All right folks, Holy Week is upon us, and I think it’s about time we paid the topic of religion another quick visit.
Over the coming days, Christians from across the globe will be engaged in a weeklong process of prayer, fasting and countless hours of self-reflection during what is considered to be the most important week of the liturgical year. Fortunately, when it’s all over, the pious few can join together with secular many and celebrate the death and resurrection of a man who they believed to be the divine incarnation of God on earth with painted eggs, marshmallow chicks and the ever popular chocolate rabbits.
Regardless of the absurd lengths to which our culture has gone to commercialize this presumably sacred holiday, Holy Week remains an intensely spiritual time for thousands within our society. These people will go above and beyond what is usually expected of them, rearranging their busy schedules to attend services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and maybe even a midnight reading of the Stations of the Cross. Come Sunday morning, these devout individuals will be joined by the millions of Christians who doll themselves up, arrive an hour early for the service, and sit through an entire Easter mass itching to get home and spend another 364 days without giving God a second thought.
In my mind, the latter half of this phenomenon only begs the following question: Are Holy Week and Easter some of the last relics of religion clung to by our increasingly secular society?
The facts are simple, as human civilization has progressed, advances in scientific and technological fields have continued to superseded, if not completely replace the teachings of religion. In previous columns, I’ve cited the Church’s resistance to Galileo’s heliocentric model and the principles of the Enlightenment as examples of the apparent incompatibility between dogmatic teachings and the needs of modern-day society. While I still consider these examples to be relatively strong, I’m often met with the reply that Christianity, specifically the Catholic Church, has evolved a great deal since this time, and is now much more inline with the secular world. Well … unless of course you’re talking about things actually evolving … aside from the Church, that is.
Lucky for me, the religious world’s most visible personification of religion as a relic, Pope Benedict XVI, recently dropped a media bombshell that essentially summed up my argument in one foolish and misguided statement. During last month’s visit to Africa, specifically regions that have experienced some of the greatest number of causalities due to HIV and AIDS, Benedict was quoted as saying, “You can’t resolve [the epidemic] with the distribution of condoms … On the contrary, it increases the problem.“
How’s that for a glaring inconsistency between dogma and truth? Not only does the Bishop of Rome state the traditional view that the use of condoms is immoral, he actually goes as far to imply that those who use them will likely contract AIDS faster and only make the problem worse.
Such remarks from the 86-year-old Papal father are not simply incorrect, but, as many within the media have already asserted, they’re downright dangerous. With a worldwide audience of impressionable Catholics listening, we have the Church’s patriarch completely disregarding the idea that condoms may be the most effective way to curb the spread of HIV in Africa, while simultaneously cramming the anachronistic belief that abstinence is the only moral way of dealing with issues of sexual health down the collective throat of his congregation.
Despite this new evidence regarding the Church’s place in society, even the most fair-weather believers will likely suit up this Sunday and uphold a tradition that they themselves have a hard time justifying.
I’ve said this before, but just to be safe, I will say it again: I don’t care which god, if any, you choose to worship, just as my religious beliefs should be of no concern to you. I only asked that when faced with such traditions, no matter how insignificant or essential they may be to your faith, you stop and ask, “Why exactly do I believe this?”
JAMES NOONAN wishes everyone a happy somber Holy Week. For all those bothered by this article, please send you favorite Catechism passages explaining why he won’t be attending the rapture to firstname.lastname@example.org.