• View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Roman Catholic

Fifth in an ongoing series of dispatches from the pew (Week 1–Mormon Church, Week 2–Jehovah’s Witnesses, Week 3–Christian Science, Week 4–Seventh Day Adventist).

Part 1 is all of my live tweets from a Roman Catholic Easter service.

Part 2 gives my impressions of a brief conversation with the parish’s deacon about church finances and evidence for its claims.

Part 1

*bring fresh baked bread… Please forgive the typos–I’m tweeting hard and fast as things come at me:

*Now… Damn the typos. Full speed ahead!

Part 2

After the astonishingly brief service I moved quickly to catch a member of the clergy before they all split. I ran into The Deacon, B., on his way out the front door (he was the one that splashed me with holy water during the service).

B. was very friendly and happy enough to answer my questions. After some small talk I asked him, “So why are you Catholic and not Methodist or even Muslim?”

“That’s a difficult question that deserves a better answer than I can give you in a few minutes,” he answered. “But in short it’s because Catholicism seems to tie up all the loose ends of life better than anything else.” He went on to describe how Catholicism alone requires the believer to extend the meaning of his faith into the lives of others (I’m not sure that this is true, but I didn’t bother to challenge him on it).

“You mean by serving them?” I asked.

“Sure, yes—service,” he replied. Nothing B. cited as a reason for the specificity and strength of his convictions approached even a mediocre standard of evidence. So it goes.

“Will you tell me about finances? What does it cost to be a member of your parish?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Sure—it doesn’t cost a thing. You aren’t obligated to pay any money, that is. But we accept donations. Some people even tithe themselves as a matter of principle,” he explained.

I went on, “What if I want to know about how the money is used? Is there some way to find out?”

“Our parish publishes basic financial details regularly and if you really wanted to you could look at a more detailed report, I think,” B. replied.

“Is this true for the whole Catholic church or just your parish?” I asked.

“The whole Catholic church, more or less,” B. answered.

B. didn’t go on to explain how the money is actually used and I didn’t care to press him. It troubles me that this information isn’t volunteered as a matter of course (“We proudly donate 2/3 of the money to third-party charities more capable of direct humanitarian aid than ourselves and retain a small portion of our income for parish expenses,” for example).

I followed up with one more question, “Those 37 baptisms the other day–were they all babies or were there some adults, too?”

B. answered that there were some adults, too. This is sad but unsurprising. When our cultural standard for truth is a delusion that what we want to be true really is true (faith) meets the kind of indoctrination practiced by religious institutions such as the Roman Catholic church even otherwise intelligent adults make such errors. Faith is a vice, not a virtue.

To be perfectly frank Roman Catholicism is remarkably uninspiring–this is in comparison to the bizarre cults which I visited previously. I’m not sure if this says more about Roman Catholicism or me…

Until next time, dear reader. Stay rational!


7 thoughts on “• View from the Pew: Dispatches of a Church-going Atheist–Roman Catholic

  1. Easter Sunday at a parish with guitars? I’m not sure those are the best places to learn about Catholicism, although perhaps someone on the outside would not see the difference as clearly as I do. I’m an atheist now, but I was raised in the Latin Mass, even though I was born after the English Mass became common.

    I’d be happy to help if you have any questions, and I can even point you to some resources about what Catholicism claims as evidence if you would like. Obviously, I don’t find it to be convincing, but it’s good to know what you might be up against!

    • Fascinating. I did not realize that the widespread transition from Latin to English was so recent, relatively speaking.

      I would be interested to know what the Catholic church cites officially as evidence for divine mandate if it does any such thing (presumably it does).

      Thank you and cheers, warebec!

      • Yes, the Mass began to be celebrated in English around 1970 (I don’t know the exact year offhand), and it became common in America sometime after that.

        The Catholic Church would typically cite Bible verses such as Matthew 16:17-19 for evidence that Christ founded the church and the pope has authority. Naturally, this would not be convincing to anyone who does not already accept the Bible as evidence, but the authority of the pope/church is the main difference between Protestants and Catholics.

        Catholics typically use all of the same arguments for the existence of god and why we should trust the Bible, so there’s very little new there. I recommend looking up Peter Kreeft if you want to see what they are, but there’s no substantial difference between his arguments and those of William Lane Craig, especially in the ability they have to convince skeptics.

        Oh, and typically infant baptisms occur throughout the year and Easter Vigil (the night before Easter) baptisms are mostly adult converts. Because the Church teaches that unbaptized infants might go to Hell if they die (Original Sin), it is typically encouraged to baptize babies within a month of birth. I agree with your assessment above that it is sad that adults can be fooled into believing these things, but I also think the Catholic Church is the most internally consistent brand of Christianity.

      • Warebec,

        Thanks for this insight–very interesting. It sounds like your knowledge of this subject is extensive. I appreciate you chiming in.


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