More than words and traditions

Religion benefits humanity, but actually developing one’s spirituality requires far more than attending Mass on Sundays and holidays.

Upon Pope John Paul II’s sickness and impending death, I was amazed how many people have mourned and shown a strong interest in his struggle for life and the election of a new pontiff. The former pope’s passing and the election of Pope Benedict XVI have reinvigorated Catholics who don’t practice, or practice rarely, but classify themselves Roman Catholics. Few people who call themselves Catholic actually follow the doctrine and the religion faithfully and to the letter.

I’m sure this trend is consistent for many, if not all, other denominations and religions. Today, religion is seen by many as synonymous with or as a complete substitute for spirituality. Religion, however, is a distinct form of spirituality – religion is the words, spirituality is the unconditional belief, the faith. Words are easy to throw around and much harder to follow.

I find Mass a tool to brainwash or placate large amounts of people. It is a time for people to mindlessly mumble words, nay, sounds whose meaning is unknown and perform actions whose symbolism is also unknown. Until the mid-1900s or so, Masses were in freaking Latin and the throwback trend is leaking to this area as well. How ridiculous is that? But more importantly, the brainwashed person is apathetic to all these actions and does not critically listen and decipher what is being stated.

He or she simply, because he or she attends Mass, goes through the actions, wears a cross made of gold or silver plated with diamonds, thinks that perfection has been achieved and sins are absolved (without attending confession – which happens to be another qualm of mine) and heaven is attained. The famous puritan Jonathan Edwards would lash that thought out of many heads in a hot minute.

John Paul II did not have a direct affect on my life. As a child being raised Roman Catholic, it never occurred to me that in Mass the words “John Paul, our pope, Robert, our bishop” would change.

I’ve seen Bishop Robert Banks twice in my life – once at a Green Bay Packers game, once at confirmation – and he hasn’t done anything to affect it. Because he wears robes that make Lil’ Jon jealous (Yeahhh) and more hats than Bartholomew Cubbins, I am supposed to be in awe that he has touched my head and confirmed the fact that I believe in God? I like Banks, bishop (I wonder if they have business cards that say that), well enough and all, it’s just that he does not have a say in what I believe.

I respect John Paul II quite a bit. From what I’ve read the past week or so, he appears to have been a very worldly, open-minded, knowledgeable andintellectual pope. (I refuse to say for sure, because they are posthumous accounts, and obituaries tend to put things in the most positive light.) These characteristics do not make him immune to death, which is the only thing that will surely happen in life.

But we should, instead, be mourning the death of the starving child who will never go a day without hunger pangs or learn how to read, or the homeless and poverty stricken who have been forced on the street by companies evicting them in the holy name of capitalism (the real religion of the world; money is something everybody worships).

I am not denying the positives that religion, any and all forms, has on humanity. I am simply stating that people ought to take their religious and spiritual life into their own hands instead of isolating it into an hour on the weekend.

Also, when a religion or sect participates in an injustice, it is the duty of the followers to express their desire for continuity between the teachings and the actions of the religion. For laypersons, religion needs to be more than simply a one-way street of receiving and accepting what the head honchos decide the congregation should believe. 

Pat McCarthy is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]