Because Your Parents Are Catholic

Why aren’t you Protestant, Muslim, or Hindu? Because your society and/or your parents didn’t teach you that. There is no good reason to choose any one religion over another.

Abemore introduces an argument against Catholicism that’s actually one I’ve struggled with. Am I Catholic because that’s simply how I’ve been raised? Is my faith no more than an attempt to please my parents? No, is the short answer. The long one follows:

1. No, because of converts. While I am not convert myself, I know enough of them to be certain that Catholicism is not merely passed along by parents. People choose, and I see them getting baptized at the Easter mass. This all becomes apparent when viewed through a historical context. The Church started with a few nobodies and is now the largest religion in the world – not because of social pressure, but against the tide of social pressure. When you’re being fed to lions and crucified, “my parents taught me this” isn’t exactly the phrase that makes you refuse to renounce the faith. But the martyrs did, and do.

2. No, because of ex-Catholics. They, the second largest Christian denomination, are living proof that we are not slaves to our parents wishes. We may just as well rebel against them as do what they ask.

3. No, because the Church and life does not allow it. The Church has the sacrament of Confirmation, which asks that we confirm our belief. It asks that we decide for ourself if it’s all true. Would a Church that is self-perpetuating, a Church that relies only on the pressure of society and the teaching of parents, would a Church like that require Confirmation? And then life presents us with problems that we cannot simply solve by doing what are parents and society tells us. When friends have cancer, when airplanes crash into buildings and tsunamis bring countries to their knees, either there is love and consolation and redemption to be found, or there isn’t. Parent’s words don’t cut it.

4. Because the overwhelming pressure of society and of day to day life is not to be Catholic. But I am.

Granted, parents teach you it first, and you believe them. There’s no problem with that, because it’s a time where everything is taught by your parents. The time will come when you have to decide. And I am neither Protestant nor Muslim nor Hindu because they are wrong, not because I was raised in a different country. I know this because truth exists outside of circumstance – if they are wrong here, whether or not I lived in a country where I could figure that out – they are wrong there.

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  • Rachel Bostwick

    Hi. I'm a convert. My parents are Baptists. It was rough for them, and it was scary to tell them, but to their credit, they came to my confirmation. It was rough on my husband, too. Anyway, I am enjoying your blog. Keep writing.

  • Craig C. Brummer

    Keep in mind that the Sacrament of Confirmation really has nothing to do with the personal decision to confirm what one believes in. If it did, the Catechism would be in vain to state, "every baptized person can and should receive the Sacrament of Confirmation" (1306). Nowhere in the section on Confirmation does the Catechism refer to any sort of this personal affirmation of the faith. The bishop is the one who confirms, both Sacramentally and personally. This Sacrament was separated from Baptism originally in order to retain the visible link between the bishop and the souls under his care. Unfortunately, this "personal decision" confusion has spread throughout the Church and continues to poison its Sacramental preparation classes. Hopefully, though, people will begin to see that Sacraments are not for "personal" growth, that is, for some private singular growth. Rather, Sacraments, Confirmation included, are meant to bind us more closely to Jesus Christ and the Church of which we are members.

  • Marc

    hm, i hadn't heard that. always thought it was a chance to repeat our baptismal vows for ourselves, though first and foremost everything you mentioned.

  • Tim

    In the Eastern Churches, Chrismation (Confirmation) is administered by the priest immediately after Baptism, and First Communion thereafter. This is an ancient practice which developed in response the fact that the Bishop could not preside over every Liturgy. The idea is that the priest acts as deputy to the Bishop, in order to fully allow a person access to the Sacramental life of the Church right from the start.The whole Confirmation as a "personal affirmation of the Faith before God and man" was taught to me in my Catechism class. Which is funny when you think about it, because I'm a Lutheran! XDAlas, Pietism rears its ugly head.

  • Mindy Goorchenko

    Yes, three of my children, ages 7, 7, and 3, have already been baptized, confirmed, and communicated in the Byzantine Catholic Church. I love this "system" because the Sacraments are not intended to be bestowed on us due to our "personal readiness" but are free gifts of grace from God. It's one thing I wish the RCC would change, actually, because it implies that our own awesomeness has resulted in an ability to "reason ourselves into readiness" in order to receive these gifts. Why wouldn't we want all children to have this confirmation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? For the protection that they confer alone, this would be a huge grace and exceedingly helpful WELL before high school (yikes!).Here is a post I wrote on the subject if you're interested.

  • Mindy Goorchenko

    Hey, Marc, do you mind putting a tag on each of the posts in this series? It would help to be able to share the whole string. Thanks for your consideration. :)

  • Marc


  • beez

    OK, Marc, you really need to get blogger to fix this. This is the second time it ate my comment!Let me try this again:I was born, a Catholic son to Catholic parents. I was 18 days old when I was baptized. I attended Mass every Sunday until I was 16, when I was old enough to drive and to lie to my parents by saying I was going to the "evening" Mass.I left the Church and everything about it behind. It was silly… full or rules made up by old, strange men a long way away. God was "better" than all that. I didn't need a Church to tell me who I was, and what my relationship with God was. He loved me. He sent his son to save me. That's all I needed.Of course, God has his ways. 20 years later, my life of Christian humanism (if you can call a guy who does what he wants but still believed that Jesus Christ is the eternal son of God a Christian), fell apart. The rug was pulled out from under me. I needed answers.So, while I figured things out, I figured I would go to Mass. I started, but I also started asking questions. Who is Jesus? What did he teach? How do I have a life as a true Christian?I started reading the Catechism. If I was going to be in a Catholic Church, then I should at least be clearer about what the Catholic Church teaches. I was amazed. It wasn't felt banners and Jesus Loves You while God Judges You. It was something, amazing and different and life affirming! The Eucharist was a challenge. I didn't know, as a kid, what the Church taught, and when I found out in my early 20s, I thought it was nuts. But then, reading the Catechism took me to the Fathers. Barnabas and Clement of Rome, Irenaeus and Ignatius of Antioch. This is what they all believed. JOHN Chapter 6, for crying out loud!Then, then something amazing, something mystical, something absolutely beyond my deserving happened. 5:00 am, First Saturday. Me, alone in a adoration chapel in Richmond. I am kneeling there, looking at the host and I think to myself, "This is crazy. I am kneeling in front of a piece of bread! I should be locked away!" Then, it happened. The God who was always so distant was AMAZINGLY close. The relationship changed, in that instant. I had so long been wrong. The Church had always been right.So now, many years (six, I think) later, I am here through the grace of God. I, who didn't even deserve a second chance to know Jesus Christ, am on the threshold of becoming a transitional deacon in his Church. That isn't an invisible dragon in the garage. That isn't delusion or hope or a desperate desire for power and glory. That's because, when I first sensed the call (at 21) and when I finally answered the call, I didn't want to. So, don't say my parents are the reason I am Catholic. They aren't. Don't accuse my siblings – most of them don't practice anymore. Don't blame my friends, those who support me now didn't know me before I embraced my faith fully, and at least one who knew me "back then" has rejected me for my choice. I'm Catholic because it is Jesus' Church. I am Catholic because it's true.

  • Clamburger

    I respectfully disagree with MindyLeigh. After having been different from the other kids in many ways myself, I believe it is more important to be orthodox (little "o" orthodox) rather than homogenius. MindyLeigh said, "The Sacraments don't rely on our own will in order to "work," be valid, or have effect." I disagree with that. The Western Rite teaches/believes that sacraments are "an outward sign of an inward reality," and that the former necessarily happens after the latter. What of the kids who mentally oppose their parents' Catholicism for any number of reasons but are too afraid to say so/act the part because their parents would be upset with them? If they eat the bread and have water dripped over their heads, does that still guarantee their salvation despite their personal, inward disbelief? –If you confess Jesus with your mouth, and believe that God has raised him from the dead in your heart, you will be saved.

  • Clamburger

    Beez is right! My first comment went *poof.* And It's too long for me to remember all of what I wrote! ;_;


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  • egosumbarb

    @Beez….that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Craig C. Brummer

    I also lost a previously written comment. Nonetheless, here goes.Marc, I don't mean to be curt, but it's right there in the Catechism. It's a very important self-check tool, especially for people who are writing somewhat catechetical blogs and such.Clamburger, I twisted idea of Sacrament and the necessity of the receptivity of the recipient has entered the Church (not sure when it started), but it ultimately undervalues the saving power of God. In saying that, we limit the efficacy of a Sacrament to being incapable of breaking through a human will. Ultimately, that is the goal of Sacramental and sanctifying grace, to break down our worldly desires. Unfortunately, Sacraments are seen as just another dish on the cafeteria line of Catholicism, when in reality, they are the id card to let you into the cafeteria in the first place.

  • Marc

    Firstly, i have no idea why comments are being eaten.Secondly, having checked the Catechism, I agree that this Marc person is a fool. Now the question – as is always the question whenever Marc is a fool – is whether or not to edit the post.I could erase my comments on confirmation, but would that be honest? Truth is, I get things wrong a lot of the time, and that needs to be something everyone can recognize.But, if I don't, do I run the risk of preaching a false teaching? What do you think?

  • Abemore

    1. Converts. There are converts to and from everything. Each religion loves to tell their conversion stories. This is called Anecdotal Evidence, reliance upon which leads to unreliable conclusions.2. Ex-Catholics. This is the same as #1. Take a look at the Atlas of Faiths and realize that depending on the traditions of your family and what religion is dominant where you live, we can usually predict with a high percentage of accuracy what religion you will likely adhere to. Similarly, you probably wont convert to X religion if there are none to be found near you.

  • Abemore

    3. Confirmation. I've talked to lots of kids who went through confirmation classes and got confirmed just because their parents forced them to. As well, in RCIA, you have a sponsor and a whole friendly team that encourage you to proceed. Clearly there are social pressures here.4. "The world". Check out that Altas again. Clearly the majority of the world loves religion. Very few people ever take an interest in deconverting you. The world is saturated in religion. How could you say other religions are wrong when they too use faith to believe without evidence? That seems rather short-sighted. As I said before, "there is no good reason to choose any one religion over another. All require the exact same belief without evidence. And faith doesn't determine truth. Truth is determined via evidence and the scientific method. That is how we know anything and everything." Without evidence, every religion is equal.

  • Marc

    I think your response to number 1 misses the point — I say that people rebelling against the religion of their parents implies that we are not our religion ONLY because of our parents. And you reply that "There are converts to and from everything". Yes I know, that was my argument.Then you mystify me – "Each religion loves to tell their conversion stories." Yes I know, that's why I made the argument! Are you implying that the love religions have for telling conversion stories somehow means that conversions don't happen? Or that they aren't actual conversions? Because it would seem to indicate the opposite. Then, thank God the snark level gets turned up, I was beginning to worry that you weren't actually an atheist!! I – despite being an Creationist First Baptist Church of Jesus of God of Tennessee Member – understand the concept of anecdotal evidence. But don't you think that picking one piece of evidence from a LIST and calling it anecdotal is a little, well, silly? Of course it's anecdotal, it's part of a list!!

  • Marc

    3. well the Catholics beat you to beating me on that one. dirty papists.but as far as RCIA goes – there's no guaranteed friendly team that gets you in the door. In fact it's often harder than welcoming…witness beez's comment above.4. And clearly you've never worked at a fast food resturaunt. I've been told i'm the anti-Church and should get my Whore of Babylon self converted. so yeah there's pressure to convert – to atheism from atheists, to Protestantism from Protestants…even in places where there isn't, that has no bearing on whether or not a religion is inherently truthful. Even if I was Catholic only because of my parents, and you were an atheist against all the odds, neither is a factor deciding whether our world view is true. That's where we turn to the evidence. Evidence that I believe atheism lacks.

  • Abemore

    "Evidence that I believe atheism lacks."Haha. That's a funny sentence. “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen Roberts

  • beez

    Abemore:The problem I have with your dismissal of God is that atheism can't explain why we exist. We do know, from SCIENCE! that nothing is created ex nihilo Everything has a cause and everything that is is from matter that already existed. Neither people, animals nor digital watches simply appear out of nowhere. Now, since everything must have a cause, there is simply no way for us to exist. Unless, there exists one something that does not have a cause. This "proof" if you will, is hardly a proof for the Christian God, this I admit. But I simply cannot fathom how people who claim to be "scientific" fail to acknowledge that one simple fact. And, before you try to say that the universe ALWAYS existed, but merely took its form at the Big Bang, that's a cheat. Because there is no reason why the Big Bang happened when it did. Even if all the matter in the universe was in existence from all eternity, it would have never exploded in the Big Bang because for it to maintain equilibrium for eternity -15 billion years, then suddenly change would require an external cause outside of itself.So you see, nothing can exist of its own, but only as the result of the action of something external to it (bees pollenating flowers or dads pollenating mothers). Ergo, there must be something that exists in and of itself, something that, by its very nature is outside of the physical, natural universe. That something is God. Without an uncaused cause, without a prime mover, there is nothing.(By the way, don't try to use the "big crunch" theory because recent astrological evidence has shown that, contrary to what science would need for a big crunch, the universe's rate of expansion is increasing, not decreasing, so this is a one shot deal.

  • Abemore

    Hi beez,"Atheism" isn't a thing. It is the absence of a thing. It isn't meant to explain anything.What you're using is the "god of the gaps" argument: "I don't understand, therefore God did it," but this is really just one of an infinite number of theories. I talked about this a bit in the comments on the invisible dragon post. You should give them a read.I'm not going to go into cosmology or argue theories with you. There are lots of theories. I'll just say that you have based your arguments on several assumptions. And, as with all theories, evidence is needed to prove them.

  • beez

    Yes, I removed a post. And I removed it for a reason.I tried to respond, but then I went to an hour before the Most Blessed Sacrament and I realized that, ultimately, I can't really debate this question with Abemore. There is a story about Chesterton in New York. Walking down a street on the Lower East Side, he saw two women, hanging out of tenement windows, yelling at each other. Turning to his companion, he said, "Those two will never agree. They are arguing from different premises."I am not imputing motives to you, Abemore, but it seems to me that you and I are in this situation. You're saying that my position is full of holes because you don't accept the realm of the metaphysical. Since there is nothing that can't be seen, heard, smelt, tasted or touched that exists in your philosophy (at least as you and Carl Sagan have presented it) for me, or anyone, to argue that there is just leaves you annoyed and frustrated.Of course, I believe that your position is full of holes too. You probably don't agree. I didn't, when I rejected most of what I now accept because the holes in the Catholic argument seem large enough to drive a truck through at times.However, my holes are filled by faith. And, ultimately, my faith position gives me two things that, I believe, the lack of faith position, well, lacks:Meaning for the life we live.Redemption for creatures that, frankly, don't deserve it.I'll leave this thread with a little thought that came to me during my prayer tonight.A person might say that he tried to pray a few times, and nothing happened. "I stared into space but heard nothing. I said some formula prayers but these were nothing but noise. So, because of all of this, I stopped trying. What was the point? There is clearly no God to answer, and continuing to pray is a waste of time." This is seen as a perfectly reasonable thing to say.However, if someone said, "I sat down at a piano a few times, and tried to play Beethoven, but nothing happened. I looked at the music, but heard nothing. I pressed the keys, but there was nothing but noise. So, because of all of this, I stopped trying. What was the point. I am clearly never going to be a pianist, so continuing to sit at the piano is a waste of time." This would be seen as absurd.God doesn't reveal himself instantly. Faith isn't something that creates a magical bond and prayer isn't something that one can make fruitful immediately. Like all relationships, a relationship with God takes time and effort. Like everything, prayer takes practice. Frankly, unlike playing the piano, prayer can be TOTALLY frustrating, because you can seem to be at the top of the game today, and dry as the desert tomorrow. At least the pianist can probably play as competently two days in a row.But, if you refuse to even consider that God exists, why are you surprised when you can't hear him speak? If you didn't think I existed, wouldn't you easily dismiss all these words as meaningless?

  • Abemore

    All I'm saying is human beings are capable of creating an infinite number of beliefs based on faith and that faith does not determine truth. Evidence and science does. For Example:If you had a faith-belief that the moon is made of cheese, would that make it true? Maybe I also have a faith-belief that the moon is made out of BBQ spare ribs. Regardless of whatever meaning this brings to our lives and the social groups we create around these faith-beliefs, we have done nothing to verify our claims. How do we know which faith-belief is true? Fortunately in this case, science has discovered we are both wrong. Now faced with this evidence, do we bravely change our beliefs? Or have we invested too much into our faith that we'd rather ignore the contradictory real world evidence?You, sir or madam, are quite free to have a faith-belief (which is essentially an opinion) about anything you want. I respect your right to have it. But what should not be respected is any CLAIM that your belief/opinion is TRUE without evidence. Such a claim disrespects the next persons equally unproven opinion.

  • geffu2

    Abemore:I hope you find what you are looking for. Beez: You are right that argument is fruitless with someone who refuses to believe anything. He has already made the conclusion that his argument are ment to prop up. The Truth is beautiful, thus it requires us to believe or reject it. We cannot ignore it and hope it goes away. If people are truly open to the truth, then there would be no atheists.

  • Michael Newhouse

    Important correction: the sacrament of Confirmation is not a Catholic ‘altar call’ when we embrace the Faith for ourselves. This is a common and terribly erroneous misconception. In Confirmation, we do not confirm the truth of the Faith, THE HOLY SPIRIT CONFIRMS US IN FAITH. It is one of the sacraments of initiation and has historically been administered at the same time as baptism. Some bishops and theologians are seeking to remove it from high school and return it to it’s proper place (usually combined with First Eucharist) for just these reasons.
    Thanks for a great post…and especially for beez’s comment. That is the witness we need in the Church. Too often our religiosity is only ‘cultural’, exactly as beez describes. But when we truly open up, when the reality of the Faith hits us…that is something amazing. As a Church, we need to be doing SO MUCH MORE to truly form the faith of ourselves and our children. If they knew what was happening on that altar every Sunday…neither storm nor swords could keep them from such awe-inspiring communion with our God through Christ! That is what the martyrs died for…not for ‘niceness’ and rules and respectability (not that those are wrong, but love creates fidelity not the other way around).

  • Neal Meyer

    confirmation is not a time when we choose the Church for ourselves, though in this most recent century it has been perceived as such. Before, 1st communion was done as a teen and confirmation as a child, as EVERY communion is an act of faith and a public profession of our believe. I would say that every time we receive Holy Communion, we are professing that it is OUR Faith, not simply inherited faith from our parents. God ain’t got no grandchildren.

  • RVL1010

    I love your articles, Marc.

    Thank you.