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That’s me! In the corner!

By Alice Bradley

The book Parenting Beyond Belief was featured this week on MotherTalk, and bloggers were invited to write about religion. The good people of AlphaMom suggested that I tackle the subject, so here I am, attempting to do so.
Religion has fallen out of favor lately. High-profile intellectuals argue that religion is not only an emotional crutch, it is socially dangerous as well. Richard Dawkins is a prominent example of this. Christopher Hitchens has joined the atheism front, expanding his vast pool of contempt to include the God-fearing. He belittles the religious as a “limited and literal” people. This is an extraordinary claim, considering that the religious live every day in a world that marries the mystical and the material. It’s a creative exercise Mr. Hitchens is apparently incapable of. But then, he doesn’t believe that women can be funny, either, so can we expect him to believe in God?
The new consensus, especially in the wake of such terrible religion P.R. as intelligent design (not to mention terrorism), is that faith equals dangerous ignorance. Even here on Wonderland, when a commenter mentions their faith, a knee-jerk reaction ripples through the comments that this person is somehow not worth listening to. As someone who was raised by deeply intellectual people who also value their faith, I find this personally galling. I have the utmost respect for the faithful. I cannot dismiss them out of hand. As for me, I can’t say I’m one of them, but I also can’t say that I’m not.
It’s hard for me to discuss Religion in general, given the myriad ways that God is defined and celebrated and prayed to. To me it’s like discussing Dinner as if everyone enjoys identical plates of gray mush, night after night. So I’m going to change tacks here and discuss my own history with religion.
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. My family and I went to church every Sunday. I’ve consumed more of the body and blood of Jesus Christ than he probably literally consisted of. (He tastes like manila envelope.) I remember my Holy Communion (wore a lace veil; felt holy) and my Confirmation (wore lip gloss and mascara; felt womanly).
As I grew up, I became increasingly apathetic toward the church. I entertained myself at Mass by scanning the church for my friends. I couldn’t wait to free myself from my religious obligations. I don’t know exactly why. No one from our parish had ever wronged me. I had no bad experiences with nuns; I didn’t go to Catholic school. No one lectured me; we didn’t even say grace before meals. It was just knowing I was expected to live a life of faith that was the problem. If there was something I had to do, I resisted it. (This is probably why I did so spectacularly poorly in high school. )
And yet I was Catholic, and there was no avoiding it. The teachings of the Church were infused in my daily life. I thought about God pretty much all the time. (Are you there, God? I’m sorry about all the beer.) I would spur my dad to expound upon the teleological proof of the existence of God. I wanted to believe. I just didn’t want to work for it.
Then I went to college, where I didn’t go to church, not once. I was aware that I was letting down my parents, and I wore that heavy blanket of disappointment for those four years and beyond, that knowledge that I was failing them.
As I grew out of adolescence, I missed going to church. I missed the ritual, the feeling of a quiet space opening up inside me, the bells, the incense. I considered returning. But every time I steeled up the courage to again declare myself a Catholic, there would be some bit of Church news—new light on the sexual abuse inflicted by priests; the Pope issuing some anti-homosexual decree or proclamation—and I would retreat. I realize the Pope was not trying to hurt me, personally, but it felt like a slap in the face. I had a hard time imagining myself engaging in the church, declaring my faith among the other believers, when I believed that the leaders of the church were entirely wrong.
Still, I thought about going back. And thought, and thought. When I had Henry, I wanted him to be baptised. There didn’t seem to be any other way for him to be. Scott is Jewish but tolerant of my bouts with religion, so the baptism went ahead. Henry beamed at the priest as he drizzled holy water on his tiny forehead, and I had two concurrent thoughts: How can I not give this baby the experience of growing up in the Church? and How could I inflict the church on my innocent baby?
And here we are, several years later, and my internal battle rages on. We’ve attended church a number of times, especially as Henry grows old enough to sit through a mass (with the help of a few coloring books). And every time, my feeling about it is wildly different. There are times that I am practically weeping, it’s all so lovely. Then at other times there’s a priest who’s blathering on about the sins of Sodom and Gomorrha and I’m looking around at the other parishioners and trying not to scream, are you really buying this?
I have a hard time staying quiet. I think this is my fundamental problem, as a Catholic.
Clearly I have some need for religion, but I have problems with the Church, so shouldn’t I look elsewhere? The thing is, I can’t. I’ve tried. For me, being Catholic is like being a New Yorker. It’s hard to take other cities seriously, if you’re a New Yorker, and in the same way, the other religions seem a little…well, not Catholic. They just pale in comparison. I am completely indoctrinated, and thus, doomed.
My parents are liberal Catholics, and they seem to be at peace with all the contradictions inherent in that identity. They don’t consider their Catholicism a choice, after all. They’re Catholic like I’m blue-eyed. I’m not sure that I can do what they do. I think I can learn to love a church, but can I love The Church? Or do I need to, to be a Catholic?
No matter what I do, though, I know that I’m Catholic, whether or not I want to be. I like this feeling. And I worry that I’ll deprive my son of at least this much. Of knowing that he’s part of something larger, whether or not he wants to be.

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • Vikki

    May 25, 2007 at 10:36 am

    I grew up in Kansas, home of the evangelical Baptists. My father was an atheist and my mother was a fallen Baptist. We weren’t church goin’ folk.
    I sparked an interest in God for awhile and was baptized and did communion but religion never stuck with me.
    As a lesbian and feminist, I struggle with organized religion and the messages it sends. I have become rather phobic about religion in recent years because it is so often used to attack me and the family that I have created. I wish that I could have a completely intellectual reaction but, honestly, many of the things done in the name of religion frighten me.

  • KATC

    May 25, 2007 at 10:56 am

    My best friend in grad school got confirmed recently because, she says, the Catholic Church needs some feminist women there. This is why I was delighted to be her Confirmation sponsor.
    Also, my mom’s best friends in grad school were some feminist nuns who had gone to the convent because they weren’t allowed to become ordained as priests. I think their attitude was, “we are called to the priesthood, and we aren’t going to let you forget it.”
    You aren’t the only RC out there with these questions, and I think you are also in really good company.

  • amy

    May 25, 2007 at 10:57 am

    wow. you nailed it directly on the head. if i could write as well as you, this is almost word for word how i would describe my feelings on religion.
    i grew up catholic too, but my rebellion started with backing out of my confirmation and then attending an episcopalian church (“backdoor catholics” as many would say) for the last couple years of high school.
    i occasionally miss some things about church: the family atmosphere, the singing…but overall i can not see myself being able to ever regularly attend again. yet, i don’t necessarily want my future children to be denied that experience…it’s a tough choice…

  • Chookooloonks

    May 25, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Alice, your story sounds like mine. Add that I was divorced, which in the Catholic church is definitely one of those not-looked-upon lightly things.
    So when I remarried an Englishman and our daughter was born, I found myself looking for a church again. And I landed on Episcopalean — sort of “Catholic lite.” For me, it’s got enough of the familiar that it feels true, yet the fact that our priest is married, the church allows gay clergy, and divorce isn’t considered the bullet train to eternal damnation gibes better with my own beliefs.
    Again, this works for ME. Just putting that out there.

  • Ruby

    May 25, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Great post, Alice, as always. Thanks for sharing your personal history.
    I’ve had similar grapplings with religion myself. I was raised a strict fundamentalist – one those scary church-cults you hear rumors about – where women can’t wear pants or cut their hair or talk back to their husbands. I managed to come out of it relatively unscathed, thanks to the fact that my own parents were surpisingly sane and balanced, despite their environment.
    As an adult I also came to learn that my church had been a haven for pedophiles and rapists. I had a minor brush with one of them and I consider myself very, very lucky that it wasn’t worse.
    And now that I’m a parent, I find myself feeling that my son’s spiritual education is being neglected. I very much want to remedy that but I’m not sure how. I’ve never felt close to God at any church (and I’ve been to many different types). I don’t want him to adopt some of their more backward beliefs, but I do want him to nurture his spiritual being. I’m still searching for a solution.
    I like to distinguish between religion and spirituality, the former being a corrupt institution and the latter being integral to life. I wish there were more ways to pursue spirituality without joining a Tibetan monastery or a pricey New Age retreat.

  • merseydotes

    May 25, 2007 at 11:33 am

    It is so interesting that you feel like you are ‘Catholic, whether or not [you] want to be.’ I have had friends tell me the same, though my Irish-Italian husband left The Church soon after we got married.
    I have a problem with the Catholic Church’s view on communion and I just couldn’t become a member. But my husband left behind decades of heritage and probably made his former Catechism teacher grandmother turn in her grave. I didn’t really understand what a big decision that was at the time, but now I see it was monumental.

  • Scott M

    May 25, 2007 at 11:48 am

    “And I worry that I’ll deprive my son of at least this much. Of knowing that he’s part of something larger, whether or not he wants to be.”
    Do you really need Catholicism, or any religion, to know that you are part of ‘something larger?’ Aren’t the human race, the Earth, and the universe larger than oneself? Isn’t it amazing enough that the elements that comprise your body are the dust of ancient stars? How cool is that?!
    You can probably guess by now that I share Richard Dawkins’ view that science and nature are more than enough to maintain a sense of wonder about this amazing thing called life.

  • Randomly

    May 25, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I think what Hitchens and writers like him are missing is the distinction between the faithful and their organizing leadership. Of course, the reason that the distinction becomes fuzzy is that religion demands unquestioning faith not just in God but in his representatives on Earth, especially in the Catholic Church.
    This point is made in a documentary I watched recently on the priest sex abuse scandal, Deliver Us From Evil, that I cannot recommend enough. It provides subtle analysis of the way that Catholic dogma lends itself to the perpetration of incredible atrosities against even the most innocent.
    It also features one of the most disturbing and revealing interviews I have ever seen, with a former priest convicted of sex abuse who may have abused hundreds of children in one small part of California.

  • Brenda Brown

    May 25, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    I am a cradle Catholic as well and married a guy who had tried every Protestant denomination out there before he converted (prior to being married). We baptized the babies, went to Church every Sunday, and put our kids in Catholic school and about three-four years ago, he had a crisis of faith. He just wasn’t sure and declared to me that he was going to research religions on the Internet and when he was done, we would probably not be Catholic anymore (well, I thought, I will never not be a Catholic- it’s who I am– as much as I am a female Minnesotan with German heritage and I didn’t want to change my identity). But I said nothing and he went on his search. He emerged from the computer declaring that after reading doctrine (where he could find it) on other faiths, that the Catholic Church was the Church that Jesus founded and has continuous succession since He gave it to us- thereby has authority. We then “dug in” to Catholicism- we listened to Scott Hahn’s conversion story, studied Catholic apologetics, listened to Relevant Radio and came to understand the rules and gained a true appreciation why Pope John Paul II said “Be Not Afraid” when he began his papacy. Because being a Catholic, truly living all of the rules- not being a Cafeteria Catholic- takes courage and you can’t be afraid to stop living a secular life. We were then challenged about birth control and justice issues and realigned our priorities. Our marriage is stronger, our family is happier and we “get more out of Church” now because it is more than matched by the effort we gave to understand our Faith. It’s with any muscle or skill- use it or lose it. I’d encourage you to create your own Catholic faith journey- the resources are rich- but they are not spoon-fed to you at Mass. With the strong call you have to remain Catholic, it will be worth your time and effort to learn and gain a deeper appreciation for why you are called to it. Blessings to you!

  • Mauigirl52

    May 25, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Alice, I share your conflicts about religion. I was brought up in one of the “lite” Protestant religions (even though my father was originally Jewish, he had converted long before my birth). I went to church, got confirmed, did the usual things until I was a teenager, and then started to drift away. I had a brief bout of flirtation with a born-again Christian religion (because of a former boyfriend’s conversion!) but left the day they preached in support of Anita Bryant’s crusade against homosexuals. Since then I’ve admitted I’m a devout agnostic and a born skeptic. I would never rule out the existence of something greater than ourselves – after all, I am a huge science fiction fan and can’t forget those old Twilight Zone episodes where it turns out we’re all part of some vast experiment in the sky – but I don’t see any need to do anything about it. If a Power exists, It probably doesn’t really care about my happiness. But having been brought up with the idea of God, like you I can’t stop thinking and apologizing to Him (or Her) when I do something wrong! I guess it is important to have the background in religion so you know what you are rebelling against later in life – and to understand, at least, how others feel about their faith. Because despite my lack of interest in organized religions, I do believe there are those who have sincere belief and they are better for it. I just personally find I’m better off without it.

  • kaleigh

    May 25, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Yeah, I can tell a similar story, except that I was raised Presbyterian and am now very happily involved (read: on the Board, on several committees, there all the time) with a Unitarian Universalist church.
    I agree – church is something that is so fundamentally different from so much of life. I can’t imagine my kids not being there. The friends they’ve made there, the “safe” adults that make up their non-blood family. It’s absolutely part of who we are.
    Keep looking – you may find just the right church for you. There are some awesomely liberal priests out there…the Catholics are the inventors of liberation theology, and I’m sure there’s one of them close to you.
    Good luck, and great post!

  • Ally

    May 25, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Ditto, ditto, ditto. Except, my husband’s Catholic too. And, we’re now Methodists. We found a lovely, liberal, questioning, life-long learning congregation about 10 minutes from us and immediately felt at home. All the ceremony of Catholicism, yet the pastors are married and women. It’s not without it’s problems and we belong to an especially liberal church, but we all love it, especially our son.

  • Amy

    May 25, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    When I was a kid, my parents dragged my brother and I to church because they felt like it was important for people to see us there. It was a social thing. Then I somehow got shipped off to the fundamentalist Christian camp and was completely horrified and traumatzed by what I heard an experienced there. Even at the age of eleven, I knew that I could never believe in the same God these people did. Their God said that men who had long hair and women who worked outside the home were sinners, headed straight for hell. And their God also said it was okay to “do violence in my name”. Yeah. Like, it’s okay to blow up the abortion clinic, because the people inside are evil, and you are pure of spirit. Get it? This kind of crap would have turned any intelligent, thinking human being off of organized religion, and I was no exception.
    Then I had a kid. I remembered fondly the social aspect of my childhood church-going, and the sense of community that came with it. LT and I did a little research and found a Unitarian Universalist church in the next town that has been instrumental in curing my religion-phobia. When LT and the kidlet and I go to church, we are just one of many gay families. We feel welcomed and valued as human beings. No one tells us to believe, and the focus is on living faith through service, not on religious dogma. I would recommend that anyone who feels a need for a spiritual community, or a connection to the Divine check out a UU service. It has really filled a gap in my heart.

  • Kate

    May 25, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    My story is the same. Liberal Irish Catholic parents, Catholic school or CCD when we didn’t live close enough to Catholic school. My parents divorced (my mom 3 times!), and they just sort of stayed with the church and made it work for them, ignoring the parts that didn’t work for them. Now, with four kids, I have the same dilemma. I’ve had them all baptized, but after my oldest son’s First Communion, we got a letter from the Church asking for money to help pay for all the lawsuits against pedophile priests, we walked away and, while I can’t say we’ve never looked back (I often look back longingly, but it’s for something that doesn’t exist), we are satisfied with our decision. We still say grace at dinner, but it’s more a way of giving thanks to the earth. We also talk about God with our children a lot. For example, my six year old asked, “mom, do you believe in God?” I replied as honestly as I could, “Yes, but I wasn’t sure I did until the moment you were born and I looked into your eyes. How can there not be a god in the face of such perfection?” I still consider myself Catholic, though, and probably always will. The way I consider myself Irish, I guess.

  • Alyce

    May 25, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I don’t really have anything to add, except to thank everyone thus far for keeping this a respectful conversation and not a screaming match.

  • Mark Eagleton

    May 25, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    The contradictions within the doctrine that frustrate you, and your internal struggle with being Catholic whether you want to or not, are a good examples of why so many choose an atheistic view.
    I recommend The God Delusion by the afore mentioned Richard Dawkins. Seek the truth and ye shall find. You have to look in lots of different places, though.

  • ozma

    May 25, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Is it possible for me to love you even more than I did before? Yes, every time I think I’ve reached the heights and depths of my adoration for you, you just turn around and wow me so more.
    This post is a little strange to read since large swaths of it are completely true of me, down to the Jewish husband and the beer. One thing I ponder are the heavy technicalities I have to get through if I ever wanted to rectify this situation–the special dispensation to marry? The civil marriage? Etc. Very daunting and there is this also an imaginary priest who yells at me in my head every time I contemplate an attempt at reconciliation. Another thing I sometimes wonder about is how or why, in spite of a life that is culturally and politically and socially and economically and maritally and professionally the antithesis of all that Catholicism is thought to be, I’m still Catholic in my heart. A flaming heretical Catholic probably. A secret in-the-closet Catholic. Or maybe not even a real Catholic? My family is wildly heterodox and sometimes I wonder if this is why it sticks with me in spite of everything–Having a grandmother who got married six times but still went to mass gave my religious upbringing a different flavor from the crushing orthodoxy that alienates many other cradle Catholics.
    Sometimes I understand the ambivalence you describe so well by imagining that the Church is a person I love who also drives me batshit insane–more like a screwed-up family and less like an institution. As an institution, it is not too lovable and it seems, by choosing it, you also have to endorse its errors and deeply misguided parts. I think it is much more that some of us would never choose it in the abstract but it is simply part of us and there is something else going on here that goes beyond some act of choice or decision.

  • Monica

    May 25, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Wow, this is exactly how I feel toward religion except Find & Replace “Catholic” with “Mormon”.
    Especially the paragraph about New Yorkers and the last paragraph (my daughter just turned one).
    So frickin’ true. (See, I told you I was Mormon)

  • jen

    May 25, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Im not Catholic, though just about everyone I work with is, so over the years, I have developed a lot of Catholic Guilt!
    I am Lutheran. Which is like Beer Drinking Catholics.
    My parents made me go to church every Sunday as I was growing up. And, I went to parochial schools.
    I never went to church the four years I was in college. I never quit believing, but I always thought I was looking for Something More.
    Turns out I was wrong. I was just looking for What Was Right In Front Of Me.
    I go to the same church Ive always gone to. And, I drag my seven year old with me. Every Sunday. My husband isnt Christian, and does not attend with us, but thats fine. He has no qualms that I take our son with me.
    I will continue to take the boy with me to church every Sunday that I go until he doesnt live in my house any more. My house, My rules.
    Though, I would never ever send him to parochial schools. Ever.
    I know religion, and God, are not for everyone. And I know a relationship with Christ is a very personal one.
    There are hypocrites and over the top people everywhere in life, not just in religion or in churches.
    You just have to do whats right for you and your family.

  • Kristina

    May 25, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I was baptized Catholic as an infant. I went to parochial school from K- 5. Tried public school for street cred and then ran back to parochial school as fast as my skinny Catholic legs could take me. My faith is as much apart of my identity as my name. I have tried as I got older to remove myself from the religion, as well as it’s teachings *(the ones that I don’t agree with). However, the more I tried to distance myself, the stronger I felt the pull of wanting to go right back to the community and family that I had grown up in. I loved church. I read the scripture at a very young age. From Kindergarten through 8Th grade I read readings at mass at least every other month. I sang in Choir. I was a girl who liked to receive the cardboard tasting body of Christ, but refused the wine. I was privileged to say grace at our family meal times.
    There has always been comfort for me in Catholicism. I have had positive experiences receiving Holy Communion, and Confirmation. A sanctuary that I felt could turn to when things got very bad. My faith has helped me overcome so many obstacles in life. I know for a fact that I would not be who or where I am today had it not been for my faith in God.
    On the other hand, as I got older (teen years), I started to ponder why everyone in School= the students, teachers, sisters, nuns, brothers, etc. so blindly believed without question. I also had some issues with God loving everyone, and then being told that homosexuals were going to hell. WTF? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Aside from the disagreements I have with org. religion in general, I want to hear about the power of religion when I go to church, not the wrath. I want to live my life enjoying my faith, not mourning it. Wouldn’t God understand that? Wouldn’t you think priests would? How depressing do they want a Sunday sermon to be?
    I have met many people who claim to be loving Christians, only to tell you about the moral superiority of their faith. I don’t like religion being used as means to hurt, no matter what the justification. The holier than thou aspect of religion does not impress me.
    I struggle with the same thing: To baptize or not to baptize thy offspring? Baptize and regret= Or don’t baptize him and have the same feelings but for the opposite reason.
    I miss church, and I want my son to experience the same faith that I grew up with. I just want him to choose it. I don’t want it to be forced up him like it was me. I want him to want it. Part of my resistance towards religion during teen years stemmed from my knowing that I may not have these deep seeded roots had it not been for my mother sending me to private school, or her own Catholicism. I certainly do not want my son to feel that way.
    My husband is very understanding. He believes in God. He grew up in a type of family that believes in God, but believes they have a “kitchen pass” to not attend church. They feel you do not have to attend church to believe in God. However, they have no real concrete beliefs and do not claim any one religion. They were/are social major holiday followers. My husband’s faith can be summed up in this Dogma movie quote: “It doesn’t matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith.”
    I want one day to not be so conflicted & to have my Catholicism and eat it too.

  • Pamm

    May 25, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    I, too, was raised a Catholic, was sure I would be a nun when I was young. I left the Church at age 15 and never looked back. I cannot imagine participating in any way, except to go to the Cathedrals wherever I go, as I do with all religious sites.
    But that doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual. For me, spirituality and religion are not the same thing. My spiritual life infuses everything I do and am. I am very thankful for having grown up in Midwest with the only religion that honors Mary as well as Jesus and had some sort of ritual in it. But if I was to be a nun now, it would be more of the Buddhist flavor.

  • DM

    May 25, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    My mother was Catholic but was ex-communicated when she married my father. Not for the reason I would have thought (He was a Jehova’s Witness) but because he was divorced. Mom had me baptized Catholic a week after birth because she was afraid I’d die and go to Purgatory (Limbo?). When I was in 8th grade we went to a neighboring Lutheran church. I loved it there and was confirmed. I was later told by a great-aunt that I was going to hell for not being Catholic.
    Years later, I found myself attending an Assemblies of God church. I ended leaving the church when our new pastor told my roommate that he should kick me out because of my sinful past. When my roommate said “Well, Jesus said ‘Let he without sin cast the first stone,'” the pastor replied, “I’m not Jesus.” I also hated the way they acted about homosexuality & unwed couples.
    I don’t go to church now but I consider myself spiritual. I have friends who Athiest and Agnostic and we’ve had better conversations about religion than I did while I was actively involved in church. My response to most people is “I believe in God, I just don’t believe in organized religion.” Although I miss the Lutheran church I went to as a teenager. Sometimes I wish I could go back. So I get what you’re saying.

  • Marika

    May 25, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Obviously your struggle is a very familiar one for most of your readers. To be brought up in a church, any church, and then not have it be a part of your life as an adult is difficult. For me, it is always a question of how to be a Christian yet also be pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-environmentalism, & pro-gun control. As much as I don’t espouse many of the views of my church, I know that I have a personal relationship with God and that going to church always brings that home to me. When I have children someday, I would like them to experience all the positives of Church & Sunday school that I did.

  • dorothy

    May 25, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Nobody puts Baby in the corner.
    I identify as Lutheran, and I identify with Jesus, because he was all hanging out with thieves and prostitutes and washing people’s feet without all the judging the religious right does today. I identify with love thy neighbor. I don’t identify with hate.
    I have a feeling the religious silent majority identifies with me.

  • Cobwebs

    May 25, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    I think that much of the current backlash (or perceived backlash) against religion isn’t really about religion itself but about those who are trying to force their religious views on others. You are welcome to believe that the universe was sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure, just so long as you don’t try to prevent me from owning a handkerchief because your religion says they’re unholy.
    Hitchens can be a bit shrill, and I’m almost sorry that he’s weighed in on the subject because his approach tends to turn people off. However, Dawkins’ “God Delusion” is a good overview of why religion isn’t necessarily a great idea all the time. (My daughter gave it to me for Christmas, which I thought was nicely ironic.) If you approach it with an open mind, it’s an extremely interesting read.

  • Penny

    May 25, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    Even here on Wonderland, when a commenter mentions their faith, a knee-jerk reaction ripples through the comments that this person is somehow not worth listening to. As someone who was raised by deeply intellectual people who also value their faith, I find this personally galling.
    Thank you for that. I have certainly experienced that “rippling” myself, and when I have tried to politely draw attention to that process on liberal political blogs I have gotten my rear end handed to me on a platter. It’s deeply discouraging, so I appreciate your willingness to include people of faith in your intellectual community.

  • MySideoftheDesk

    May 25, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    I had rejected Catholicism by the time I was 13. In my post Catholicism search for truth I spent a decent number of years as a practicing pagan. I then slid towards atheism by my mid 20’s.
    My husband was raised atheist.
    We will raise our kids atheist, but if they wanted to practice a religion, we would question why they felt that way, but wouldn’t prevent them from it. However, it would certainly be an issue if they wanted to embrace all the tenets of a religion like treating women or gays as second class citizens.
    My husband’s comment-I want to raise them with education as their religion.
    To that, I have to say, Amen.

  • Melanie

    May 25, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    I think I’m in a minority here, because I’m an atheist 100%. I wasn’t raised with much religion – my mom is Protestant but only rarely took us to church, and my dad grew up Catholic but never took us to church – and when I was a teenager I tried a few different things but nothing felt “right” to me. The idea of there being any sort of higher power just doesn’t sit with my view of the world at all.
    That said, I am definitely fine with other people believing in whatever they like. My beef with religion is that there are so many people trying to convert you. I’m happy with my beliefs (or lack thereof) and I don’t need saving or converting. I don’t need your emails to me to end with “in him” or to hear you bless me or anything. I know people are trying to be nice and all, but it gets my goat. I’m not out yelling about evolution.
    Organized religion seems strange to me for that reason, and for the fact that it seems so many people pick and choose what they believe – so, this one thing the church says is okay, but I don’t agree with this other thing and won’t do it… that doesn’t sit well, either. If you’re in the church, shouldn’t you believe it all? Or just go your own way, then? Those are my favorite religious people, the ones who are deeply spiritual but not members of any sort of organized religion. I think that’s why I love yoga – it’s spiritual in a way I can understand.

  • amanda

    May 26, 2007 at 12:13 am

    this was wonderful. thank you.

  • Kristin

    May 26, 2007 at 9:08 am

    My first thought when reading the comments was “Thank God” when I came upon the few commenters who have managed to keep some of the “religious” traditions that they enjoy while also finding a true “faith” community that shares their beliefs.
    I grew up in the Church of the Brethren, a small denomination that is one of the historic Peace churches. The teaching of peace has always stuck with me throughout the years, even when I also stopped going to church in college. After moving to an area where finding a Brethren church wasn’t an option, I started to miss it. The church I grew up in was pretty conservative, and I was not looking for that. When I moved to the Twin Cities I heard there was a small Brethren church here. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better church for me. The church is called Open Circle… and it is just that: Open to everyone of every faith, gender, sexual orientation, whatever. (we have many “recovering Catholics!”) Our church “motto” (we don’t have a creed) is “Diversity Welcome, Thinking Encouraged”. There are a few folks in our congregation that don’t necessarily even believe in God, but they still feel comfortable there. Our pastor would never “tell” anyone what they “should” believe. It’s the liberal view that I was looking for, yet I still have that strong peace/justice foundation that is so ingrained in me.
    My advice: KEEP SEARCHING! There has got to be a Catholic (or other denomination) church out there that has the tradition you’re looking for, but also shares the same values as you and your family. Trust me, it is SO worth it when you finally find it!

  • shades of gray

    May 26, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I find it interesting that many of the commenters present religious choice as one of two things: either a version of Christianity or Atheism/Agnosticism. I realize that is the normative in the United States, but there exists more than that in the world.
    I, myself, was raised in a strict Southern Baptist household and although I tried very hard to be a “good girl”, from the time I began to wonder about religion I found myself skeptical of the claims that are made about religion by the SB’ers (if you, yourself, are Southern Baptist: consider it my own personal failing).
    It’s not that I have trouble believing in God, because I do. It’s that I often have trouble with people claiming to speak “God’s Word” or in His Name. I am still a believer, and a monotheistic at that, but no longer Christian; I have a faith, but it falls outside the normative and in some quarters is not even acceptable by any stretch of the imagination.
    Just thought I’d put that out there: that there are choices beyond a different flavor of Christianity versus no belief at all.

  • OMSH

    May 26, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    I am Protestant. My faith is based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. I grew up in this belief structure and then, in college, I sorted out all the bits and pieces for myself. That was a healthy time of questioning in my walk, but it didn’t stop … I still read, ponder and ask questions.
    I’m raising my kids in the church. By that, I mean attending church – reading the Bible. They will come to their time of questioning and I will give them the same broad lead my parents did, knowing their own personal relationship with the Lord will find its path.
    This is a great post.
    Thank you.

  • belgianwaffle

    May 26, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    As a catholic the things that annoy me most about the catholic church are its attitude to homosexuality and women priests. Yes, I know, I should be exercised about the condoms/aids thing. I don’t think that’s right either but I feel it’s consistent. The homosexuality/women priests thing is discriminating against people and it makes me cross.

  • Joanne

    May 27, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I’m reasonably sure that people are just baptized in to the Christian church (in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost). It’s not necessarily a Catholic baptism, or Methodist, or whatever – I think the only thing that differs is the time in the person’s life that they’re baptized. Not that that’s a small thing, but I just think it’s important to recognize that once you’re baptized, you’re baptized, at least as far as the Catholic church is concerned.
    I was raised Catholic and am still Catholic. I definitely went through periods with the Church where I disagreed with the teachings of the Church, and I still struggle with the political ramifications of some of the teachings of the Church. But I refuse to leave because I disagree with a few things – for me it would be like leaving my parents, or my family, because we disagree on things. I can no more leave the church (or want to) than I would leave my mom and dad just because we’re not in agreement on what I consider to be important things.
    My son was baptized three weeks after he was born – it was very important to me to have him baptized as soon as possible. I was extremely depressed and disheartened about his birth and I hoped that maybe some holy spirit would rub off on me and help me out of my blues. I don’t know that it did right then, but here it is two years later and I guess I’m better, so maybe something’s working!
    My husband is a convert, so we are all the same religion in the house, which makes it a lot easier. We are Catholic all the way – we don’t use artificial birth control, I’m going to send my son to Catholic school, etc., etc. I find it to be a great comfort to belong to a church and now, after a rough start with my boy and one miscarriage, plus a brand new pregnancy, I find I am comforted more than ever by the church. Instead of finding my life harder because of it, I find my life a LOT easier and happier. I used to laugh and laugh at my mother when she told me she felt this way when I was a teenager and now, I have turned into her. All my nightmares are coming true!

  • Ashley

    May 27, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    I think it’s so incredibly weird for people to blame every bad thing in the world on religion.
    When something is done in the name of ‘religion’, it seldom has anything to do at all with religion. The problem isn’t the faith, it’s the people using faith as an excuse to be malicious.
    I’m pretty sure that even if we lived in a world completely without any type of religion, the same horrible things would happen.
    If someone wants to be racist or sexist or wants to judge people based on their sexual orientation, they will find a way to do so.
    I think the religion or belief is completely irrelevant. The focus should be on the malicious people doing
    horrible things, not on the reason those people give for doing said things.
    So I think it’s silly for people to say that religion is ‘socially dangerous’. What seems dangerous to me is the fact that we let people use religion as an excuse to do horrible things. We point the finger at the religion and not the person, and everyone is convinced that nothing would have happened had that person not believed in God. I think that is the more dangerous message. It seems to say that if you have faith in a certain religion, you are no longer responsible for the way you act in your day to day life.
    Great post, Alice. It was good to read something written by someone open-minded, intellectual, and faithful. It feels like we’re always bombarded with extreme messages, and it was so nice to read someone who isn’t so crazy one way or the other.

  • haus

    May 28, 2007 at 12:14 am

    we were lucky to find a liberal lutheran church in our new home town – lucky because I insist on being lutheran, I can’t help it, it seems to be genetic
    a couple of weeks ago our pastor said during his sermon “honest doubt is not the enemy of faith. absolute certainty is,” making me feel better for my own lapses over the years

  • John of Ginohn

    May 28, 2007 at 12:34 am

    I used to be a hard-core Catholic, because I was born into it and my Dad was very persuasive and had lots of good ol’ propaganda around the house. (e.g. C.S. Lewis argues well.) We also went to mass more than the average American Catholic, which can affect one’s belief system in a big way.
    By the time I was 19, I was drifting away from all that, and I guess by 23 I was calling myself a “retired Catholic”, leaning toward agnostic. Most of my siblings left a bit earlier, I think.
    Catholic brainwashing is a very effective procedure though, and runs deep into the spine. There are certain hardwired feelings and reactions that just won’t go away, no matter how hard you chip at them. Other former Catholics know what I mean. Catholic flavored Guilt is one; practically unnoticeable while you are a Catholic, quite annoying later on. So I have finally found a better term — I no longer call myself a “retired Catholic”, I prefer the term “recovering Cathoholic”.
    I have had brushes with many other religions since even before I started drifting out of the Church, mostly because my parents had tons of books on every subject strewn throughout the house. Nothing was censored; if you were able to read you could pick up anything from The Cat in the Hat to The Joy of Sex. Some of my favorite religions (or philosophies) were the pantheons of Greece, Rome, and Norway; Taoism for it’s simple purity and celebration of Change; the mostly unknown nature worshipping rituals of Wiccans and Druids (though some of those druidic rituals were pretty bloody); and (still fading in history) magical practices of Pennsylvania-Dutch Pow Wow and American Indian Shamanism.
    I then reached a period, after experimenting with all sorts of “supernatural activities” and not getting anything conclusive (that is, getting lots of results, but nothing that I could pin “supernatural” on), where I finally decided wholeheartedly that this religion thing was ridiculous. I then coined the term “Apatheism” to distinguish myself from Those Who Don’t Know (Agnostics), and Those Who Don’t Believe (Atheists). I was a member of Those Who Don’t Care If God Exists. This lasted for at least a few years.
    But eventually I was forced to admit that I was just a Wannabe Apatheist. I was fascinated not only with all sorts of religions, but also with the idea of a god. I didn’t come up with a word for it, but my belief statement switched to something like: “I don’t believe in a god, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I discovered I’m wrong.”
    As far as social religions (sometimes called organized religions, or cults) go, these days I am just amused, or pissed off. Discordianism had great appeal to me for a while because it takes religious silliness to a new level. Same with Subgenius, but to a lesser extent, because that’s just a spoof on Scientology, whereas Discordianism is a religion in its own rite, so to speak. All of these – Discordianism, Scientology, Catholicism – share something in common. They are all made up. They’re elaborate fakes.
    Now, as for real religion: It seems to me that people make connections between themselves and the rest of reality or parts thereof, and when they can’t explain the intense strength of a connection, they call it “spiritual”. To that end, I have certain connections that have been here my whole life, strong enough for me to say they are spiritual. I have no doubt that these very strong spiritual connections will stay with me the rest of my life, without possibility of a change of mind. If true religion goes no further than personal spirituality, I would have to say that mine is in the Trees.
    I am spiritually connected with trees and forests in such ways that some might call me crazy. There have been times that I swear trees seem to whisper to me, and there have been plenty of times that I have spoken back, just in case. Sometimes, when people ask me what my religion is, I say (if I don’t have time for a rant like right now), “Climbing Trees.” It is a very pleasant, personal religion, impossible to pass on to others because such tree-born experiences and feelings will never be the same as anyone else’s. It has nothing to do with Druidism, whatever that is. I guess if I had to classify it, I’d say it’s in there with aboriginal nature-worship religions. It has lasted my entire life and is part of my earliest memories. I have swung from trees and climbed them, and even slept in them. Trees are cool. A forest is the quiet space, the incense, the cathedral, all in one. And I didn’t have to read an old mumbo-jumbo book to be convinced of that.
    So my current opinion: church, bleah. But no kid should be left without a woods to explore. Take them there, while there is still a forest left.

  • Matt

    May 28, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    I share some of the personal histories of others commenting here, given a different childhood religion or different early adulthood “conversion” or seeking. But I’ve wound up coming closer to John’s “I don’t believe in a god, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I discovered I’m wrong.” My less endearing term is agnostic atheism.
    All religions are based to some extent on magical, non-realistic foundational events. Founding events and persons which violate the laws of physics and all known rational experience are recounted and quoted to generate a belief structure. My experience is that the resultant structure does little except exalt its adherents, often at the expense of non-adherents.
    I also feel the pull to belong to some community or societal framework which can offer me support and comfort. I just haven’t identified one yet with which I feel comfortable. And maybe I won’t. But I don’t think I’ll wind up burning in some horrible inferno if I fail in my quest.

  • Poppy

    May 29, 2007 at 12:07 am

    The problem with religion isn’t God; it’s religious people.
    They’re such a pain in the ass that staying with a belief is as hard as staying with a husband.
    When I can’t take it any more, I find solace in religious writings. C. S. Lewis, Chesterton, Church fathers, the Bible are all wonderfully vivid and cleansing.
    I also make a point of deliberately zoning out during announcements and sermons. My hour in church is the one time all week I can hang out with God, so if the other people aren’t up to snuff, I tune them out.

  • Bad Hippie

    May 29, 2007 at 8:06 am

    I once told my very Catholic family that I would never set foot in a church until the Pope called me and personally apologized for all the atrocities foisted upon women, children, and other oppressed classes during the first few centuries of its existence. That statement was probably a direct result of studying religion, by choice – in college, and coming away with a seriously twisted academic view of the whole business.
    Now, I go to the local United Church of Christ. It is liberal, inclusive, and socially active – everything I crave. Plus, the administration is willing to take a hard look at the history of all these atrocities and NOT make excuses for them. I can live with that.

  • Nicole

    May 29, 2007 at 9:46 am

    I grew up in a Christian family, Baptist to be exact. And as a result I received a beautiful, but flawed, inheritance of a deep religious tradition and spiritual Christian faith from my family and the church that I was a part of for my entire childhood and adolescence.
    I felt very strongly called to ministry as a teen and college student, but my denomination didn’t allow women to be ordained. So, I embarked on what has now been a ten year search, a spiritual one, for what my calling is and how I’m supposed to live it out. I had to process a lot of anger, disappointment, rebelliousness, controlling, etc (and some good stuff, too). I’ve come out on the other end an incredibly different person…who still is called to ministry. So, that’s what I’m training to do. I’m about 2 years away from completing my doctorate in psychology and theology.
    But what I learned and am still learning is that there are usually two types of things that keep me from being able to be faithful to my faith. The first are things that organized religion has added on to Christian faith due to our fallen nature and how everything is skewed. The second are things that God wants me to grow toward accepting and letting change me to closer to what he created me to be. It usually takes me a long time (I can be pretty dense), and a lot of prayer, study, and support from friends and mentors to figure out the difference. But, in my opinion, if God doesn’t expect something of me, then this thing must not be powerful and world changing. If Christian faith is all its supposed to be, I feel it should have my everything. Because if it’s true, then it DOES change everything.
    That’s been my journey, and a lot of it has been about going back to the historical Christianity written about by the contemplative writers, Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc. And some modern writers, too. Like Rob Bell, and Anne Lamott. But, finally, I experience my faith as freedom and not constraining or something to resent. It’s still an every day growing and changing thing, which is good cause it keeps me on my toes. I’m glad to know there are lots of fellow travelers out there!

  • Meg

    May 29, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Indeed! And well written. I’ve struggled with some of this myself. I was raised by a liberal Baptist and liberal Episcopalian, and I ended up identifying with the Baptist side of things (I tell people I’m Baptist like Bill Clinton, not like say, Falwell). Some of the wonderful parts of my tradition are getting to interpret the Bible on my own, challenge clergy, and ask questions.. Of course, my story is a bit more complicated, because my boyfriend is Jewish. We attend and are active members of a Synagogue, where my penchant for being disagreeable and doing my own close reading of the Bible make me fit right in.
    I don’t have kids yet, but I feel pretty strongly that I want to raise them in a community of faith. In our case, that will probably end up being the Jewish faith, which is fine with me. I have found that that sense of peace and support of something far greater then myself is something I best find in prayer. I think that when we raise our kids reasonably and responsibly with a religious background, we give them the option of that tool, should they choose to use it. Yes, our kids may reject religion, but if they need it, it will be there for them.
    I agree with a lot of the other comments – you might really be able to find what you need in the Catholic Church, though perhaps you need to find a more liberal congregation. Or, perhaps you can bring yourself TO the church, and make it better for your presence. Or – perhaps you could look at a more liberal Episcopalian Church (all the ritual, less of the judgmental politics). Or, if your husband is Jewish, perhaps you could find a match there, at least in terms of a heritage you are willing to pass on to your son. Regardless, cheers to you for engaging with such a tough subject!

  • Beth

    May 29, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Such a good discussion. So much better than when my leftie friend got hissed and booed on a lesbian discussion list for making people “unsafe” by inviting them to a discussion on feminism and Anglican faith, or when my academic colleagues roll their eyes about our black colleague who is involved with the AME church.
    I was raised without a church. I’m taking my daughter to a historically gay, progressive Episcopal Church so that she can see what collaborative generosity looks like, for the music, for God if she wants him, for the moments of stillness. It’s true that I would not be there had I not stumbled upon a partner who happened to be Episcopalian. But I am grateful that I did. If nothing else, it will give my daughter some traction, something to move toward or against in an informed way.

  • Dana

    May 29, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Alice, thank you. Thank you for writing this. As a Catholic, I can relate to some of the parts of your post.
    However, even though I was born and raised Catholic, I made the conscious choice to practice my faith.
    Yet, I’m so sick of mentioning my religious faith and having people go on the attack. It’s crap.

  • B.

    May 29, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    I think Dawkins is brilliant. Everything finally fell into place for me after I read The God Delusion. I finally feel normal. It’s too bad atheists are ostracized here, and I can’t tell anyone except my husband and one female friend.

  • Jenn Bo

    May 30, 2007 at 1:01 am

    I completely understand your internal struggles. On so many levels. I have no idea how I will address this when I do have a child, but I’m sure it will be something like what you are experiencing.

  • Lauuren

    May 30, 2007 at 1:20 am

    My mom was raised Catholic but, unlike you, she felt like she did have choice in the matter and rejected her religion as a teenager. She was the only one out of the ten children (yup Irish Catholic)to refrain from going to church. I believe it happened around the time her field hockey team suggested praying for victory and she thought “but what if the other team is praying for the same thing?” She doesn’t consider herself Catholic anymore. My dad is Jewish. They were married by a priest and a rabbi together. My one set of great-grandparents had never stepped foot in a church before and the other set almost didn’t go because my dad was Jewish. In the end, they raised me to care about others and make a difference in the world. It was about humanity not god. Also, I went to Quaker school. And while I don’t believe in god and would never take my kids to church, there is something deeply moving about meeting for worship. I think it’s because the emphasis is on spirituality not religion…

  • Mallory

    May 30, 2007 at 8:05 am

    You sound a lot like my mother (not meant to be said in the snotty, “Omigawwwd you sound like my MOTHER!” tone in which that phrase is so often balked).
    My mother always made it a point to me that FAITH and RELIGION are separate entities, and that she felt God is a bit more forgiving of religious shortcomings if you can muster enough faith to fill in the gaps. We went to Church every week, and I appreciate where you’re coming from when you say that the ritual can be both appalling and lovely at the same time. Ever sit back quietly while everyone else says the Lord’s prayer? (NO! Because if you don’t pray, too, you’ll go to HELL!) Try it sometime; we sound miiiighty cult-like.
    I’m getting ready to graduate college soon and, for all the wonderful memories I have of church (demanding of the priest one morning to know “why, if God is unisex, do we haaave to call him faaaather? Isn’t it only fair to call him mother sometimes, too?”, for example)… It’s my faith that gets me through my days and nights.
    My mother always called herself a Bad Catholic because she’d try to reason with my (slightly more rebellious) younger sister and I on matters or morality and religion instead of skipping to the punchline and punishing us for indiscretion. She still goes to Church weekly (something I did every week until college and something I still do with her when I go home). She still promises to pray for me when I call home upset at the difficulty and grand injustice of this awful “adult” life I’m suddenly expected to lead. Her solution to most of my qualms is, “Mallory Patrice, you stop being so over dramatic and pray on it. Give God three days to show you a solution and then you be willing to work, young lady. He’ll give you everything you need; YOU have to be willing to figure it out and put it together.” 🙂
    At any rate, and despite all my best efforts, I’m growing into what I’ll proudly call a morally upright, faith-intact human being who still enjoys the comfort of Church and the security of that spiritual safety net. I think there’s something to be said for aligning yourself with a church. And you’re right about being Catholic, it’d probably have to be The Church. But if there are things with which you don’t necessarily agree, be willing to explain to Henry what The Church says and why, and then explain to him where your feelings fall (and why) and then let him kind of fill in the blanks.
    My mother never MADE me believe anything. Which is probably why I’m so willing to still sigh at the end of phone calls and mutter, “Ooookay, Mom. I’ll pray on it. But if I’m still upset in three days, you’re flying into LaGuardia and we’re going for ice cream. Serendipity. Your treat.”

  • Chris Brown

    May 31, 2007 at 1:30 am

    You really are an excellent writer. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. Thank you for treating it with respect. Your openness and honesty was refreshing.

  • twink

    May 31, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I work in ministry (for the moment; I am soon taking what you might call a sabbatical) in the Catholic church. Your story, your questions are SO MUCH like mine.
    I have a friend here at work who is also outspoken, who thinks about social justice and who loves the ritual and the truenesses of the church. She’s a wonderful person. She says, quite frequently these days, “If we leave, then they don’t have to deal with us anymore.” So she stays. And I stay. Because I am not willing to give over MY church to closed-off ideas that I believe have no place in worship or practice. I am not willing to let The Church do what it does without benefit of questioning and rationality and justice.

  • pepektheassassin

    May 31, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Hi, all. I am the other Mormon here, concerned by all those out there who believe I adhere to a “lot of strange customs they don’t publicize,” according to the Inbox of this weeks Time Magazine. Just a little “wierd,” and a “cult.” I live with what the Book of Mormon calls a “perfect brightness of hope.” Putting all religious labels aside, I think this is what we are all trying to do. We only need to give a little more respect to our own, and to others, religious (or non-religious) leanings.

  • Anonymous

    May 31, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    PS You ARE an excellent writer, and I think you have a fine blog!

  • Irish Goddess

    May 31, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    I have been struggling with same issue for years. I am born and bred Catholic – I can’t NOT be Catholic, but I disagree with so much of it, and/or I don’t believe so much of it. But I miss the rituals, the prayers, the magic of the mass. Like you, on occassion I feel like weeping at mass; other times I am so bored and glad I’ve dragged my kids there so I have someone to watch other than the back of the head of the person in front of me.

  • Elle

    June 1, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Wow, top to bottom this could also be my story (except the NY part). I just can’t get behind the RC doctrine, but at the same time can’t bring myself to “shop” around for other churches/religion. My kids have never been inside a church. Not sure how we are going to handle explaining the God thing to them when the time comes (they are just babies now).

  • el-e-e

    June 1, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I think this is key for a lot of Catholics (myself included):
    “They don’t consider their Catholicism a choice, after all. They’re Catholic like I’m blue-eyed.”
    You say it so well, Alice.
    I am an imperfect Catholic. I’ll never follow all the rules. And I’ve been struggling with that so much recently. I find so many Catholics who think that Catholicism is all or nothing.
    But I read something by Fr. Andrew Greeley that really has helped me. (
    He says three things that resonated with me.
    “[The Church] is made up of human beings with all the faults of human beings… [but] it exists to tell the stories.” Stories of faith. To be passed down. To comfort us. To heal us. To teach us.
    He also says, “Jesus never promised us saints.” 🙂
    And finally, “When Catholics worship the Church instead of God, they become victims of that law. The Church has become an end in itself and not a means for the revelation of God’s reconciling love.”
    I think most American Catholics need to hear all of those things, and I am holding onto them mightily.

  • annie

    June 1, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    you’re a fabulous writer. 🙂
    i have to say that it’s hard to hear disparaging remarks from the staunchly anti-religious. i understand where it comes from, but just like anything else it’s a lesson in tolerance. not all christians are scripture spouting nut-jobs. as a hard nosed liberal, it’s a slap in the face to hear anti-religion rhetoric from my fellow liberals. it’s like it’s okay to be religious, just as long as you’re not christian? i don’t get that.
    also? ignore church politics. if you’re in church, you’re not there for the priest or for the pope or to be holy or pure. you’re there for yourself and your family and your spiritual well-being, coloring books and all. if it offers you a moment during your week to regroup and think in a peaceful setting, run with it!
    i am a convert to eastern orthodox christianity. it’s a hard journey, but it’s given me a sense of emotional security and peace that i don’t think i could have made up on my own. i don’t agree blindly with everything…but i don’t disagree either. the reason i’m there is for spiritual growth, not to make a political statement. we have people from all points on the political spectrum in our parish…but we are unified with one single purpose. to worship and pray together. only with the grace of god are we able to do so with little to no political discussion.
    thank you again for a wonderful post.

  • Anna

    June 2, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Randomly, religion does not “[demand] unquestioning faith not just in God but in his representatives on Earth, especially in the Catholic Church.” There’s plenty of debate within many churches, certainly within the Catholic Church, and always has been. It is expected that you *follow* the teaching of the church, but apart from sects and fundamentalist institutions, it is NOT expected that you do not *question* it.
    There are plenty of liberal parishes, even more liberal faithful. Some of the most devout and intelligent churchgoers I know are gay feminist Catholics, some of whom are celibate and some of whom are not. (The way they reconcile it all is through holding that God is Love as the ultimate truth, and through viewing the church as operating in the world and constrained by that in ways that play out in current (and very slowly changing) dogma.) I’ll cut it off here because I don’t want to ramble… but thank you, Alice, for this sensitive post! And I hope that one day you find a community where you can feel at peace and where they don’t scream at you about Sodom and Gomorrha… they do exist.

  • JO

    June 2, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    I was raised Protestant, my husband Catholic. One of his brothers was abused by a Priest. He has 2 brothers that are gay and he loves them dearly. We have found a home in the Episcopal Church. Ours is an “Oasis Congregation” that embraces our gay, lebsian and transgendered brothers and sisters as well as all races and all children. It really is a wonderful place…discrimination free. And it has all the ritual you could want.

  • Carrie

    June 4, 2007 at 8:00 am

    I am a Catholic. My father and 3 uncles were sexually abused by the priest that married my parents and baptized me and my 4 siblings. i do NOT use that as some lame excuse not to practice my faith. The reason people have such a hard time with Catholicism is that it speaks the Truth and has not wavered on that Truth for 2,000 years. It’s the only religion that has stayed completely consistent to the teachings regardless of fads, popularity and crazy feminists hell bent on destroying the religion. They will never succeed. There will never be female prists. Contraception and divorce will never be acceptable. People that don’t like it are free to choose a different religion. but trying to change this one is a useless waste of energy. What’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right.

  • alice


    June 4, 2007 at 8:50 am

    It’s the only religion that hasn’t wavered? Because Islam and Judaism are always changing things around to suit the times?
    Wow, Carrie, you sure do seem angry. Maybe because one priest raped most of your family. So you want to attack anyone who maybe wonders why you continue to follow a church that victimized your family.

  • Carrie

    June 4, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    What about my comment seems angry to you, Alice? I forgive the priest that abused my father. Do you know how painful an experience that had to be for my dad and his brothers? But this man that did this is an imperfect sinner. he is not my religion. Sure the Church is made up of many imperfect people just like every orgainaztion is. i don’t place my faith in people. i place it in God and the beautiful Church He built on the rock of Peter 2, 000 years ago. The Truth always makes people uncomfortable. it’s you that sounds angry. like an angry feminist that wishes women could be priests and gays could get married. never gonna happen, sweetie. never. not in the Catholic relgion i said, wasted energy.

  • anne

    June 5, 2007 at 4:49 am

    You know, you can change the words “religion” to “erection” and the song still makes total sense.
    That’s about the only thing I can contribute to this, but I appreciate your honesty about your certainties and your doubts.