Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Choosing A Religion

I remain one of the few people I know who was regularly taken to church as a child and who as an adult still attends Mass weekly. Most people I know are not religious; perhaps they weren't brought up to go weekly; they categorize themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious"; they categorize themselves as belonging to a specific religion but don't attend services - for whatever reason - except for the Really Important Ones (Christmas & Easter); and/or they've outright lost their faith. I suspect that in many religious cultures (and here I speak primarily of Christian cultures since it's the one I know best), there simply isn't the same stress placed on going to services each and every week as there is in Catholicism - although I know of only one or two other Catholics my age who go to Mass weekly.

I was watching this video tonight about the declining numbers of churchgoers in Sweden, described as traditionally Lutheran (in the same way that Ireland is traditionally Catholic). The presenter introduced one young couple who had three young children who had baptized, but the parents didn't attend regular services; and as such, the presenter asked why they didn't take attend services more regularly. The parents said that they were quite busy, often worked weekends, and that the services weren't all that interesting. The mother added that she believed it important that children learn to find their own religious path. I agree that it's important that children find their own path, but I have trouble with not introducing them to any religion such that they don't know the basic theological tenets. In my mind, not taking the kids to church (or to the synagogue, mosque, etc.) is much the same as saying, "I'd like my child to find a good career, but I'm not going to send her to school to expose her to the possibilities. She can choose to learn and study what she'd like later in life; she can figure that out for herself down the line." The lack of guidance concerns me.

Should I ever have children, I plan on bringing them to Mass and giving them all the sacraments. They may decide that Catholicism is not for them, but in having been exposed to one set of practices, I hope to teach them how to differentiate between what they believe is important, and have that as a basis for a religious point of departure. I also have to admit they won't wander far but I'd rather they have some belief system as opposed to none.

As a side note, I find I'm genuinely confused about the difference between "spiritual" and "religious." I wish someone would explain how they differentiate between the two; to me, they're the same.


  1. Interesting post, Michelle. It made me think. You are lucky to have such strong faith. I imagine it helps a lot in life. But I know many people who are not religious or believers who are so correct and generous, kind and thoughtful. On the other hand, I know many Catholic people who go to church every Sunday and ... God save us from their envy, selfishness, boasting and so on! I feel you are a very good person from what you usually write but ...not always religious=good person!

  2. Arnaud:

    I never claimed to be learned in religious matters. I'm curious about them, and about different beliefs. And I know the difference between spirituality and religion; although to me they're so intertwined as to be nearly synonymous, not all my friends agree, and I was curious as how they made the distinction between the two, since several friends categorize themselves as spiritual but not religious.