Religion is strange and mysterious: as a social phenomenon, and in its content and practice. My Portuguese great-grandmother Virginia Rodrigues taught her Catholicism to my grandfather, and him to my father, and him to me. As a child I went to Mass weekly, attended CCD, and received communion and confirmation. From ages 11-14 I was an altar boy, and enjoyed participating in the service. But my interest in science conflicted with what I was being taught at church, and at about 14 I decided that this God thing was just like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and had no more use for it. At 15 my father and I had a long conversation about it, the outcome of which was "well it sounds like you've thought about it quite a bit but as long as you live under my roof you're going to participate. You're an example for your younger siblings..." So as soon as I left home I was done.
Thirty years went by with nary a thought to religious practice. But life's challenges require adaptations, and in the course of a prolonged personal crisis I began exploring Buddhism and settled into a Theravada practice. It provides a deeply satisfy framework of ethics, aesthetics, and psychology, with no actual God content required, or even reincarnation. After a couple of years, I became curious again about Catholicism and bought "Catholicism for Dummies." It provided a framework and a coherent context for Catholicism that I had never had, in a conversational and warm yet doctrinally correct way.
But a lot of things make sense now that never did before: the discernment and veneration of saints; devotion to Mary; and the distinctions between divine positive, natural moral, and human positive laws, which all seemed like a long list of "thou shalts." I learned what the Four Pillar were (the Creed, Our Father, Seven Sacraments, and the Ten Commandments). Highlights:
1. Favorite teaching: forgiveness;
2. Favorite sacrament, confession; and
3. Favorite commandment "though shall not bear false witness."
There are other good teachings, many with strong parallels in my current practice. OTOH, there are four teachings I find bizarre:
1. The resurrection of the body. Not figurative, but literal resurrection? Which version of the body goes?
2. One God, three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit): why three? One, zero, or infinite I could understand, but three?
3. Jesus: one person, two natures (human, divine). Seems like casuistry to me, like part of a marketing campaign or political deal making.
4. Transubstantiation: at every Mass a miracle occurs and the Host becomes the body of Christ, literally. Echoing a longstanding complaint against this one, it seems like cannibalism. How does this help anyone?
I asked my father, who is still very much in the Church, about them a couple of years ago, and he just shrugged. Religion is strange and mysterious. Many of us like it that way.