If I Ever Lose My Faith…

I attend Roman Catholic Mass every weekend…

[St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England. Photo by me, 2019.]

…but not there. That is a Protestant Church of England (Anglican) church. It had however been a Roman Catholic church prior to the Reformation in the mid-1500s.

And that is history that touches upon us still.

So articles like that Washington Post piece usually intrigue me. Whenever I see such coming especially from former, or wobbling, Roman Catholics, I nod along knowingly. This is familiar ground to me:

…Gradually, however, I lost faith in my faith. There were too many unanswered questions, too many problematic absolutes, too much fearmongering and way too much hypocrisy. For a religion that placed such a premium on loving thy neighbor, it sure had a lot of restrictions on whom you were allowed to love. When the priest sex-abuse scandal broke — a scandal the scope of which we’re still learning about — I knew I’d never return…

He has not offered a major thought there that I have not thought also at one time or another – until the last one.

Because my faith is not about human priests who lie and abuse.

At one point he falls back, perhaps unsurprisingly, on stating the “Golden Rule” is the fundamental starting point:

We want our kids to have a solid understanding of all religions. Just as importantly, we want them to have respect for what others believe. After all, the Golden Rule is something that should be instilled in all children, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

And he is hardly the first to point that out either. Indeed, and what could seem to be more obvious, right? All major religions insofar as I’m aware also espouse a version of “the Golden Rule.” (Although I much doubt he is going to sit down and discuss, say, Zoroastrianism with his kids, but I could be wrong.)

This too from the piece struck an especially familiar chord with me:

My mom will be disappointed to read this, but she shouldn’t be. See, she gives far too much credit to my Catholic “experience” in terms of my development. I learned far more about being a good person from my mom than from any of the priests, nuns or teachers I encountered during my time in Catholic school. She didn’t just tell me about Jesus’ “do unto others” commandment, she lived that mantra each and every day — and it’s what I hope to do for my own children. That type of foundation matters far more than what church you belong to or whether you’re baptized because, in the end, actions will always speak louder than words, even the words of the Bible.

He is certainly free to believe – uh, if that is the appropriate word – all of that; but in doing so he chooses to overlook this: his mother is not just his mother, she is also a Roman Catholic and it may not be as easy to separate that faith from her “values” as he evidently, uh, believes it is. (Interestingly here yesterday was U.K. Mother’s Day.) If she were not Roman Catholic she might certainly also be “a good person”; but in not being a Catholic she would also definitely be a different person than the mother who raised him and whom he claims so to respect and even to admire.

And if she weren’t, he would therefore now be different too.

In my early-middle twenties, I thought much that same way as he writes. It all seemed hypocritical, absurd, and unnecessary. Then I met someone who suggested a perspective I had never before really considered:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

…and that is how I have pretty much come to see my own Catholicism, and to respect other religions – and especially in looking at faith overall from the perspective of an historian. Whether any god exists is actually not. the. point. What is is that faith is as much an historical and a social reality as is a national frontier or a first language; “faith” has always been present in some form or another and, like frontiers and languages, is never nearly as static as we may believe it is.

Yes, we may choose to convert officially to another religion. Or we may choose to claim to stand back from all “dogma” and “free thinkingly” embrace “human values.” We are always searching: even in noting that he has lost “faith in his [Catholic] faith,” that writer is clearly yearning to have faith.

And while of course no god is necessary to “treat others as you wish to be treated,” it is worth also always remembering other humans may not choose to treat you in that manner because they believe your faith – whatever it is – constitutes a threat to what they believe you should believe about what makes for the best way to treat other people:

[From Instagram: screen photo of a paragraph – set in France in 1801 – from the upcoming Tomorrow The Grace. Photo by me. Text copyright R. J. Nello, 2019.]

He has learned little about being “a good person” from the nuns who taught him? Well, he should then try opening a history book. Personally, given so much that I have read in human history, I can’t bring myself to have faith in “humanity” as some stand-in for an Almighty.

But, again, [shrug] to each his own.

Have a good week… however you strive to be “a good person.” 🙂