Today is Quit Facebook Day, and I have deleted my account. Bottom line: Facebook’s culture, beliefs and attitude all seem to indicate that they want everything to be shared with everyone. Nothing they have done indicates any change in their core values and beliefs. I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with a service that shares everything with everyone by default. That’s what this blog does, and Twitter. However Facebook promised something different, and then they took it back, exposing users’ private information in the process. Furthermore they have given every indication that they intend to keep doing so just as soon as they can get away with it.
Even if I trusted Facebook to keep their promises for more than a week, the bottom line is I just don’t need the service they want to provide. Facebook’s value proposition was always a way to share content with friends and family that you didn’t want to share with the whole world. For sharing with the whole world we already have Buzz, Blogs, Twitter, and many more options. For sharing one-to-one we have e-mail. Facebook, for a time, sat in-between; and it was useful. It no longer is. If there’s an existing service that offers what Facebook used to offer, I haven’t found it. Linked In comes closest, but its focus is different.
In any case, I mostly used Facebook to keep up with a few old, geographically diverse friends. I never used it much for writing. In fact, in the years I’ve had a Facebook account (going back to when you had to have a .edu address to join, and your network was your university) I think I’ve only written one significant item I’d sort of like to keep. So here it is for posterity, after a little editing. In the meantime, if you need to find me I’m easy enough to google and I put my real, unobscured e-mail address on most of my web pages.
This originally appeared as a comment in a thread on married Catholic priests, in response to the (true) claim that priestly celibacy had no support in the Bible.
Christianity and the Bible
The more I learn about both the Bible and the Church (and not just the RC church) the less they seem to have to do with each other. Aside from a few ethical principles honored more in the breach than the observance and mostly shared among the major religions, the Christian religion practiced today–rituals, sacraments, theology, etc.–has very little to do with the Bible. If we were really following the religion of the Bible we’d all be Jewish, much like Yeshua himself.
I thank Jesuit High School, both Jesuits and the lay teachers, for setting me on the path to a more rational, adult understanding of the church and of religion. I do wonder these days how many of them knew where it led. I can’t imagine they didn’t. There’s just too much scholarship about these matters, and my teachers were all far too educated not to be familiar with it. I suspect they knew just how far they could go. Debunking the loaves and the fishes, Book of Job, Lazarus, walking on water: safe. Resurrection, Virgin Birth, and Immaculate Conception: keep your mouth shut and hope the kids learn about it in college.
I also recall one class in the history of the early church taught by our parish priest. It amounted to a litany of heresies and schisms, most of which formally died out centuries ago (and all of which are still believed by many professing Christians today who don’t realize they’re heretics.) One of my older classmates expressed wonder that out of all these heresies and false beliefs, God had engineered it so that only the one true faith survived. Even then I could see this was as silly as thanking God for making our hands so neatly fit into our gloves. The sensible answer is that we believe what we believe because it’s what won historically, even if by complete accident. Aside from occasional converts (and not most of them) we’re almost all Catholics or Mormons or Lutherans or Jews or Buddhists or Muslims or what have you because it’s what we were raised as, not because we made any sort of reasonable decision based on evidence or divine revelation. And if God decided what we would be by placing us appropriately as children, he must have a really wicked sense of humor. I know no other way to account for him dividing humanity into so many different groups that all believe they are the one true path and who will periodically slaughter each other to prove it.
It’s really hard to seriously study religion (any religion, not just Catholicism or other variants of Christianity) while still retaining the basic faith of your childhood. Maybe the more philosophical variants of Taoism and Buddhism have divorced themselves enough from their history that learning the truth about the old stories no longer causes a crisis of faith. I don’t think anyone else has though. In many religions people taking religious vows end up living a lie: required by occupation to teach an official line they no longer themselves believe precisely because they’ve spent more time studying their own religion than the folks in the pews have.
Many scholars seem to end up where folks like Karen Armstrong, Paul Tillich, and Stephen Prothero did: theists, perhaps still believing in a personal and loving God, and maybe still going to church on Sunday (or Temple on Saturday, or Mosque on Friday) because they enjoy it; but no longer able to take the whole package too seriously. Religion is like sausage. If you want to enjoy it, you can’t learn too much about how it is made.