Saturday, January 23, 2016

Conscience and Religion

We cannot read the minds of people of other religions. When addressing one or another, we might wonder what their consciences are telling them about their sins. This understanding that everyone sins is crucial to Christianity. Jesus Christ, Son of God, came to us to atone for our sins. He lived without sin and died in our place so we humans would be acceptable to God and therefore able to live in heaven with Him (God being in the form of Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Jesus told us that if a person believes in Him, s/he will be saved. He didn’t say it doesn’t matter what you believe.

Yet we have people around us who do not believe in any religion or believe in a different religion and seem to not be bothered by their conscience. Others believe they might have done evil but think their own religion answers to it, such as Karma in Buddhism. And there are others who do believe in Christ that don’t seem to feel urgency to spread the word about Christ.

Christians believe it is the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin. Jesus says in John 16:7-8 (NABRE):
7 But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate [Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation…
I think that most people have a conscience whispering somewhere in their brains. The Catholic Church respects the free conscience of persons, which can be seen in this section of the Catholic Catechism on conscience in making moral decisions (Moral Conscience Section of the Catholic Catechism, link is HERE):
1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."
I do think humans are made for the Truth, although sin and fallen nature get in the way. In this Truth is the desire to do good. Certainly when a person does wrong, a healthy conscience makes him/her uncomfortable. But what about faith? The same section listed above:
1787 Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.
1788 To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.
(More on conscience is found in the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, linked HERE).

As it says there we should seek the Holy Spirit and His gifts, some of which are right judgment, understanding, knowledge, courage, wisdom, reverence and awe and wonder in His presence. Even for those who are not familiar with Christianity, they can seek Him by praying that He come to them. The Holy Spirit then draws them to the true God. For them, it can be the start of an overwhelmingly lovely relationship.

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