Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'm Not Awed by Authority, I Don't Conform Easily: So I Became a Catholic?!

I've never been big on conformity - or particularly good at it. As I wrote earlier today, I waited until the sixties trend of guys growing beards was over before growing mine.

So, why did I chose to become a Catholic? Marrying a Catholic woman was a factor - but it started a long time before that.

Snail Shells, the Irish Sweepstakes, Statistics, and God

In my teens, when most people start piecing together their own take on life, the universe, and everything, I noticed how orderly everything is. My parents had told me about God - and I accepted the idea that a specific person had not been created, and had created everything we can sense. Tentatively, at least.

I'd also learned something about statistics. I was a bit of a geek in high school. No, make that a big geek. White socks, pants that were too short, pocket protector, King-Kong-size Adam's apple in a long neck, horn-rim glasses, the whole nine yards.

Like I said, I'd learned something about statistics. The underlying orderliness of the universe - patterns getting repeated in snail shells, whirlpools, sunflower heads, and galaxies for example - suggested strongly that
  1. This wasn't something that just fell together
    • Odds are, it was made
      • By somebody
  2. Whoever made the universe liked really complex math
    • And modularization
The odds that a universe with everything from the gravitational constant to bonding forces in the outer shells of atoms being so perfectly balanced 'just happened' made winning the Irish Sweepstakes look like a sure bet.

I know: the counter-argument is that we're here to observe an orderly universe because creatures like us can exist only in such a place. Could be.

Or, maybe you're the only real thing: and that the monitor you're looking at, the keyboard, this post, me, and everybody else you've every met, are just figments of our imagination. Could be.

Or, turn it around: Maybe I'm the only real thing, and just imagining that you're there. Could be.

'I am God!' Yeah, Right

But, seriously? I doubt it. Very much. For starters, I'm nowhere near smart enough to keep track of all the mind-numbing detail I've noticed.

It's not that I'm modest, in the culturally-normative sense of the word. I'm a pretty sharp fellow. But years ago, when I was game-master for a fantasy role-playing game, I mislaid an entire barony for a while. I knew it was there, but the whole file - characters, stats, maps, everything - was misplaced.

Happily, God doesn't have lapses like that.

Experiences and Choices

Besides, I'd had a few experiences that strongly suggested that God was real, and interested in His creation.

Like the time - again, in my teens - when I was sinking, fast, in a blind, bright-red sea of rage and madness. I didn't like it. At all. Asked for help. And the redness dimmed, I could feel (comparative) calm flowing into my mind, and I could see. I still hurt, intensely, but I was here and able to deal with the situation. Elapsed time since my distress call? Maybe a second, probably less.

Again, there are the standard-issue secular explanations for what 'really' happened. They could be true.

But, if you throw a pair of dice and get a natural seven the first time: that's luck; random chance. Throw dice a hundred times in a row and get natural seven each time: that could be a wildly-improbable statistical fluke. But it's more likely that somebody's been fiddling with the dice.

In a sense, I've been rolling natural sevens all my life.

Not that I'm 'lucky' in the conventional sense:
  • I was born with a serious defect
  • Used in a medical experiment
    • Without my parents' knowledge or consent
  • I'm still dealing with psychological fallout from my mother's stroke, over four decades ago
  • A woman who meant a great deal to me killed herself
  • My wife and I had six children
    • Two of them died before birth
    • We nearly lost my wife with the last one
  • I lived with major depression for my all of my adolescence and the bulk of my adult life
    • Only recently discovering that everybody didn't feel this way
But I've never had more than I could take. I've skimmed the envelope from time to time, but never been pushed harder than I could bear.

And yes, I know: I've lived an easy, carefree life compared to many others. The point here is that I've had many opportunities to notice that somebody's been holding me up when the going got rough.

I think it helped that I've been willing to ask for help when I need it. Grudgingly, sometimes - but willing nonetheless.

I know this sounds trite, but God is willing to help. You have to make the choice to ask, though.

Why Would a Non-Conformist Become Catholic?

Conformity isn't one of my characteristics.

And, I've got a problem with authority, at least in one sense of the word. I'm not particularly awed by letters after someone's name, or a fancy title.

If an 'expert' says something that doesn't add up, I don't assume that I am too dull and unsophisticated to understand: and believe what I'm told. If at all possible, I check out the assertions. If they're backed up by facts, fine: I adjust my assumptions. If they're not, still fine: I file the assertions under one of the 'crackpot ideas' headings.

Again, why would a non-conformist, and someone who doesn't blindly accept what someone with a degree or a certificate says, become a Catholic?

  1. I have reason to believe that God exists
  2. I don't think that I'm more powerful than God
    • Intellectually
    • Physically
    • Or any other way
I've got a big ego - but not that big.

As I've said before, "God is large and in charge." There's more to my belief than that. But, as it says, "The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD, which is formed with the faithful in the womb." (Sirach 1:12) There's more to wisdom than that, of course. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1830, 1831, 1845, for starters) Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

But, yes: I fear God. I'm not a fool.

The way I see it, if I decide to defy God: I'll hurt myself; and not affect God all that much. It'd be sort of like punching a boulder. You could make some noise, and probably break your hand: but the boulder won't move.

I love and adore God, but I also recognize that He has the power and the willingness to do anything He wants. Happily, he's merciful as well as just - but that's another topic.

(I tell about my conversion, in a rather different way, in "Firebase Earth" - and elsewhere in this blog. The whole story isn't in any one post - and I doubt that I could write it all down.)

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.