Where I'm At
My friend Carol wrote in Day Thirty-Five's comments:
...I am always fascinated and respectful of people who are willing to try to hang in there notwithstanding questions and criticisms of their birth religion. Our friend Molly is like that; although she shares our difficulties with Catholicism, she's grappled with those questions and arrived at different conclusions. I respect her for that even though I just can't get to the same place.
I am in a different place from both Carol and Molly. I don't consider myself Catholic except as an identity that says more about my history and upbringing than it does about my current beliefs, but I would never convert to another religion. Of all the religious or philosophical systems I've studied, I would say Buddhism is the best. "Best" as in most useful in helping you live a good and rewarding life, and "best" at understanding what human life is really like. However, I don't consider myself a Buddhist. When I stopped being a practising Catholic, I decided I would never call myself any "thing" again. As I mentioned before, when I call myself "Catholic" it's about how I was brought up and what I was conditioned to believe.
When I had to go to church, I hated the weirdness and supernatural ideas of Catholicism. I wanted answers and sense from religion. I didn't want the mystery or "it's a matter of faith". I resented money being spent on decorating churches that could have been given to the poor. I wanted people to think for themselves rather than listen to a priest. Essentially I wanted to be a Protestant. Now I'm 180 degrees from where I once was. I don't go to church, but I love the craziness of the Catholic religion and am thankful that it is part of my heritage and my psyche. The weeping statues, bread that turns into flesh, scary demons that need exercising, a Virgin Mother who likes to visit Europe, babies floating around in Limbo...Catholic craziness is what gave me my imagination, and for that, I am thankful. (I'm a little less thankful for the terrifying nightmares it gave me as a child.) Falling away from the church gave me the desire to study other religions and an interest in their craziness. Just as Mr. Contrary experienced a spiritual awakening when he rejected the notion of soul and embraced materialism (see Day Thirty-One), he learns to appreciate the uniqueness of the Catholic church only when he is no longer a member.