April 22, 2011

I sometimes make snide comments about my religion.  One might infer that I don’t take my faith seriously.  That may be partially true, but it’s not the whole picture.

To me, it seems inherently flawed to use the catechism of the Catholic Church, or any religion, as a checklist to be carried to the threshold of paradise and stamped like a golf scorecard.  Can one really earn more frequent flyer miles on angelic wings by bowing one’s head at the proper time during the creed, by abstaining from meat during certain hours, or by drinking consecrated wine from only gold cups?  Is such minutia important in the grand scheme of things?

Occasionally though, something will break through my jadedness and remind me why I’m at church in the first place—reaffirming a basic truth inside of me.  A few weeks ago, such a reminder came unexpectedly in the words of St. Paul.

… You are not in the flesh; … you are in the spirit …  Romans 8:8

I would imagine that this sentiment, though simplistic, is foundational for the faith of many people—regardless of their religion.  People are spirits, souls temporarily journeying through a physical world.

Most people can relate a story about a particularly spiritual experience.  Many that I’ve heard involve feeling connected—to each other, to nature, to the universe.  Sometimes these experiences happen under the auspices of religion, but other times they originate at an event, in a book, or with an epiphany while reading a jar of peanut butter in the grocery store.

I vividly remember reading the conclusion of The Grapes of Wrath almost eighteen years ago.  The story, a hopeful journey at the beginning, had become depressing and disturbing toward its finish.  But the last paragraph, the last line, and particularly one word, suddenly and violently upended my impressions of the book, casting it in a completely different light.

In that upheaval, something tripped inside me.  I had spent the summer session in my usual self-imposed isolation from people around me.  A few days remained in the semester after Steinbeck had clunked me over the head.  I actually invited some of the guys on my floor to my dorm room for game of euchre one night.  I understood a connection between myself, the guys and, by extension, the whole world.

At those rare times when we break through to the spiritual realm, we accept; we love; we share; we forgive.

Religions are born of such experiences.  (I’ve not attempted to develop a theological doctrine based on The Grapes of Wrath and euchre, though.)  It’s clear that the epiphanies and events that founded the major world religions passionately moved many people.

Even in our modern age, religions provide us a context to discuss and accept spiritual ideas.  They provide a venue to express our spiritual passion through art, song, food, dance and gatherings.

The paradox of religions today is that their organizations, culture and traditions can become barriers to spiritual experience.  In an effort to standardize, institutionalize, sanitize and economize religion for the masses, the spirit is easily lost.

Some would tell me that I’m unfaithful or even blasphemous to make snide comments about my religion.  Or that I’m some naysayer who promotes any religion but my own.

I disagree, of course.  I want people to see the bigger picture—to see all the aspects in which people are similar in faith, rather than different.  I want people to attach less importance to religious details that inherently divide us, and more importance to the spirit that unites us.



  1. Hello Craig,

    There is an old book with the title,”I was raised Catholic. Does it Show?” I never read it because I sensed what it had to say. :-)

    Scott Peck, in his famous book, “The Road Less Traveled,” categorized people into 4 area: non-believers, believers, agnostics and spiritually enlightened/spiritually alive (something like that). He said that from his experience, the agnostics were ahead of the “believers” in belief, if that makes any sense. In order to become a truly spiritual person/soul, one had to reject what one was encumbered with first.

    Your struggle is therefore appreciated. It takes courage to question and to think things through. It is only those who somehow on their own struggle through to arrive at a sense of “pan-religion” who will lead us to a new level of transcending those aspects of religion that bind us apart to those levels that bind us all back to God, the true root meaning of religion.

    Best wishes.

  2. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful reply.

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