mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In the corner, choosing my religion....

Sometimes, I'll read a book on a subject I normally won't, just because I've read other things by the author that I liked. That's why I recently picked up Steven Dubner's Turbulent Souls (evidently also re-released under the title "Choosing my Religion". Dubner, of course, is co-author, with Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics, the book that made economics fun for lots of people (except me, because I always thought it was fun).

Dubner's parents were both Jewish, but converted to Catholicism and were quite serious about it. His father battled depression thoughout his life and died when Steven was 10. Steven drifted away from the church, but then eventually began exploring his Jewish roots and the Jewish faith, and eventually converted to Judaism - much to his mother's dismay.

Dubner's book brought on a bunch of emotions, because religion is something I've found myself struggling with for the last 10 years or so. My parents are very Catholic, heavily involved in the church, and accepting of all of the church's teachings. I went to Catholic school my entire life. I chose to go to a Catholic college, and I think I was on some level hoping that it would make me more religious, but it didn't.

I envy my parents for their deep faith, their certainty that there is a world after this one and that they are on the right path to it. I'm not always so sure.

I tend to think there is a God. I can't really explain the existence of the world, the reason for being, how nature just kind of works, without believing that something bigger than myself, than humans, was involved. Even if the world came into being from a single atom in a big bang, what made that atom?

But I struggle with the details. Believing that what happens in life is part of God's plan makes life easier to understand, makes bad things and pain and death easier to deal with, but I'm not always sure that there is a plan, that there is an afterlife where the injustice of this world is made right.

And that makes the details of Catholicism harder to accept - it's prescriptions on the details of everyday life. As a result, I tend to ignore the ones I don't like, to be a cafeteria Catholic who picks and chooses what he follows. But I'm also so steeped in the church's teachings that I feel guilty about the stuff I don't follow - but not guilty enough, evidently, to actually follow it.

My reasons for following the Church at all are several. As I said, I do tend to lean towards their being a God, and thus it follows that I should probably participate in some sort of worship and prayer of said God. Following the religion that I was raised in is obviously the path of least resistance when it comes to choosing a religion, and that's what I've done. It keeps my parents happy, and I can't imagine how upset and heartbroken they would be if I stopped going to mass. My mom also cleverly asked me to save the church bulletins from my church so that she could read them (and presumably, to prove that I'm going to church). This isn't to say that my parents aren't tolerant of people with other religious beliefs - but I think that they would prefer their son not be one of them.

I guess I could start church-shopping - reading about other religions, trying other churches, see if there is a religion out there that does a better job of explaining why I'm on this earth, and what I should do about it. But that seems disloyal, seems like a recipe for family discord and more personal guilt. Unlike Dubner, I don't have another religion in my family tree to turn to for answers, to pull me in.

In fact, tradition is one thing I like about remaining (nominally) Catholic. It provides me a link to my past, when I was a child in Catholic grade school, rocking the plaid tie and uniform pants, believing without question everything the nuns said. Going to mass with the 'rents on Christmas, Easter, on Sundays when I visit them for the weekend feels comfortable, feels like something that ties me to them and to earlier generations of the MadFamily.

So I remain, torn between tradition and instinct, between what I feel like what I should believe and what I'm not sure if I believe.


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