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.