In keeping with the Pope’s visit I will start off with a mea culpa. I was jammed up here in Denver so the Holy Father and I had to speak by phone. He spoke broken English and I spoke broken Italian, so we were even. I wasn’t at all nervous. He said I could call him Frank and I said he could call me, Ted The Great. Gotta establish boundaries.
The mea culpa thing was when I asked him to hear my confession. He told me he only had six days in our beautiful country. Maybe next time, TTG. I told him I ran into a buddy of mine who is also Catholic. This guy started ranting and raving that he didn’t like the Pope. He said the pontiff hated capitalism and America in one fell swoop. “Doesn’t that dude from Rome understand that all that underhanded shenanigans that go from fixing LIBOR,to VW headquarters in Germany to docs cheating on Medicare go a long way to bringing a lot of people up from poverty?” What was I thinking? Frank said don’t worry he hears that all the time. “It’s kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul” he said in his best Godfather impersonation. Got it.
But the reason I didn’t write last week is that I have too many thoughts and crosscurrents buzzing around in my poor little brain. I got into the whole concept of religion. It seems that in its purest sense it is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems and world views that tries to explain the origin of life or the universe. That’s a lot to digest.
You figure that out and you develop a set of ethics, morality or a life style. It’s not just Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Buddhism but you can throw in atheism,consumerism and hedonism to boot. I can buy that but the sad part is we spend half of our time trying to prove the other guy wrong and very little time trying to be tolerant and just accept our differences.
I guess that concept of belief wants you to be a soldier to fight the good fight whether you use Christ or Neiman Marcus as your rallying point. The fascinating part about last week was that people of all denominations stopped to take note. I heard deeply intellectual conversations among the pundits as to whether this guy was liberal, progressive or communist but I think they missed the point. Why do we have to label him? Why do we have this irrepressible urge to categorize people and put them into this slot or another and then as a corollary, figure out if they pass our own personal litmus test? I really hope a good portion of these United States just sat back and enjoyed him.
When you dig little further into formal ecclesiastical religions you find an ebb and flow. Assuming Christianity started in Rome in 35 or 40AD (that’s Anno Domini for the secularist) and it spread throughout Europe. Look at the cathedrals and monasteries of the Continent and you can see the great impact formal religion has had for a couple of thousand years. Now Marx will tell us it is opium for the people and it might be said the downfall of formal religion had its roots in the Renaissance. The more educated we became the more we felt we didn’t need any sort of a Superior Being. Churches and temples in Europe today are being sold off to developers of night clubs and shopping malls. C’est la vie.
Pew Research tells us Christian religiosity as we know it is more hispanic than white. Female to a greater degree than male. Low IQ(under 92) versus high IQ(93 on up). Poor going to the rail a lot more than the rich. This is all statistical and not some sort of moral judgment. For a major portion of believers salvation results in admission to another world. For a lot of us today we think this world is just fine. When you look at what a lot of people have why the hell would you want to think the next life is better? Aha, that is why cryogenics is a growth industry.
I am not going to try to convert anyone. You have your own life to live and I have more than enough to worry about with moi. But I would like you to consider something. Let’s not call it religion but maybe spirituality or a state of mind. My buddy Frank was running around waving, shaking hands, hugging and kissing babies and some of our most challenged fellow citizens of the planet Earth. He spoke about helping the poor and giving thanks to anyone who will listen for all we have. He said we should never leave any mortal without even a hope of something better. He said the church had screwed up in its handling of sexual abuse and he knew it and would try to make it right. Was he really that far off your or my message?
Most Sundays Kathy and I go to church. Counter to most Catholic churches there is a din when you enter. Holy crap,(no play on words) people are talking to one another,shaking hands and saying hello. We have musicians of all sorts and instruments and people sing loud. Fr Pat is a young priest who does not pontificate but gives you everyday things to hang your hat on that are part of every day life. Sometimes you think about God and sometimes you just think. How’s that for a break in the action?
I thought to myself wouldn’t it be great if we as a country brought back Sunday morning again. Not necessarily church but the one where the Firestone store doesn’t open at 7:00AM to get your car fixed. What if we got together here and there and had a cup of coffee, talked about life and just how lucky we are? Maybe we invite some poor bastard that’s down and out? We wouldn’t have to sing a hymn but maybe just America the Beautiful. Then we would just shake hands or bro hug and go on our way just a little bit better for it. I asked Frank what he thought? He replied, “mucho frio”. I think that is Spanish for very cool.
Ted The Great
The more etherial a concept is to grasp the more difficult it is to internalize. It is easier to require proof than to take something on faith. The concept of hope is counter to pragmatism. The offset to charity is self sufficiency and survival of the fittest.
Secularism: a spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
Atheism: A doctrine or belief there is no God.
Agnosticism:a belief that holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the primary or most important intrinsic good In life. Party on!
If you want to have some fun Google “Consumerism as a Religion” Read a few of the articles and then you will see why my cranium is bulging at the seams.