I like that the Catholic Church is so transparently inept and so plainly filled with such obviously failed and ridiculous people, not only among us laity, but throughout the ranks of its clerics as well. My abiding sense, ever since converting, has been one of relief. In sectarian Protestantism, the question is always whether you are pure enough, whether you are a “real Christian”, whether your “really meant it” when you asked Jesus into your heart, whether your latest grotesque failure means your whole life as a Christian has been one huge fraud.
The great thing about the Catholic communion is that it begins every single act of worship with the Confiteor in which we all look at each other and say, “Who am I kidding? i don’t belong here any more than you do, so let’s pray for each other and ask the the Graduates in Heaven to put in a good word for us, trusting that God will cut us slack again just so long as we keep cutting each other slack.” It’s a place where there’s room for me: a screwup who can’t tell my butt from a hole in the ground who has no business darkening the door of a Church, much less brazenly walking up there and receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Almighty God, if you please. The whole project is so outrageous from beginning to end that my only excuse is that God tells all these other people they not only can but must do it, so I guess it’s okay that a dubious jerk like me does it too.
My comment: This is why I am one of the two Founding Member of the Shea-Wright Mutual Admiration Society.
Mr Shea is in good company:
From the pen of Hillaire Belloc:
Hilaire Belloc’s description of the Catholic Church: “An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”
From the pen of GK Chesterton:
Mr. Shaw cannot understand that the thing which is valuable and lovable in our eyes is man—the old beer-drinking, creed-making, fighting, sensual, respectable man. And the things that have been founded on this creature immortally remain; the things that have been founded on the fancy of the Superman have died with the dying civilizations which alone have given them birth. When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward—in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.
My comment: Back in my atheist days, each day I stood in public places, and prayed thus with myself, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”
No, not literally, of course, since I neither prayed nor spoke the name of God save to curse Him, but the sentiment was exactly the same. While I have met humble agnostics, who believe human reason insufficient to come to certainty on the question of the existence of divine things, I have never met a humble atheist.
The reason is not hard to discover: even an atheist who starts his career with the humble thought that, since not all religions can be true therefore Christianity has no special claim to truth, must in time inevitably comes to the conclusion that, since he sees truths that superstitious fools like Einstein and Aristotle and Newton could not see, patently obviously and blatantly clear truths, it is therefore clear that he, the atheist, is smarter than nine tenths of the world, and all the geniuses of history, with a few small exceptions: James Randi, Lucretius, Christopher Hitchens, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan.
Now, the clumsy belligerence of atheists is more obvious these days, and that for two reasons: first, we live in a darkening Dark Age, where civilized behaviors, such as showing gentlemanly respect for one peers, has been replaced by childish behaviors, such as demanding respect unearned; and second, the Internet allows and even encourages the anonymous expression of private thoughts, including those which prudence would deter being uttered face to face. But howsoever obvious it is these days, it has always been present.
You see, a Pharisee might be arrogant if he thinks his salvation is his own doing rather than a gift of God, or a prophet might be arrogant if he thinks his prophecies overturn all previous tradition of prophecy: but even these will ultimately have a good reason (whether reason be heeded or no) not to be too unhumble, for the Pharisee and the Heresiarch still bow to a divine source of wisdom.
Not so the atheist. It would be different if he were raised on some globe circling another star among that happy race of Vulcans or Puppeteers who never had anything like religion, and whose civilization (assuming such a thing were possible) grew up without any supernatural roots. But the atheist raised on Earth, even if he respects the historical Christ, or Mohamed or Moses, or Buddha, or Confucius, or Plato, cannot help but feel pity or contempt for the basic thinking of these men, which basic thinking is supernatural (yes, including the arch-pragmatic Confucius) and therefore cannot help but feel pity or contempt for Christendom, for the Ummah, for Jewry, for India, for China, for the Classical Pagans of old.
Now, honestly, you cannot walk around thinking yourself intellectually superior to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and the founders of your republic or kingdom or nation without it being reflected in your demeanor and character.
This is not like being a Babe Ruth walking around thinking he is better at swatting homers than is Chuck Yeager, who admittedly is better at flying planes. This is not taking pride in your accomplishments while admitting that men in other fields are more accomplished in their fields.
This is assuming, merely on the grounds that the philosophers and prophets and sages and thinkers of old come to different conclusions than you, that the difference of conclusion is based on a defect of reason present in them and not in you.
For by the atheist philosophy, the difference of conclusions cannot be based on anything else: it cannot be fate, or a failure of inspiration, because atheists do not believe in fate or inspiration.
The atheist cannot say that atheism is one philosophy among many philosophies of equal merit: he cannot say that theism is like the Steady State Theory or the Geocentric Theory, a model of the universe held by respectable scientific opinion in its day, now discovered to be unsupported by the most recent evidence, on the simple ground that there is no new evidence. The same arguments which promoted atheism now were used to promote it among the ancient Greeks.
Atheism is a faith, undeterred by any evidence no matter how obvious, that you are smarter than men much smarter than you.
You being to act as if you are the one fully evolved human person on the Planet of Apes.
And this pride, like the first drink of hard liquor or the first sniff of cocaine, becomes habit forming. It is pleasant only at first. Then it takes over your thinking, and becomes a constant companion and a constant burden, and an endless, dragging weariness. Human souls are not actually built for pride, any more than our bodies are build for alcohol or cocaine.
I wish there were a way to convince my atheist friends to be Christian for only a day, or an hour, so that they would see what a relief it was to lay down the towering iron burden of arrogance.
Pride is pleasant only at first. In time, it comes to oppress the soul with an airless isolation, a loneliness that lacks the romance of a far island or a high mountain. And in eternity, the worst torment of Lucifer in Abaddon is the ever darker pride of that once-bright and fallen prince of angels.