Sunday, April 12, 2009

Losing My Religion

Be warned. Much of the following is a stream of consciousness rant from a very tired individual.

I hope my Mom doesn't read this.

I went to Catholic mass every week for most of my growing years. I did CCD. I went to retreats. I volunteered at the church. I've been confirmed. But as Easter Sunday passed with me getting up at 1 pm and heading to work two hours later, I had to wonder ... am I still Catholic?

Since I left Cranston for Northeastern in 2001, the amount of masses I've attended has steadily decreased year to year. I don't take Lent all that seriously anymore, though I still don't eat meat on Fridays. And I haven't been to confession in many, many years. Close to ten.

So am I still Catholic? Am I even religious? I still believe in God and Jesus, but a part of me wonders if I do because it was ingrained in me from a very early age. So this question has been buzzing in my head and deep in my conscience for most of the decade.

The drift started with my move to college and the lack of initiative to get up on Sunday mornings. Then many Catholic leaders, including the new pope, have continued to stake out stances on issues that I strongly disagree with. I don't object to their stance on abortion, but then to stigmatize Democrats for that while staying mum on Republicans who support the death penalty, don't care about world poverty and support wars irked me to no end.

The recent controversy involving Notre Dame and President Obama is a great example. George Bush spoke at the university without a peep when he was president even though he seemed to be in a race with his brother Jeb on who could execute more people and even though he started the Iraq war despite the previous pope's vehement objections. But invite Obama to speak and instant controversy erupts. They did the same to John Kerry, a Catholic himself, with even a bishop going so far to say he'd deny Kerry communion for his abortion stance. Do you ever hear them denying communion to death penalty advocates? Torture advocates? War advocates?

Then the continued backward slide into the Middle Ages with its stance on gay marriage annoyed me even more. Add to that a completely inexplicable - and frankly stupid - position on condoms and human sexuality and you have a Catholic church that refuses to move into the future -- a future of common sense. People have sex before marriage. Let it go. Gay people want to marry. No need to fight it to the death. I find it very tough to support an institution so backward in its thinking.

I recognize all the good work they do. I really do. But it's about time they joined the 21st century. Heck, I'd take the 19th century. Is there any reason whatsoever that women can't be priests? There is none. It's a shameful, shameful policy. Why can't priests marry? Some old men decided that hundreds of years ago. They decided these things long, long ago in a time much different than now, yet the Church sticks with them and it's strongly implied that if you don't agree, you're not a good Catholic. Remember, the pope is infallible. (Can I declare myself infallible?)

It's not just my Catholicism that has been weakened over the years. As the evangelical right rose to prominence this decade, Jesus was essentially converted into a Republican. People of "faith and values" tried to take this country to a dark, dark place, a Saudi Arabia for Christians. They installed George Bush in the White House and their agenda was shoved down our throats for eight years, most of it failing. No matter, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I associate Christians with the fundamentalists now. Unfair? Yes. But it's the truth. Maybe a few more years of Obama will erase the aftertaste.

For far too long, the Bible took precedence over the Constitution in public debate. Let's face it, the Bible is chock full of contradictions and holes and stories that no one would believe if they came in any other form. I have no issue relying on the Bible for personal strength or a myriad of other reasons, but for it to enter policy discussion is completely illogical. Yet it does all the time.

I recently saw Religulous, the Bill Maher documentary. Yes, his take on religion can be just as arrogant as the theocrats. But he makes a ton of good points. It's tough to say religion has had a good influence on politics and foreign policy the last few years. Religion makes people do crazy things and has been the cause for countless wars and deaths for two thousand years. It holds too much importance in American politics. An atheist would never, ever sniff the White House. Why is that? Why do people have to be religious in order to be moral?

(I also liked when he chides Christians for making fun of Scientoligists. Admit it. We believe in a burning bush, virgin birth, rising from the dead, man living in a whale, men living for thousands of years, etc.)

I admit I can't formulate a very cogent blog entry on this topic because I don't even know what I think about it half the time. I just know I'm feeling adrift of religion, but I still feel an obligation (maybe a yearning?) to hold onto it. If I had not been raised religious and someone tried to convert me today, I wouldn't believe it. While there's plenty of beauty in the world, it's tough for me to see a gracious Deity with all the evil shit that goes on every day. Nick Adenhart and two other twenty-somethings die at the hands of a worthless drunk driver yet Osama bin Laden will probably live to see his 90s. If you grow up in Africa, there's a good chance you'll starve, get AIDS and die in a genocide.

(Another great Maher point: The best selling point of religion is the paradise of the afterlife. It's a salesman's dream. You can promise something that no one could ever confirm exists. All the good stuff happens after you die, when no one left living can really REALLY knows it's true. They can believe, but they don't know. And this unprovable thing is the selling point for almost all religions.)

Considering all the billions of people on the earth, I have to say I'm in the top half of the most fortunate. I'm healthy. I have a job. I have a great family. Do I owe this to God? Perhaps. If so, then all the bad stuff that's happened to me has to be God's fault, too. He always gets credit for the good stuff (just watch any baseball/football game) but never the bad (I made that error at first base because of God!). If by God's grace a couple is blessed with a beautiful baby, then what do we call it when another couple lose a child to murder or cancer?

I'm naturally a skeptical person who finds it hard to have blind faith. But I still hold on to it. I'd like to think there are things much bigger than this world out there. I know religion and churches have done a whole lot of good, too. I sometimes wonder how can all this exist - earth, life - without a God there to create it? In dark moments, I know I'd call on God for help.

I wouldn't blame Him if he ignored me.

But can He blame me for doubting?

Not if He reads a newspaper.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, well, a lot to tackle here. One, I agree with you on all things Catholic Church. I was sort of raised to dislike Catholics, but for all the reasons you mentioned above, along with personal experiences, I believe it is a terrible organization. Period. Not saying my religion (Lutheran) is any better. Now, not going to church does not make you a bad person. It didn't take me long to realize this, probably because I didn't have the dose of Catholic guilt heaped upon me that you did -- although my mom makes me feel bad about it regularly. It's not important what Church you belong to or how many times you enter a building a stare into space, especially if you can carry on a relationship with God on your own. Maybe you can't. I can. I believe in God. I don't push that on other people, nor do I appreciate it when others say what Bill Maher says. I haven't used my belief in God against anyone, for anything or as an excuse to act any way. It's personal. It's in my head. And it helps me sleep at night. Scientists and athiests might laugh at me, but I honestly can't imagine one day there was nothing and suddenly there was something. I'm not saying I believe Adam and Eve, or that I dont believe in evolution, but I feel in my heart there is a God. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    So, in conclusion. I feel your pain. But your view of God shouldn't be swayed by what the Catholic Church or Bill Maher says. And as far as I know, God never promised that everything would be OK 100% of the time.