Of late I have been dissecting all aspects of cultural Catholicism: the imagery, the laziness, the Voodoo of making deals with God and then breaking them. For most of my sentient life, I have counter-posed Catholicism to the world, even though that was not how I was raised. I was raised a church-going, cultural Catholic. Catholicism primarily informed the rhythm of life in a very low key way. While I went from crazy fundamentalist to strange spiritual seeker, reversion to normal life has driven me to chose once again the Faith of my childhood. While some people con-vert, and others re-vert, I think at this point I am in the process of di-verting. As I have put it before, how can I keep the Faith without the Church being all up in my business?
I have seen so many “committed” Catholics do, say, and believe so many bizarre and disturbing things that I have come to the conclusion that it is almost better for your soul to not take your religion very seriously. Or, to put it more bluntly, if religion is becoming a way for you to be a better asshole [or even, I would add, is just making you miserable without doing anyone else any good], it is best if you just dump it altogether. God doesn’t need to help people be worse jerks than they already are [nor any help in making you or other people more miserable].
The philosophical morale of the story is to put more faith in the things of God than in the skill and understanding of man. Going to Mass once in a while is better than going to Mass under the pretext of being the “last good Christians on earth”, or of social conservative engineering. Openly expressing doubts about this doctrine or the other is better than living in a Potemkin fortress village the walls of which anyone can see through. A soccer player making the Sign of the Cross before coming on the field is far better than the social critics who think that a Puritan God showers His decent bourgeois elect with earthly blessings. In “cultural Catholicism”, the thing is primary: not one’s perception independent of it. The symbol, in all of its earthiness, does not change. How you believe in it and how you employ it does.
Lying to yourself is just as much a lie, and just as much a sin, as any other lie. Yet so many Catholics do this every day.