My first Roman Catholic wedding experience

Yesterday, one of my best friends got married. It was a really great day. I was present on the day he and his lovely wife first met about 7.5 years ago at a high school house party the Summer after 12th grade, so that made it extra cool for me. It was also really nice to see my friend show emotion, as he usually doesn’t. There was no doubt that this was the greatest day of his life, and that of his new wife’s. It’s really cool to get to watch a close set of friends experience something so great that you can experience with them as a well-wishing close observer. On top of it being a great day in terms of the wedding, it was also great in that I got to meet a lot of really nice people, and see a lot of really nice people that I do not see all that often anymore. And there was an open bar. So, all-in-all, a great day and night.

This was my first Catholic wedding. I’ll comment on it a little bit below.

As an atheist, there were obviously going to be things said that I wouldn’t agree with. I figured that there would be references to Jesus being the Savior, and God being the Creator. That much was pretty expectable. I also expected there to be numerous Biblical references that expressed valuable gems of wisdom. Things having to do with cherishing your new spouse, your friends, your family, and the like. Good stuff. There was one thing, though, that shocked me. I cannot remember where in the Bible this was read from (though I believe that I remember it to have been taken from Psalms; if not Psalms—though I do think it was Psalms—then Second Samuel; both of these are books of the Old Testament), but the message that was repeated numerous times was “Blessed are those who fear the Lord”. This was one of if not the core message of the passage. I really did not get why this was a passage that a Priest would encourage the reading of at a wedding. Why, at a wedding, would a religious community think it a good idea to select a passage which emphasizes fear of the supposed heavenly father? It’s supposed to be a happy day. This passage also brought to mind the issue of morality. Does it really count as morality if one acts in certain prescribed ways—or believes that they are only acting in these ways—simply out of fear of a supposed universal dictator? If one is at a convenience store and the only reason that they do not steal a candy bar is because they believe that a police officer is looking at them, are they really acting morally? I would have thought that moral behaviour came not from fear of punishment, but from a genuine respect and consideration for the well-being of others and society. If I were to write my own moral code and were to use terms such as “blessed”, I would probably say something like “Blessed are those who are willing to fore-go personal benefits out of consideration for the well-being of others”.

As I said, it was a really great day and I’m really glad that I got to share in it. That one passage was the only thing that caught me off guard.

Advertisements
Comments
20 Responses to “My first Roman Catholic wedding experience”
  1. Colin says:

    From Dictionary.com…

    Notice #4…

    fear /fɪər/
    –noun
    1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
    2. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights.
    3. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone’s safety.
    4. reverential awe, esp. toward God.
    5. that which causes a feeling of being afraid; that of which a person is afraid: Cancer is a common fear.

  2. ronbrown says:

    Colin:

    Understood.

    However, that awe and reverence toward God is most closely linked with the emotion of fear is in itself troubling and consistent with the concerns I listed above with regard to God, fear, prosociality and morality. Of all the emotions that reverence to God could be linked to, it was fear. And this makes sense, as God is constantly described in the religious texts as a tyrant who will unleash great punishment on those who do not follow his dictates.

  3. Anesa says:

    I think you may have to understand the context of the word ‘fear’. I’m not sure if I am in the best position or person to explain it. But I think when one says ‘fear the Lord’, it is in the same context as one will say ‘fear your parents’, because God can be likened to one of your parents. And here I don’t mean being faced with anguish, I mean in the sense respect and as Colin pointed out in his post also as being reverential. You know that God loves you just as your parents love you (well most parents 😀 ), and it is because of this love for them you do not wish to do something that would hurt them back and in that sense it means ‘fear the Lord’.

    And whilst I agree with you that God in some religious texts is seens as a tyrant – one of the things you must understand is that the bible and other religious texts are written and interpreted by humans (no matter what other people may say – it was not given as a bound copy to anyone – including the Quran). Perhaps, the writers thought during that time for people to fall in line with God that one has to fear the leader (as it is normal with any leaders such as kings etc). But I have to say this is mostly in the Old testament of the Bible this is presented in this way, the New Testament tries to make us understand that God loves us and he certainly is not a tyrant but he does as a parent does asks us to do things that will keep us safe and protected and that we should treat all of his children (that is all peoples of the earth) as equals.

  4. sungame says:

    I have been to a total of two catholic weddings in my life, and I cannot remember that passage being read. However, I have heard it read and stated on numerous occasions in Protestant masses that Christians should fear and love God.

    For me, the love part is far harder to understand than the fear. How can you love a being you have never seen or heard? I don’t even know someone who has!

    Fear, on the other hand, comes bundled together with the very concept of God. I cannot imagine how anyone can believe in an allmighty being like God without fearing him/her/it at least a little. Fear in this case is not good or bad, it is just an inevitable consequence of believing in a sentient being that much more powerful than yourself.

  5. Juanito Epstein says:

    I think this may be one of those things that got lost in translation. I would agree with Colin that it most likely means #4, and (I am not a Hebrew or Greek expert) I would bet in Hebrew and Greek there is a different word for the distressing emotion fear, and the reverential awe fear. It just happens that in English the translators chose to use a word that has multiple meanings, so the English may not appropriately represent what the authors had intended to portray.
    This type of misunderstanding occurs frequently when people read the bible, and then we end up with people who try to kill the gays, or think that the bible promotes slavery.

  6. Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum. You wrote,

    “but the message that was repeated numerous times was “Blessed are those who fear the Lord”. This was one of if not the core message of the passage. I really did not get why this was a passage that a Priest would encourage the reading of at a wedding. Why, at a wedding, would a religious community think it a good idea to select a passage which emphasizes fear of the supposed heavenly father?”

    You obviously are not married… I’ve actually been curious about this. As an atheist what is the purpose of marriage? I mean why would a man get married if he is an atheist, why not just live with a woman and enjoy all that it brings? I cannot for the life of me understand why a man would get married according to what the State is accepting as marriage if he were an atheist?

    With today’s divorce rates marriage is a high risk investment. An investment that men are losing their shirts on left and right. If the idea behind marriage is to primarily maintain acceptable relations with a woman according to the laws set by God then why would an atheist care to get married?

    Clearly, men can accomplish all of the things that marriage provides without the marriage part, which puts the man in a much better position in so many ways.

    So please I would like to know, what is the purpose of marriage for an atheist man?

    -Saifuddin

  7. Stoobs says:

    It seems strange that there’s an extra definition added to the term, which only applies in one situation – when talking about god. Almost as if christians realized just how fucking dysfunctional the whole relationship with their non-existent sky-daddy is, and decided to soften the whole thing a little by saying “Yes, but fear doesn’t mean the same thing in this context.” So someone just decided to use the word fear when writing the passage, even though they intended a completely different meaning to the conventional one? Doubtful. Nope, the “Oh my god, we sound like freaks. Better pretend the word means something different” explanation seems to fit better.

    Of course, why wouldn’t you be afraid of god. If he existed, he’d be morally reprehensible to the point of insanity if even half the stuff I’ve heard about him is true. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who will happily forgive rapists and murderers, but will condemn a person to an eternity of suffering for the one great crime of failing to worship him. Sounds like a prize asshole to me.

  8. gotnoblue says:

    I unfortunately have to run – so I don’t have time to research myself – but I would recommend looking up the Hebrew root of the word used. Fear is probably the best translation for the original – even if it is a confusing one.

    Try this link for another explanation http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionaries/dict_meaning.php?source=1&wid=T0001317

    I think this may help a bit.

    To Saifuddin: There are some legal advantages that are afforded to married couples as opposed to two single people living together, particularly in the financial realm.

    To Stubbs: I think you may have missed the point of forgiveness. “I mean, we’re talking about a guy who will happily forgive rapists and murderers, but will condemn a person to an eternity of suffering for the one great crime of failing to worship him.” The act of forgiveness begins with honest repentance. When you say “happily forgives”, well yes, it is true, but only after the rapist and murderer comes to terms with what they have done, and want to change. This does not, however, get them out of responsibility for what they have done, either in this life or the next – according to scripture.

    The great crime of failing to worship – while that is a confrontational teaching, it primarily means that one recognizes that there is an authority outside of themselves, one that defines standards for our lives. Your comparison between murderers and rapists and worshipers is skewed for the sake of leaning the argument in your direction – when it isn’t as black and white as you’d like it.

    Before calling anyone, including God, a prized asshole – you should do a little more research to get the facts straight.

  9. gotnoblue says:

    Sorry, that should be “to Stoobs” not “Stubbs”. Stubbs is my favorite bbq sauce and I have lunch on the brain.

  10. Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum gotnoblues. You wrote,

    “There are some legal advantages that are afforded to married couples as opposed to two single people living together, particularly in the financial realm.”

    Hey, I can understand working the system to save a dollar. But if you are a married man, you know as well as I do that, saving a dollar is not worth marriage. So obviously there has got to be more. What I want to know is what the “more” might be for an Atheist man, specifically a man.

    -Saifuddin

  11. ronbrown says:

    Saifuddin: In addition to what gotnoblue wrote, marriage is a public social contract. It is a society-wide recognized agreement between two people to be faithful to each other, to be partners in taking care of each other and each others’ kids, etc. Marriage is an institution that individuals in societies organize to serve as a collective watchdog and punisher of marital infidelity. It includes symbols (e.g., wedding rings), responsibilities (e.g., fidelity), and consequences for not fulfilling responsibilities (e.g., for infidelity, the nuptial responsibilities of the other partner are removed, the informal social condemnation of the marital infidel can be very harsh—moreso than if they had just been dating or in a common law relationship, and in some societies, the punishment can be much much worse).

  12. ronbrown says:

    Saifuddin: And there is also the personal meaning of making a public promise. There are few things that a person can do to assure another of their deep love for them than to marry them—to make the public statement that you want to be with them forever and no one else. That’s huge regardless of whether one believes in God.

  13. gotnoblue says:

    on the atheist marriage discussion – one does not have to prescibe to a religious rite to do what they feel has value. Jesus spoke often of caring for the poor, and yet there are numerous charities that serve the underpriviledged that are not faith based. Marriage can be seen in the same fashion. One need not follow God in order to want to make a public declaration for his girl.

    On the fear topic and morality – no, one us not acting morally if they are simply looking to avoid punishment. In your own hypothetical moral code, where you speak of those who are blessed, you are speaking to the heart of the matter of what it means to fear the Lord. It’s acting in accord with a good and right teaching, not out of fear for punishment.

  14. Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    Ok so that I gathered are as follows:

    1.There are some legal advantages that are afforded to married couples as opposed to two single people living together, particularly in the financial realm.

    2. It is a society-wide recognized agreement between two people to be faithful to each other

    3. to be partners in taking care of each other and each others’ kids, etc.

    4. Marriage is an institution that individuals in societies organize to serve as a collective watchdog and punisher of marital infidelity.

    5. It includes symbols (e.g., wedding rings),

    6. responsibilities (e.g., fidelity), and consequences for not fulfilling responsibilities

    So basically you are saying the reasons an Atheist man will marry are for:

    1. Money
    2. Respect
    3. Childcare
    4. Fidelity
    5. Fidelity
    6. Fidelity

    Can you see why we have the highest rate of divorce in this country. These are all selfish reasons. So in other words the Atheist man marries to acquire a higher station in the world and most importantly add some security to his sexual and emotional life. Now I wonder would the Atheist woman’s list match this one. If it does than you have got an interesting situation!

    -Saifuddin

  15. ronbrown says:

    Are you sure that atheist divorce rates are the highest? I haven’t heard that. Do you have links?

    Second, I wonder what the relative proportion of religious versus nonreligious people unhappy in their marriages is.

    Third, I would hardly call atheist marriage a notably selfish act. It’s not like all of these concerns are of equal priority. And it’s not like religious people do not also want the commitment that marriage brings with it, and thus the sense of security in the relationship. And it’s not like atheists do not strongly value the romantic side of it. When I think about wanting to get married, the monetary side of it never even enters into my considerations. The biggest issues for me are the romantic and the issue of relationship security.

  16. Saifuddin says:

    BismillaharRahmanirRahim

    “I would hardly call atheist marriage a notably selfish act.”

    ronbrown, I don’t mean to pick on Atheists. In fact I am of the opinion that the religious people who according to their religion, have a different set of primary reasons for marriage, find themselves in the same situation with the same lists as the Atheists.

    What I am trying to point out I guess is that if the religious people and the Atheists share the same values concerning marriage… “Houston we have a problem”. In other words people are getting married for the wrong reasons, in my opinion, especially men.

    But I made my point and I wont bother you with this anymore unless of course you would like to discuss it further. Thank you for allowing me to air this out.

    -Saifuddin

  17. ronbrown says:

    Saifuddin:

    No problems.

    As I said, though, the issue of commitment as relating to feeling assured that your relationship will continue on is huge. As is the romance of the promise to be with that person over all others.

  18. Stoobs says:

    RE marriage, I don’t think that the state should recognize marriage at all. The state should recognize civil unions only, between any two consenting human beings. If people wish to get married, that should be between them and their faith, and totally (ahem) divorced from the civil union, which should be an entirely secular, legal relation. In this way, everyone gets the same rights, and religious types can stop whining about marriage being under attack, and find something new to complain interminably about.

  19. good-video says:

    Excellent blog and interesting article! With pleasure has read! If not hard leave on my site the reference http://good-video7.ru/map.html

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] An Atheist’s View of a Roman Catholic Wedding Posted on February 18, 2008 9:16 pm by toddbumgarner I read a random and interesting blog from an atheist today regarding My first Roman Catholic wedding experience. […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: