Back to Beliefnet Teens

Untitled Document

Is he a Hindu hottie, but you're a Catholic cutie? Not sure what to get your friend for her Bat Mitzvah? Wondering about Wicca? Pastor Paul answers all your religion and spirituality questions. Send them to

And make sure to check out previous Pastor Pauls!

Dear Pastor Paul,
Is faith overrated? Does it mean doing everything right as He told us to? Can one have faith and question the Bible as a true inspiration from God?

-- Unsigned

Dear Unsigned,

Faith is only overrated if it has been ill-defined. Does faith mean not doubting anything ever again? No. Will it make you perfect or make your problems go away? No. If these are your expectations of a faithful life, then, yes, faith is overrated.

However, I will say that the gift of faith in God, from God, was the greatest event of my life. That faith gives me the opportunity to feel a sense of unity and intimacy with God and the whole of humanity. I no longer feel alone. Faith in the power of God gives me the ability to depend upon that power to help me in my life and overcome the struggles I continue to face. Faith is a basic stance of positivity. "Have faith" is an urging to believe that things will work out for the best, even when things look their worst. Do not forget that faith is a two-way street. Once you establish faith with God--God has faith in you. Through faith, God trusts us to be a divine presence in the world. God's gift of faith gives us confidence to live life with a sense of purpose and meaning.

I pray that you will enjoy the wonders of faith in your life.

Dear Pastor Paul,

My daughter is 15, and she's a very reasonable person. She gets good grades. We go to church, where she participates in the teen groups. But she continually questions the Bible as fact. She insists that since a man wrote it down, the Bible must be man's rules, not God's. We are Pentecostal Christians. I just don't know how to get her to believe that it is her faith and relationship with Jesus that will give her the answers that she seeks, and that it takes sometimes years to reach that place she is seeking. Help.

--Teenage Mom Crisis

Dear Teenage Mom Crisis,

Let's first of all define a crisis: For many parents, crisis begins when their daughter runs away from home, when their daughter uses drugs or begins any pattern of self-destruction. Many would consider it a minor crisis if their daughter suddenly had questions about the Bible's inspired nature.

What you describe is not a crisis (although it clearly is frightening to you) but part of natural teen evolution. Your very reasonable daughter is a good student because she is curious, willing to ask deeper questions about what's being posed to her at school. She doesn't just turn off this intelligence when she goes to church.

Continue to pray with her. Prayer is a direct way for her to approach God and Jesus without questions that scripture can present. Let her know she can bring her questions and doubts to God in prayer. Tell her about your own faith, and how prayer and faith got you to this point. You point out yourself (quite reasonably) that it can take years to develop a mature faith. It seems to me your daughter is well on her way in that process

  • Mom, you may want to check out this column on Keeping the Faith When Your Teen Doesn't.

  • Dear Pastor Paul,
    Why do so many people need to believe in a "God" figure. It scares me to think how stupid humans can be. The idea of a God is the creation of man, not the other way around. There are far too many stories for any of them to be true, and none of them can be proven. Accepting ideas on any other subject based on blind faith would be considered stupid--imagine thinking that the world is rectangular without proof. Why is religion so widely accepted without ridicule when it's highly divisive, has no direct benefits, and none of it is real?

    Since this is the third time you have written asking why I haven't answered your questions, I will take this opportunity to say that I cannot answer all the questions I get. I will take a crack at these difficult but important ones you are posing.

    1. Why do we believe in God?
      Well, why do people love? Because we can prove the existence of love? Or because it is a part of our experience as humans? Believing in God is another part of our existence, based on believers' experience of God. Experience, in other words, is another way of knowing.
    2. There are far too many stories for any of them to be true.
      Humans did not create God, anymore than humans created the world. The origins and makeup of the universe are mysteries we all wrestle with. Through the many stories of the universe (including the scientific one), we begin to understand God and ourselves better.
    3. Why is religion so widely accepted without ridicule?
      Since when have religious beliefs not been subject to ridicule? (You being a case in point!)
    4. Religion is a highly divisive issue with no direct benefits.
      People are naturally argumentative. Like race, class, or politics, religion causes people to fight, and even war. The job of religious people is to promote peace, though many times we forget. But there are many benefits to a religious life. The challenge of the religious is to make sure the benefits outweigh the faults.
    5. Why would intelligent beings allow such a concept to persist?
      For the same reason you are allowed to persist. Even when many disagree with a point of view, and think it misses the point entirely, the person who owns that point of view, we believe, has a right to exist. Enjoy your rights!

  • Chat about the purpose of religion on our boards.

  • Pastor Paul has worked with young people in the Twin Cities, Seattle, Sao Paulo, and New York City. He currently is a chaplain at Columbia University in New York City.