Religion and Wellbeing

Many people are uncomfortable discussing religion, as well as politics and sex. Personally, I find all three of interest and too important to ignore. In a free society, respectful conversation about all topics seems appropriate, including religion, politics and sex. Such openness contributes to a better understanding and appreciation of differences and similarities, and complements our quests for truths, as best we can approach such. In this, I’m in good company. The saintly and lovable Mr. (Fred) Rogers: Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.

Religion, basically, is a key factor affecting how many people conduct themselves. Whether in throes to a religion or skeptical of all of them, we have deliverance ministry good reasons to be aware of and responsive to public policies and other developments related to religion.

Inasmuch as the AWR exists to promote wellbeing by encouraging individual creativity in reframing old problems, spurring reflection, creating new knowledge and seeking to better the world for everyone, this is a topic that must not be avoided.

I am not religious, as some readers might have suspected. I came into the world an agnostic, but my parents declared that i, like them, was clearly a Roman Catholic. Quite a coincidence. While still an infant without a clue about anything at four days of age, I was given an exorcism (i. e., baptism), which successfully removed my first sin, which in time would be followed by many more sins, none original.

I attended Catholic elementary and high schools. Like other children declared Catholic, this was the norm. Catholic education where I grew up in Southwest Philadelphia was not effective. How could they lose my allegiance, given a dozen years of daily immersion in the faith? (A Pew report in 2011 put the opt-out rate of those born and raised Catholic at just over ten percent. ) Rather than losing ten percent, it should be a wonderment that all of us little sinners do not grow up to be priests or nuns! Think of it – immersion from first grade through high school, inundated with masses, daily hour-long Catholic religion classes, processions to altars to swallow Jesus (communion), multiple prayers memorized, songs sung and answers given in advance to test questions in the Catechism. To this day I well recall the first three Catechism questions which, after a few hours of dutiful study, I would unerringly repeat correctly every time.

The bulk of my Catholic education is a bit of a blur due to the passage of time and the boring, unpersuasive nature of classes and masses, processions, rituals, formations, litanies, responsive readings and so on.

My mother and relatives on her side were Irish Catholic. My dad was a nominal Catholic (raised Methodist, he converted to please my mom — and to promote goodwill with his new relatives). He went along to get along — he wasn’t big on the doctrine but he did enjoy socializing. The inter-faith marriage at that time created a rift on the order of the Continental Divide between my relatives on both sides. Dad’s Methodists were as attached to their Protestant sect as mother’s clan was to Catholicism. In the 1930s and 40s in Philadelphia, and as far back as the 16th century in Europe, Catholics and Protestants had relations that could charitably be described as frothy. So it was with the two sides of my extended family. My Irish Catholic maternal aunts, uncles and cousins wanted no part of my dad’s marital in-laws, and dad’s tribe desired even less interaction with my mother’s.

Mom’s youngest brother, my favorite uncle named Raymond, wasn’t so popular, either. He divorced his first wife, or vice-versa. Being divorced in that era rendered him something of an outcast amongst the clan.

In any event, visits to dad’s two brothers and their broods, and to my beloved Uncle Raymond, were like Clinton’s version of abortion – safe, legal and rare. Especially rare – and then only under cover of darkness after insuring that we weren’t being followed.

Before I was ten or so, I dutifully believed whatever I was told by the nuns, even declarations that my non-Catholic friends would all burn in hell. However, I never held that against them and played with whomever I liked. The nuns and priests endlessly reminded us that the Catholic religion was the one true religion and those not of the faith were doomed to a dreadful fate – a sentence of eternal torture meted out by a loving god.

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