Every so often one of my sister's and I have this conversation over the phone. It usually begins with one of us relating a funny story about a run-in at a party or a bar with someone who is pissed off at organized religion (often times, I might add, for good reason). And it usually ends with one of us asking the other if there is any real difference, in the end, between ourselves, self-identified "religious people," and the majority of our friends, self-identified "non-religious people," that is, in terms of how we actually live. Is there any substantive difference? Or are we just hedging our bets? Of course, we are not talking about the art we hang on our walls or whether or not we are nice to people or work for non-profits or have a lot of siblings. We are wondering if there is any real palpable difference in the logic of our daily lives as a result of our Catholicism, and if not, why not?
I recently met up with an Objectivist friend at the Met, and in the process of arguing with him over the logic of love vs. the logic of rational self-interest, I realized that I knew all the right Catholic things to say, and all the best arguments to put forth, but in terms of my day to day decision making I was much more a Utilitarian than I would like to admit. My lifestlyle in many ways, belied my belief. I too cared about success and power and believed on some perhaps unconscious level that my individual achievements were, in fact, a good indication of my worth. I spoke of self-sacrifice but knew little of it, and I wondered, "Is there any real difference in terms of how I actually live?"