How Many Believers, Really?

Intellectual honesty is a very important thing to me. It’s why I feel so closely tied with atheism AND skepticism. I have a little bit of…disrespect, might not be the right word but we’ll use that for now, for atheists who in someway believe in another type of “woo” (much love to James Randi).  And it’s with this skeptical eye, that I turn my attention, once again, to believers. I feel that’s a wrong term too, because in my heart I can’t possibly see them believing EVERYTHING. which goes back to intellectual honesty. I’ll start with my mom.

I was raised Catholic, I was confirmed, CCD, all that stuff. That was because that’s what my parents were (shocking, I know). Also, this is the religion I’m most well-versed in, but all the upcoming points I’m making, there’s probably a connection to every other religion one could make if there were better at this than me. Anyways, after I became an atheist (around age 17/18) I learned what Catholics REALLY believed, or so I thought. I just need one word to explain a delineation that still messes with my head to this day: Transubstantiation. This is the belief that after a certain set of words are said, the wafer and wine during the eucharist ACTUALLY turns into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. No, this isn’t a metaphor or a clever story, it ACTUALLY happens. Obviously, to me, this is just nonsense. I could kinda/sorta/maybe understand if one saw it as symbolism but crackers don’t turn into flesh…that just doesn’t happen. So one day, I just asked my mom,

  • Me: “Do you believe that the wine changes to blood?”
  • Her: “What?”
  • Me: “You are Catholic. You have to believe that the wine changes into blood.”
  • Her: “Really?”
  • Me: “Yes. It’s part of the religion. A major part. Wars have been fought over if the cracker comes to life.”
  • Her: “Oh. Well, I guess yes.”
  • Me: “Mum, really. You honestly believe that. Wine, poured from the bottle, becomes Jesus’ blood.”
  • Her: “I guess.”

And this is my all-time giant question. Now I know my mom doesn’t believe that wine into blood is real. She just can’t admit to me and concede a point. And I sincerely doubt that this is an aberration compared to the rest of the world. There are just so many elements in any religion where I think, “People say that believe it, but they can’t ACTUALLY believe.” Virgin birth, resurrection, living inside a whale? And this exists across religions. I just wonder, with a healthy dose of Sodium Pentothal and hooked to a lie detector, how many people sincerely believe. As honest a belief that the sun will rise tomorrow and that water is wet; the cracker becomes flesh or that a flood killed all people and animals on earth except for a select few on a giant boat… There’s so many singular ideas that differentiate one religion from another and those differences, to me, are the foundations of non-belief. I just refuse to believe that every single person who says they are a believer, believes fully. If we can remove the stigma of atheism, I think it’ll be easier for people to drop their “silly” beliefs.


One comment

  1. In my unfortunate days in a Catholic school — I like to tell people that the Slimy Bastards raised my sister and me Roman Catholic, whereupon she found Jesus and I found Carl Sagan — the penguins would go on about the Transubstantiation. They would complain that while even some Catholics would describe it as symbolic, the wine and paste bread DID BECOME blood and flesh when the priest said his magic words over them, no matter their appearance. Even at the age of 10, I had to ask the question, albeit privately, “If we know what something is by observing its properties and comparing them to a standard, and if the properties of the Elements are those of wine and paste bread, how can they be anything else?”. Thus began my journey to nonbelief. I only wish that critical thinking were more emphasized in education and elsewhere.


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