I grew up Catholic. I went to Catholic school 5 days a week, church on Sunday. I was an altar boy.
By and large, I was Catholic because in Chicago in the 1980s and 90s, if you could scrape together the money for tuition, Catholic school was the better option. The faith was kind of a secondary concern. Perhaps tertiary — as the local Catholic school was also close enough for me to walk to with our older neighbor kids.
But for whatever reason, the mystical part of the faith appealed to me. The idea that I could be, or was, tied into something above or infinite — something beyond the normal explanation of the world and its workings — was appealing. When I prayed as a young boy, I did so in a way that felt like closing your eyes as you hit the apex of a jump on a trampoline — not like I was begging a deity for something. I felt something — something ineffable — but something beyond the everyday material stuff.
When my parents moved us out to the suburbs, I started going to public school. After that, I began to depart from religion in general, thinking that my increasingly scientific worldview left no room for it.
I began to consider anything that wasn’t spoken in the dry vocabulary of accepted popular science to be “mystical”. And surely a practical person like me had no time for mystical things.
Here’s the thing. The more I learn (especially about science), and the more I experience of life, the less I am inclined to dismiss the various forms of mysticism that pop up in the course of a life.
I think there is room for the mystical and magical in an intelligent worldview. If not only because our individual experiences make it reasonable for us to believe in something a bit more, but also because such beliefs can be beneficial to us. It’s not that we’re justified in believing an entire religious system or anything like that. It’s just that we’re justified in being both scientific and mystical at the same time — and it’s a good thing.
Why Do We Believe What We Do?
After being raised with a little bit of mysticism in my life, I left it behind…