No better than usual, she thought, washing her face. Once you come up against omniscience, any presumption of dialogue collapses.—Bradford Morrow, Ariel’s Crossing
Finally, someone elucidates what I have been trying to figure out all this time. I never knew why praying felt so awkward, so empty. I always start out saying something like: “Hi God, I’m really sorry I haven’t talked to you for such a long time. I know I’m supposed to talk to you all the time instead of just when I want to ask for something, so I apologize; I’m probably not really worthy of asking you for anything, since I’ve been such a bad correspondent. But you already know I feel badly, so I guess I’ll just ask what I wanted to ask in the first place. Of course, you probably already know this, too. I mean, of course you already know this. So sorry again for asking. I’ll understand if you don’t grant it. But of course, you’re God, so you have infinite grace, and so I’ll be really appreciative if you do. But I guess you have your own plan for things, so there’s really no sense in my asking for anything, anyway. In that case, never mind. Thanks for listening.” Now I understand why everyone teaches little children all the formulaic prayers. “When I go to bed at night/someone tucks the covers tight. Just before I sleep I say/thank you God for this nice day. Amen.” “I close my hands/I bow my head/I thank thee God/for this good bread. Amen.” “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….” Formulas make praying so much less confusing. Of course, they sort of eliminate conscious thought from the equation, too.
That has always been my problem with ritualistic religions (i.e. Catholicism): they use rituals as exclusionary measures, as ways to keep themselves seemingly “higher” on the religious spectrum than other religions, but when it comes down to it, the rituals don’t actually seem to mean much of anything to anyone, at least on a personal level. Take the Eucharist: Catholics do not allow other Christian denominations to take Communion with them because they believe that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ (once the priest consecrates it, of course), whereas Protestants, alternatively, believe that the Eucharist is merely a symbol and that the practice of taking Communion is merely an act of remembrance (“do this in memory of me”).
I would be okay with this distinction if I truly thought that Catholics believed they were consuming the body and blood of Christ. However, I find this highly unlikely. What civilized person could, in good conscience, actually eat any substance that they truly believed was composed of human flesh and blood? Moreover, this distinction is not explicitly taught to most Catholics, from what I understand. Having attended five years of Catholic school and participating in Religion class every year, I never discovered that this was the reason why I was not permitted to take Communion with the rest of my classmates until I harassed my teachers to the point where they went and asked a priest for the proper explanation.
This is not to bash Catholics. Eating kosher is pretty outdated in my opinion, too, as is the Islamic niqab. But hey, so long as everyone follows George Carlin’s Three Commandments, we should all get along: