I was raised Roman Catholic. Mine was a particularly liberal faith, but I was a whole-hearted adherent. I was a member of the church choir, I was a reader at mass, I even taught Sunday school for a while.
During the entire course of my faith experience, I was constantly opposed to the edicts that came from the Vatican – I found their attitude towards gay people offensive, their opinions of abortion completely anti-scientific, and their view on birth control to be face-palmingly moronic. And yet I still considered myself Catholic. After all, most of the Catholics I knew were also decent people who ignored the Pope and lived decent lives.
As I began learning more about this history of the Church, I came to realize that I was a member of an incredibly evil organization. The fact that I personally was not an evil person, and that I personally did not endorse its nonsense became less and less satisfying as a justification for this cognitive dissonance. The few things that my Catholicism had in common with my personal beliefs were overwhelmingly outweighed by the growing moral bankruptcy of the organization.
Long before I left belief in God, I left belief in the Church. Those of you who are not Catholic may not know that at every mass there is what is known as the Profession of Faith. After listing the number of trivia about Jesus/Yahweh, the Profession ends thusly:
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Holy Catholic Church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And life everlasting.
I started omitting pieces (starting with the bit about believing in “The Holy Catholic Church”), bit by bit, until eventually I just stood there silently while those around me muttered the platitudes. It was in church, in fact, that I came to the full realization that I didn’t believe any of those things.
Christmas has always been about family for me. Last year my parents flew out to Vancouver to stay with me, and for the sake of preserving at least one tradition, I accompanied them to church on Christmas morning. I hated every second of it, but I was willing to tolerate it for my family’s sake.
This year I am flying back to Toronto for Christmas. Both of my parents remain Catholic (although I am relatively certain that my father is agnostic), so family time involves church. They may not expect me to attend regular services anymore (they know I don’t believe), but they will undoubtedly be expecting my presence on Christmas morning.
Here’s the crux of my problem: the Catholic Church is really fucking evil. It’s no longer simply a matter of toughing out an hour of stone age nonsense; my presence grants implicit approval to the Church’s anti-humanity agenda. It’s bad enough that I’m still considered Catholic when the Vatican counts its numbers, but to actually have to show up and participate?
I’m happy to attend a speech I don’t agree with, provided there is an opportunity for Q&A at the end, where the speaker can be challenged on her/his assertions. Catholic mass offers no such forum; it is quite literally being preached at for 30 minutes, followed by a pagan blood sacrifice ritual. While I can appreciate the aesthetic appeal of mass in languages other than English, I have no interest in Catholic mass, and it offends me to even be in the room.
So I am stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place – either I attend an event hosted by an enemy of humanity for the purpose of pretending to be part of a community to whom I feel no connection, or I risk a fight and subsequent alienation of my parents (on Christmas Day, no less).
As it stands now I am leaning toward just sucking it up and going. While it is incredibly dishonest and violates my personal beliefs, my own personal discomfiture at being a hypocrite is somewhat outweighed by my wish to survive the holidays. Plus, I got my cousins to donate to CFI in our annual charity Kris Kringle, so I feel I have asserted some level of my personal beliefs into the proceedings.