Catholicism is in the news. I know a bit about it. Some of my best friends are Catholic. I reviewed the Mark Wahlberg Mel Gibson film Father Stu. So yeah, I’m a bit of an expert. I respect all religions, no matter how wacky they seem to me, a lifelong Muslim. What strikes me about Catholicism is how a lot of stuff happens, and there are so many people to remember. Saint this, Saint that. How do they keep track?
Apparently, it’s cool to be Catholic now. According to an opinion piece in The New York Times, the kinds of people who have podcasts where nobody knows if they’re being serious or not have made it so that “New York’s hottest club is the Catholic Church.” The piece mostly focuses on an alleged scene of more or less 12 people in one neighborhood in New York. Writer and podcast host Honor Levy said of her relationship to the religion, “You just do the rituals, and then it becomes real, even if you don’t [initially] believe in it.” That is exactly what God intended.
It seems that this handful of nobodies have turned to Catholicism because they believe it is counterculture in some way. Here’s the thing that gets me: if you want to stick it to a world that has abandoned God and tradition, my question is — why go with one of the least challenged religions in the game? Why just stick to a vibe? If you really want to stick it to the man, you’d convert to Islam.
Islam has the lowest barrier to entry of any religion — you basically just make a testimony in front of a couple of witnesses and you’re in. And once you’re in, you can go as hard as you want. You can change your name and adopt a vague ethnic sounding accent, despite only speaking English, or you can take it at your own pace, perhaps simply sprinkling your speech with an “inshallah” here or there. And regardless of how hard you decide to go, everyone around you will think, “Wow, this person really went for it and decided to join a group of people that we’re not totally sold on.” Talk about punk rock!
There are billions of us, but being Muslim still feels a bit like being a part of a small club. I did the Hajj pilgrimage in 2016 and looked around at the millions of people doing the exact same thing and thought, “Wow, this is kind of nuts. Other people don’t do this.”
Most importantly, Islam is not a vibe. You’re either in or out. Isn’t that so cool and hardcore? As much as I respect Catholicism, you can’t pretend that Lent, 40 days where you decide to not eat chocolate or whatever because it’s your vice, is not just a baby version of the 30 days a year I spend starving myself during Ramadan. Catholicism is for the weak. Call me when you’re ready for Hajj.