I think for some, maybe lots, it's a matter of being born into it. Your exposure is under someone else's control from the beginning, long before you have an opportunity to question anything.
I was raised Catholic, even attended a Catholic elementary school. I went to Wednesday night catechism classes, and followed the normal processes of going through the various sacraments up to the point of confirmation - I think it could be considered roughly on par with an adult baptism, although I only recently noticed that. I attended services, went to classes, heard bible stories, colored pictures, went to vacation bible school in the summer, and there weren't any questions to ask really. I was spoon-fed answers in advance of thinking to ask them, I was a well-behaved child (not so much teen though) who believed that yes, Jesus loved me, because I'd been singing that song since I was old enough to lisp it out apparently.
I didn't think much about Catholic history or theology, most of my inquiries were about god, not church. But during those years, I could have explained my beliefs, articulated what being Catholic meant (at least what it meant to me) and probably gotten the broad strokes down, enough to satisfy anyone who might have thought to ask me.
I could have identified certain differences between various denominations services
- my Methodist friend said some extra lines at the end of the LP that Catholics don't say. At the time it was just something she did and I didn't; I see it quite differently today but I'm not sure I would if I still thought I believed in that God.
My Lutheran friends, I actually kind of liked going to church with them (since I had to go in any case) because their services were more upbeat and cheery than the ones I daydreamed through at our church. That may have been a matter of church leader/pastor/priest/whatever than the denomination itself though. It never occurred to me to ask about the differences, by and large we were screwing around very quietly more than anything, or daydreaming alone if the friend's parents were particularly strict about it. One or two were; most were daydreaming themselves and we were fine as long as we were quiet.
My friends and I spent lots of Saturday nights in various combinations of sleepovers, but it was just a given that where ever you had spent the night, the parents would take you to their church in the morning. I'm not even sure many people would have thought much about it one way or another. It was just, well, the way it was. Small Midwest town with a handful of churches all in pretty close quarters and no big fusses about who went to which one. I knew services had minor differences (too rural, small, and Minnesota Nice a town for anything too far out there; and I was a kid) but I'm not sure I really even gave much thought to what made any particular sect different from any other. I mean, we all believed in God and we had way more fun stuff to do than talk about religion. Most of the time - there were a few stretches in elementary school when we'd all get a dose of the holy and act really stupid and make plans to join convents until it wore off. There's a lot of pressure to admire saints and such put on kids and it was kind of creepy for the girls - most of the women we were supposed to admire had some pretty nasty sh!t done to them before being martyred. In retrospect that's a really weird goal to set for young females and I'm reminded again of why I find religion so disturbing.
Oh yeah, I forgot about when the "Moonies" moved to town, but that's a different story.
I've had some weird moments of culture shock as I've learned how other sects of Christianity view Catholics. I haven't considered myself a Catholic for decades, far longer than I've been a non-believer, but I seem to have a lingering thread attached somewhere, because I sometimes feel a tiny twitch of ... knee-jerk defensiveness?... when certain parts of the doctrine get criticized. No rationale, no idea what is going to trip it, not even a sincere wish for it to stop entirely - I think it's a good reminder for me that assaults on beliefs can hurt. It's strange to experience it.
I was having enough trouble getting answers to questions about God, I hadn't even begun to question doctrine against any other doctrine. I could identify things the Church said that I thought were wrong, and for a few years I was pretty sure I'd be spending a lot of time in Purgatory making up for going against the Church (even if only in my head, cause I sure as hell wasn't admitting them out loud to a preist in confession no matter how many times they insisted that he's simply standing in for God. I know when a human is judging me... it's a trap - if I won't confess I can't be forgiven and I was gambling that I wasn't committing a mortal sin, just a venial one. No wonder so many Catholics drink.). I did realize that I was in disagreement with the Church
, there's no question about that. I wasn't entirely sure if I was in disagreement with God
about them though, and that was a weird place to be. Even weirder to realize now that my apparent reconciliation of the problem was to expect a very
long time out.
I think there are a lot of... "mushy" believers out there. They believe in God in a vague, ill-defined way. Their beliefs might even vary, without their awareness, depending on the issue. I also am pretty sure that a lot of them do not actually believe the things they claim they believe. If they did, they wouldn't act the way they do. Believers when convenient, perhaps.Edit:formatting