Saturday, December 6, 2008


Now, I cannot pretend to rival any great philosopher of religion (or any great philosopher in general for that matter), and so the title of this post may not be quite appropriate in that it won't be a commentary on religion in general but rather on my own. I have just always enjoyed the ring of one-word titles.


I sometimes feel like Yann Martel's Pi.
"'What is your son doing going to temple?" asked the priest.
"Your son was seen in church crossing himself," said the imam.
"Your son has gone Muslim," said the pandit.
Obviously, my case is not so extreme in that both of my affiliations are Christian, but still, the adversity that Pi faces is somewhat parallel to what I experience every Sunday and Wednesday.

I suppose some background may be appropriate.

I have been a member of the Catholic Church for my entire life, I attended Catholic school from second to eighth grade, and I was confirmed this past October. I traveled to Longmont, Colorado on a mission trip with a youth group from my local Catholic church, which turned out to be one of the best summer experiences ever. I attend mass every Sunday (sometimes Saturday), theoretically because I want to, but practically, because my parents make me (to be discussed later... that is, if I remember).

Last year, some friends convinced me to go to a youth group at a local Baptist church. I consented because obviously, it was the "cool thing to do," at least among (one of) my circle(s). But later, my incentive for going transformed from my friends themselves to their faith. This spring, all of my closest friends graduated and left, literally or metaphorically, but yet I still attend that youth group religiously (bad pun intended) every Wednesday.

Like Pi, I don't feel like my religions contradict each other (obviously they don't fundamentally, but I'm talking details), but rather complement each other, Catholicism more in that respect than the Baptist faith. The complexity of the Catholic faith paradoxically complements the comparative simplicity of the Baptist faith, and vice versa. True, I don't believe every last tedious detail of both, because that would be contradictory. And perhaps a belief in God is all that both share (definitely not the case, I'm just trying to make a point), but I still feel as if being Catholic makes me a better Baptist and being Baptist makes me a better Catholic.

In reality, everyone I know with both groups totally understands this phenomenon, even if not directly involved, and no one has questioned me (excluding jokes). Yet I feel like, in a sense, they should have. I don't know why. Something to think about in the future, I guess.

But let's shift gears a bit.

Why do I believe in God?
Why do I go to church/youth group?

I think it's a misconception that those are the same, so to address them seperately:

I believe in God because, as Voltaire says, it's practical.
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.
What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason.
Or Kant:
One cannot provide objective reality for any theoretical idea, or prove it, except for the idea of freedom, because this is the condition of the moral law, whose reality is an axiom. The reality of the idea of God can only be proved by means of this idea, and hence only with a practical purpose, i.e., to act as if there is a God, and hence only for this purpose.
But I also believe in God for almost the opposite reason. Again, with a Life of Pi quote (I'm not really into the whole rhetoric, putting thoughts into my own, coherent, words thing tonight, so I'm stealing other peoples'):
I take pen and paper out and write:
"Words of divine consciousness: moral exaltation; lasting feelings of elevation, elation, joy; a quickening of the moral sense, which strikes one as more important than an intellectual understanding of things; an alignment of the universe along moral lines, not intellectual ones; a realization that the founding principle is what we call love, which works itself out sometimes not clearly, not cleanly, not immediately, nonetheless ineluctably."
I pause. What of God's silence? I think it over. I add:
"An intellect confounded yet a trusting sense of presence and ultimate purpose."
I attend church not because of a belief in faith (and yes, I may be reprimanded for that), not that I lack it (obviously), but rather because knowledge of religion, no matter how much we gloat about how tolerant we are, is inescapable in our society, and general knowledge does not suffice. And I think the best way to learn the ways of a religion is to partake, directly, in it. It's similar to learning a language through immersion rather than in a classroom. Backtracking a bit, I think it is in this sense more than others, my religions complement each other.

As I mentioned briefly before, my parents more or less forced Catholicism onto me. I don't disagree that they should have, and I'm grateful to them for it, really. Deep understanding of the roots of Christian faith in the least widens my perspective of the world. Catholicism probably contributed more to history and today, simply because it existed unchallenged (maybe...that could be contested) for so long and tradition endures, than any of the protestant religions, and I'm just really glad that I am a part of it so I can understand fully what our world has come to.

I don't think, however, that belief in God should be forced. Really, is that possible, anyway? Is not the gate into Christianity acceptance of God as redeemer?

Meh, enough ranting.

1 comment:

Monique said...

Maria... I freaking love you.:D