Hi boys and girls. Been a while since I've been here. And yeah, yeah, I keep saying I'll get the links and comments back up and running. It's sort of turned into the birdhouse kit that's still in its component pieces on the shelf in your garage . . .
I'm up at 3:30 AM (although it's actually 5:00 now--I've been surfing). I'm up because I had something I rather treasured this morning: One instant of pure faith.
Those of my regular readers (both of them) who've been reading this work for a while know that I generally avoid comment on religious issues, except to point out that aside from the most rabid extremists in any camp, few of us actually believe that it's right or necessary to force our morality onto others beyond a few basic fundamentals. Except possibly for the current US president, who believes in the Constitution the way some fundies believe in the Bible, except for the three or four amendments he's proposed (which for some odd reason were not included by the Founding Fathers).
In fact the Constitution of the United States is a fine example of why it's wise to be cautious in accepting a given text as (ahem) gospel. The slave-owning, hard-drinking, womanizing heads of the rabble of some 35,000 or so that would one day become the most powerful nation-state on the planet could not conceive of the nation of 250 million they were creating.
In most countries, (i.e. Europe and particularly England) the tremendous freedom of the individual was grown organically, as part of a process having to do with an increasingly wide world-view on the part of the citizenry. In England the process began with the Magna Carta, which may be the first written bill of rights.
However, no-one today would say that the Magna Carta should be imposed full force on the populace simply because it's a text with the weight of history behind it (some three times more history than the Constitution).
I don't argue with the idea that the US Constitution is a handy document, but its sacred status keeps getting in the way: George Bush seeks to modify it to ban gay marriage, but as far as I can tell, would scream were the same logic used to justify suspending the second amendment.
As far as I can follow the logic, God likes guns, not gays.
Anyway: to return to my theme: My regular readers (both of them) know that I was raised Catholic, and that I facetiously claim to be Catholic on odd weeks and athiest on evens. This of course is a very simplistic way of putting it.
"I used to be a Catholic; until I reached the age of reason."
You don't shake off the conditioning of seventeen years overnight--or even over seventeen more years. I feel the "void" that people blab about--but they're talking about "the abscence of God in your life". I'm thinking about the abscence of ritual and community.
We have no real rituals. We do not gather as a tribe for any purpose. We meet at bridge groups, curling clubs, raffles and garage sales . . . and at church. But I can't do that anymore.
Like most western Catholics of this day and age I hold positions that are anaethma to the teachings of the Church: I think gays are okay, and that marriage is, when you come right down to it, a simple property-and-support agreement which needs to be respected by a state, but 'sanctified' by only those who feel like doing so. The Church need not perform gay marriages (that'd be like getting John Ashcroft to light your bong).
Abortion is probably murder--after some period of time
. Let me ask you this: Is two cells a person? How about one? At least Catholicism is consistent: No birth control is good birth control (Yes, it's a stupid position from the standpoint of any third-world nation. That's not the point yet). So if two cells isn't a person, how about five hundred undefined cells? How about a thousand? Etc.
If we as a society had any guts at all, we'd mandate a date-past-conception beyond which all necessary and reasonable measures would be taken to save a fetus, and before which it would be perfectly legal to abort. But you won't hear that
one on Parliament Hill because it represents neither of the extremes.
I approve of birth control, the church doesn't. As an argument in my favour: Have you seen
some of the people out there?
And the Church compounds this with the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility. This thousand-plus-year-old idea essentially says that the Pope is chosen by God through the Cardinals (not the baseball team--God deserted them) and therefore is incapable of making a mistake.
Sorry? Let's have that again. Have you seen the current office-holder? Honestly, I love John Paul the Second. As popes go he's a damn fine man and again, consistent. He does not attempt to reform the church in line with modern political thought because in his eyes, the Church is constant. But he's over eighty, he has parkinson's and he drools. We wouldn't let him run a bake sale in any other capacity. He should have retired long since.
But he has a point. If all people lived as Catholics are enjoined to live, the world would be both a peacable and charitable place. Never forget that the Inquisition, which so many people point to as the ultimate symbol of the Evil of Catholicism, was a blot on the record of the church whose influences are among the most civilising of all. Never forget that the Jesuits had quinine before anyone else. And that Michalangelo was not a Baptist (otherwise he'd have painted God in a nice blue Moss Bros. pinstripe, no doubt).
For those who claim that the church is somehow wrong because it's "wealthy" but allegedly doesn't "do anything" with that wealth. Ever heard of the House of Saud? The Sultan of Bahrain? I'd include the House of Windsor (Hapsburg), but the Queen is a welfare mother by comparison to those two. How about Oral Roberts and ilk?
The Catholic church was a primary stimulus for civil rights, in which it contains the seeds of its own undoing, because civil rights causes ride cheek-by-jowl with some other ideas that the Church isn't fond of. The CC is even dodgy on women's rights.
I've taken a long time to get here, but basically this was to show that I really am of two minds about the Church. It was my cradle, and the seat of my childhood faith. I know next to nothing about its history per se
(although I'm not entirely ignorant of it), for I was raised in a largely secular age and semi-secular nation. My father was educated by Jesuits, yet I sometimes wonder about the strength of his belief. My mother is a deeply devout Catholic woman. It must occasionally kill her to have her three children all having lived in sin (two of them married the other sinner involved).
I grew up in a church, left it in the bravado of my teens, and attend sporadically. What's at issue here is no longer my political positions. It's faith. For the first time I'm really working over what I believe not so much about God, as about the universe.
Because religiosity is different from faith. One can find endless examples: Priests bugger choirboys, "peaceful" religions espouse hatred, and the less said of Scientology the better.
For me, the question has for a long time been: Do I believe in a God at all? I mean the big-beard-in-the-sky of my childhood doesn't cut it anymore. The "wise and benevolent" one is problematic. To quote "Deteriorata":
"Therefore make peace with your God, whatever you conceive Him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin"
So who am I making peace with? I have yet to find a God I consider my moral superior. I mean, if you were friggin' all-powerful would you let this sxxt go on? Would you allow Darfur to burn?
Anyway. For a shining moment today at 3:30 AM I awoke and lay there holding onto one thread of shining 100% belief that there was a God, and that he had everything under control.
Then I read the news and thought "you bastard