I was raised from birth in the Roman Catholic Church, growing up just outside of San Francisco, CA. My very Catholic parents sent my brothers and me to Catholic grammar school and Catholic high school. We always went to mass as a family on Sundays. I have sung in many a church choir, and I was even the choir director at my parents' parish for a couple years.
The Jesuits taught me well in high school. I value my experience there, even though I felt that I wasn't prepared for the academic rigor of college. I went to a private university on the East Coast and somehow slogged through well enough to earn my bachelor's degree in biology. Now I work in an academic research lab in San Francisco.
I lived a pretty sheltered life as a Catholic school kid. I was always a nerd in school, very math-y and science-y, thanks to my nerdy and supportive parents. The Big Bang, evolution, and science in general never seemed anti-Bible, anti-God, or anti-Church to me. The first intellectual challenges to my simple spiritual understanding came in quick succession at the end of high school and the beginning of college.
Spring semester, senior year in high school, I took a World Religions course. The coursework defined religion as a person's response to the mystery of life. Yes, that means that atheism is a religion, too. One day our teacher invited a couple Jehovah's Witnesses to the class so we could learn about their core beliefs. What did I take away from their visit? They liked to take a lot of biblical verses (translated into English, of course) wildly out of context. They also danced around the question, "Do you believe that non-believers are going to hell?" to avoid saying, "Yes." Crazy talk! Buddha's going to hell? Gandhi's going to hell? Yeah right. I think that's God's decision, no?
A couple months later, during freshman orientation in college, I decided to audition for the Christian a cappella group on campus. Why the heck not? I knew a ton about Catholicism and music, and I was a cantor at my home parish. They had each prospective singer to fill out a survey first, to see if our beliefs were in line. The survey questions were statements followed by "agree" and "disagree," and we were to circle as appropriate. I came to the statement, "Salvation is only attainable by faith in Jesus Christ as one's personal savior." And I circled "disagree" for a couple reasons. As a Catholic, I had always been taught that faith alone was not sufficient; that actions must accompany that faith. Plus, I really didn't think that Buddha or Gandhi's souls were eternally damned (see above). The audition panel grilled me and didn't even let me sing. Ever since then, I have always been wary of Hardcore Crazy Christians. Live and let live, jerks.
Now I am married to a Jew. He had been baptized in the Episcopal church when he was a baby. Then he grew up and did some soul-searching and found Judaism. He has been trying to figure out just what my personal brand of Catholicism means and how to interact with Christianity if we are to raise Christian children. I find that my personal brand of Catholicism involves various aspects of Bad/Jaded/Recovering Catholic, Good Liturgist, Good Person.
I'm not a theologian. I don't really follow any other religious blogs because I haven't found any that speak to my intellectual left-leanings. I'm just trying to articulate why I still identify as Catholic in the midst of all the conflicts between my conscience and the institution.
I welcome any readers to follow me through my ramblings. I do not welcome jerks, trolls, assholes, douchebags, or cheesedicks. So be respectful in the comments or I will delete your ass.