Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I was asked to complete one of those online surveys today. One of those with lengthy questions about whether you think the country is going in the "right direction," whether you shop at Wal Mart, whether you have a favorable opinion of Lindsay Lohan. You get the idea.

Anyway, one of the questions was about whether I felt religion played a "major role" in my life. Which stumped me a little. I mean, I've always thought of myself as Catholic. I was raised in the church, had my own version of a "religious experience" during a retreat my senior year of high school, went to a Catholic university, and even received a theology minor.

But now I very rarely go to church.

I guess mostly what I find so disturbing is that the things I learned to love about religion from my theological studies and earlier experiences are so foriegn to what I see from the institutional church now. In school, I learned about the church's teachings on issues of social justice, learned that the church actually REQUIRES you to disagree with formal doctrine if you've met the requirements of an "informed conscience," learned about how gratitude is one of the deepest forms of prayer, learned about a kind of ecumenism that was broad enough to grant validity to other religious traditions.

I loved learning that stuff.

What I see largely now is a church that is politically and institutionally "in bed" with the Republican party. One that is more interested in preventing condom use than stopping thousands of deaths in Africa from AIDS, one that viciously discriminates against homosexuals, one that continually degrades the value of women (while spouting doctinal nonsense about how it isn't), one that seeks to have moral certainty at the expense of compassion or understanding. Ah, but don't even get me started on issues like married priests, women priests, altar girls, or the desperate, rabid clinging to tradition that so pervades the more conservative elements of Catholicism.

In short, going to church has become nothing that I find nourishing, spiritually or emotionally. I do so wish it were different.

Faced with these issues, my wife chose not long ago to simply join another church tradition. I simply stopped going to church. Lacking any desire to go to church, yet unwilling to give up my sense of myself as somehow still being "Catholic." Who was right? Does it even matter?

Suffice it to say that, at this point, I find that I no longer believe in hell, no longer believe that God had such a vendetta against humanity that he prevented access into heaven until Jesus hung on a cross (I don't define "salvation" in those terms anymore), don't believe that some doctrinal litmus test is what is necessary to gain communion with God after death. I explained some of this to my wife not too long ago. I think she's not sure if I'm even "Christian" by her definition of the term. I found that comment funny.


Steve Smith said...

You are a blasphemer! You must be purified by pain! Guard!! Bring me the irons! And some hot coals! And the rabid, itchy monkey!

…and a turkey sandwich, light mayo, extra lettuce, on whole grain bread. Thanks, Ox, you’re a big cuddly muffin, and a good Christian.

My biggest concern about your blog is that the online survey you took hit the “Lindsay Lohan/Wal-Mart/religion” trifecta. Proof positive that the Hollywood-Industrial complex not only rules the world, but is doing so through internet surveys (and “Star” magazine, of course, but that just goes without saying).

And yes, I am going to seriously respond at some point, here.

The problems you point out are unique, I think, solely to modern-day Catholicism. I was reading some catechism teachings on the Internet last night designed for new entrants into the Church. It’s funny…those teachings, while they seem a little antiquated, are very compelling, if the questions you ask aren’t too probing. But they’re most compelling when considered in a vacuum. A 14th century monk has a lot easier time questioning his Catholic faith than we do, when we can turn on CNN and see the Pope denouncing homosexuality (and your sister has chosen a homosexual lifestyle), or go to for the latest paparazzi photos of his Holiness tripping on his vestments.

I think that no organized religion adequately answers the world of questions that are brought to us daily via satellite.

Is this a bad thing? With a heavy sigh, I have to say no. My heart may prefer the easy answers of isolation, but God’s gift of reason demands grudging gratitude. Somebody once said, “the truth shall set you free.”

Big jerk.

Anyway, for my money, the litmus test for true Christianity has always been adherence to “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” You, Room, are the best Christian I know.

Steve Smith said...

P.S. -- "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." Albert Einstein