March 2010


Twice in recent memory I’ve been accused of “being” Catholic. The first was, oddly, in a work setting–and I blogged about it here. The second was just a couple months ago when my brother informed me, “You’re Catholic because you were baptized Catholic.”

Now my brother is not religious, and he certainly knows my attitude toward organized religion (quite unfavorable)–so you can imagine my surprise! In any case, the experience spurred me to think about what exactly “being baptized” means, and more importantly, if I was counted as one of the “billion Catholics worldwide.” So I called up the church where I was baptized and asked for it to be undone.

Guess what, it can’t.

Once you’re baptized, you’re baptized. As my source tells me: “Baptism produces an indelible mark or character on the soul.” I guess it’s like getting married, even divorce won’t erase the fact you once were.

The good news, so I am told, is that Catholics are not counted by baptism, but rather through a periodic, informal census conducted at the parish level. While it’s true the names of the baptized are kept in the baptismal registry of each individual parish, they are not given to a centralized database.

So then–how do I become officially un-Catholic?

Well, to leave the church one must formally renounce one’s faith in a letter to the local bishop. As it turns out, this might be “important” to do–consider the following scenario:

If a non-practicing Catholic marries in a civil ceremony, the Church won’t recognize the marriage. But if you renounce your faith first, then get married, it will. Why? Because the church recognizes marriage for non-Catholics without going through their silly marriage rituals.

How does all this affect me? Well, I never wrote that letter, so my brother is right and in the eyes of the church, I’m Catholic after-all–but in a strange twist, I guess I’m no longer married! (Please don’t tell my wife)…

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This is a survey about “the meaning of life”—and about people’s opinions where meaning  in life may come from.

Of course such questions are grandiose, and the more we try to reduce our answer, the greater the temptation to quip rather than reflect. I hope you’ll do more reflecting than quipping.

The first two questions will probably take the longest to answer (5-? minutes, if I had to guess), but the remaining questions should go quickly.  Feel free to revise your answers as you complete the survey.

I hope you find this exercise interesting and perhaps in some way revealing—and thanks for taking the time!

Tyson

Click Here to Take the Survey

I recently read a story* about a little boy who, reaching for a slice of carrot, was nicked by his mother’s knife. Apparently she didn’t seem him reaching for it while she was slicing the carrot and immediately whisked him up and attended to his small cut. While she was holding him, he looked up at her and said, “I just wanted a carrot.” Only then did she realize he thought she cut him on purpose. And what is worse, he didn’t seem convinced by her pleading to the contrary.

It got me wondering: how often are we are cut for carrots? How frequently do we experience an effect and assume a cause for it that is entirely false? As the sort of meaning-seeking beings we are, it must happen all the time. I wager that many of us are walking around saddened by perceived slights and/or injuries that are merely the result of two things happening close together. Although, not David Hume (though he’s quite dead, so “walking around” may not be the right turn-of-phrase).

Hume thought that all cause and effect relationships were always open to doubt.  He argued that whatever knowledge and predictive power of what-causes-what is the result of experience or habit. When we send a billiard ball down the table and it breaks the rack of balls, we begin to believe (out of experience) that the same thing will happen again the next time we do it–but, according to Hume, we don’t KNOW that it will happen.  Hume insists there is no absolute or necessary connection between a certain cause and a certain effect–and since we do not have infinite experiences to refer to, we can never have absolute certainty regarding cause and effect.

That being said, I don’t think we need to doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I do think when our mother gives a little cut as we innocently reach for a carrot–its probably not intentional. Now give your mother a hug.

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*the story came from this book, which I can’t really recommend–it’s got some nice bits, but that’s about all.