by Anthony Cossette
Judging by your confusion at the title of the column and this article, you, dear reader, are perhaps wondering what lies in store for you as you dare to read these not-so-sacred words in a fundamentally Catholic newspaper operating at a Catholic university. Yes, you may require a quick confession and absolution from our friends, the Jesuits, after just one glance at what I have to write about. I assure you, however, that there will be no outlines of satanic rituals to perform or the typical religion bashing that the prototypical atheist savors to accomplish simply for the sake of being an obnoxious provocateur. I believe we have long since grown past the days of witch-hunts that our neighboring Salem used to conduct in the days of yore.
These introductory remarks beg a simple question that yields no easily discernible answer: “Why would a professed nonbeliever be writing in a religious newspaper?” For one, I was practically raised as a Catholic. I was anointed in the customary Sacrament of Baptism as an infant, attended a Catholic grade school from kindergarten to the eighth grade, and then went on to a Jesuit high school. Throughout most of this period, I was your bread-and-butter neighborhood Catholic, receiving the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Communion. I attended Mass on most Sundays, lest I incurred the great wrath of God for committing a mortal sin by sleeping away His precious time. So what would cause me to change this trajectory and become an apostate of Catholicism and organized religion in general?
The reasons for my eventual rejection of the tenets of Catholic faith were not due to an intense dislike of anyone within the Church, but because of my radical questioning of the truth and import of Catholic doctrines, as well as because of my doubts concerning the very existence of a theistic God. The word “radical” does not imply that I am a rabble-rouser seeking to generate controversy left and right. In fact, “radical” comes from the Latin word radix, meaning “root.” So, to be philosophically “radical” means to grasp the “root” of the matters at hand which, in this case, are the roles and purposes of religion in our modern society. The specifics of these concerns go well beyond the scope of this article. My intention is that subsequent issues will further elucidate my views so as to generate discussion and dialogue between members of all faith, including those of no faith. The so-called “culture wars” that the modern American media likes to portray as genuine intellectual inquiry often seem nothing more than mere eristics, or two sides engaging in a style of pointless debate centered on winning and beating the opponent’s argument. The world is already full of issues in addition to these age-old antagonisms. Let’s not seek to exacerbate the tensions by citing all the artificial boundaries separating each of us. We should opt instead to find agreement and commonalities among ourselves so we can come to pursue actual solutions to the vexing and persistent difficulties plaguing our planet, such as poverty, wanton destruction to our biosphere, petty nationalistic politics, and war. So let’s attempt to set aside prejudicial differences and join me as I extend my hand out to you in warm greeting as your local, friendly, neighborhood agnostic.