It’s not a good time to be a Catholic in Australia. But to assume we’re all morally questionable theological dinosaurs is not only unfair, but shows a fundamentalist devotion to ignorance.
I write this as a god (and public backlash) fearing Catholic. In the wake of the growing Census results and the High Court releasing George Pell, it seems to be the end of days for the openly religious in this country. For the record, I believe the victims of sexual abuse within the church, I find the release of Pell abhorrent and anyone found guilty of said crimes should be hung from the nearest and highest tree.
But, I’m aware, especially in my generation, that your religion is a thing to hide socially, especially if you happen to practice Catholicism, lest you become subject to atheist/unaligned/nonplussed criticisms from those closest to you. I realise that it’s not a patch on what other religions cop from the same crowd, but it seems to be part of a greater issue in this country. You can be religious, but as long as you don’t take it seriously.
A great microcosm of this default problem with religion, and therefore a problem with those identify themselves as religious, would be between myself and my best mate, who happens to run this publication. He happens to subscribe to the whole philosophical god is dead scientific nihilism school of thought that many follow. Which is fine. He and I met at the same high school one afternoon in the morning of the millennium, a school run by Catholic teaching tenets, I went because I’m religious, he went because he wasn’t.
The metaphor for our theological separation is the difference in our marks in Year 11 religion. I studied, and he didn’t. We were both proud of our differing marks. But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care either way. It won’t change our friendship, partially because we’ve never tried to convince each other of the opposite. He was there for the baptism of my daughter, and I’ll be there for his funeral, which he claims will be held in whichever pub toilet that was his last, and that’s what matters.
To assume that we’re all Lyle Shelton, Margaret Court or Israel Folau shows belief, a devotion to confirmation bias. You accept what you want to see, so you see it. It’s a miracle. The immaculate conception of criticism.
However, the relationship we all have with this issue, is sadly not something that is a condition of the issue writ large. As we’re a quickly growing into the atheist nation, easy masterpieces of assumptions are commissioned, and one definition tends to define the movement. Buddhists are hipsters, Muslims cut off hands and Catholics are terrible babysitters. All of which is unfair. And yes, much like all establishments run by people, there are a few questionable apples that ruin the stew. Moreover, it is difficult to pitch the normality of religion to the citizens of a secular nation ruled by someone so open about his faith.
But to assume that every Catholic is an aggressive boil on the bodice of society, oozing the pus of exclusion, the sanctity of marriage and believing that gay is a disease, is blind, and for a mass who has deemed themselves smart enough to see themselves above the teachings from two thousand years back, it’s actually quite stupid.
There’s an odd duality between those who are religious, and those who claim not to be. Especially those who take it too far. For those who are opposed to same-sex marriage, they select a quote from the bible and believe it to be gospel, whereas those opposed to religion, do the same process, and hold that as an absolute truth. Like everything, it’s up for interpretation.
Put another way, to assume that we’re all Lyle Shelton, Margaret Court or Tony Abbott shows belief, a devotion to confirmation bias. You accept what you want to see, so you see it. It’s a miracle. The immaculate conception of criticism. Catholics are a remnant of your parent’s generation. The one house on your street you knew you wouldn’t get your ball back if it went over their fence. The image of the prototype Catholic baby boomer with their fists clenched and eyes narrowed is canon in the modern Australian experience.
To be perfectly frank, I’ve seen this social condition, but I’ve done nothing to change it. Out of all the friends I call my closest, I know that one certainly is religious, but the fragments I’ve caught from the rest makes me believe they’re in the opposite camp. I realise that a large part of Australia has vacated the Church, and will continue to do so, and just maybe, God is dead (as I keep hearing), but again, maybe not.
I’d like to close with a psalm from the Atheist Jesus, Dr Richard Dawkins: “Let children learn about different faiths, let them notice their incompatibility, and let them draw their own conclusions about the consequences of that incompatibility. As for whether they are ‘valid,’ let them make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.”