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First Holy Communion (reflections)
#1
First Holy Communion (reflections)
So, I went to Mass last Sunday at the behest of my sister. Her son (my nephew) was going to receive First Holy Communion. (For those unfamiliar with Catholicism, that's when you eat a small piece of plastic for the first time and everybody makes a big deal about it.) Anyway, I payed attention to the proceedings and figured I might produce an account of it as perceived through the lens of skepticism. I even made sure to check my biases and study the ceremony for positives... goods which might be derived uniquely from theistic ceremony. Here is what I came up with:

First off, I want to say that I participated merely to be a part of an event in my nephew's life--not to endorse religion influencing him in any capacity. Whereas others gave him gifts like a rosary, a statuette of Mary, and a Christian coloring book, I gave him toys--something that I feel is of real practical value for a boy his age. Furthermore, he's a sharp kid. And when he's old enough to start asking questions, his uncle will be there to let him in on the other side of the story.

First observation: holy water. About a third of the way into the proceedings, a deacon strolled up and down the aisle using a pestle-like object to sprinkle holy water on the crowd. A droplet hit my forehead. The burning was mild, but that's not really the issue I took with it. After all, it seems rather harmless to sprinkle little bits of water onto a crowd, and (admittedly) I found the place to be remarkably free of vampires. But isn't it odd that, this day and age, masses of people attribute special holy powers to ordinary water? Seriously, its just water. And it takes a bit of imagination to consider it otherwise.

The only thing that differentiates it from "normal" water as that it has been blessed by a priest. So what? That brings up my next issue: blessing. At one point during the ceremony, the priest talked about these little plaques that were given to each of the participants commemorating their first holy communion. Fine. But then he added that he had personally "blessed" each one. What good does it do to "bless" something? This is starting to sound less like reality and more like D&D. It's all fine and good that if (while carrying the plaque) my nephew were to receive a +1 bonus to his saving throws, but there is absolutely no evidence that anything remotely like that is the case. However, I'm sure that "blessing" holds a real meaning for many that were in the church that day. If you pressed a believer to give an explanation for what a blessing practically does, I'm guessing you'd either get a shrug or a convoluted explanation that resembles the saving throws concept.

What I did like was the homily. The priest talked about cultivating love within oneself, not only for family and close ones, but also for strangers. This seems like a good idea to me. I have reservations about equating love with Jesus or advising one to express love to an imaginary being. But where else (outside of religious institutions) do people intentionally and meditatively cultivate love within themselves? Hippies do it, I guess. But otherwise this sort of thing is only practiced in a religious context.

Freed from its doctrinal trappings, I think this sort of spiritual exercise may be of benefit. What do you say? Is gathering together with other people to intentionally cultivate love within oneself a beneficial spiritual exercise? Or is it just wishful/imaginative thinking that serves no real purpose whatsoever? As atheists, I think we sometimes forget that maybe some people don't go to church just to hear about Sky Fairy. Perhaps some are motivated to participate in a spiritual exercise they can't really do anywhere else.
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#2
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
I'd prefer community be enjoyed without the religious/spiritual aspect.

From what I understand, people become irrationally trapped within the confines of religious belief due to the community aspect, unreasonably thinking the comfort of community cannot be found outside of a religious setting.
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#3
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
Those people would likely express that same behavior no matter what community they joined.  In this case..it;s not really the churches fault that it happens, people go to churches to -do- that.  

Some,  though, go to mass and many other denoms of christian service ( mass and southern bap is a popular combo in the south)...and even attend weekend programs for children...without ever becoming part of that demographic.  That;s the fabric of my childhood, right thur, lol.
I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight… wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor against her enemies. I am the Queen of Battle. I am what my country expects me to be, the best trained Soldier in the world. In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous, armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country’s trust. Always I fight on…through the foe, to the objective, to triumph overall. If necessary, I will fight to my death. By my steadfast courage, I have won more than 200 years of freedom. I yield not to weakness, to hunger, to cowardice, to fatigue, to superior odds, For I am mentally tough, physically strong, and morally straight. I forsake not, my country, my mission, my comrades, my sacred duty. I am relentless. I am always there, now and forever. I AM THE INFANTRY! FOLLOW ME!
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#4
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
Quote:And it takes a bit of imagination to consider it otherwise.


The one thing the fuckers have in abundance is imagination.
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#5
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
Observing Roman Catholic (and Orthodox) worship from the outside is often puzzling, not only for nonbelievers, but also for other Christians. A Protestant, like me, cannot help but start to do all kinds of mental translations in a similar way you did by viewing the proceeding through your skeptical lens. For example, Catholics think the Body of Christ refers only to them and not in the more universal way Protestants do (accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior). As someone who really and truly deeply respects the rich history, art, and intellectual depth of Catholicism, my desire to convert is tempered by it still feeling so strangely foreign.

Perhaps because I am an odd-bird always hearing church-speak and trying to tease out the underlying theology. That partly explains my former atheism because I kept hearing phrases like “Word made Flesh” without anyone bothering to explain them. As such I concluded they were just things people said without bothering to know what they actually entailed, philosophically.
So for better or worse, I can tell you how I, personally interpret those same curious Catholic practices and how I would have to translate them in my mind if I ever did RCIA.

(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Furthermore, he's a sharp kid. And when he's old enough to start asking questions, his uncle will be there to let him in on the other side of the story.

That’s what uncles are for…teaching our nephews all the dirty words.

(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: First observation: holy water. About a third of the way into the proceedings, a deacon strolled up and down the aisle using a pestle-like object to sprinkle holy water on the crowd. A droplet hit my forehead. The burning was mild,…

IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: …isn't it odd that, this day and age, masses of people attribute special holy powers to ordinary water? Seriously, its just water. And it takes a bit of imagination to consider it otherwise… The only thing that differentiates it from "normal" water as that it has been blessed by a priest. So what?

So as a non-Catholic, I’ll use my imagination. In Hebrew the word for holy means, apart. So I would consider holy water, to be water ritualistically “set aside” for sacred use or purpose. And like a good Aristotelian, I can imagine that in some mystical way the blessing of the priest endows the water with final cause that it would not otherwise have, it has become a means for the transfer of purpose.

(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: That brings up my next issue: blessing. What good does it do to "bless" something? … I'm sure that "blessing" holds a real meaning for many that were in the church that day. If you pressed a believer to give an explanation for what a blessing practically does, I'm guessing you'd either get a shrug or a convoluted explanation that resembles the saving throws concept.

Again putting Catholic practices through my imaginary Protestant translation engine, a blessing seems to be a lot like provenance. Think about the difference between an ordinary American flag and one that once draped over the coffin of a fallen soldier. How would the family feel if they found out that someone had snuck into their house and replaced the framed and folded flag on their mantle with one directly from Walgreens? Both are just pieces of cloth and yet somehow we feel very different about one than the other even if there is no objective difference between them. Like sentimental value, knowledge of a blessing seemingly makes an object capable of magically transferring something that is more than just a feeling – almost tangible.

(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Is gathering together with other people to intentionally cultivate love within oneself a beneficial spiritual exercise? Or is it just wishful/imaginative thinking that serves no real purpose whatsoever?

Communal worship, more than any other cultural practice, seems as if it has proven to serve as an unparalleled way to build community among people with diverse backgrounds and personal circumstances. I cannot think of any other type of institution that cultivates unconditional positive regard for one’s fellow human being more than churches. Not that they are perfect. Not that there are not denominational rivalries and sometimes bad blood between them. Just that overall, Jewish and Christian communal worship moves people to consider each other brothers and sisters united by a common humanity.

(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: … just to hear about Sky Fairy.

Really? You just had to go there?
<insert profound quote here>
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#6
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: What do you say? Is gathering together with other people to intentionally cultivate love within oneself a beneficial spiritual exercise?

I fail to see why or how such a thing wouldn't be beneficial.

---

I'm glad you enjoyed the homily. Sounds like a very typical homily, which is why they've become boring to me (always about the same type of theme), but I'm glad you liked it.

As for holy water, no, we don't believe it has any magical powers or anything like that lol. It's more of a symbolic thing. Just as a flag might inspire feelings of patriotism, the knowledge that an object is blessed might inspire us towards God.
"Of course, everyone will claim they respect someone who tries to speak the truth, but in reality, this is a rare quality. Most respect those who speak truths they agree with, and their respect for the speaking only extends as far as their realm of personal agreement. It is less common, almost to the point of becoming a saintly virtue, that someone truly respects and loves the truth seeker, even when their conclusions differ wildly." 

-walsh
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#7
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
Did you get him hammered on blood of christ coolers after like a good uncle should?
I don't have an anger problem, I have an idiot problem




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#8
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
[Image: top-10-crazy-catholic-pope-dogs-L-8Y_TtR.jpeg]



Pope Pup

[Image: religion-communion-congregations-church-...35_low.jpg]
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#9
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
Quote:no, we don't believe it has any magical powers or anything like that lol. It's more of a symbolic thing

ooh, I love it when you talk dirty!

Someone call 911 NOW! Some skeptic atheist has kidnapped Deb's account and is posting as her!

Hang in there Deb, we'll find and punish that heathenous rascal!
No God, No fear.
Know God, Know fear.
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#10
RE: First Holy Communion (reflections)
(May 10, 2018 at 1:21 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: So, I went to Mass last Sunday at the behest of my sister.

Grow a pair.
teachings of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries. It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. - Sam Harris, "Letter To A Christian Nation"
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