Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Thoughts on Religion, Part 1.

As long as I've spouted off on politics, why not tackle that other taboo subject, religion? For those of you that I haven't offended already, I'm sure to get to you now. After all, I'm an Equal Opportunity Pain-in-the-Ass. So here goes.

I'm what my parents' generation would call a "fallen-away Catholic." Christopher Buckley, William F.'s son, calls himself "post-Catholic." I guess I'd call myself a "free-thinker." Or, as one of my favorite bumper stickers says, "Militantly Agnostic: I don't know and you don't, either."

The last time I attended a Catholic mass, we all recited the Nicene Creed. It begins, "We believe in one God..." and I thought, we do? Why one God? Why not two? Why not a hundred? Why not an infinite number, as long as the universe is so mysterious? I'm not trying to be a smart ass; I'm genuinely curious. As a kid, growing up in parochial schools we were taught that the Jews were special because they were monotheistic, that is, they believed in only one god, as opposed to everyone else in the ancient world, who were hopelessly polytheistic. (An interesting case were the Manichaeists, who believed in two gods. Apparently one was not enough but more than two was just plain silly.)

So the Jews believed in one God. So what? I still don't know why one is the optimal number. But from Judaism emerged a sect known as Christians, who followed the teachings of Jesus, who they thought was the Messiah, or Christ, from a Greek word of the same meaning. The sect eventually accepted Gentiles, or non-Jews, and attained cult status throughout the Roman Empire. After Constantine's mother converted and later Constantine himself, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire and ultimately all of Europe and the West.

So that's why modern-day American Catholics believe in one God.

Next: Jesus of Nazareth.

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