Once upon a time a certain someone asked me if I’d ever considered following other faiths. I told this person no, that “Catholic’s don’t change faiths; they just stay miserable with the one they got.”
Really I’m an atheist. I have been for nearly seven years. If you’re reading this, please don’t feel I need saving. All I’m doing is giving a perspective on faith. It is amazing how much easier it is to understand, acknowledge, and respect other faiths when you, yourself, do not claim a faith of your own. Now, I’m not saying that all people belonging to a religious institution are dogmatists, but when I was still under the sway of the church, I didn’t give too much credit to other denominations. And I know many people who do not to this day give credit to other faiths because of the strict belief in their own church.
But that is neither here nor there. Let me give you a Catholic’s story. An atheist’s story. I have been baptized by a priest when I was too young to even walk, let alone think for myself, I have confessed sins in a church when I was still in elementary school, and I have been confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church by an archbishop in the name of Saint Robert.
I have never renounced my faith to the Catholic Church and I never plan to. I never intend to leave the church for any other. I am not looking for other faiths, though I do have more respect for the less dogmatic establishments and great interests in all religions. The thing about being a catholic is that a lot of members are in fact atheist. And if not atheist, definitely very liberal Christians in a very conservative institution. Some are still on the fence; they call themselves agnostic, I always used to think that they just really hated egg nog.
But I digress.
There is a certain romanticism behind being a catholic. Even if you’re a catholic who no longer believes in the theology behind the religion, you still may enjoy the whole tradition of it all. A large part of this romanticism is that it is hooked into a lot of heritage. From the Irish, Latin Americans, to the Italians, the Catholic Church holds a sense of unity and preservation of one’s culture. Films like The Godfather and Gangs of New York glorify this sense of religious heritage that was once persecuted by WASPS.
As for me, I don’t really hold too much of a love for my heritage. My family was never really persecuted and the tree extends into many ethnicities, the largest being German. Which may be a tad bit ironic since the founder of the protestant reformation was German. Then I have some Irish blood, but neither one of my Irish grandparents were Catholic. Somehow both my parents became Catholic and thus so was my upbringing.
What I sometimes find captivating is that useless sense of tradition that all Catholics have. It may be different for other denominations because many were established more recently than others. The Catholic Church is probably the oldest Christian church since the death of Christ. Though I’m sure this could be debated, the establishment does remain approximately two-thousand years old, and so there is a multitude of traditions that have long since lost their meaning.
And of course, the tradition starts at birth with baptism. The idea that all humans are inherently evil due to the wicked dealings of Adam and his seductress Eve. Washing away the sins with blessed holy water, and yes, a priest has the authority to magically bless water, is the only way to reach salvation.
Then there is the fish eating. Probably one of the most favored of traditions among the Catholics I’ve seen. It may be perhaps no other denomination really enforces fasting during lent. During the middle ages, the Catholic Church was a staunch supporter of fish and that tradition has never stopped, though it did relax.
Then there is that crazy rule that every twelve-year-old boy frets over. Self-gratification. It seems as though Catholics still speak about this as a serious issue more than any other denomination. It all occurred when one quote in the bible about sawing off a hand was taking quite too literally. I never did join woodshop.
In conjunction with this is the idea that sex is only for procreation. Sure, most denominations want people to be married before intercourse, but the Catholic Church goes further to preach that sex is only for making babies. That’s why some Catholics have become masters on tracking ovulation and menstruation.
Then there is the idea of the priest. That’s right, the man who cannot marry. Though in theory, celibacy allows this man to focus himself more onto God, it also agreed rather economically for the church. Supporting a single individual rather than an entire family means that priests would not require a vast salary. In addition to this, a single man would not have to keep roots in one specific town, so the church can relocate any priest to any location to suit the needs of Christendom.
But my own personal experience led me back to confirmation. Not my own, but my sister’s. She asked me to be her sponsor knowing full-well that I do not hold any spiritual beliefs. So, we spoke about religion a few times on my views and her views. She is more of the liberal type of Christian than the dogmatic which puts me quite at ease. So, come confirmation day I presented Saint Scholastica to the archbishop.
It’s not that I believe in the church or the religion. Nor do I really respect the catholic denomination all that much from the violent history that lies within the Vatican. But there is a certain traditional appeal that is just too overpowering to relinquish. There was no way I would have rejected being a sponsor and there is no way that I would ever reject being a godfather. It’s almost like being drafted I suppose. A sort of inherent habit that is too demanding to fully exercise, but too alluring to fully reject.