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A beautiful piece. A poignant flip side to Ana Marie Cox's recent post about becoming a Christian and avowing it. Cradle Catholics are a distinct subset of Christendom. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, even if you stop believing. I find comfort in that anomaly.

And for what it's worth, I'm also always astonished each Easter Vigil when new catechumens are received into the faith and parish. SUCH a cliche, but they are inevitably truly every age, race, "class." And I think, why are you doing this? How can the Catholic Church possibly be attractive to anyone? The corruption is staggering. It's one thing to remain in a faith I've always known, which even years of Women's Studies didn't dispel. But I can't imagine coming to it. And yet, there they are, year after year. There are better, less corrupt places to find company. Better, less corrupt places to encounter Christ. But on THIS rock He built His church, and so they come. . .

D. Hyland

I miss the professionalism I had attained as an altar boy by 8th. grade. Lighting the candles with the long brass lighter; operating the push-button electronic chimes at designated times; reciting, by heart, the Latin phrases in answer to the priest I do not miss the Sundays when I was not scheduled to serve. Boring. Except for the high holy masses conducted on Christmas and especially Easter. The church would be filled in every nook and cranny with pots of white lilies. The fragrance, combined with incense, was intoxicating. Magical. I also did a stint in the choir for a year or so before my voice broke. That was fun because all the girls were up there and only 4 or 5 of us guys. Looking down on the pews from on-high. Then, in a fairly sudden way, the magic was gone. Went to mass every Sunday with the parents through high school. Went away to college; went to mass for a few Sundays and then just stopped. Only weddings and funerals since.

Lucy Montrose

Our need for company has become twisted and distorted.

Americans have seemingly lost the ability to enjoy the company of people not sufficiently like themselves. Not "get along"... getting along is tolerating someone, the bare minimum of working together. But seeing the dignity in each person and appreciating their addition to your world, regardless of whether they are similar to you or not.

Demanding that first the people around us fit into our lives, so that they may deserve to be our "company"; is just taking company and turning it into another material benefit. Got nothing in common with me? You have insufficient Similarity Points(tm)? Be off with you! You're not part of MY tribe.
And so the loving community that is so vital to a sense of human well-being, becomes contingent. It gains a price of admission we can't-- or don't want to-- pay.

The toxic ethos of the Religious Right is really about fitting in. Dropping God into everything becomes a way to gain instant legitimacy and credibility. The day doing this ceases to become something we must do to socially survive, is the day we will be free.

Sometimes I hate that humans are social creatures. That means we will not do anything that's going to lose us friends and community... even if those things are closer to doing "God's work". A community that has the Religious Right as leaders is going to require joylessness and prejudice.

Our task is to lessen the social cost of disagreement with our peers and leaders. Because no one should have to choose between having friends and being their best selves.


Lance, I'm pretty sure God appreciates sincere questions from doubters much more than hollow praise from unexamined hearts. Keep asking. Sure, it'd be nice if all church communities were like the one Paul yearned for in Philipi -- united for common good, considering others better than ourselves, looking out for their interests. Alas there are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people. But our own yearning leaves us thirsty and hints that there's much more than this present world has to offer.


Finally got around to reading this piece. I don't subscribe to any organized religion but I envy those who can fully commit to one set of beliefs without doubt. There's a comfort in that is unreachable for me. That said, I've always been fascinated by religions and adopt such of their many rituals as suit by own spiritual needs. I was not raised in the Catholic church but Mother Mary has been my patron saint for decades now. I think she's real because I believe group synergy can create actual existence.

Michelle W.

This article brought tears to my eyes. I've never read anything that expressed what I've felt as an adult non-believer who was raised in the church, and as a minister's daughter, no less. As a woman and ultimately, also a lesbian, I found the church to be unwelcoming and an entity that I could not identify with. Of course, things have changed over the years as now many protestant congregations ordain women into the ministry and affirm the lives and relationships of gays and lesbians. I have come to accept that I am no longer a christian. But I feel the sense of loss, just as the author does. Thank you for so eloquently expressing what it is like.

Philip Ebersole

If you still feel the urge to go to church on Sunday, you might consider a Unitarian Universalist Church. You would get the sense of community and you wouldn't be required to pretend to agree with things you no longer believe in.

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