Faith in God: How To Get It When It Doesn’t Come Naturally

The problem of faith in God is largely a modern one. In almost every society in the past people had a religion by default. And though it may seem constricting to our modern sensibilities, there’s great freedom in not having a choice.

Like a child given the entire menu rather than only two choices, the plethora of spiritual options has become overwhelming. Not only must you choose which god or gods to believe in, you’re then faced with choosing which particular sect aligns with your beliefs. Our ancestors, limited as they were in religious options, were free from such a burden. 

This is particularly an issue for people in the New Right, who have a greater desire than most for an authentic religious tradition, but are also quite particular when it comes to being happy with one. 

Thus people will read about or dabble in various traditions, often for an extensive time, but never make a commitment to one. Each path is flawed in some way. They understand intellectually the adage about how it doesn’t matter which path up the mountain you take, so long as you pick one and follow it to the top, but their progress is hindered by the the inability to choose one and get started. When it comes to spirituality, perfection is the enemy of the Good. 

Another common problem is excepting to have faith in God before even embarking on a spiritual quest. It’s expected that once one “believes,” then they’ll start going to a church or kindred. It’s a catch-22 because you won’t have faith until you join. This waiting game only leads to a life gone by with no faith.

Others forego starting a spiritual path because they don’t want to join a certain tradition, only to give it up and have to start over with something else. This is usually an unconscious fear, and I’d guess it has something to do with feeling guilt over abandoning past endeavors, probably stemming from unsupportive parents as a child. When it comes to a spiritual path, they view it as “attempting” a religion, and “failing” if it doesn’t work out. However, a spiritual quest should be devoid of these mundane psychoses. As far as other people’s opinions, it would probably be best to not even talk about your religious undertakings until well-established on a path anyway. Solitude is necessary to know God. 

Besides that, practiced correctly, any spiritual path will yield results that you’ll use down the road. It even may be necessary to fully live one religion—not just think and read about it—to determine the one that’s right for you. 

So the key to develop faith in God is to commit to a path, no matter how imperfect, and get started with prayer, rituals, services and the like. Perhaps after a few years (a quarter way up the mountain) you’ll decide it’s not for you. You don’t have to slide down the mountain and start over. You can cut across the mountain to your next path in the journey. 

In this way, the spiritual seeker can follow the advice of the poet Rilke, who advised in Letters to a Young Poet to live your questions, so that one day you might live your way into an answer:  

. . . I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Similarly, Thomas Merton wrote in the Prologue to No Man Is an Island:

For it seems to me that the first responsibility of a man of faith is to make his faith really part of his own life, not by rationalizing it but by living it.

Another option is to undertake a year or two similar to what Crowley outlined for his Probationers: Spend at least a year experimenting with various spiritual techniques. Try asana and pranayama, pick a deity for bhakti yoga, set up altars to saints, pray to various gods, recite mantras, sing praise songs, attend Mass or Compline, test out the basics of Ceremonial Magick, do sun salutations, or dance around with your hands in the air like an evangelical. If you devote several hours a week to this you’ll discover which practices work for you to come closer to God, and you can develop your spiritual path from there. The important thing is to engage in spiritual work. (Anuloma Pranayama and Kapalabhati are good to incorporate into meditation practices.) 

Modern society emphasizes rationality to a fault. Everything not rational is chided as superstition. But the part of our brain/consciousness that is rational is not the same part that can recognize God. This is the problem with atheists, and people who want to find God but can’t: They’re trying to perceive him rationally, and the rational mind is not capable of perceiving the divine. 

If you haven’t been spiritually active, your spiritual self is atrophied, like a limb that hasn’t been used in years. You won’t be able to “pick up” on God anymore than an atrophied arm can pick up a weight. But by doing some type of spiritual practice every day, or at least a few times a week, you’ll build up your spiritual self and soon have not only faith, but certainty of the divine.