When I read “The Pitesti Experiment”, in my teens, I was bewildered by how cruel human nature can be. It was then too that I realized that being forced to renounce yourself, to bury your values and defining beliefs to become the reflection of a rotten system, to become inhuman, is worse than being physically tortured.
I realised that the freedom we enjoy is only a privilege we earned late in history, an alienable right that depends on the circumstances. I (theoretically) understood what it means to live in disagreement with what you believe in, to trade your identity for survival, with the risk of becoming a mere robot, manipulated by a foreign conscience.
The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood, conveys the same type of emotion. The novel depicts the fall of humanity, subdued by a religious system that turns the social order upside down, forbids women to read, controls reproduction, and takes children away from their families. This is a system that cancels all forms of critical thinking, leaving behind just the need for preservation—perhaps not even that.
Luckily, now and then, we are free to make personal choices: our career, marriage, religion or lifestyle. We are free to live according to our own will, within the boundaries of the law, norms, and common sense.
In the mixture of influences that constantly model our existence, faith plays an important role. It penetrates the deepest layers of our being, giving us vision, action, and motivation—the faith we are now free to express according to our own conscience.
In the beginning was the habit
Ever since I was little, I felt the certainty that God exists. It could not be otherwise in a space filled with churches, holidays, and expressions such as “May God help us!” His existence was never an issue. He was always there, as an accessory one uses in need. That is, in the toughest moments, when human solutions seem obsolete. Later, however, came the questions: “Why does God exist?”, “What is He to me?”, “What is His purpose besides promptly and neatly answering questions?”
As a child, I saw in God a provider of free blessings or, in the best-case scenario, a provider of blessings granted on the basis of good behaviour. His general image was based on the simplification of reality. As I grew up, I got over the perspective of the divine that revolves around me and started discovering hidden meanings.
Over the years, my faith in God, as a set of values, dogmatic convictions, and a personal relationship has had its ups and downs, and has gone through good and bad. I still struggle with difficult questions that I encounter daily. However, I prefer silence to gold-plated explanations, knowing that filling in the blanks with what seems more advantageous does not necessarily mean that my dilemmas are solved.
Despite the missing puzzle pieces, I still choose to believe that we do not live by chance, and that we have a higher purpose, and access to a “new garment.”
Why do I believe?
I would like to say that I believe due to supreme revelations, worthy of being turned into a book, but objectivity does not allow me to do this. Truthfully, the experiences and revelations are there, but neither more nor better than those of other people. They just are, and that is enough.
I believe, because in a world full of uncertainty, suffering, and malice, faith is a source of continuous hope (see Proverbs 14:32). You see things differently through the eyes of faith. They aren’t necessarily more beautiful, shinier, or flower scented, with violin notes in the background. They are as they are: tough, but not definitive; painful, but not incurable; messy, but driven by an inner motivation.
Sceptics say that invoking God’s power in need is an argument against His existence, the purest evidence of the fact that, disappointed by our own limitations, we yield control in favour of an invented entity, from which we expect imminent “salvation”.
Sometimes, experience proves that although “salvation” is late to show or does not show at all, faith still remains. It remains even when it does not bring a palpable remedy for helplessness, sickness, or suffering. It remains despite the apparent advantages its abandonment might promise in the short term, a sign that faith in God transcends our immediate needs, drawing its vigour from a much more powerful place than human fickleness (see Ephesians 2:8).
I believe because, in a shallow world, faith opens up a less trodden road, that does not draw any standing ovations, but outlines a noble perspective, teaching us that a person’s charm is given by their goodness, not by their clothes, their car, or their bank account (Proverbs 19:22).
I believe because in a world filled with contradictions, God shines His light (see Isaiah 9:2). In a world of individualism, God restores the value of generosity (see James 4:17). In a materialistic world, God whispers “But seek first… righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Of course faith is not just theoretical, but also practical. It dwells in the heart, but shows on the outside too. Here is the real challenge: to be consistent with what we believe in and to knock down the obstacles that stand in the way of our faith. There’s a reason why they say that believing is a daily fight with the man in the mirror, with surrounding influences, with conformity, or the irrelevance that appears only when we use faith as a pretext to remain in a bubble that is apart from reality.
In his famous reasoning known as “Pascal’s wager”, Blaise Pascal says that if God does not exist and we live as though He does, in the end we lose nothing, because we have lived a decent life, based on pure choices.
In my view, if God does not exist, and we live as though He does, the loss consists in the fact that we have based our motivations on a beautifully outlined representation, and not on reality.
In the same way, if we are convinced that God exists, but, for various reasons, we live as if we are in the driver’s seat and not Him, the loss is immense. Not because we miss out on earthly rewards and a chance at immortality, but because we are lying to ourselves. This means allowing ourselves to be manipulated by our own conscience, and living in disagreement with our humanity.
It means giving up on the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32).
Genia Ruscu has a master’s degree in counselling in the field of social work.