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Freedom of Choice and a Nation of Converts

A very interesting article from The Atlantic magazine posted by our daily Angelus News email.

Convert Nation:  More than one-third of Americans identify with a religion different than the one they grew up with.

Being involved in the RCIA, you could say that I'm in the "conversion" business, and I often like to quote a study I read where that found that nearly 24% of Catholics come to the Church as adults. At the same time, our Catholic faith looses many of it's members, sometimes only temporarily, sometimes permanently. And that's not taking into consideration the many "holiday" Catholics who come back for Christmas and Easter. But I digress...

This issue of choosing one's religion has always been something of a mystery and a fascination for me. Being of Irish and Italian heritage, who's relatives emigrated to the US in the late 19th century, my family has very deep roots in Catholicism. And I would be a fool not to recognize that being Catholic is as much a cultural identity as it is a religious identity. I often joke that with my parents being Irish-Italians from Brooklyn, I didn't have a choice not to be Catholic, especially when you consider that I spent my formative years in Catholic schools. This is the "enclave" that Lincoln Mullen is talking about in this article. And even though my family emigrated from New Jersey to California when I was a baby, we managed to maintain our connection to the Church.

So even though my enclave was a strong influence on my being a Catholic, I also recognized that staying with the Church was a personal choice... a conscious choice I think every adult Catholic needs to make. To do something out of intent and desire instead of through habit and superstition. And this gets to, I think, some of the issues around this freedom to choose when it comes to religion.

As Americans it seems in our nature to eschew tradition and enclave norms in favor of those we choose to make for ourselves. And while I may see leaving the Church akin to divorcing my family, others see these boundaries as much more porous, especially for those who can't see past the institution of a Church as an avenue toward God, or consider the institution itself as a barrier to a healthy relationship with God.

The reality is that there are a lot of reasons why this religious roulette (and I consider non-religious secularism or non-affiliated people as a "religion" in this arena) is part of our history and continues to be a topic of discussion. I find this Atlantic article an interesting deeper dive into a topic that's regularly on my mind, and I'm glad it's getting some attention.

You might even want to look at some of my blog postings where I touch on these ideas...
http://ourladyofrefugercia.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-need-for-religious-literacy-for.html
http://ourladyofrefugercia.blogspot.com/2017/02/breaking-bubble.html

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