Grams has spent several days writing and re-writing this post. I realize that it will not be popular and will probably tick some people off to the extreme. But I'm going to publish it anyway, because sometimes you've just got to say what you've got to say. This is one of those times.
Grams was raised in the Southern Baptist Church. When I say that I mean, if the church-house was open, we were there. We went to Sunday School and church services on Sunday morning. We went to training union and evening services on Sunday night. And we went to prayer meeting on Wednesday night. As teenagers our entire social life was centered on the church. We had youth group on Tuesday and sometimes Thursday nights, youth choir on Sunday afternoons, and youth fellowship on Sunday nights. We went to church camp in the summer and usually one or two weekend retreats during the year. Most of my friends were from the church and virtually everyone I ever dated I met at church. By the time I was in high school, I started teaching Sunday School.
Grandad was the only guy I ever dated who was not Baptist. Grandad is Roman Catholic. He never misses mass on Sunday or on Holy Days. He goes to confession regularly and has, at various times, served as a lay minister and director of several parish programs. He even went to the minor seminary with the intent of becoming a priest. Basically, he's as Catholic as I was Baptist.
After we married, we tried attending both churches but it was short-lived. Honestly, every time Grandad walked into a Baptist Church, he acted like he was about to be struck by lightning. After a couple of years, I realized that the basics are the same, it's the trappings that are different. Baptist churches are generally plain and unadorned, Catholic churches are ornate and highly decorated. Catholic priests wear vestments, Baptist ministers wear suits.
As a young bride and before we had children, Grams converted to Catholicism. I just couldn't see trying to raise kids in both churches. I think religion is confusing enough if you're getting the same message all the time. Trying to teach both to a kid ... that's just too much. So after a few months of instruction from a priest, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church on Palm Sunday in 1978.
I said all that to say this, I have spent my life around people who profess faith in God. Most of my friends and acquaintances are self-professed Christians. But I can't help but wonder if they really believe what they claim to believe. Do they practice their religion because that's how they were raised or have they really thought about what they believe and why they believe it?
For example, Catholics believe in "transubstantiation." That means they believe that when the bread and wine are blessed by the priest during mass, they actually become the body and blood of Christ. Let me be clear, they don't believe it represents the body and blood, they believe it becomes the body and blood. But, it has long been my contention that most Catholics don't really believe in transubstantiation. I think that if they really believed that transubstantiation was real, churches would not hold everyone who would want to receive communion. If the faithful really believed that they could receive the actual body and blood of Christ, they would not be able to stay away.
With the exception of about a year in 2003-2004, there has never been a time in my life when I didn't attend Sunday services of some type every single week. Over the past several years, I've come to realize that I'm a product of both my birth and my circumstance. I worship as I do because that's what I've been taught and where I've been, not because of my own investigation or understanding.
I know there are many other religious groups who believe many things and follow different doctrines ... some I agree with and some I don't. But, what I have come to believe in recent years is that modern religion is mostly designed as a control mechanism. It's all about someone controlling someone else. Whether it's birth control, abortion, dancing, or any of a plethora of other subjects, it really is about control.
I'm trying to become more conscious of my own beliefs and my own thoughts. You see ... the bottom line is that I have my own brain and my own conscience and I can think for myself. I don't need the church or anyone else telling me that I have to do this or not do that. Maybe I'm just burned out on church ... or maybe I'm just moving on to the next step. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've lost my faith, but I'd willingly lose my religion!