This month at the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring a new book by author and priest Father Robert Cormier aimed straight at the hard questions of faith. Better That We Believed is a book of questions and responses, told through the stories of ordinary people like you and me. People that struggle with anger, with depression, with anxiety, with lack of faith. Fr. Cormier seeks to show each one, that a belief in God is the antidote to their ills, and is even “better than they believed.”
Fr. Cormier answered a few questions for us about his new book.
What inspired you to write Better Than We Believed, and what do mean by the title?
Actually, two things. On a more obvious level, all the people who come to faith in order to deal with their problem find that things were much better than they believed. But, the book also presents a concept of faith which is better than wishful thinking, and instead allows the reader to see plainly for him or herself the truth that changes how he or she sees everything else. I wrote this particular book because I believed that I would have a better chance communicating with people by dealing with the issues already on their minds, and using a conversational style would help them to follow the explanations.
One of your central chapters is titled: “Faith: We Have it Backwards!” How do we have our faith “backwards”?
Here is it from the summary of Father Mike’s talk (from the book):
“First, I hope I was clear: Faith is not about believing in what we cannot see; faith is about seeing!
“Life is not about staying out of hell; life is about gaining the richest life that can God give us.
“Life is not about me getting to heaven; it is about us getting ready for heaven.
“God loves you for who He made you. God does not love you despite you. And He loves you no less than He loves anyone else.
“One more. One more way we get faith backwards. It is the idea we started with, the idea that faith means that if I really believe something will happen, it will happen. This is not faith. Faith is really believing in God, that God is God, and He knows better than I do what I need so I will be ready for the life that lasts forever.”
This book is clearly written for those with questions about faith. What are some of the most common faith-questions people struggle with today? What is most holding people back from trusting God in their life?
Here are the five questions that people need to have answered from my upcoming book on this subject:
1. If we were made for life with God, why don’t we have this life? (Isn’t the most important thing that we believe contradicted by the very fact that we are here?)
2. If we were made by such a grand being as “God,” why do we need to “know” Him through such a nebulous manner as “faith”?
3. How, really, are people responsible for what they do? Isn’t it obvious that what people do is the product of the circumstances of their lives? And if God is behind all things—isn’t that what we mean when we say “there is a reason for everything?”—how is He not responsible for all of our actions including all of our bad ones?
4. What could possibly be the holy purpose of suffering? (And here we are looking for an answer that does more than speak about the holy effects of suffering without facing the question of why suffering is possible.)
5. If what we do here is so important, how do we make sense of the lives of the many, many people who never had a realistic chance to live the life that people of faith consider so important? (Beyond this: How do we explain the very unfair way that advantages and disadvantages are given to people in this world?)
You tackle one of the more common questions from “unbelievers” about faith and science by claiming that “faith is very scientific.” Can you summarize your explanation of that?
Being “scientific” is being guiding by the evidence, and most basically by what we experience. In Better Than We Believed I point out to people how they can see God standing behind/sustaining creation and I also help the reader, through more of his or her experience of what is it is to “know” something, see that this experience of God is entirely credible and exactly as we should expect to know God while here on earth.
If someone is struggling in their life in some way right now, what would be your first suggestion? What’s a first step they can take to begin coping with their personal struggle?
Short of talk with me, or write to me, I would suggest spiritual reading: either that they visit my website thefaithkit.org and read about “how to use this site” or go right to Better Than We Believed.
Did anything surprise you in writing this book? Did you learn anything new about yourself and your own faith in the process?
Only that it is very easy to write when one is drawing on much experience and the plainest of truth.
Who do you hope most reads this book? Is this book just for a Christian audience?
Absolutely not. Please note that the book presumes NOTHING in terms of a person pre-existing faith, and it cites no authorities. Instead I tried to keep the promise I always make—to explain things so that a person can see if for him or herself, and I believe that I have done so so that the explanations will make sense to both simple soul and a highly educated and skeptical reader. Note also that the short piece “where Jesus and the Church fit in” is there to make sure that people do not think I am trying to trick them in Christianity, or think that Christianity is somehow “secondary.” In fact, however, I am convinced that if we lead with Jesus/bible stuff we are not going to reach the vast majority in the world of today. Instead we have to start with the true basics and show (in good time) where they lead.
What message do you most hope people will take away from you book?
That—as in the title of the first book of my Explorer Program at thefaithkit.org—Faith Is Easy, and it transforms how we can see anything, and leave with a peace, purpose, and joy which better than we might have believed possible.
For more from Fr. Cormier – and to read an excerpt from his new book – visit the Patheos Book Club here.