Doubting Thomas Goes to Notre Dame

I can’t remember a time when the word “religion” didn’t make me itch.


My family didn’t go to church.  The religious kids at school told me I was going to hell.  Religious people just seemed nicer, cleaner, richer, better.

I’ve never known how to act around church people, or at a church function.  I turn into a drink spilling, stammering, f-bomb dropping mess.


For most of my life, I sneered.  It was a defense mechanism to look down at people who’d “found God”.  Clearly, they’re delusional.  How easy it must be to attribute everything, good or bad, to some deity.  The older I get, I realize nothing’s quite that black and white. 


But I’m still not religious.


I have a friend who is, though.


She’s hardcore Catholic.  Umpteenth generation hardcore Catholic.  And she has no problem buying into it.  (She’s married to an avowed Atheist, so it’s not like she’s not open-minded.)


In Montreal, we went to Notre Dame Basilica


One step inside, and I couldn’t breathe.

The silence of the place sat on my chest.

It was an enormous space, where all light seemed to be eminating from religious icons.  It was gilding on top of embellishment.  It was probably built on the backs of peasants who trusted that their money was going to get them in good with God. 

I wanted so badly to be a part of it.

I wanted to sit in a pew, kneel on a hard wooden bench till my knees screamed, have a piece of bread placed on my tongue, and know that all was being taken care of by God.

When it was time to go, my friend and I found each other at the back of the church.  Huge tables of candles waited. 

“Oh man!  I’m outta change!” my friend said, when she saw the “Each Candle – $1” sign.

I silently passed her a loonie.  In one smooth motion, she took it and lit a candle.  We both stared at it.

And for a few seconds, I was a part of it.


15 responses to “Doubting Thomas Goes to Notre Dame

  1. *looks at hairs standing up on arms* I think a goose just walked over my grave.

  2. Holy Shit! This, as I begin to wonder if I actually really BELIEVED that Jesus rose from the dead. (I need to make a decision soon — I was raised Catholic and I send my son to a Catholic school.)

    Sounds as if you and I are sitting at similar crossroads!

  3. Faith is a funny thing. Sometimes I think it’s for the delusional, sometimes I think it’s transcedant. I admit, I still carry a whole lot of derision for people eho just believe what other people tell them, have to go tell a bunch of people and think everyone else is wrong. At least I’m open-minded enough to concede that I might be mistaken. I am Buddhist-ish, I am not a “practicing” Buddhist but a philisophical Buddhist. I believe there is something greater than me, that’s as far as I can go without getting into a million what-ifs.

    But when I see my mostly Catholic family and friends who are religious, I do at times wish I knew more certainly that maybe I was wrong and there is a “God” or “Heaven” and all that other stuff. The thinking part of me just doesn’t think that’s how it all works.

  4. Such a nice post, and I so understand where you’re coming from!

  5. Those big old Catholic cathedrals are designed to do exactly what that one did to you. So, well done church builders. They even got some money out of you!

  6. You are more spiritual than you realize . . .

  7. can i just say how happy i am that you are doing holidailies? to read your posts is like being able to open a gift everyday. love it!

  8. derfina: I can honestly say I’ve never heard that saying. Goose on the grave. Hmm.

    Fashion Paramedic: Kids will definitely force us into figuring out where we stand. Little buggers 😉

    mkhblink: Thank you very much.

    formerlyfun: Exactly. If I didn’t think so damn much, it would all be so much easier. And if I had to lean towards a belief system, I definitely would pick Buddhism. I just don’t think that I think ENOUGH to be Buddhist. Is there some slacker, middle of the road alternative?

    Angela: Thank you and welcome!

    Free Man: If you want to get technical, they were right up front about taking my money. (Literally. They charge $5 just to go in and look.) The fact that I come from an area of the world with so little architectural history also makes me more than a little vulnerable to a good cathedral. Plus, it would all be so easy. Lately, that’s very appealing.

    tysdaddy: It does sneak up on me, now and again.

    gina: ::blushes furiously:: thanks

  9. As a Catholic, I never was that religious. The nuns taught me never to take the Bible literally.

    I wish I still believed in a lot of things I used to believe. Life was much easier that way.

  10. cathedrals take my breath away too. and I’m still an atheist. check out the cathedral in Seville if you’re ever down that way…..

  11. I am a recovering Catholic. My parents are very very religious and actually have refrigerator magnets with Pope John Paul II’s face on them. So. Not. Kidding. My parents also had to build their own churches when they were teenagers and living in Poland. Can you imagine being 16-17 and actually wanting to build a church so the village has somewhere to worship?

    I am not a Catholic, but the times I’ve been in the churches that my parents built I get goosebumps. They worked hard on that, and it shows. And I am very proud of them for that.

  12. Kitty: Catholic school. So THAT’S what happened… 😉

    nursemyra: One day, I’d love to.

    Beej: “Recovering Catholic”. Is there a rehab you guys go to? 🙂

  13. i was with nursemyra in that Sevilla cathedral… two atheists going “damn, that’s gorgeous…. really old, too”… but truly, this is the reaction they’re going for when they build ’em…

  14. daisyfae: It was my first time in a truly beautiful church. All the modest, one story woodframe churches of my childhood did nothing to prepare me for it. They are, indeed, effective.

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