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Jan 2

Mass Indifference

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 in Family, Philosophy, Rantings

I had one of those ‘almost’ conversations the other night.  It was an ‘almost’ conversation because it didn’t actually happen, but I imagined it taking place for a full 20 minutes before I decided against broaching it.  This was unfortunate because I was watching one of the Sopranos final series at the time, and  I’m always too embarrassed to ask the Accidental Terrorist to rewind after I’ve had a zone-out session.  It’s a very flaky thing to do, and saying something like; “Sorry, love, could you press pause for a while, I have some serious thinking to do…”  sounds so pretentious.


The conversation would have started with this question:

“Hey babe, after all those long talks about religion and belief and all that, I’m feeling a little hypocritical.  How bad would it really be if we decided not to celebrate our family stuff through the church at all?”

The conversation would have lasted a good three hours, and I think I already know where it would end – this is why it was an ‘almost’ conversation.  See?


Our kids still haven’t been Christened.  Well that’s not entirely true… Laughing Boy was very sick as a baby and we were faced with a numbing ‘just in case’ situation.  A nun called into his hospital room one morning with an old brown suitcase.  Inside was a bible, holy water, some lace to represent a Christening gown, and other various religious accoutrements.  We had asked her only to give him a blessing, but instead she went the whole hog.  It was quite sad at the time seeing as his daddy wasn’t even there.

As for puppychild, well… I’ve just been putting it off.  She’s three now, and my dear mum keeps offering to help me arrange a local Christening, saying it’s as easy as dropping a hot spud.  She even offered up her garden for a small party.  I just can’t pick up the damn phone to start the ball rolling.

Then there’s the wedding.  Being the Queen of my family, it’s up to me to arrange such a gig.  I’ve never been one for the white wedding and the flowers and the horses and the horses d’ouvres and all that.  A massive cash injection for something that’s supposed to be intimate?  I don’t get it.  I’d rather go abroad or do something different… a scuba wedding maybe.

I blamed myself, this laziness bug that lives with me.  Time speeds by and before you know it, you’re three years behind yourself.  This is partially true, but I’ve been listening to this other voice that’s telling me to be true to myself and to my family lately.  You’d be lying!  it tells me.    You can’t renounce something you don’t believe in!  Your sins are your own, there for learning, not for shame!  You’re feeding that poor priest a whole lot of crap, but what did he ever do to you?  Be honest!!!  Strap on a pair!!!

I played guitar for a local choir recently.  I lasted two weeks.  I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of what the priest was saying… something about the passover, about Israelites having to slaughter livestock to save their first-born from the wrath of God.  Everyone was chanting and mumbling like a gang of Templars, leaving me wondering whether it was I who was blind, or all the others?  I remember mass as a child, how awesome it all was… people dressed up in finery, pictures of torture on the walls, wine, candles, and a man who was murdered horribly on his 33rd birthday.  How could a kid not want to know more?

Now though, I think I know enough. 

Why is it so hard to find a way to celebrate family affairs in a way that feels right?  The God I believe in, the God of two halves that set this whole comedic opera in play for whatever reason, hasn’t given me any signs yet.  An even bigger problem yet is the breakaway.  To claim that the Church and God are two different things altogether, is like disrespecting your elders, but on a massive scale to me.  I think this is why so many people have Santa syndrome.  They continue holding masses for family occasions, they leave their auntie’s present of a Sacred Heart on the wall, and carry on blessing themselves as they pass cemeteries.  If they stop and listen to logic it all might go away and their family structure would dissolve.  They would be frowned upon, and would fear that the gates of heaven would close, even though they probably have the key in their pockets anyway.

Ireland needs more options.  It feels like we’re sitting in the front row of class here… we’re being watched like a hawk with no chance of passing any notes to the Buddhists in the back row.  The Muslims are outside sunning themselves on their prayer mats, the Taoists have already graduated, and the Extremists have jumped out the window.  It feels like there’s no-one else to talk to except the Protestants – even they seem to be seeing things a whole lot clearer than us Catholics.

Would anyone object to my starting my own ‘Church of the Open Mind’?  Do you think it would catch on? 


‘Careful now!’

Bring on the comments

  1. Baino says:

    I’d come!

    I share your angst. I’m the daughter of a Welsh Evangelist, was raised a Protestant, married a Catholic and did all the right sacrements with my kids who are now agnostic. Go figure! Just don’t go all Pentacostal and speaking in tongues! (Makes for difficult comprehension of blog!)

  2. Grannymar says:

    K8, I think you need a chat with Elly.

  3. Deborah says:

    Ugh – I feel very similar. If you look at things logically there doesn’t seem to be any omnipotent being at all. I guess that’s where faith comes in right? Faith and belief are two different things I guess but I can’t master either one. My two are christened, but more for the avoidance of a family argument than anything else. The husband is still a heathen. My Mam wants me to baptise him in his sleep! Will be a toughie when it comes to the first communion… well probably more the confirmation. When I left America they were doing the two together and here it’s around age 12. Are you seriously telling me someone that age can make that decision? I did it at about 14 not out of any choice or willingness to confirm baptismal vows, but because I’d be kicked out of the house if I didn’t. The church is definitely a quagmire. Especially here. There is no sense of community – it’s get in, mumble some prayers, get out. Don’t talk, take your coat off or smile at anyone then mow everyone down as you try to get out of the car park. Nothing to make you want to belong. Then in the US you have the other end of the spectrum where you have to introduce yourself to people around you before mass or stand up if you’re a visitor – everything is sung making mass well over the hour and it’s just all a bit OTT. Have heard good things about the Church of Ireland though… you can just show up and if you’ve been baptised there is no conversion or anything. Keep meaning to look into it… but it would kill the parents… But I digress… suffice it to say I understand! Happy New Year!

  4. I was baptised by my granny in the kitchen sink. She got a legitimate job done when I was 5, the first one was on the sly :-) It’s a funny one, I like the Taoist approach, we really cannot comprehend the ineffable, it’s in the name, duh! I think of the more spiritual side of things as the real show behind what we can perceive (my most recent post alludes to it, must be the time of year for that kind of thing?). Most religion is window dressing and a pragmatic form of controlling the masses that evolved through the middle ages. I mean, what god cares it you eat pork or shellfish? However not doing so in a hot climate is pretty good advice. It’s just back then if a bloke said “Don’t eat pork” the answer would be “why?”, as they didn’t know about parasites and microbes it’s easier to say “It displeases God, that’s why your husband died!”. Personally I have no issue with viewing my catholicism as a bit of a buffet (I’ll have a bit of redemption, but hold the mortification if you will) and as for the kids, I think that an awareness of organised religion is good, and it’ll give em something to rebel against in later life :-) Anyway, Lao Tze had some good stuff to say, the later Taoists got into the whole pursuit of eternal life and excessive tantric activities. Though Sun Tzu was a good example of a pragmatic Taoist. Did I have a point?

  5. Granny says:

    How about we have a mass family general anaesthetic and when we wake up it will be all done by some kind vicar who can do
    the photographs too.
    I could pay for you to have your front teeth fixed at the same time. Oh heck, lets just get the magistrate out to the house here and we could throw up a tent. Or we could just throw up?

  6. Kirk M says:

    The church is not God. The church (any physical church) is a temple. What did God tell his people not to build unto him?

    Believing in God and Jesus is one thing.

    Knowing deep down that religion is all wrong is just common sense.

    God made man. Man invented religion. Then man fought every war he ever fought because of it.

    Not all religions involve a God.

    It’s damn hard to unlearn those things you learned as a child.

    To thine own self be true, Amen!

  7. “Church of the Open Mind” works for me….or “Church of the Chocolate Kimberly”. I think people of the latter faith would enjoy receiving communion more than their open-minded brethern.

    For as long as I can remember I have found it curious that if 100 people gather once a week, lead by somebody dressed in flowing robes to perform some ceremony and chant mindlessly they are called a cult – but when millions do it, its organised religion.

    Lead on K8!

  8. K8 says:

    Baino! First Disciple you are so. I always thought Pentacostal sounds like a Greek holiday resort. Funny that.

    Grannymar; I think I and Elly need a chat with God ;)

    Deborah; I appreciate how lucky I am not to have very Catholic relatives (that I see regularly) who like to put pressure on conformity. My biggest worry here is that if I don’t Christen my children, will they feel very left out at Communion/Confirmation? It is, after all, turning into a bit of a fashion show…

    Thriftcriminal; I can understand how a religion is the best way to enforce good behaviour, good conscience and human decency on a broad scale. Kids need that from a young age, and many adults use it as an emotional crutch. It makes brilliant sense! It just feels like it’s all been taken way too far.
    There needs to be a seperate body who can assess a person and make referrals!

    Mammo; We could do a mass bungee! How many people can they put on one rope?
    What you sayin’ about my teeth? Are you startin’?!?

    Kirk; That’s easy for you to say!!! Independent thought isn’t really encouraged over here, we have Bertie for that.
    Good prayer, though… I’ll say it during the Angelus tomorrow.

    Bad ambassador; Yes but I don’t like Chocolate Kimberlies. You will have to conform to Church of Yorkie if that’s the case, and if you don’t, may you be condemned to face the fires of hell for all eternity.
    I was nervous about this whole starting a new religion thing at first, but then I remembered that if any old sci-fi writer can do it, then why can’t I?

    Mass starts at 10am Monday morning and finishes at 6pm. We will start with some free love, then sugar worship. After break we will be rolling around naked in paint and imprinting ourselves on street furniture and stray cows. A rest period will follow for 2 hours, involving crossword puzzles, origami folding, and cocktails.
    If your boss doesn’t like you dissapearing every Monday, threaten to sue because of religious intolerance. See you Monday – bring your wellies.

  9. Mary Witzl says:

    I sympathize with you too. I believe more in what Christ taught and not so much in Christianity itself, if that makes any sense. Going to church comforts me, but I think both Catholics and Protestants have plenty of hypocrites among them. I know a fair number of people who feel that as church-goers, they somehow belong to a higher order. Most of them make no effort to be better human beings. I’d rather stop going to church altogether than end up that way.

    My husband is pretty much agnostic, and we both rejected the idea of a church wedding, preferring to use the money to travel instead. We have never regretted this decision. Oddly enough, though his family is not at all religious, they go for church weddings and supported the idea of us having our children christened. I could not agree to this — it seemed hypocritical given the fact that my husband almost never goes to church and states that he does not believe in God — but obviously, the ritual, though it meant nothing to him and his family in terms of faith, did mean something to them in terms of culture.

  10. nonny says:

    Since most of our schools are catholic it could be rather problematic for a little nipper. I suppose you if you were dead set against it you could send them to a non-denominational school. The Catholic Church have evolved so much and indeed done an enormous amount of good but they seem to just dig their heels in on such fundamental issues. If they were a little more liberal I’m sure support would increase dramatically. The only reservation I would have about not raising my kids with religion and its practices is not knowing the consequences for them. I was raised a Catholic and whilst I am a non believer-ish I don’t think I would have the same values without it. It is a hard one indeed.

  11. Medbh says:

    Our personal and familial rituals don’t have to include god. There are many community sponsored centres run by athiests in the U.S. where families get together and share stories and celebrations based on humanism and rationalism.
    I hope they spread all over.
    I’d go.

  12. K8 says:

    Mary; It’s true that Church can have a powerful cleansing effect, just look at all the folks driving away from Mass, you’d swear they think they’re invicible!
    It’s a good point you have about belonging to a culture. I’m starting to think that excluding my kids from that just because I feel I don’t belong, might be selfish.
    I know now that it’s not up to me. I’ll start them in this faith, then let them make their own decisions later, much as my parents did.

    Nonny; You’re dead right, finding a non-denominational school is tough, especially in rural areas. I shall have to go with the flow and remain an internal activist.

    Con; Beautifully put.

    Medbh; Despite our friendly reputation, us Irish are a very guarded folk generally. Unfortunately, sharing personal information in groups just doesn’t seem to work for us. That’s not to say that it won’t in the future though. I’d go too.

  13. On your last response to Medbh: Freud did state that where the Irish are concerned psycho-analysis is of no use. This can, of course, be interpreted in many ways :-)

  14. Hails says:

    I’ve been having an almost conversation with you for the last half hour! ;) I’ll go for it and add my two cents’ worth…
    I think the culture issue is the main one, particularly in Ireland. I was raised Protestant, but in a family of atheists. One of my closest friends today is Catholic, and has had many of the same issues that you do with wanting to break away. Both of us are now believers/Christians/whatever label you want to stick to it, yet the cultures and experience of family traditions we have are massively different.
    Religion is man-made and divisive, whether it’s the rituals of the Catholic church or the list of dos and don’ts of the Presbyterians. When all is said and done, I can’t see God standing there with a checklist, granting or refusing entry to heaven based on questions like “Did you go to church every week?”, “Was that 3 glasses of wine you had one night last March?”, “You smoked cigarettes, didn’t you?”, “Did you wear a hat during prayers?”, and a tiebreaking lifetime tally chart of how many Hail Marys have been said.
    If God is love, which is what I believe, then he’s just going to ask “Do you know me?”. And that’s personal.

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