- Published on Friday, 30 December 2011 07:02
- Written by John Draper
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The Catholic mass is the most complicated service amongst Christian Churches - the Anglicans come a close second although when they split they kept a version of the mass. A Catholic Missal has a different version of the mass for every day of the year complete with individual bible readings. For centuries it was in Latin and the faithful would read translations; John XXIII changed that so that local languages were used directly and recently the translations have been revised. Many of the hymns were in Latin (e.g. Adeste Fideles, Panis Angelicus) and are truly great works of art. Some even think that the whole mass is a work of art - could that be one reason why Catholics are reluctant to give up on their religion? If you are raised Catholic and know the liturgy and know the Latin Hymns and know the emotional appeal of the mass (except for the sermons - I always hated the sermon) - then once you see that the dogmas are nonsense and you see that in fact Catholics are no holier than anyone else, then there is still the barrier of giving up everything else.
Actively leaving a religion usually comes about because of rationally deciding to do so. But there are still the emotional factors:
- Leaving many friends;
- Abandoning the support system (forgiveness of sins, security in knowing the purpose of life etc);
- Losing face by changing your stated beliefs;
- And for Catholics, not going to a mass on Sundays.
I note that there are a very large number of people in the world who say they are Catholic (about 1.2 Billion) yet maybe only 15% actually practice. To me that means they have left the Church but are unwilling to give up on the superficial things - they can still show up at mass when they feel like it, they can still enjoy the trappings.
I would think that most of the 85% have not rationally decided anything about their religion; if they thought about it they'd say "It's a load of nonsense but I like the feeling of belonging and I like Sunday mass (except the sermon)".
To support my theory on the Liturgy, I have an example:
The Belfast Telegraph reports that Veteran Irish broadcaster Olivia O'Leary has made a very public departure from the Catholic Church. She renounced Catholicism because of the church's refusal to ordain women, though the institutional cover-up of clerical child sex abuse was a "proximate factor". She said: "No longer at my age can I accept a subordinate role; not for myself, not for my daughter, not for my sisters, my nieces or friends," No surprise, a lot of Irish Catholics are leaving publicly - but she added that it had taken her so long to leave because she knew how much she would miss the church, especially the Liturgy, which she described as "one of the world's great art forms" and "such a comfort at times of loss and pain".
She planned to keep some of her love of the liturgy going by attending the "Church or Ireland" for Christmas although she does not plan to join. The "Church of Ireland" is a branch of the Anglican Church. (Belfast Telegraph)
A related idea is that religion is good for culture and that religion provides emotional content. Further, that religion is mostly beneficial because of its positive contribution to culture. Atheist Camille Paglia pushes this idea hard. She spoke at the Royal Ontario Museum's series of seminars on the Ten Commandments on June 14, 2009 where Christopher Hitchens also featured. Her point was that religions are an intrinsic part of our culture and without them, many aspects of culture would die. More on her here. She was interviewed a couple of days later and her You Tube video is here.
She believes that although the stories in the Bible are nonsense, without a priest "thundering from the pulpit", they wouldn't be believed as fact - just good stories. She says the bible is a tremendous compendium of Hebrew poetry and compares it to the works of Shakespeare. She wants students to be taught comparative religions so they can better understand our culture. Her viewpoint is included here because it shows how religion is not only a culture but an attractive culture with strong artistic content that at least one smart atheist thinks is useful. (Note that I don't agree with a lot of what she says but she is interesting to listen to).