The Other I

October 2, 2012

Why I’m (not) a Catholic or a Muslim or an Aboriginine either

Following my post last week, “Is it a spiritual problem?” one reader commented with a description of some grass-roots Catholics whose generosity and dedication is life-long and outstanding.   “It’s why,” she said, “I’m still a Catholic.”

I too know Catholics whose generosity and selfless concern for others is humbling.  Given my background, I may, in fact, know more such Catholic men and women around the world than most.  Why, then, am I not still a Catholic?  I’m not even still a Christian in terms of doctrinal belief.

There are two significant reasons.  The first is that, not only do I know many dedicated and loving Catholics.  I also know many dedicated and loving Muslims.  And many dedicated and loving Jews.  And I have no doubt that there are many dedicated and loving Buddhists and Communists and Aboriginine Australians.  Why then, aren’t I a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Jew?

Because although there are loving Catholics, it isn’t being a Catholic that makes people loving.  In fact, one will find this selflessness among any group of people who have survived more than a generation or two.  Because our very survival in human society requires some degree of altruism, of unearned generosity, or unconditional love.

I think it is a very dangerous conclusion to believe that it is being a Catholic (or a Muslim or Buddhist or…etc) that makes me or anyone else morally good.  Because it is a small step that millions of believers have taken over the centuries to conclude that my group is superior to all those who do not belong.

Our world is rife today with people of every persuasion who think that their beliefs make them better than everybody who does not share them.  Christians and Islamists  in particular today, are killing each other with the conviction that they are doing the will of God, that they are doing something heroic, that they are even laying down their lives for a cause worth dying for.  Depending on who is doing the labeling, we might call them terrorists or martyrs, holy or evil, heroic or damned.

That brings me to the second reason why I’m not still a Christian in terms of religious belief (although I strive to be “Christian” in the sense that it means I care about and respect all fellow human beings).  There are many Christian dogmas that I believe are positively destructive.  I don’t mean they are unscientific or superstitious.  I mean I believe some teachings are positively destructive.  And I would say the same thing about many Muslim beliefs, and many other religious beliefs as well.

But that is a topic for another post.



  1. Terry one of the reasons I love to read your Blog is because you are always searching to find a reason or answers to so many of Life questions. I had told you at one time I was relieved that I did not have your Brillant mind that had so many questions about Life, Religions and Love.
    I do know the one thing where we are truly equal is Love. You have found the love of your life and so have I. It truly is the one thing we don’t question or struggle with.

    “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return”.

    And I guess that is what I truly believe in. Just a simple way to live ones life. I believe if you treat everyone with love you will be living a good life. It won’t matter what your Religion is. Your Spirituality is not based on your Religion. It’s what’s inside you. I always felt that Church was not a museum of Saints but a house of sinners just trying to live a better life.


    Comment by djc1 — October 3, 2012 @ 1:19 am | Reply

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you, Donna. Yes, on that most important thing of all, we have arrived – perhaps by different routes – at the same place. Love, in the end, is what matters most.

      And yes, you are also right that I have found the love of my life. I know you know what I mean when I say I could not begin to describe how much he has given me. My life would have been so incredibly different without him.

      Finally, thinking – at least about things like “Life questions” isn’t something I do alone. It’s like love: it needs at least two people. Why I have the kind of mind thatneeds to keep thinking about these things while other people do not have this need is a source of fascination to me. What I do see is that both approaches have a contribution to make. And that listening to others who take different roads is hugely enriching.

      And so my last thank you is for your continuous contributions to my posts. They really do make a difference. Terry


      Comment by Terry Sissons — October 3, 2012 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  2. Terry,

    This is SPLENDID. I do not espouse or identify w/any religion. Just can’t do it any more – for mostly the same reasons you outline in this excellent post. Thanks for this and for SO MANY of your thoughtful posts. I wish I knew how to respond to the posts directly. I asked Karen to show me how to do it when I visited her and Ginny in NY/Brooklyn in early September. But we never got around to it.

    I want you to know how deeply I appreciate your amazing work. I love you for all the evocative and sensible writings you do/have done over time. Please know that I appreciate your thoughtfulness and deep investigation of all that matters. One day, I’ll be able to respond directly and actually specify what most resonates w/me.

    Be well. Much love and peace and the 10,000 blessings, Delia


    Comment by 1delia — October 14, 2012 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

    • Delia, Thank you so much for this comment. I do find that writing these posts helps me clarify my own thoughts, but sometimes I wonder if I’m not boring my readers to death.

      I’m not sure from your comments whether you are aware that you have actually succeeded in posting your comment on my blog, or if you are, whether you checked the little box below the message window asking to be notified of any comments following yours. So I’m taking the precaution of sending a copy of this message to your email box as well.

      And I’m looking forward to hearing your own thoughts. We’re all in this together, aren’t we?

      I’m going to use all 10,000 blessings, and send 10,000 in return to you.


      Comment by theotheri — October 16, 2012 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

      • no problem – you are not boring me, nor most other readers


        Comment by Ray Voith — February 4, 2015 @ 8:51 pm

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