Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Today, I am No Longer Catholic

I've tried: lord, I've tried.

I was raised in a fairly moderate Catholic family. No idiocy like that which has surrounded Crackergate, or the story coming out of the UK about how demons cause STD's and are spread by in-vitro-fertilization. No belief in trans-substantiation (though the same cannot be said of my grandparents), demonic possession, or hell. In short, fairly open-minded, middle-of-the-road white-bread Christianity. My mother's family are very conservative Opus Dei, John Bircher types, but both of my parents are fairly mellow.

But is there any particular point in being such a Catholic? I can't find one anymore. I simply can't accept that God would send himself down to Earth in order to sacrifice himself to himself to try to convince himself not to punish every man, woman, and child that has ever lived for non-sins that were never committed by two people who never existed. That a being capable of creating the cosmos would take a deep and abiding interest in what parts of our bodies we rub on whom. That there is value in sacrifice, or suffering, or the rote performance of sacraments. If one cannot accept these things, is there a point in remaining a member of such a faith group?

I used to find value in the performance of the rituals, the taking of the steps themselves whether or not one accepted the dogma. Kind of like doing yoga or Taiji Chuan without believing that you have invisible energy lines running through your guts (Qi). But the older I've gotten, the more pointless it all seems to be. If there is a God, how could such actions or such belief possibly be of any value to it?

I started drifting away from the Church over two decades ago, in high school (a Catholic, Jesuit high school, before anyone starts babbling about how secular public schooling leads to a loss of faith). The Jebbies taught us to question our faith: that doing so was a healthy part of one's spiritual development. I guess I just questioned a little harder than they intended.

So I really haven't been much of a Catholic for some time, but I guess the garbage that's been coming out of Church leadership and out of loose cannons like Bill the Perpetually Offended has pushed me over the edge. I just can't have any respect for the Church as an institution, as a philosophy, or even as a theraputic set of rituals. I give up. I quit.

I don't think that I can call myself atheist or even agnostic at this point: giving up on the comforting idea that there might just be a guiding purpose behind the universe is something I do find myself shying away from, though I'm not entirely sure why this should be so. I guess I'd test out as a Taoist Deist, if one were to examine my remaining beliefs. But I think I'll stop describing myself as having been "raised Catholic" when people ask about my religious beliefs, as I have been doing for years. I like many others, answer this way to avoid starting religious conversations with family and others which we would rather not have. From now on, it's just "I don't belong to any church".

Of course, the Catholic Church would contest me on that. They marked me at my Baptism like a dog spraying a bush. There's an invisible mark on my soul, and as a 16-year old I dutifully and without significant consideration reinforced that mark by going through Confirmation, like all good Catholic boys did at that age.

But so what, says I, If I no longer believe in invisible marks (or souls, for that matter)? Just another bullshit article of faith on the pyre.

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