I caught one of the classic Simpsons episodes tonight, where Homer burns down the town church and Lisa, furious at the commercial manner of its rebuilding, storms off to find another religion.
<Lisa> I'm a Buddhist!
<Homer> All right, that does it! No more chat rooms for you!
Followed by a lot of manipulative crap to get Lisa back to church, which my family doesn't do, which is yet another reason to love them.
My old friend Peg was not quite so mellow, of course, being a die-hard Catholic from the early part of the 20th century. In one of those ritualistic repeated exchanges that characterize human relationships, she'd periodically ask if I was going to church, I'd say no, she'd ask why not and when was I going back. I didn't go too in-depth explaining Zen Buddhism, but I understood she regarded it as one of those shallow New Age things where people hide from the True Church for a while before they come to their senses.
I've gotten periodically stuck at work reading the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. It's remarkably balanced, written in language much more neutral and academic than one might expect. I'm struck by how much more complex everything is than I thought, or than I learned in school or elsewhere. For example, we refer to "papal infallibility", but there are long texts on it, covering both the infallibility of the Church (which no one seems to have seriously disputed), and then its extension to the Pope himself at the First Vatican Council in 1869 or thereabouts, and many archbishops opposed that doctrine and split off into the Old Catholic Church, which I gather was around hundreds of years previously and persists today in Germany and Switzerland. And I was reading about Martin Luther today. We learned in school that he started his arguments with the Church because of the Pope's particularly egregious use of the indulgence system, and that is true; but it's also true that he was in a state of spiritual crisis for many years before that, after being a devout priest, and then suddenly he kind of snapped and determined that much about Catholicism was wrong. And he may have joined the Augustinian monks in his youth to escape his harsh family life. Actions, consequences--it's amazing to me to be reminded that history is made by human beings like us, not shadowy mythic characters.
It's never that simple.
I don't know if the world is supposed to be anything one way or another, but it certainly Is.