Dear Rabbi Gellman: I was raised Catholic, but now I am having a crisis of faith. I recently started dating a wonderful man, but I’m struggling with the fact that God sent me an atheist.

He has made me think of things that have shaken my faith. How could Buddhism and Islam and Judaism and Christianity all be true when they contradict each other? If they cannot all be true, and one of them can’t be the “right” one, then that must mean that they’re all wrong.

The church teaches that it’s better to believe without proof (doubting Thomas), but I want to believe purposefully, not blindly. I don’t want to lose my faith, but I don’t want to have any doubts thinking that I’m possibly continuing to believe in a fairy story. How do I get my faith back?  — From L  

MG: Dear L, the great question about religion is not whether or not it is true. The great question is whether or not it is hopeful. Without the belief that we are made in the image of a good God there is no reason to treat people as sacred.

If we cannot treat people as sacred then there is no reason to believe that the good in us will win. If the good in us has no edge over the evil in us then there is no hope for civilization. Perhaps there is no God and perhaps there is no hope for the triumph of good over evil, but I cannot live with that kind of cynicism and despair. Religion may not be true, but it is necessary, and that necessary hopefulness counts as truth to me. A great theologian put it perfectly: “It is Hell to live without hope, and religion saves people from Hell.”

One aspect of the hope religion can provide is a hope that extends beyond the grave. Our belief that we are not merely material beings but ensouled beings gives us hope that after our bodies die our souls live on with God and are reunited with the souls of those we have loved in life. That post-mortem existence of our souls also provides hope that the scales of justice that are unbalanced in this world will be perfectly balanced in the world to come. Righteousness will be rewarded in Heaven and evil will be punished in Hell. Believing this helps us to endure injustice here while being patient for the ultimate judgment there.

As far as the differences in the beliefs of the world’s great faiths, those differences are not as great as you might imagine. Every faith has some notion of human sanctity. Every faith has some version of the Golden Rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. There are many different religions, but they are all about hope. If your atheist partner cannot understand the importance of the spiritual dimension of life in sustaining hope, it may be time to find a more spiritually compatible partner.

There are many paths up the same mountain. Keep looking up and you will find your way back to a God who has always been waiting for you.

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