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athgarvan

HAS THE CATHOLIC MASS RITUAL ANYTHING TO OFFER THE ATHEIST?

A short summary of an interesting article I came across by Joe Humphreys - an atheist himself.

In a fast-changing world, where human values are in flux, religious habits can act as an anchor.

Penitential Act: Sin is out of fashion these days, so the act of contrition that opens Mass is refreshing. “I confess… to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…” One is taking responsibility for oneself; not pointing the finger elsewhere in an age of sharp and highly-judgmental public debate.

Sermon: The priest, has spent time with people at their most vulnerable, trying to make sense of sorrow and despair. When a priest gets up to speak there’s usually some wisdom amid the otherworldly sentiment e.g. on the death of someone, people often say "How old was she? or “Was she sick long?” while the questions that really matter are: "Was she loved? Did she love? Is she loved?” Versions of the Golden Rule can be found in all world religions and it underpins humanist thought on equality and social justice. How can I learn to love more and how can we show love to those who wake up each morning feeling unloved? Never mind about loving our enemies!

Virtue: Greek philosophy has always emphasised the role of human morality (strict rules) against the stance of utilitarianism.

Prayer: If secular humanists could steal one thing from the Christian it should be prayer. A lot of Christian prayers are about gratitude. Leon Kass says. “A blessing offered over a meal still fosters a fitting attitude toward the world, whose gracious bounty is available to us, and not because we merit it. Wolfing down food dishonours both the human effort to prepare it, and the lives of those plants and animals sacrificed on our behalf. The "Lord’s Prayer” at Mass contains a similar plea for perspective, the key line being: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Asking for forgiveness aloud in a room full of other people is cathartic. Forgiveness is such a key virtue for one’s mental health, and indeed for the health of society. Each step of civilisation – each rebirth after trauma or war – has been marked by forgiveness.

Silence: Silences in the Mass are like a mini-retreat from the world. Through silence we are reconnecting in an important way with the cycle of life.

Other aspects of the Mass the atheist can identify with: the music, the readings, the sign of peace. The relatively charitable and sincere ambience surrounding Mass can be a tonic in a world of cynicism and intellectual segregation. People trying to be the best versions of themselves.

Comments

Our local parish has been reaching out to residents -- they need to grow the congregation or face closure. I am not an atheist, but I'm comfortable with agnosticism. This is an excellent summary, and I'd like permission to post it elsewhere (i.e., on Facebook).
Tank you. No problem with posting it elsewhere.
I've enjoyed those masses I've been in the audience for, but not enough than to make it a once-a-decade or so visitation, usually for a specific purpose or at the request of a specific person.

I'm always slightly appreciative that the entryway doesn't turn into a doorway of flames with some angelic warrior blocking my entry with a weapon of some sort. *LOL* Pagan I am and pagan I will remain throughout my life and thereafter. It doesn't stop my enjoying ceremony, music and religious decorations, but it does stop me from going any farther into Christian belief and ritual on a personal level.

- Erulisse (one L)
I am not a Christian myself, but I do love going to mass occasionally. For many of the reasons you mention.
I'm not a Catholic but have enjoyed the times I've been to Mass.