April 17, 2012

Taking a Look at Mainstream Christian Beliefs

Catholic crucifixOne of the accusations Christians regularly make against atheist bloggers is that we present a skewed and unrealistic view of their religion by covering only the most extreme examples. By doing so, we portray something that the individual Christian often feels has little resemblance to his or her faith. I think this is a valid criticism. Of course, most of us who do this know full well that we are doing it and are even doing it somewhat strategically. For example, we may use extreme examples because they tend to reveal more about the thought processes which underlie most religious faith. Or we may use extreme examples to motivate activism, encourage self-selection, or other goals. But still, they have a point in criticizing us for this approach.

Recognizing this, The Lucky Atheist recently provided a fascinating example of what he labeled craziness in mainstream religion. He's embedded a trailer for a documentary about an exorcist in Spain, approved by the Catholic Church. If it is true that this man and his work is sanctioned by the church, doesn't that necessarily make it mainstream? I mean, we are talking about Catholicism here and not Scientology.

The Lucky Atheist asks the same question of Catholics I'd like to ask after watching the trailer: Do you believe in demonic possession and the need for exorcism in the 21st century, and if not, why do you remain a Catholic?

My guess is that most Catholics in the U.S. do not see any problem with continuing to call themselves Catholic while rejecting much of what Catholics in the rest of the world believe, even if it happens to be official doctrine. They may dismiss exorcism, use contraception, and laugh at the Pope, even while calling themselves Catholic. But what they cannot reasonably claim in these cases is that the beliefs they dismiss are anything other than mainstream.

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