the other day, my friend and i got into a discussion about prayer, and, as she’s catholic, we got onto the topic of praying to mary. now, being what i like to call a “recovering catholic,” i was fully aware that those that follow catholicism pray to mary and the saints, along with the holy trifecta. however, i asked her why she didn’t just pray to god and jesus, as it seemed to make sense that you’d just pray right to the source, and not go to their underlings to get prayers answered. and then i remembered.
“oh yeah, that’s right, catholics believe that mary was sinless like jesus, right?” to which she replied that yes, mary was “conceived without sin.”
in the grand scheme of organized religion, this small difference between catholicism and other sects of christianity probably isn’t a huge deal. but it certainly did get me thinking. my initial thought after she told me this, borne of years of church-going and sunday school, was how it just seemed silly to believe that mary was sinless when it was clear she was human, and no human being who has ever lived was, or is, or will be, perfect, except for jesus (but only because he was ALL human and ALL god) (yeah, i can’t wrap my head around it either).
a brief history of my faith
after years and years of going to church, struggling with my faith, praying, talking to those who were “in the know,” studying the bible, and rededicating my life to christ countless times, i realized that doing all of those things while never quite being able to reconcile my own feelings about it made me feel like a complete fraud. it was a personal decision, see. my mind has always thought in logical, rational terms, and religion and faith don’t exactly mesh with rationality so well. faith is very emotional…it’s about having a relationship with someone that you can’t see, touch or hear. the only “responses” that you get from this being are almost completely subjective, and it’s entirely up to you to decipher how events that occur might be an answer to your prayers. or a non-answer, as the case may be.
when my ex-husband and i were going through a really difficult time, i prayed (a LOT) for us to be able to communicate clearly with each other, for us to be able to work things out, and to try to remember why we had fallen in love in the first place. so what, then, was i supposed to learn by the fact that, after months of marital counseling and prayer, we ended up getting divorced anyway? when i posed this question to some of my fellow believers, i got a number of different responses. some said that i should be learning that perhaps we weren’t meant to be married in the first place (in which case i should probably also learn that i had poor judgment in relationships…which may be true). some said that i should take home the lesson that god doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way that we think he should (in which case, i say…what’s the point of prayer again?).
this is, of course, only one situation. there are countless others where i would pray for something and receive an entirely different “answer” to my prayers. and of course, there are times when i would pray for something and i would get the result i was praying for. doesn’t that seem just a bit…random to you?
in the end, i felt like praying was an entirely fruitless exercise in what was supposed to be a way to feel closer to god, which is something that i never felt after praying. it really felt like something that i needed to check off my list every day, along with reading the bible, in order to be a Good Christian. because that’s what Good Christians do, right?
because all prayer was doing for me was leaving me completely frustrated, depressed and feeling like i was only “living the christian life” for family and friends, i stopped praying so much. and i stopped reading the bible. and eventually i stopped going to church. and i honestly can’t say that i feel any more or less spiritual than i did all those years as an active believer.
(whoa…waaaaaaayyyy off my original point here. sorry.)
to get back to my point, my friend believes that mary was sinless, and my former belief system tells me that she was not. who is to say which one of us is right or wrong? we can’t both be right, so one of us must be wrong. and what kind of eternal consequences (if any) are there to pay for being wrong about that?
let’s take this one step further. some people believe that abortion is wrong. in most circumstances, i am one of those people. but i also believe that not doing everything within our power to stop it from being necessary is also grievously wrong. there are many ways in which i believe we can circumvent the need for something like abortion, but until we’ve addressed the underlying issues (ridding ourselves of this ridiculous abstinence-only sex education and implementing comprehensive sex ed, for one), then abortion is, and will continue to be, a necessary evil.
but whose belief system is right? is my friend’s belief system right? was mary sinless? does being on a birth control pill constitute murder? is capital punishment okay?
what about other religions? the majority of the world (along with myself) would say that it’s wrong to hijack planes and fly them into buildings, killing thousands, but what about the countless natives who rebelled, and were killed by, colonialists who tried to make them conform to their belief system? were the colonialists right to do so in the name of god? and wasn’t hitler a christian, believing that what he was doing was right?
i think that basic moral code dictates that murder is wrong, in any fashion. but i’ve heard many people of faith say that war is a “necessary evil,” and that capital punishment is our answer to “an eye for an eye.” but if someone is TRULY pro-life, shouldn’t they be pro-all life, and not just unborn babies?
the biggest problem that i think that i have today is the large amount of inconsistency that i see in organized religion and those who believe. many christians i know (if not all of them) pick and choose portions of the bible that they wish to believe as it suits their religious interests. in parts of the old testament, god states that homosexuality is wrong, but there are also parts where he states that if a woman’s husband dies, her brother-in-law is required to marry her. does anyone carry out this edict anymore?
to say that i’ve become jaded and cynical about organized religion or monotheism is an understatement. i’m still trying to sort out what this means for me in a spiritual manner, and if i simply need to set aside religious leanings and try to be as good and kind of a person as i can to myself and others. for now, that is all i have, and until i feel like there is more consistency and meaning in christianity, it is what i will continue to believe.