Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Pack Animals

There is an interesting story by 17 year-old Esteban Garcia at L.A. Youth about how this young man, who had lost his faith in Catholicism, regained it.

It's not fair to credit too much my "reading between the lines" but I found a striking amount that supports the "social glue" theory of the origin and continuance of religious belief.

Garcia describes losing his faith under the scourge of learning about evolution and his opposition (not lost) to the Church's teachings on gay marriage, contraception, women's equality and the like. Then he attends a retreat in preparation to confirmation (that he cannot avoid because of family pressures). A number of quotes will make my point:

[M]y aunt was the confirmation coordinator and I didn't want to cause any problems ...

The teachers broke us up into groups and told us to draw things that represented the Catholic faith. I'm competitive and wanted to show some leadership, so I suggested a circle because Catholicism teaches about the Church's universality. Everyone agreed and the adult leading our group thanked me.

We moved on to other activities that surprisingly made the day more tolerable. We did an activity with a soccer ball and a few others that stressed the same ideals: team-building, mutual respect and comfort in faith.

[T]hey played a video that showed scenes of teens with their voices in the background, proclaiming, "I'm Catholic!" The video showed five teens explaining the importance of their faith. ... They were people of all ethnicities united by this massive organization, the Catholic Church. In several scenes, they seemed carefree and friendly, as they were running, biking and doing other activities. I couldn't help but have some pride in at one time being a member of such a force.

My reading [of a passage of scripture at Mass] wasn't anything especially moving but being in front of everyone and having to present the words of their faith made me feel included.

I thought back to my First Communion five years before, to my teachers as my first guides, to sitting in the pews of church on Sunday mornings and appreciating the calm and the smells and the warmth of the church.

I felt chills [after reading letters from his "godparents"] but from what I didn't know. It was uncontrollable. Something massive was happening but I still remained reluctant. It was pride. I couldn't accept being absorbed into something I felt I had been disconnected from.

At this point, my eyes were moist. I had goose bumps and my heart was racing. Memories of church, of our nativity scene, of paintings of Christ with his arms outstretched, of reading about Christ walking the Via Dolorosa (the path through Jerusalem on which he carried the cross on the way to his crucifixion), of our rosary prayers, of the excitement of my First Communion, and of my family history so strongly intertwined with the faith danced in my mind.

[B]eing around people united by their shared faith recharges me.

Look, I have no intention of denigrating this young man's "reconversion." We all have to find our own paths through the vicissitudes of life. And this young man has at least learned that it is not wrong to think, and rethink, our solutions. My only point is that we are all subject to the siren call of belonging.

In some ways, he has a leg up on some atheists I know.

..he has a leg up on some atheists I know

you old irrationalist, you! :-)
Yeah, I know. I've had some recent lessons in "life sucks and then you die" and am feeling more amenable to "whatever gets you through the nite" ...

It'll pass.
This is why, whatever a Dawkins or Myers might hope and believe, agnosticism and atheism will never replace religion in our societies while human beings remain as they are.

Facing your own, and others, mortality makes you wish there were something else because, otherwise, the prospect is bleak.

Personally, I look forward to the time when we can download our minds into more durable android bodies. Unfortunately, I doubt that advance will arrive in time for any of us.
So, the writer would have been just as happy if he belonged to the Mystic Knights of the Sea.
Probably not, as he and his family didn't have any history with the Mystic Knights of the Sea.
My hard times - especially the death of my father, was when I was hardened in my conviction that believing in something just because it feels good would cheapen my life.
hey John. Esteban here. I happened to be searching for my article in Google because I knew other sites had picked it up and came across your blog. Just an update: Still Catholic (it hasn't "passed" :)) and still growing in my faith and questioning things. Now a sophomore at Georgetown University, where a Catholic identity beholds no one to any one ideology or organized institution, but is the basis for beautiful and thorough education in the greatest sense of the word. I hope all is well with you
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