Today is Ascension Thursday. I could have contented myself with citing this silly belief as my favorite, but there are lots even worse. Three readers have already submitted their choice, which you can read in the Comments. Here, as promised, is mine :
Christians are so accustomed to hearing about Redemption, about Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the Cross (which Catholics believe is re-enacted in the Mass), and singing hymns and quoting texts like “My Redeemer liveth”, that they no longer realize how outrageous this doctrine is. Do they realize that what they are claiming to believe is that God, the Blessed Trinity, decided to get its Second Person, become a man, Jesus, to suffer and die atrociously to pay back (“redeem” – like Green Stamps) a “debt” incurred by sinful mankind, owed to Someone or Something or to Itself ? All this is so convoluted, contradictory and absurd, that it makes me think of the cynical advice “spin-doctors” – experts in communication – joke about among themselves : “If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em !”
The silliest belief of Catholic Christianity, as well as it silliest rule and silliest ritual, are all present in the Mass. Catholics are obliged under pain of mortal sin to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation (including the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, a Catholic invention, itself a serious candidate for the silliest belief in Catholic dogma), the punishment for missing which is an eternity in Hell. The ritual in which they “participate” (90% of what goes on at Mass is done by the priest and the altar boys or girls) is supposedly a re-enactment of Jesus’ redemptive death by crucifixion and the separation of His blood from His flesh, symbolized by the wine and the bread – which after consecration and “transubstantiation” (an exclusively Catholic belief) are actually claimed to be the very blood and the living body of the Carpenter of Nazareth ! On top of this, Catholics believe that paying the priest to perform Masses will get a deceased loved one out of Purgatory (another Catholic invention) into Heaven. “Quanta costa la Messa ?”
We could ask why the Church obliges people to go through the same nonsense week after week, hearing Scripture readings they have heard hundreds of times before and sermons that bore them stiff, and taking part in a rigmarole, sometimes still and formerly always in Latin, featuring a chalice of cheap wine and a big wafer of “bread” eaten by the priest and ones the size of a euro swallowed in one gulp by members of the congregation, after they say out loud that the tiny white wafer is, in fact, not what it seems but the “Body of Christ” !
Prayer, miracles and the power of the Church to forgive sin (yet another uniquely Catholic claim) are silly enough as beliefs. The rules of Canon Law are just as absurd, as are those concerning the Church’s rituals and administration of the sacraments. But the Eucharist, the Catholic Mass, wins the prize in all three categories. I attended Mass – and for a long period of my life, daily Mass – for half of my eighty years, and for seven of them celebrated Mass every day as a priest. How silly can you get ?