The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: How Do I Know What My Religion Should Be?

Thomas writes, “I was raised Christian but I can't decide what religion to follow. I have read all the belief systems, but I am unsure of what criteria I should use to choose a religion. What advice does your panel have?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Speaking as someone who was raised in one tradition but adopted another later in life, I would encourage anyone on a spiritual search to use an approach similar to finding a spouse. When seeking a life partner, we are advised to combine the forces of both our head and heart. The same is true here. By all means, studying the various theologies and determining what resonates with you intellectually is extremely important. Do the beliefs resonate with your lived experiences? Would you be allowed to question any doctrines without fear of condemnation? 

“But the inquiry is incomplete without noticing how you respond emotionally to the faith. Does reading about it or engaging with adherents bring you a sense of joy? Do you think you might be ‘in love’ with it? Take your time. And as with the courting process, ‘date’ as many religions as you wish. Then perhaps you’ll want to ‘go steady’ or ‘become engaged’ to a particular one. And if all goes well, I hope that at some point you’ll feel so committed to a spiritual path that you’ll want to ‘get married’ to it in the manner of a formal conversion or initiation process. 

“Finally, I’m sure my colleagues on this panel would agree to privately meet with you, should you with to explore any of the traditions we represent.”

Imam Kip Curnutt, Director of Religious Education and Associate Imam of Masjid At-Tawheed in Grand Rapids, responds:

“Choosing a belief system is possibly the most important decision a human can make and so it is not something that should take lightly. It is a decision that should be taken in full conviction and spiritual comfort. It is a matter that involves both the mind and the heart. The mind must be convinced and the heart must be at ease. My advice in researching religions is to first focus on the big picture. What is the basic hypothesis of the religion? Then look to the smaller details. Are they consistent with the bigger worldview that the religion puts forward? Is the religion as an entire system logically consistent with itself? Is its paradigm a convincing picture by which to see existence through? Then, I advise you to sincerely pray with an open heart that God guide you to the truth about him and the life that is pleasing to him and to out your heart at ease. God is merciful and responds to the one who calls in sincerity.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“This is very common in our Unitarian Universalist faith. Our 4th Principle is to have a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We look at all faiths, we welcome and are encouraged to explore other faiths. Your religion should be consistent with what you truly believe. If you find yourself apologizing for your religion's beliefs or doctrine it may not be the right religion for you.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The author of this question may already know the answer. The process you are undergoing is called discernment.

“Begin by identifying your values. Compare this with the teachings of the different Christian religious traditions. Ask yourself, ‘what am I seeking?’ Which religious tradition parallels my values (please note that no religious tradition will perfectly match). Spend time visiting the various Churches, both alone and for services and Mass. Speak with members of the community gathered. Speak with religious leaders of the different religious traditions. What speaks to your heart and, more importantly, your soul?

“I am a cradle Roman Catholic. The Catholic intellectual tradition, and its rituals and devotions, feed my soul. Most importantly, I frequently received the body and blood of Christ.

“Catholic parishes, in September, begin a process for those inquiring about the faith. It is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). There is also one for children (RCIC). Other Churches have similar opportunities. There is no rush for you to decide. Good luck on your journey!”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“If God has not spoken, then we are all left to our own devices. Every other criterion must be subjective, mere human opinion, and any conclusions drawn must be tentative at best. You may as well draw straws or flip a coin.

“The starting point for Christians is the twofold revelation of Himself that God has given to humankind in creation and the Bible: ‘We know Him by two means: first, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, which is before our eyes as a most elegant book … Secondly He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word’ (Belgic Confession, Article 2). My advice is, look around you at the things God has made, listen to what they say (Psalm 19:1-3), and study them in the light of what He says in Holy Scripture. Choose the religion that best accords with God’s revelation of Himself in His handiwork, in Holy Scripture, and in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.”


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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