I talk a lot about my issues with Catholicism but a friend recently asked me, “why do you still want to be Catholic?” Because despite all of my critiques, I still check the Catholic box when asked about my faith. It’s a fair question – why do I cling to an identity I don’t fully participate in?
Catholicism was most likely not a choice my ancestors made. It was foisted upon them by hook and by crook. And somehow, centuries later, that faith has become an important part, rather than a conflict, of the Indian Catholic identity. Christmas feels just as Indian of a holiday as Diwali.
And I think that’s part of the reason I don’t want to let Catholicism go entirely. I already feel barely Indian. I don’t have any of the cultural markers that the West recognizes as Indian. I’m not going to have a five day wedding with a horse or elephant involved, I don’t assign any religious significance to cows, I try not to eat them because it’s bad for the environment. I don’t speak Hindi or Konkani or Marathi. I can’t tie a sari. My values feel decidedly western. But when I say I’m Catholic, I still belong to something. Renouncing my faith would feel like spiritual homelessness.
I’ve thought about converting, but religion isn’t something I’ve ever had to solo. It’s like showing up to a party alone and everyone already knows each other and you have to awkwardly stand in the corner until someone takes pity on you. Except Jesus is also there.
Of course while I have my issues with Catholicism, Catholicism probably has issues with me.
During a work retreat earlier this year, we completed these identity maps. The identity maps had us catalogue different aspects of our identity, as an introduction to the concept of intersectionality. My map had Indian-American, cis woman, immigrant, and Catholic among other things. But no matter how much I want to identity as Catholic, there are many more devout people who would say I’m not.
I haven’t been to confession in about 5 years (and never intend on going again). I only go to church when I’m with my family. I definitely sin on the reg and I’m pretty sure Christians aren’t supposed to put as much faith in astrology as I do.
All in all – I’m a terrible Catholic.
So essentially, I’m stuck on an identity and a belief system that doesn’t really even fit how I live my life. So why do I even want to keep it?
The other option seems to be labeling myself like most millennials – atheist or agnostic. But I believe in the existence of God and I dislike the concept of agnosticism. We all have doubts, sitting on the fence of things is no way to live a life. Your early 20s feel like a series of constantly shedding identities. I’m not ready to lose another one.