Now would be the perfect time for me to find religion. As I’ve stated in previous posts, my recent downsizing has put me in a pissed-off mood that would likely be alleviated from the comfort that faith provides.

But it’s just not taking.

I’ve written about it before, but I’ll state it again. There is no kind of bitter ex-Catholic like a bitter Latino ex-Catholic. I spent the first twenty or so years of my life obsessing on God, and now I am spending the ensuing decades obsessing on how religion is messing up the world.
As you can see, Hispanics are not casually Catholic. You are either into it, or you recoil from it. The whole concept of being laidback about religion is alien to most Latinos.

My wife, who was raised Methodist, doesn’t share my preoccupation with religious dogma or interest in Dante’s “Inferno” or creeping fear that “The Exorcist” was actually a documentary. She is far healthier in her relationship to religion.

As a child, I skipped Mass just once. I had the flu that day, and as I sat on the couch hoping that God didn’t strike me down for missing church, I stared at the television in disbelief. Programs continued to play on TV, even during the time that we were supposed to be in church. I had always assumed that the television went off the air from 11:00 am to noon because, after all, nobody was watching because they were all in the pews. My mother had to explain to me that some people did not go to Mass, and I found this more shocking than discovering there is no Santa Claus. She was talking crazy. Who didn’t go to church?

This is not to say that I blame my mother for my upbringing. In fact, she showed the kind of trust and parental responsibility that more adults should display.
When I was sixteen, it was time for me to sign up for confirmation classes. Presented with this opportunity, I took a moment to deliberate and then, as if I were choosing chocolate over vanilla, I told my mother that I didn’t want to be confirmed.
“Why?” she asked.
“I just don’t believe it,” I said.
She nodded and said, “No one can make you believe anything. If you don’t want to do it, then you shouldn’t do it.”
I didn’t recognize the magnitude of her support until later years, when even the most ardent atheistic of my friends admitted that they had been forcefully confirmed in the church of their parents’ choosing. My mother had the right idea: If you don’t believe it, move on.
No, I don’t hate the Catholic Church. Rather, like many Hispanics, being raised Catholic has left me with a spiritual nagging that forces me to ponder the big questions, fruitlessly, when all I really want to do is analyze the odds of my team making the World Series (by the way, those odds could be better).
Neither am I an atheist. It is far too definitive of an answer for me, so clear and simple in its certainty that I have to be skeptical of it. If forced to describe myself, I go with “secular Buddhist agnostic,” and this mish-mash appears to suffice. Or perhaps I am a rationalist like Bill Maher, he of the biting wit and self-satisfied smirk.

Still, the fact that I even address Catholicism in these posts is telling. I can’t seem to let it go.

Of course, there are reasons beyond my own neurosis to revisit this topic. The interplay between Christianity and Hispanic culture has larger societal ramifications.

For example, as I mentioned in a previous post, younger Hispanics are turning away from the Church. What does this mean to the future of Latino culture? Will it be less Catholic, or are these norms so ingrained that there is no altering them, regardless of their direct relevance to the latest generation?

Going further, one could also ask what this means to a country that is, like it or not, getting more Latino. Will this have an impact on, for example, the scary stat that just 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution?

By the way, let’s set aside the point that a better way to phrase the question is, “Do you understand evolution?” rather than making scientific fact a question of belief.

In any case, I don’t know if the poll results are broken down by ethnicity, but I have to assume that several Hispanic Catholics continue to distrust Darwin, even if the Church (to its credit) has said that the theory of evolution is not a threat to spirituality. Will Hispanics still be weary of science in another decade?

If so, it makes me want to cross myself and say a Hail Mary.


4 Responses to “Believe”

  1. April 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Good post.

    I wish that there where more mothers like you who wouldn’t force their kids to get confirmed. I once taught a group of about 15 teenagers and only one was actually ready to make a life commitment to Christ. The rest simply viewed it as irrelevant. I spoke to all the parents and they requested that I be removed from teaching their children religious education.

    You saidly have been raised in a very turbulant time which affected the poor quality and quanity of Catholic education and lack of leadership by example. I think the church in the USA has finally hit bottom, but it will take at least ten years before we can make any headway.

    If nothing else you should be thankful you were raised Irish Catholic you never out grow the guilt. I laughed at you staying home when you had the flew. My dad would make me puke and then ask if I felt better and I said yea somewhat. He said good your going to mass.

    I hope that God will provide you with more opportunities in your life to re-consider reclaiming your Catholic faith.



  2. 2 Allegra
    April 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I enjoyed your post as well. I did the whole Catholic thing until I was 12 when I refused to continue going to church just to appease my mom, who was a lax Catholic and who wanted to give us religious training. My dad, an ex-Catholic, was a vowed atheist who probably was happy that we had abandoned the church. I eventually lived in Moslem W. Africa, married an ex-Catholic Unitarian Universalist, and worked for 15 years in a Catholic seminary. Lots of religion entwined my life.

    After being let go from the seminary, from a job I loved and did extremely well, by a misogynistic gay priest/Rector who was also a lawyer and Vietnam vet, I shed any admiration I had for the Catholic Church.

    I like the new title that you assigned yourself, “secular Buddhist agnostic” but have you ever attended a service at a Unitarian Universalist church? They embody all three possibilities and embrace lots of ex-Catholics.

    Now, I’m just comfortable being a non-religious humanitarian.

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