Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The trouble is witness

I keep thinking I should write fewer posts about religious stuff.  I have lots of other things to share: my recipe for the best potato salad I've ever had, an explanation of discipline tactics that work, pictures of my garden if I ever take any.  I write them in my head when I'm trying to sleep, and then the morning comes and it's chaos all over again and I just don't have time.

The stuff that pulls on me so that I can't rest till I write it, is the religious stuff.  So my apologies to anyone who wants to learn to make better potato salad.  I really will blog that stuff when I have a chance.  But I've got to talk about this.

I've had kind of a sucky week.  It started when someone shared with me a job posting for what would have been my dream job if I were looking for one.  An alternative classical/Montessori school, looking for someone who could teach a variety of subjects.  Must have two years experience and be good at Latin and gardening.

Latin and gardening, people!  That is not a combo you see every day!

Then I read down a bit and there was the Catholic stuff, the chosen candidate would have to teach religion and therefore of course they wanted a Catholic.  They didn't say if they required a loyalty oath, but my past two jobs did -- quite a strict one which, it is argued, goes beyond what the Church requires us to believe in the first place.  I've taken them before without giving a whole lot of thought to it, and signed statements saying I acknowledged that I would be fired if I publicly denied any Church teaching.

I'm not sure I could do that anymore.

To go to Mass is not a lie, it's a commitment.  To declare I believe stuff which I want to believe but don't actually believe IS a lie.  It's not fair to Catholic parents who want a really believing Catholic teaching their kids - heck, I don't think I'm Catholic enough to teach my kids, though I do because somebody's got to and I'm on the spot.

But since I have no teaching degree, I can't teach many other places besides Catholic schools, and so I realize I have lost my career as well as my certainty.  Sure, I am not working now, don't need to work.  But I dreamed of getting back into the classroom someday -- of at least having the option to if I could find the right sort of place.

So there was that.  And then this week I heard another group I'm part of was considering expelling a member who had become an atheist.  There was a lot of talk about how there could be no true fellowship between believers and unbelievers, talk about how mere exposure to bad ideas would harm everyone's faith.

Of course my first thought was that this is unkind, and the second thought was that I'm next.  This blog isn't private (kicking myself a little about that, but I think the desire to avoid hypocrisy was a valid one) and if I were on trial to prove I am a Catholic in good standing, I don't think I would win.  It certainly raises the question of how many of the people who like and respect me would cease to do so if they knew what I really think.

But the third thought was the scariest one, and it is this: is stuff like this the only reason anyone is Catholic at all?

You see, when all other reasons for being Catholic fail, you can always say, believe because others do.  Think of the people who taught you the faith, and take things at their word if you can't prove them.  But how can you do this when you know that many, many Catholics believe for reasons that aren't at all rational either?

Are we all just keeping our heads down because we don't want to be thrown out of our clubs, jobs, or even families?

By this I don't mean, everyone doubts as much as I do and just doesn't say it.  But that when you feel a bit of doubt, when you think there's a good argument against the faith or perhaps a book or article that might make you believe less, you have a zillion and one reasons not to examine it -- and 99% of those reasons aren't rational or perhaps even spiritual at all.

If Sally pushes away her doubts because she thinks the slightest chance of going to hell isn't worth any benefit to thinking about that stuff, and Bob pushes them away because his mother would be broken-hearted if he doubted, and Tracy pushes them away because she works for the Church and her job would be at stake, and Harold pushes them away because the Church considers it a sin to even entertain doubts in the first place .... how are we supposed to know the reasons for believing could ever stand up to criticism?

It's cultic thinking, and while cultic thinking is no proof at all that something isn't true, it also chips away at one's ability to use the witness of others as evidence.

22 comments:

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Have you seen those diagrams with triangles and a desired quality at each corner, with the caption "Pick one"? Like a triangle for housing, with the qualities "accessible, "affordable," and "beautiful"--the implication being that accessible and affordable houses are never beautiful, etc. Well, that Montessori school should know that there's a triangle with "Latin," "gardening," and "Catholic." LOL! I'd bring "Latin" and "Catholic" to the table myself, but sadly, not "gardening." ;-)

As someone who has been in the same place as the people in your group, I'd advise them not to expel the atheist just because of that. If there are other circumstances, well, I don't know the whole story. But anything that vaguely resembles mine, I'll comment on.

The reason it was easy for me to break up with that friend of mine who wanted to pick and choose what she believed was that it had become very emotionally distressing for me to meet up with her on Saturdays knowing that she wouldn't be at Mass the next day. It took nearly three years for me to realise that what I was feeling was despair. I despaired that she and I could ever relate on the level that was most important to me--and because I truly loved her and wished for that, it was painful. So I just gave up.

At the time, a friend of mine who had experienced the same thing told me that he decided to stay in his own relationship, saying, "I trusted that God would finish what He had started." And his decision . . . his hope . . . paid off! And I will spend the rest of my life regretting not making the same decision.

So what I'd advise your group to ask themselves is whether they are expelling that member out of despair. If they truly believe that God can do nothing more for her or for your group, then they're actually sinning against hope. Not to mention sinning against charity! Which reminds me . . .

There's the additional danger that the expulsion is a form of revenge--which, of course, makes it even worse. We're not judge, jury, and executioner to our friends. It may be that the rest of the group feel deeply hurt and betrayed by what the member has gone through, even if none of it is her fault. I hope that they can find other ways to deal with that anguish. And while they do, I recommend that they think of themselves as the strong holding up the weak and stay firm in the hope that one day she will be strong again.

"Will people still like and respect me if they knew what I really think?" is something I asked myself all the time when I had my old Catholic blog. Well, after I stopped blogging there (though not before blowing it up, as I've already described to you), I did lose some friends--including a few whom I never dreamed would dump me. BUT I kept others. And those who stuck with me despite my awful behaviour (which has come to include behaviour from much later, when I discovered the Manosphere--LOL!) have been constants for years.

Sheila said...

I remember your Manosphere stage -- it was quite a challenge for me to be nice about it! I never did understand either what led you to it, or what led you away from it again.

Those are the arguments that several of us made, but they aren't entirely satisfying -- because I, of course, don't want to be seen as the weaker sister who is being held up by my stronger brethren, nor a someone who people are graciously putting up with. I would like the respect I got formerly, and not just generous love ... love tinged with apologetic zeal. Where one day people liked me for me, the next day they hang around because they feel a duty to make me believe again. That doesn't feel very nice.

Of course that isn't necessarily what anyone's doing. I am projecting because that is *absolutely* what I did, at one time. I stopped seeing friends as friends and saw them as charity cases. And I was naive enough to think they'd never know the difference....

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Right before I went to sleep last night, I thought about this post and another angle occurred to me: converts. I recall reading and listening to stories of former Protestants who lost old friends and even family members after they decided to be Catholic. That seems to be the sort of witness you're looking for.

If people are really just putting up with someone, then I agree that it's not real friendship. But I'm guessing that everyone in the group has been friends long enough for there to be some real love in there. (Then again, why should I think that matters? I loved my friend and I still dumped her, didn't I? *cheststab*)

One reason I don't mind being seen as the weaker one is that I often am the weaker one. =P Another reason is that I think "Catholic infrastructure" is based on the assumption that everyone will be weak at some point, and designed so that it is easy for the strong to carry the weak (whoever may fall into these groups at any time). It's not just nice, but also edifying and strengthening, to be able to do devotions like the Sacred Heart novena or the Advent/Christmas Simbang Gabi novena with scores of other people. I could do them myself, of course, and often have . . . but it's not the same as having a community to do them with.

It sounds, however, as if the community you're in isn't very strong--not if you're seriously worried about being cast out of a religious group and wondering if most of the believers you're supposed to lean on are actually hypocrites. I'm normally down on convert writers marketing themselves as catechists to untutored cradle Catholics, but I seem to have found a perfect niche for them. They've already been through what you're going through--albeit going toward the Church rather than away from Her.

I was drawn to the Manosphere because I had had next to no success in the romantic arena and it was the only one offering an explanation and a practical plan for turning my luck around. I was desperate. (Well, okay, it wasn't the only one. A form of Chinese divination had another explanation, though no practical recommendations. That may sound funny, but I assure you that it haunts me so much more than the Manosphere stuff ever did.) And I backed away after I realised that I'd be miserable with a man I found using its methods. Which brings me right back to square one.

When I was still blogging there, I didn't at all notice that you were struggling to be nice. And I guess I thought that if you were really ticked off, you would have just left. You and I weren't very good friends back then, so now that I think about it, I'm amazed that you hung around! If your group can muster some of what you had for your atheist friend now, then perhaps expulsion won't be necessary!

Sheila said...

Well, I was interested in what you had to say, even if I was horrified at the company you were keeping, and I wanted to know what was motivating the things you were saying. And I stuck around *nicely* because, well, that's what you do. (This is not at all the first time in my life I have heard the accusation, "You were upset? I never would have known you were upset!" It's not always a good thing.)

I think in the end, Christian charity will win out. It's the traditionalists who are always stirring the pot, trying to bring back the Inquisition. I would not say my Catholic community is "not strong," but I would say that it's tainted with some not-very-christian trends, in places.

Converts are promising, and I do ask every convert I meet, what changed their mind. However it's often something non-transferrable -- some spiritual experience (the only ones of those I've ever had turned out to be deceptive) or they converted to marry their spouse, or some such. There are some who convert for what I would call a "good reason," but for every one of those it seems there are 99 who are just looking for more meaning in their lives than they have now .... or who converted from some other religion that makes less sense than ours, which doesn't help me.

I know. I'm difficult.

But don't forget, Jesus might have griped a bit at Thomas for not believing, but he DID give him the proof he wanted. He doesn't appear to be completely helpless in the face of skepticism.

Ariadne said...

Maybe I shouldn't be getting involved here, but the answer to your question is "no." Not everyone is staying Catholic because they're afraid of the possible consequences of losing their belief. Some of us encounter doubts, examine them, resolve them to our satisfaction, and move on. I actually went through a stage (maybe as a teenager) in which I did this with many aspects of Catholicism. At the end of it, my faith was actually stronger, and now I know I have good reasons for believing as I do. I think many people who are raised religious go through this when they "come of age." At some point. you have to examine the religious beliefs you were taught by your parents and decide if they will become your own beliefs.

I like E's point about converts, too. My dad has a similar story. He did research on religions in college, and the more he learned, the more he was led towards Catholicism specifically. He didn't really belong to any religious group before this, and I don't believe he started out with a bias towards any particular one. His objective research convinced him that the Catholic Faith was true. He's a scientist, by the way, so I know he wouldn't believe without logical reasons.

Anyway, I just felt the need to speak up for Catholics in general. While no human being does things PURELY for logical reasons, many of us really do believe, in our hearts AND minds. We aren't just going through the motions or afraid that further research will prove our faith is misplaced. I think it's a mistake to assume otherwise.

Ariadne said...

A few more thoughts:

1) I don't think you've ruined your career. I'm sure there are schools you can teach in without an education degree. Not all Montessori schools are Catholic: some are secular, Jewish, etc. Also, if it comes down to needing a piece of paper saying you can teach, a teaching certificate should be cheaper and easier to get than a bachelors in education. Even without it, though, I doubt you can ONLY teach in Catholic schools.

2) I know there are books written by converts about why they converted. Maybe something like that would help you?

3) I guess it depends on what kind of group we're talking about. If it's a Bible study group, I can see why they wouldn't want an atheist to be a part of it. Unless it's something that necessitates talking about religion all the time, then what difference does it make?

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

That sounds like the reason why I stuck around when a Muslim man tried to convert me in a bookstore. I was genuinely interested in what he'd have to say! Everyone who hears that story, however, is horrified that I didn't immediately walk away. Apparently, I sound like a child happily talking about the nice stranger who gave her candy and then offered her a ride. =P

I've been thinking about what you said about getting the same respect as before, and I wonder if it's too idealistic. What if we genuinely think that someone is taking a really foolish stance? We'd still love them, but our lack of respect for the stance would still take a toll. I follow some people on Twitter who also happen to be white race realists and they occasionally tweet about losing friends over their new views on blacks. It's not much different from former Protestants losing friends after converting to Catholicism . . . or to be fair, former Catholics experiencing the same after being "born again." (Let me tell you about my uncle some time . . .) And then there was the time a pro-choice friend from uni heard that another girl who was planning an essay on different opinions on abortion wanted to interview me: she literally told the girl, "Don't ask Enbrethiliel. She's against it." I was hopping mad when I found out. >=(

Oh, by the way, the friend who said that was my best friend at the time. I know that she respected me, because we were roommates and would argue abortion late into the night--not fighting, but fencing, if you know what I mean. And we loved spending time together. But she didn't respect my views. She thought they were WRONG the way we think National Socialism is WRONG--and that wasn't the only time she tried to keep me from taking others down with me. =P (I suppose I should have taken that as a compliment to my arguments and persuasiveness. LOL!)

Sheila said...

Ariadne, you are right, there are always *some* people who really do believe and feel sure. I was one for awhile there. And John is another -- a person who values reason above almost anything but does think the Catholic faith is rational. It helps -- though I think this witness would be much stronger if people didn't work so hard to put external pressure on others.

E, I don't actually expect equal respect if my ideas aren't the same. I know I won't get it. What I mean is, that's a good motive to lie and say my ideas have stayed the same, because I can get respect that way while I couldn't if I told the truth. The only thing that gets me about this is that I would feel I were winning their respect on false pretenses -- stealing it, as it were.

I had a friend recently ask me, "What if I was a race realist?" My answer was basically "keep it under your hat." Even if you have come to your views rationally, you might still be wrong, and even if you aren't, those views are generally considered bad views. Why bring them up?

But there is a big difference between hiding our more scandalous opinions -- which I comfortably do all the time, no one has the right to know what I think about everything -- and masquerading as having a more respectable set. Even if we don't lie, we deceive, encouraging others to believe we are a person who believes X good idea and treat us accordingly, rather than shunning us as they would if they knew we were not. I heard this attitude, applied to Catholicism, called "being a sleeper for the other side," and it hurt ... but that's what it is. People would be listening to me and trusting my opinion, because surely it was a Catholic opinion, and then when I come out with something heretical, they might feel betrayed.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Well, I don't think you'll ever have to worry about false pretenses on your end! I remember an old post of yours about "outing" yourself as a liberal at a Catholic wedding and suddenly feeling the temperature around you change . . . or something like that? LOL!

As for whether or not other people are lying to the world in order to keep their social status, my own hunch is that the majority are not--though my only reason for thinking so is that I believe that anything that makes one too paranoid is probably wrong. (Yes, I know the line: "Just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean I'm wrong!" LOL! But I've made myself paranoid about huge conspiracy theory stuff before, and I know what to mistrust.) Anyway, given the ease with which people can find like-minded dissenters these days, I don't think that those in a free society would be pulling an Emperor's New Clothes.

Forgive me for bringing The Last Psychiatrist up again, but the turn this discussion has taken reminds me of a blog post he wrote about Asian men learning pick up artistry in order to get white girlfriends--so that they could prove to themselves that they were just as attractive as white men. Alone defines their problem as: "How can I get everyone to believe I'm someone I'm not, when they can all see right through me?"

Now, that's definitely the opposite of what you're trying to do. But what you and the subjects of the post have in common is deep concern over how others see you. That's why I think the last clause in the question applies here, too--though in your case, it's a consolation. Unless we're skilled pathological liars, people will see right through us if they hang around long enough. We don't have to worry that we're giving them the wrong impressions, because we don't have as much control over our public image as we think.

Let me know if I've missed the boat again with that! LOL! ;-)

Sheila said...

Ah, quite true.

I was having the discussion with a friend the other day -- should I give up on all of my Catholic groups and just find new friends who share or at least don't mind my views?

It's a big sort of decision. I have spent my entire adult life building up the social networks that I have. I don't even know where to start at trying to find new ones. But on the other hand it's somewhat inevitable, considering that as you say I can't really hide this stuff and the sort of people who ditch people for their views will surely abandon me eventually anyway.

But, there are some people you can neither ditch, nor easily accept their ditching you -- very old friends, for instance, and family. (There's a reason for the ban on talking politics and religion at family reunions! (Is that just an American thing or do they do that everywhere?)) In a pre-internet world I could hide stuff from this group, but nowadays I can't, and I'd say one of the primary sources of grief with this group is them reading stuff I said online to other people. How long before someone I really deeply care about cuts ties with me -- not because they are bad people (you've shown me how they might not be) but because it hurts them too much not to be sharing the most important things with me?

My local social circle is a tough one too. With a ton of effort, I have actually managed to make some local friends. It took me years and many of them are not super close, but on the bright side it's some social contact for my kids. At least one of these people has told me they wouldn't let their kids play with the neighbor kids because they aren't Catholic. Sooooo.... that would be a real downer, to be ditched by these people. And it's not like northern Virginia is a hub for agnostic/semi-religious people. Most everyone is strongly Protestant and even finding a Catholic subculture was a stroke of luck.

And there are blog friends .... who don't have a personal bond with me in most cases and may very well just decide that reading my blog is not good for their faith and that will be that.

I'm beginning to see why gay people stay in the closet. :/

Just from how open I've been so far, and how open I can't help being, I think a bit of a social crisis might be forthcoming. Rather than agonizing about how or whether to avoid it, perhaps it's just time to prepare for it.

BOY, do I ever hate even thinking about hurting people! All I want is to make everyone happy with me, all of the time ... and that, of course, is way, way too much to ask.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

My totally unsolicited advice is: if they don't give up on you, don't give up on them. That is, don't be the first one to cut ties, because you never know who'll be willing to be there for the long haul!

Also, don't accept that a social crisis is inevitable, because it could colour your interactions for the worse. One thing that haunts me about my blog meltdown is the possibility that I deliberately angered friends who had wanted to stick with me--and that I did it by being an exaggeratedly nasty version of myself. For a long time afterward, I could say that they didn't like my "true self," so they were going to leave sooner or later . . . but that wasn't my true self I shoved in their faces, was it?

When I broke up with my real-life friend, I lost all our mutual friends, too. That was 75% of my social group! Afterwards, I tried to get myself invited to and absorbed by the other circles of the three remaining friends I had . . . but they either didn't think I would be open to it (and I was never cheeky enough to ask outright) or they had already become too close for newcomers to fit in with the others. Rebuilding a social life absolutely sucks.

Over here, politics is okay to discuss at family reunions here because Filipinos generally don't care about ideology. You won't find people dividing themselves into "right," "left," and "centre," and discussing abstract issues. But people like or dislike specific politicians based on their latest actions, without being able to articulate what those politicians stand for. The last time I saw a mixed group squabbling over politics was a couple of years ago, when a super typhoon destroyed one of our cities. The politician who was in charge of relief efforts (and was rumoured to be the one whom the president hoped would succeed him), made a fool of himself on a CNN interview, and the president himself, in an unrelated statement, criticised CNN for making the Philippines look bad. =P Suddenly my office was divided into two camps: the "I always knew that he was dumb; HE'S the one making us look bad" camp and "Why are you being so mean about the president at a time when the country should be united?" camp. LOL! But everyone was more or less pleased that the would-be successor's wife will never get to be first lady now.

Religion might be touchier, if you have "born agains" in the extended family. But in my experience, no one really talks about religion because it's kind of boring. ;-P One reason why Pope Francis is so popular here is that you can talk about him the way you talk about your uncle. ("Did you hear what the Pope did yesterday? It was so cool!") Pope Benedict made the majority of Filipinos go "Huh?" (Uniting the East and the West, promoting the Extraordinary Form the Jesus of Nazareth books the hermeneutic of continuity . . . The average Filipino Catholic can find nothing here to get passionate about.)

Enbrethiliel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheila said...

Well, I certainly won't give up on anybody. The only time I did that, I got some unexpected redemption -- she messaged me out of the blue years later asking if there was a reason we hadn't been in touch, I told her the thing I'd been upset about, and we talked it out peacefully. I wouldn't say we're besties now, but at least I can return to my perfect record of never having absolutely cut off anybody.

I HAVE had it done to me though. And it was miserable; not an experience I'd like to repeat. I guess that's why I'm so nervous now.

But your tip that I shouldn't anticipate it is a good one -- there are a few people I've fallen out of touch with, because I'm afraid writing them a letter or giving them a call would somehow call their attention to this stuff. Which is silly because it's effectively dropping a relationship because I fear they will!

Politics and religion come up constantly with my family, but in general, it's considered rude in any group where you don't know if you agree. Apparently Americans are more politically polarized than ever before -- trumping both racial and religious tensions. This is what makes John's political stuff so unpleasant for me -- I attend events full of Republicans being loudly Republican, saying nasty things about anyone who disagrees, because they are sure no one who disagrees could possibly be present. There was simply NO WAY I could open my mouth in that crowd and say "actually, I believe in increased immigration." No sir.

Religious tensions are milder, but as far as I can tell, it's because everyone is at least *Christian.* I've seen some stigmatization of atheists in my family, even though both of the people in question were never religious in the first place. For a person who *was* religious to become in any way less so ... that's what feels like the betrayal, isn't it?

Oh, for a magic wand that could swish away all my doubts! Presto! Now all my problems are solved!

Cojuanco said...

I'm not sure that doubting, as opposed to outright disbelieving counts as not having faith. I don't think there's any Catholic over 14 years old who has not gone through a version of what you're undergoing. I think you would be considered a Catholic on good standing from where I am sitting. Doubt isn't a sin, after all. Outright rejecting the faith is, but I don't think you are doing that.

The politics bit might be complicating things though. I find that not being involved in partisan politics anymore has helped my faith life. Part of it is the demands of law school, part of it is an increasing cynicism towards politicians and electoral politics generally. Have you tried begging off from attending John's political events?

Honestly, have you tried talking this over with a priest or religious (Not LC, naturally, of course) Just genuinely curious.

Sheila said...

I do want to talk to a priest sometime, but I have a strong dislike to both of our parish priests, and haven't yet found one I trust. :P

The trouble with me and the Church is that I don't seem to have anything to go on. Having doubts has been upsetting in the past, but I was pretty sure I was still "a good Catholic" because I believed *some* of it. There were at least one or two things I really thought were true, and they were enough to hang the rest on -- to say, "oh well, there must be some explanation for the stuff I don't get, but as long as x is true, I know the Church, itself, is true."

But now I'm in a state where I don't actually have ANYTHING in there that I believe even a little. The Church says I should try to resolve my doubts, so I did by seeking out as much information as I could, and the more information I had, the more my disbelief was strengthened. I've given up on that approach because I don't think there is much more information out there than what I've found so far -- certainly nothing that's likely to change my mind. But where do you go from here? Prayer? Hard to pray in this state.

So why am I still hanging around the church door, as it were? Because I like it. It isn't a "spiritual" reason at all. And I don't think that most people would consider that "good enough". If a priest told me it was, I'd be back at the sacraments in a heartbeat, because the only thing that is keeping me back is the thought that I can't even TRY to believe in them anymore, and I should at least be able to do that, shouldn't I? But to me it feels like trying to believe the sky is green: not only impossible, but of course from my perspective untruthful.

Cojuanco said...

Well, the question seems to be, do you WANT to believe? Because if you do (and it seems you do, because you express that if only your doubts about everything could be allayed...), and you still doubt regardless, it seems to be more involuntary doubt, which, like I meant to say, isn't grave matter any more than, say, someone suffering a physical illness is committing a sin.

Like I said, the best solution to this is to meet with a priest. If you live near a university, see if there is a Newman Center, or a similar ministry to university students. Chances are, you're not the first Catholic with this problem that's asked them this.

Also, perhaps you have done this, but perhaps you can also try, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief".

But yes, you need someone much more competent than I or anyone on the internet can be. Schedule an appointment with a priest, especially from one where university students go. Pour it all out, chances are, he's used to it. I'd also mention, if in passing, the whole RC thing, because that might shed some light as to what is wrong.

Good luck, and Godspeed!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I was thinking of being good witnesses again in the shower this evening (where, of course, all my best ideas come to me =P) and I started seeing your point from another angle. WHAT IF my being totally honest about the reason why I am Catholic is actually hurting the Church, because it's such a poor witness? If I thought so, I'd really have a motivation to lie, wouldn't I? LOL!

Now, I happen to think that there's no such thing as a bad reason to be Catholic. Whatever keeps people in the Church is a good thing, though of course there's a hierarchy of reasons. But if there's also a possibility that people not having the "right" reasons keeps others out of the Church, should the Church change?

I'd say yes, insofar as it's wrong to give scandal . . . but otherwise, no. For two reasons: a) "image management" can so easily degenerate into lying and hypocrisy (which is what you're wondering about here); and b) Catholics who can't come up with the "right" reasons (or the "right" anything) would be seen as "bad."

Anyway, I do see what you mean about others' witness being unreliable for you, but all this messiness and unevenness seems to be part of what the Church is--something that we have to take or to leave, but not something that we can fit into a more acceptable mould.

Even in the Age of Martyrdom, there were Christians who were so convinced of the efficacy of baptism that they'd wait right before being thrown to the lions to get baptised, and fill up the time in between with orgies. (I hope I'm remembering that bit of
our history correctly!) They were hardly great witnesses for Christianity, and if I could time travel (Ahem! ;-)) back to their century and miraculously speak fluent Latin to them, my first strategy would be to convince them to accept baptism immediately and to give up the orgies. BUT if that didn't work and the time came for them to die, I wouldn't refuse them baptism or sabotage their attempts to get it. God will sort everyone out in the end.

Sheila said...

"God will sort everyone out in the end. " - Finally something on which we can agree completely. :)

I don't think your reasons for belief are a scandal to me at all! I just think they're not a help. Surely they DO work for you, and I have no complaint about that.

Enbrethiliel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ariadne said...

I definitely second the recommendation to talk to a priest, especially since you're staying away from the Sacraments. The obligation to receive Communion during the Easter season complicates this situation. In my opinion, wanting to believe is enough, and I bet any knowledgeable priest would say the same thing.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I don't know why I can't just be gracious about the two us getting along without trying to argue again! =P Please forget my previous comment, which I've already deleted. Of course I'm delighted that we're both 100% on the same team on one point!

Sheila said...

I had no objection to your previous comment. Leaving other people to God comes more easily for some of us than to others; the important thing is that you do, whatever the reason.

The reason I didn't answer you wasn't because I didn't want to argue, but because I was still in agreement with you and had nothing to add!

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