Nope, That’s Not Why I’m Catholic (Part 3: I Actually AM Edumacated)

So in this series of blogs, I’ve been outlining all the faulty assumptions the non-Catholic or anti-Catholic people I know have about what I choose this faith for my own…and I’ve saved the best for last. Of course, by “best,” I mean the one I don’t handle well.

When it comes to “You’re only Catholic because you were raised that way,” I can usually respond intelligently with a discussion about human development and nature vs. nurture. When it comes to “You’re only Catholic because you’re afraid to go to hell,” I have no problem calmly explaining the bigger picture (Love) that they’re missing.

However, when it comes to the subject of this post:

You’re only Catholic because you don’t know how to think critically.

…or any of it’s cousins including “because you aren’t educated”, “because you just don’t know better” or “because you’ve never bothered to think for yourself,” I have a hard time keeping my calm, cool, and reasonable demeanor and start seeing red.

Uneducated Catholic

What I felt like doing after recently reading this line on my Facebook wall.

You see, I’m actually a very well-educated individual, and that education was not “sheltered.” Yes, I did attend Catholic school for Elementary and High School (Middle School was public), but then I went to a public university where I majored in English and minored in Spanish and…wait for it…Religious Studies.

Now let’s make a quick, but important distinction here between Religious Studies and Theology (which is often the religion major offered at Catholic and Christian universities). Theology is the study of God; at a Christian university, this is the study of God from the Christian perspective and through the Christian lens. Religious Studies, on the other hand, is the study of religion – many, many, many religions. It looks at religion from the perspective of an outsider – as opposed to theology which looks at God from inside the Christian worldview.

My background gave me an understanding of how to examine religion from the outside…but I also in the insider’s view of theology as evidenced by my graduate degree from the Loyola University (a Catholic institution). I can look at religion, God, doctrine, dogma, ritual and sacrament from both inside the Christian perspective and from the perspective of many other religions – or no religion (because athiesm in the United States is it’s own religion).

Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster

Oh yes, this is a real thing.

In my Religious Studies courses I studied many major religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. I also studied many of the more minor religions including Scientology, the Raelian Movement, Satanism, Wicca, Navajo religion, Jehova’s Witness, Baha’i and even the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I took a course that outlines the difference between a religion and a cult and studies some of the significant cults of the United States. I also took a few courses on the history of religion including the ancient near eastern religions.

This means that I know all about the similarities between Horus, Isis, Osirius and Jesus, Mary and God. It means I know that ancient near eastern pagan religions included “eating the god” rituals thousands of years before The Last Supper. It means that I have explored the potential benefits of the 8 pillars of Islam in depth and chosen what about Judaism I can accept (a great mystic tradition, monotheism, and the cycle of sin and redemption throughout the Hebrew Scriptures) and what about the Raelian Movement I reject (pretty much everything).


Raelians believe in aliens and topless women (according to Google image search). Pictured here: Not Faithful Raelian women

Of course, it’s not just the Religious Studies background that I feel like I so greatly need to defend when I face the “You’re only Catholic because you’re uneducated” crowd. My extensive background in literature and theories of literary criticism mean I know how to think critically. I’m fairly certain Dr. Klemp would be personally offended and may leave teaching altogether if I had managed to survive 5 college courses with him unable to think for myself!

To claim that I could have studied these topics so extensively and still somehow be “fooling myself” or “not really thinking rationally” is an insult not only to me, but also to those professors who taught me how to think for myself and to the classmates with whom I debated extensively on these topics.

See, here’s the great thing about the wonderful education I received (and will be paying for a long time to come on a church employee’s salary!). It taught me how to think for myself, how to apply critical thinking and analysis techniques to any worldview, how to recognize the ways my own personal bias affects my thinking, and how to put on different lenses through which to see the world.

But here’s the rub…this also means that I’ve thought critically enough to see the flaws in the objectivist worldview that you (imaginary person with whom I am once again arguing) see the world. It means that the lessons about metacognition (thinking about thinking) that my education provided were the same lessons that helped me to reject the anti-religious bias that some of those same professors not-so-subtly included in their lectures and grading.

See, I’ve explored other religions – even felt the draw of the ritual and otherworldliness of religions many Catholics fear (like Wicca) – but ultimately, the things I found appealing about those religions (like mysticism that encourages us to get in touch with invisible realities) or seemed to make the most sense (like ritual that reminds us our bodies speak a language) or even met all of my critera for logical doctrine (like the idea that there is something that connects all living things) – see, the Catholic Church already offers all of those. Every time I encountered a religion that had something I agreed with or something that made sense, I also encountered something that didn’t – except with Catholicism.

What?! Yeah, many people find it shocking when I say that I agree with Catholicism – whole part and parcel – the whole gig. I’ve yet to find something found within the truths held by this religion that I don’t agree with…once I bothered to put my critical thinking cap on and seek out the reasons behind the rituals, teachings, and dogmas.

See, in my experience, the people who use this argument against religion are usually the ones rejecting some of their critical thinking training. They take a few isolated incidents of people who did bad things in the name of the religion and paint the whole religion with the same brush. They reject teachings that might challenge them to change the way they live (like the Church’s teachings on subsidiarity or contraception) without bothering to research and examine the reasons behind those teachings.

Perfect time for a little pro-Catholic propoganda I think. Turns out there’s more to the Catholic Church than scandal and war…something only people who decide to think for themselves rather than simply buying the media spin might discover:

So (here’s me talking to an imaginary person again), how about we keep the insults to a minimum and examine this together? I’d be happy to meet you on a logical and rational field of educated minds and really discuss what it is that so attracted me to Catholicism.

And for all of those who do agree with me – I ask of you 2 things.

  1. Please pray for me – that I can respond in love and out of love when confronted with those who use ridicule and insults as their primary methods of debate, and
  2. Please join me in gently correcting all these people who make faulty assumptions about why we choose this faith by living our faith (and the reasons behind it) more publicly.

The more often we share our faith in the manner it can be received by our audience, the less often we will encounter these misconceptions. Instead, the conversation can change from “You’re only Catholic because…” to “I know you’ve said you’re Catholic because….I’d like to learn more about that.”

Any thoughts? How can you better witness to the reasons behind your faith? Better yet…how about a little Catholic love fest in the comment section here – why are YOU Catholic?


  1. irishbutterflyKelly · February 21, 2012

    THANK YOU for your witness!!

    I went to a Catholic high school, and my English teacher was my absolute favorite teacher there. I even ended up majoring in English. But I will always remember the one time I mentioned something about being pro-life, and she responded with, “Oh Kelly, really? You’re much too intelligent to believe all that.”

    *Crash* There went the rose-colored glasses.

    I’m Catholic BECAUSE I’m educated, too, thanks to my parents who raised me Catholic and encouraged me to take my spiritual journey into my own hands, and my Life Teen priest who had weekly “defending the faith” sessions.

    It kills me when people point to Catholics/Christians who are either uneducated (or mis-educated) or not devout and practicing what the faith teaches, saying, “See? That’s what you’re all like!” Just because there are Christians who are stupid does not mean all Christians are stupid… any more than the fact that there are intelligent atheists means that all atheists are intelligent. It just means there are stupid and intelligent PEOPLE.

    Anyway, thanks for speaking up, sister!

  2. Tim · February 21, 2012

    You’re only Catholic because of Eucharist.

    • ymkbird · February 21, 2012

      Now there’s a “You’re only Catholic because…” assumption I can get behind!

  3. Valerie F · February 22, 2012

    A great ending to a great series of posts! I am a friend of Rebecca’s and she is the one who invited me to come read at this blog and I really am glad I did. I’ve enjoyed so many of the posts and perspectives 🙂

    Why am I Catholic? Well, I’m Catholic because Mary has been drawing me closer to her and her Son Jesus since I was a baby and I never really knew it until I became an adult. Unlike you, I did not grow up Catholic. I grew up Southern Baptist and was that until I graduated high school. My first semester in college was when my journey home started. I took a few wrong turns (went to a United Pentecostal church for a little while and a non-denominational church after that) but eventually I found my way home to Rome with a little help from a devout Catholic friend. She wanted to set me up with this “guy who is perfect for you” and invited me to a Theology on Tap. I met the guy but better still, that night I had an encounter with the Catholic Church that left me with questions and a desire to learn more. To make a long story short, things didn’t work out with that guy but he played a part in my coming home too. We became friends and he invited me and my friend to a Spirit and Truth meeting. That’s where I met Fr. Bean who was a Southern Baptist minister before converting. I started going to Spirit and Truth (which is one hour of worship through song and study of the Bible or Church and then one hour of Eucharistic Adoration) and in the months to come, I began to fall in love with the Church. My biggest hurdle was believing in the Real Presence but I had an encounter with Jesus that helped me get over that hurdle (and is a story in it’s own right) too. After that, there was nothing else I could be but Catholic. I had all this Truth, history, mystery, rite and ritual in front of me and I realised that my faith had become fuller and more complete and that I had to become — no, NEEDED to become — Catholic.

    So I was confirmed at Easter Vigil 2005 and it’s been almost seven years of wonder and a deep and abiding love that only grows stronger each day. Oh, and did I mention that I wouldn’t be married if not for the Church? Yep, that’s where I met my best friend Eric who proposed to me just 3 days after my confirmation. So I got a deeper and more wonderful faith AND a husband too:)

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