Let Us Pray
I’ve been thinking about the “law of unintended consequences” of late, and wondering if perhaps it has played quite a role in how our society has evolved in just my own short lifetime. And when I use the term “evolved” I mean declined.
I was born into a world that was extremely influenced by religion, a world where religion was an extreme part of my early life. I don’t think I’m alone. I think religion was a much bigger influence sixty years ago in all our lives than it is today.
And I was born into a world where people held things solemn, held things sacred, now there are two words, and concepts that seems to be foreign to our daily lives today.
Solemn. Sacred. Two words that have disappeared from our vocabulary.
I associate the two with religion. I grew up a little Catholic boy, and you held some things very sacred. Family and faith foremost. Human life was sacred.
Downstream from solemn, and sacred was reverence. You were taught to revere your parents, your elders, the adults in your world. The nuns and priests, coaches and den mothers, scout leaders.
I attended Catholic school growing up, and so religion was a daily part of my life. This sense of good verses evil was omnipresent. This sense of right and wrong, the concept of sin, living one’s life by the tenants of the Ten Commandments, guided by biblical principles and parables.
The idea of living a moral life hung over our daily existence like some sword of Damocles, and punishment lurked around every corner.
I’ve watched as sin morphed from a looming horror, to a nagging conscience, and finally today into an antiquated notion, a relic from a distant past. The word conjure a world of black-and-white movies, an idea whose time has passed.
I may have decided as I developed from childhood into those teen years, and then into adulthood to do the wrong thing, to choose the wrong path, and even at times to want to do the wrong things purposefully, with full intention, but I always knew. I knew what I was doing was wrong, I made those decisions willfully, and knew concretely I was straying from a moral life.
And do you know why? Because my early existence was steeped in religion.
But along the way I fell away from the church, as so many of us did. Somewhere along the line the message became monotonous, we questioned, as generations before us had never questioned. And when we questioned we didn't like the answers we received. And so we became disillusioned.
And the “sins” of the Catholic Church itself didn’t help. It only reinforced and validated our questioning. We became emboldened in our desire to move further away from organized religion, and to even raise our own children with a bit of a healthy distance from the daily involvement of the church, of religion, of faith.
Somewhere along the line as we became more secular, we fell away not just from the church itself, not just from faith itself, but also from those moral teachings, the valuable added benefits that religion reinforces, of reflection, self analysis, concepts such as solemnity, reverence, holding some things sacred in our lives.
We meant to remove the structure of religion, the actual mechanism that was “the church”, the requirements of mass, outdated practices that felt artificial, outmoded. We found the idea that the only the church could bestow upon us absolutions, or sacraments ridiculous, we saw priests as mere men, mere mortals, as capable of sin and failing as were we. Who were they to have this magical power to absolve? Who were they to consecrate our union?
So out of our lives went formal religion, but unfortunately when we threw out the religion, out went so much more. We threw out the baby, the bathwater, and the tub itself.
You see it everywhere in our society today.
Theft is excused as some form of social redress.
Abortion went from safe, legal, and rare to actually being celebrated by women today as they go to Tik Tok to tell the world their story, and take some sick pride in what they’ve done, as if having had an abortion is some feminist badge of honor, and not the taking of another life.
Ethics have become muddled or ignored completely. Cheating scandals erupt in sports, no one blinks an eye.
The younger generations today have abandoned the connection between intimacy and relationship. They speak casually about “body count”, not realizing that casual physical relations leads to feeling hollow, empty, unfulfilled. Can cause emotional issues about self worth, personal value. One feels such a greater sense of spiritual fulfillment if the intimacy experienced is with someone you actually care about, and want to be a part of your life.
Every direction in which I glance I see a moral failing, a societal decline, a complete moral failing.
And I have to believe that it is somehow connected to our becoming a more secular society and having moved away from religion.
I feel as if I’m standing with one foot in two different worlds. I am not a fan of organized religion but the moral clarity they bring to our lives, and the manners and concepts they instill in our lives serve us both individually and collectively.
They make us better people, and a better people.
I no longer wanted the duties of attending mass, listening to sermons from single men, morality hanging over all decisions and actions as if a dark cloud.
But in removing oneself from organized religion you lose a connection to valuable benefits, ideas and concepts.
A solemn review of present actions, a reverence for others, these are things that can inform our world for the better.
I think that as we have collectively slid away from religion in our society, we see the results. They are out there right in front of us every day.
Would love to hear your own opinion in the comments section.