The last time I went to church was over ten years ago.
Like most families today, religion was always a negligible part of our lives. We certainly didn’t ‘belong’ to a Church, my siblings and I never went to Sunday school, there were no bibles in our house, and there was no talk of God or Jesus or Hell unless someone stepped on something sharp or got their finger caught in a door.
But we still adhered to one vestigial tradition: The Christmas Eve Mass.
Every December 24th, we spent the afternoon at my Grandfather’s house and walked over to his church for the five o’clock mass. The mass lasted about one hour, and I vividly remember how long and excruciating it was. I thought: What the hell are we doing here? It’s CHRISTMAS! We should be doing FUN stuff!
My brother and sister felt the same way. Even my father always seemed to be going with the flow, never really offering any concrete or passionate answer to the question of why we had to go.
Then, one year, we arrived a bit later than usual, and had to stand in the back. We weren’t the only family of Christmas Eve Christians in our neighbourhood, and for that one night the ranks of the faithful had swelled to the point that the church had to turn away the people who showed up right on time.
The next year, without any discussion or acknowledgement, we dawdled a bit more than usual. We arrived at 4:50pm and, wouldn’t you know it! The pews and standing section were all full. Aw shucks! We all went back home to eat and drink and play and speculate on what shiny new presents we would have the next morning.
And thus was born a new Frost Family Tradition. Over the next decade, we ‘accidentally’ missed more than half of the Christmas Eve masses. Who knows for how many dozens of generations my Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic family trees had practiced their religions, and now we have replaced them our sad new ritual: Pretending to try to go to Church, once a year.
My story is not unique. I have exactly one friend who is a practicing Christian, and the fact that he actually goes to Church with his family on Sundays (some Sundays) is cause for much laughter and mockery from the rest of us, his post-Christian friends. Ho ho ho! Josh still believes in God! How quaint and adorable! That an otherwise bright and reasonable man can believe in a…a… sky fairy! Hah! Please stop, my sides are hurting.
The attitude of the modern non-Christian towards faith is a combination of confusion, ignorance, disdain and pity. To our generation, Christianity is a relic of a bygone era of ignorance and superstition. With a great and admirable effort, we tell ourselves, we have managed to crawl up out of the darkness, and into the light. We have replaced blind faith in fantastic mythical beings with science, rationality and empiricism. We are finally free to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and harmony, since we no longer have Christianity holding us back.
And yet, if this were the case – that Christianity is false, it’s teaching were maladaptive, and we’re better off without it – why is it that Western Civilization has been going completely and utterly to shit ever since we discarded God from our public and private lives? Does the modern atheist ascribe this to coincidence? Does he hypothesize that, had we not transcended Christianity, our families would be more dysfunctional, are governments and citizens more bankrupt, individuals more lonely and alienated?
(Actually, the average person in our generation is wholly unconcerned with the above, and believes that the greatest crisis facing our civilization is a lack of recycling or some such cuntery. Sometimes I forget that most people still regard the New York Times as a basically trustworthy news source.)
So maybe you think the literal teachings of Christianity are false. But it’s a hubristic and incurious man who dismisses it outright. Consider:
- Christianity has been intricately tied to the history of Europe, and by extension the world, for the past two thousand years. It’s impossible to understand one without the other, so a solid grasp of Christianity is necessary for any thinking man, whether or not he believes Jesus was the son of God.
- European civilization thrived for a millenium under the spiritual guidance of the Christian Church. When Christianity was abandoned and bastardized in the past century, Europe and her former colonies began decaying to the nadir they now approach.
- Many, if not most, of the contemporary writers over the age of thirty-five who I read and respect, are Christians. Readers, do you feel confident enough in your wisdom to dismiss without consideration the most firmly held beliefs of Dalrock, Mentu, Vox, Ulysses, and Bruce Charlton? I didn’t think so.
What I take from all of the above is that I owe it to myself and to the Christian intellectuals I respect (living and otherwise) to bone up on some religious studies. And what’s more, I like to learn about new things. I know close to nothing about Christianity.
So I decided to put together a reading list:
I’m going to start with a pair of books by authors I already respect and admire:
- Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton
- The Abolition of Man, Peter Hitchens
Then I’m going to jump right into The Bible. I’m carrying two copies across the 800 kilometer walk to Santiago De Compostela, one in English and one in Spanish, and I’m going to read and translate on the fly.
Next up are the apologists:
- The Irrational Atheist, Vox Day.
- The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, Edward Feser
And throughout it all, some light fiction for when my brain is half asleep:
- The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
- The Lord Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
- The Fate Of Empires, Sir John Glubb
Sounds pretty spiritual, huh? A one month pilgrimage to a holy city, weighed down by a (digital) pile of books constituting a crash course in the Christian religion. Well, maybe it will be. But for what it’s worth, here’s my estimate of the outcome:
p(I immediately become a devout and practicing Christian) = .05
p(I decide that Christianity is ultimately a powerful force for good in the world, even if I ultimately don’t believe the Bible was written or inspired by anything supernatural. Perhaps I join a Church in a decade or two and raise my children to be practicing Christians) = .20
p(I decide that Christianity is neither true nor useful, and that the world needs a new, traditional, post-Christian belief system to fulfill the role that Christianity played for so long) = .649
p(I grow a neckbeard and embrace militant atheism) = .001
In any event, I’ll arrive in Santiago De Compostela a wiser, better man.
Christian readers: Any suggestions for additions to that reading list?
Heathens: Feel like learning something new? Load up your Kindle and come along for the ride.