I was brought up a Catholic but, like many, I gradually began to question whether there is a God up there. I also found it increasingly difficult to accept the Church's teaching about condoms.
Unlike some of the militant atheists though, I retain a great deal of respect for people of faith, and I still have a yearning for the consolation of belief in life after death.
I began reading the Holy Smoke blog with some incredulity. Here, I thought, are the worst kind of aggressively traditionalist, mean-spirited, judgemental individuals that give the Roman Catholic Church such a bad reputation amongst many other Christians. And they seem to think that doubters will come flooding back to church if only the fripperies of ceremony are made to conform to narrow traditionalist prescriptions: the "bells and smells", the precise design of the clothes worn by the priest, replacing English with almost inaudible mutterings in Latin, chucking out any music composed in the last 100 years...
Obviously ridiculous. Pandering to superstition. Counter-productive. The rationalist in me was repelled.
And yet... I was wandering past a church the other day and a rare Latin mass (in the "Extraordinary Form") had just started, and somehow I was drawn inside...
The peace. The sense of a holy place. The space for prayer. The feeling of the outside world temporarily melting away to allow openness to God.
The rationalist in me had to admit he had been wrong.