I got a thoughtful letter on Thanksgiving Day that I thought I would share:
On [your page about religious freedom] you wrote, “Americans tend to think religion is the exact same thing as Christianity. Of course, it isn’t.” It was years ago that I visited that page and was exposed to that idea for the first time.
Before then, I was raised devoutly Roman Catholic and attended private Catholic schools, where for 13 years I was surrounded by like-minded people. I was happy and confident in my piety and didn’t understand those who were intolerant of religion. But when I started college in 1997, I began encountering people who were different. It was not horrifying; on the contrary, it was fascinating. My upbringing had never taught me that there was so much else to learn and understand! I’m now very comfortably not Roman Catholic. Nor am I agnostic, or atheistic, or much of anything else. A wise man once said, “-ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.”
I listen weekly to podcasts like Point of Inquiry and Scientific American; read books such as Conversations With God and I Sold My Soul on eBay; and distribute GOOHF cards in church collection plates. Christians tell me I’m going to Hell; atheists tell me it’s my fault we’re already there. For me to be upsetting that many people, I must be doing something right.
I’m still happily on this path of discovery. I can’t say that for sure that ‘This Is True’ — and, before that, ‘This Just In‘ — set me down it, but it’s certainly played a role in helping open the mind of this person. Thank you. –Ken in Massachusetts
You’re welcome, Ken. As I’ve said for years, True has two missions: to entertain, and to get people to think. I’m glad it apparently did both for you.
A Long Path
The path you’re on often takes a long time to complete. You may yet return to Catholicism, or head somewhere else. But when you get there, it’ll be because you thought about it and made up your own mind, rather than just say “I dunno why I’m Catholic (or Baptist or Anglican or Muslim — or Democrat or Republican, for that matter); I guess it’s because my dad was.”
I’d much rather spend time with someone who made up their own mind after thinking about the important issues involved than someone who mindlessly follows along without any concept as to why.
Two other points: if atheists are telling you it’s “your fault” that we’re “already in hell,” they’re not very good atheists! But I suspect that was just a joke.
The other, the quote from the wise man, I had to look up. Here’s the full quote:
Not that I condone fascism, or any “ism” for that matter. Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus, I’d still have to bum rides off of people.
Sounds more like a wise guy than a wise man, eh? What wise man said this? Ferris Bueller, in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Or, really, the screenwriter put those words in his mouth.)
You never know what will get you to think. It could be a pop culture movie, it could be a weird news newsletter. Anything that gets you to think about real issues that affect your life is a Good Thing, eh?
Ken is indeed a long-time reader: he’s been on the Premium distribution for more than ten years. I also found a previous letter from him on the same subject. In December 2001, in response to several other stories that had to do with religion, he wrote:
Christianity has so many wonderful qualities. It’s a shame that people can’t follow them wholeheartedly; if they did, then they’d be wiser than to be caught in so many of the religion’s pitfalls.
A relative of mine said that her church’s new pastor is somewhat controversial. “How?” I asked. “Well… he’s open-minded.”
True story, word-for-word.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Neither: smile inwardly because you get to witness someone starting to wake up and think! You don’t have to lecture them or tell them what to think, but you can encourage them to keep it up and discover their own path, just like you did. Trust me: it’s immensely gratifying to watch it happen.
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