get more difficult. And so it is with your question. It's a simple one, but it's a lot easier to ask a simple question than it is to give a simple answer.

In any case, my only real point is that while there is a lot of truth in the claim that choosing the right path is rational, there's also a very real sense in which it isn't "rational" but rather spiritual. That isn't to say it's irrational. It's to say that "the right path" is so much more than just solving a puzzle. We aren't gnostics, imagining that salvation comes by having the correct knowledge. Paul gets at this a bit when he writes, "Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God. Which things also we speak, not in the learned words of human wisdom; but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined. But the spiritual man judgeth all things; and he himself is judged of no man" (1 Cor 2:12-15, DR). Or consider the words of Jesus: "The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven. And they said: Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered, and said to them: 'Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me'" (John 6:41-45, DR).

As gherkin notes, this sort of thing is getting into Divine Providence, which by the nature of it isn't terribly penetrable by the intellect. The upshot, as noted earlier, is that you approach this (as I'm sure you are) with a sense of humility in which you are seeking God on His terms, not on your own. "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find." I'm not nearly Catholic enough to suggest specific prayers, but I understand prayers to Mary are at least effectual in guiding those who seek to her Son. So understood, I think the Christian life is extremely rational and actually the most rational thing that there is. But it's not rationalistic. Do the hard work of studying and asking questions and trust (through prayer, especially) that God will guide you and provide you with more and more illumination. That's just the way it works.

Or, if I'm more confusing than not, ignore it all. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:57 am 
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I don't think 'rational' and 'spiritual' are necessarily in opposition. But I'm not looking for some sort of philosophical discussion about the meaning of words such as 'rational' and 'spiritual', I'm looking for practical guidance.

On choosing a religious or spiritual path to follow, on what basis do I choose? If religion X and religion Y and religion Z all disagree, how do I decide which one is correct, how do I decide which is the best path to follow?

I could write the name of each religion and spiritual movement on a separate piece of paper, fold each piece of paper, put them all into a box, give the box a good shake, and then pick out one at random, and decide to follow that path for the rest of my life.

Would you recommend that way of choosing a path to follow?

If not, then what way would you recommend to decide which of the very many spiritual paths to follow? How do I go about deciding which to choose?

Even if I decide, having been born into a Christian family, that I should choose Christianity, how do I decide which Christian religion or denomination to follow?

Even if I decide, having been born into a Catholic family, that I should choose Catholicism, how do I decide which type of Catholicism I should choose to follow. Even in the short time I've been on the Ave Maria forums, I've been made aware that are at least two, probably three or more, different types of Catholicism. There are 'traditional Catholics', there are 'liberal Catholics', there are 'modernists', there are Catholics who disagree with Pope Francis's version of Catholicism, and so on.

Does it even matter which branch of Christianity I choose to follow as long as I believe in Jesus and live as good a life as I can?

If I don't necessarily exclude non-Christian religions, that makes the choice even greater. There's a confusing array of religions and spiritual movements to choose from. So how to choose?


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 Post subject: Re: Choosing the right path
PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:57 am 
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Criminally Insane Cucumber
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