My mother, despite being a devout Catholic her entire life, has done more to foster a love of learning, and a need to question, than any other person in my life. By actually answering my questions, she encouraged me to ask more, which, eventually, led to my atheism. Ironic, but, thank you, Mom.

I have two issues in mind right now, and both of these were raised while I was in Catholic school. The questions were, 1)”Why did they use the cross for execution?” and “Why did the pharisees oppose Jesus?”

Both of these questions had previously been answered by my mother, and I had forgotten. The first, “It was an easy way to put up a human on display.” The second, “They, like all people, were afraid of change.” What did my teachers, a nun and a priest say? The first, “Well, we use the cross as a symbol because Jesus died on it.” The second, “Well, the pharisees show up a lot in Matthew, and they frequently oppose Jesus.”

That was it. Both questions were completely avoided or totally misinterpreted. I hope it was the latter, but the former seems more likely on the second question. This has bothered me for over eight years. An easy, sensible, likely right, answer was there, but the priest, who should know the answer, avoided the question entirely.

Just wanted to vent.


4 Responses to “Issues”

  1. james mary evans Says:


    As a former atheist, now Catholic convert of 11 years, I’ll briefly answer your questions from a mystical (spiritual) approach rather than from a theological one.

    As I’ve discovered concerning many former Catholics, there is generally a disconnect between the intellectual truths of the faith (dogmas) taught in Catholic schools from the spiritual reality (mystagogy) underlying them. The Gospel is ordered to just such a concrete experience of grace and conversion–“be perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect..”

    Most people’s reaction to this would be: Say what? No man can be perfect… But, the truth is the old saying is true–grow close to God, (seek), and He will grow close to you, (and you will find). Thus, according to the primacy of God one is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit reveals the Son, and through the Son one finds himself in the presence and perfection of the Father–one in being with the Father.

    This is the goal and meaning of the spiritual life which they probably taught you in school: to come to know, love and serve God in this life and be with him forever in the next… The problem is, is that the modern age has lost its sense of the mystical, which, includes religous and even priests according to the state of their souls.

    For me, I received the Spirit in prayer (I was really in need), which in due time drew me to the Catholic Church, and from there the theological truths of the faith helped me to understand what was occuring within my soul. Which brings me to your questions:

    1. The Cross–The better question on your part would have been why did God choose the the Cross for the redemption of man? Obviously, the cross was the mode of punishment in that time period, but, spiritually (in the Spirit) the body and soul discovers that indeed God is the root and we are the branches. Saint Augustine puts it better: God gives life to the soul, and the soul gives life to the body. As a former atheist I lived with only the knowledge of my body (material) for the better part of my life. It was not until I seriously sought out the truth about the existence of God (on my own) did I come to realize just how wrong I was, for in such a state of grace even ones flesh yields to the powerful love (Spirit) of the one who created it.

    It is here that the Cross of Christ is discovered; indeed, it is beyond human comprehension that the Church and all the sacraments of God’s love she offers flows out from such a divine, merciful and loving heart, as that heart pierced on Calvary–the Tree of Life.

    The Word, through whom all things were called into existence through, was made flesh and walked the earth for this purpose–the renewal of all things in God. Christ unites us into the divine life and substance of God–but to do so, one must worship in spirit and truth. Which, for me, took chomping on alot of humble pie because of my ego…

    The tree of life (the Cross) is found planted along the banks of the River of Life which flows out from the Kingdom of God–the living waters that every Catholic has entered at baptism is found in heaven. Thus, all their actions take on divine meaning here on earth; what obstructs such grace is sin, and especially mortal sin–for grace withers if the tree is not pruned, nor does it produce fruit, and may even die.

    2. the Pharisee’s opposition: It’s hard to believe that the fullness of God became a man in person. (see above). Plus, scripture had to be fulfilled: “He came upon his own, but his own did not accept him”. This, of course, relates first of all to the Jews his own people, and now, even to gentiles such as myself, for there is when all is said and done–absolute truth concerning man and God.

    As for me, I found out that “I hated him without reason.”

    I hope this helps. My suggestion if you ever decide to search out the truth of my words, is seek the help of the Mother of God–She is the fastest safest road to the Son–Her eternal sun in the Word.

    Feel free to contact me on my site if you want.

    Peace to you and yours.

  2. PricklePrickle Says:

    Some things I noted:
    First, Religion class was fundamentally no different from Science class, being a long series of facts to learn. I don’t think there was any significant effort to do any bypassing of the logic centers with mystic inquiry, or any some such, which I attribute to the Catholic Church’s pragmatic and realistic, compared to other Christian churches, worldview. Catholicism, unless I’m terrifically mistaken, does teach that God moves in mysterious ways any more than physics does. It’s one of the reasons the Catholic Church has a special place in my heart, they seem ready to accept scientific advances, because they start with the assumption that there is no way God could give us all knowlegde, so we need to find it ourselves.
    Woah, long tangent. Back on topic, you are essentially right in the disconnect you mention, but I never saw it as “supernatural” or anything, it was simply another facet of the world, and so had no need to masquerade as anything but what it was, straight facts.
    On point one, you have done essentially what my teacher did, but with a lot more words, and with even more tangents. I was in the sixth grade at the time, and it was a question of purely historical curiosity. I am certain that, if we assume truth on the part of Catholic dogma concerning crucifixion and such, God had no need to “choose” the cross. It was the tool in use at the time, and was sufficiently public to be symbolic. Everything else you cite is, almost undoubtedly, humans making sense of their faith and teachings using an available symbol as a convenient metaphor.
    On point two, you at least addressed the question, which gets you points, but I have issues with opposition because, “scripture had to be fulfilled.” Most notably, these kinds of ideas, and also the passages in Exodus about God hardening Pharoh’s heart, belie the idea of free will. If God gets to say, “No, the story works better if you behave this way,” free will at best a misnomer, at worst some kind of cruel joke. More importantly, the Gospels themselves paint a picture of Jesus as a revolutionary. Since when do the authorities like revolutionaries?
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment, it was an interesting read. I did, at one point, “hate” the Abrahamic God, largely for being a violent, pushy bully, but I later grew out of it, and now am more concerned with its followers than the deity itself.

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