A March 25 New York Times op-ed on lost faith was simultaneously poetic and deeply disheartening.
Titled “Easter Is Calling Me Back to the Church,” the article by Margaret Renkl, a contributing opinion writer of the newspaper, laments the inherent difficulties of even rationally leaving behind a faith indelibly imprinted in childhood.
The piece powerfully illustrates why blind faith and, thus, religion so relentlessly perpetuate, despite the absolute and permanent lack of evidence substantiating it.
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Renkl said, she brusquely jettisoned the worshipful, godly Catholic life her husband and children shared, and that the couple grew up with. She protested:
“I just couldn’t forgive my fellow Christians for electing a man who exploited his employees, boasted about his sexual assaults, encouraged violence against citizens who disagreed with him, mocked the disabled and welcomed the support of virulent white supremacists. This is what Jesus meant when he told his followers to love one another?”
Totally defensible, even to a nontheist. Religion aside, this guy has more than demonstrated himself to be an amoral opportunist. Saints and sinners alike should distance themselves from such people.
But even our deeply flawed president — and how his election revealed broad hypocrisy among the faithful — was not enough to permanently dissuade Renkl from rejoining her flock.And it wasn’t her first pangs of doubt. She said back in college she was assaulted by “multifarious and convincing” reasons to stop believing in God. But, again, it was not enough.
“The reasons to believe came down to only one: I couldn’t not believe. I seem to have been born with a constant ache for the sacred, a deep-rooted need to offer thanks, to ask for help, to sing out in fathomless praise to something.”
So, this Easter, she will return to Mass.
When Renkl and her husband’s first child was born, they chose to stay Catholic rather than join another Christian brand perhaps more aligned with their particular modernity, because:
“[T]o a soul imprinted from birth on Roman Catholicism’s stained glass and incense and 2,000 years of art and music, all the other churches just seemed a little slight somehow. Not quite finished.”
In other words, the inexorable imperatives of upbringing, faith tradition and an apparently inborn human need to seek the divine powerfully conspired against rational apostacy. This is how reason is subjugated to mythology, and the questioning stops.
This happened during Renkll’s post-election religious hiatus despite the renewing power of her Sunday communes in the nearby woods — “where God has always seemed more palpably present to me anyway,” while the rest of her family went to church.
“For me, a church can’t summon half the awe and gratitude inspired by a full-throated forest in all its indifferent splendor,” she stressed.
Still, insufficient. She greatly missed being one with the congregation.
“I miss standing side by side with other people, our eyes gazing in the same direction, our voices murmuring the same prayers in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a stranger to offer the handshake of peace. I miss the singing.”
And so it continues. All reason aside.