Christianity can be confusing.
I'm told that religion makes me miserable, perpetually guilty, and most likely hateful.
But I'm also told by some that my belief in God is just some childish wish fulfillment to avoid existential angst.
It can't be both of those things, can it?
Firstly, I quite simply don't have time to get all angsty. And I don't want to have to replace all my clothes with black like a true angster. (Yup, I just made up that word.) It's not that I wear a ton of bright colors but I do seem to have an awful lot of tan shorts and white shirts which are quite simply not angsty enough. And chubby guys like me don't look good when we brood. We just look like gassy babies. Yeah, I just looked at myself in the mirror looking angsty and decided I looked like a big fat gassy baby. Anyway, angst is for teenagers. When I became a man, I put the ways of angsty teenager brooding behind me.
As far as this wish fulfillment thing goes; if Christianity is just wish-fulfillment it's got to be the worst kind ever. A 2,000 year old epic fail. Have you seen the list of "Do Nots" Christians face every day. Look, there's a reason there are "do nots" against doing certain things, it's because those things seem like good ideas to do to many many people, so many in fact that there had be a rule against doing them. If nobody ever wanted to do them, you wouldn't need a "Do Not" in the first place.
Christianity ain't wish fulfillment bub. Not from where I'm sitting. You know, if it was wish fulfillment, don't you think we'd come up with something better than a savior who had to suffer and die and then we're supposed to do the same? I could think of easier sells? In fact, atheism sounds more like wish fulfillment to me than Christianity. Invent a world where nothing you think or do has consequences. That sounds kinda' fun. Talk about wish fulfillment.
Here's the thing, Christianity can be difficult. Do you think I want to be loving all the time? I don't. Believe me when I tell you, my terrible and selfish instincts are quite restrained by my faith. And there are times I'd rather be lazy too. Yes, even lazier than I am. By a lot. And you know what, I'd be perfectly comfortable if the world were just a little bit more about ME. Yeah, me. Would that be so bad if everyone were a little more Matt-centric? And there are plenty o' things that this guy wouldn't mind coveting. But I do not. Why? Because that doesn't lead to happiness. Not in the long run.
And that leads me to my second point which is the accusation that religion makes me guilty and miserable. I don't feel hateful. I don't go on to atheist blogs and yell at them, ahem. Look, I used to be agnostic/atheist guy.
As a young man I struggled with the faith and through my own sheer idiocy lost it almost altogether for a while. I remember with some shame those times I spoke out against the faith. I read Nietzsche. I was even prone to dropping an "uberman" at times. I considered myself an intellectual. I know.
I called myself enlightened. Yet I was miserable. I’m not saying a little miserable. I was deep, dark and miserable. Yet somehow I was proud of my deep dark edgy miserableness. I consoled myself that everyone else wasn’t brave enough to face the nothingness. But I was.
I laughed off everything and found myself dreadfully serious. That is the paradox of atheism. Oddly enough, when I was enlightened I felt burdened. I’ve come to decide enlightenment is a dark and heavy philosophy, not suited to living.
My life was filled with thinking about death. I didn't take life seriously but I thought of death incessantly.
Through what I called sheer luck but later would recognize as grace I came to know my Catholic faith.
One of my main hurdles to the faith was the “Thou-Shall-Not-Ness” of Catholicism. I saw the faith as essentially walls of rules surrounding us which we crashed up against in our efforts to be happy. I still saw atheism's rejection of religion as liberation.
It was then that I read Mary’s response to the Angel who told her she would conceive Jesus. I'd read it before but it really hit me this time. The whole history of man balanced upon that moment. You cannot make too much of Mary's “Yes.”
So through that moment, I began to look at Catholicism as a “yes" religion.
I have found that it is a paradox that bringing on the “burden” of Catholicism has given me the feeling of lightness. My yoke lift me up. I know now that by accepting something I have necessarily rejected other things. The burdensome nature of atheism is that you can't reject anything because you've chosen nothingness.
Now when I lay down at night I don't think about death. I think about life. I think about my children’s lives. And I feel light.