I was hesitant to post this interview because the grenade throwers who tend to comment on this blog will have plenty of ammunition, but Dan Savage’s sincerity in his essay about the death of his mother and his relationship with the Catholic Church is worth sharing. For those who don’t know, Savage is a gay rights activist and sex columnist who was the inspiration behind the It Gets Better project, a YouTube campaign aimed at preventing young adult suicide and curbing bullying. Savage was in the news this week for his talk to college journalists about bullying during which he said that the bible’s condemnation of homosexuality must go the way of its condemnation of shellfish.
On This American Life, Savage talks about growing up Catholic and how coming out led him to question the basic teachings of the church before ultimately walking away. He describes himself as an “agnoatheist,” not quite committed to atheism but not quite open to the idea of a living God either. He says that his life is still punctuated occasionally by some small markers of his former faith, and when his mother, a devout Catholic until the end of her life, passed away, he found himself sneaking off to Catholic churches for quick prayers or moments of silence. Ultimately, Savage says he remains unable to believe, but his connection to the Catholic faith seems to have quite the grasp on him.
Listen to the interview. What do you make of Savage’s connection to his faith even after he describes the pain the church has caused him and his family? Does his experience remind you of people in your life, people who may have left the church but who still turn to the comforting ritual in moments of pain or uncertainty? What is it about Catholicism that seems to grasp people long after they have left?
N.B. Google anything about Dan Savage and you will find enough links to post hundreds of negative comments attacking him, his ideas, and his language. But please, consider what he is saying in this interview, especially given the dramatic rise in the number of self-identified ex-Catholics.