All that may seem like humdrum common sense. Yet in both real life and online discussion, I've encountered many debaters who proceed as if it were anything but. Their love for truth is so single-minded that they insist that how anybody feels about any religious idea is simply irrelevant to assessing claims that it is true (or false). That's what I found in a couple of the reactions to Anders' essay. Their error is the opposite of that woman's. It is the cold pride of the (real or self-styled) scholar who thinks he's "above all that" and is concerned only with the truth.
But even as a revert, I know all too well the knack the Catholic Church has for misusing people. Those who don't already know it should know that the Catholic Church is no more a meritocracy than a democracy.
Take my own case (please). I’ve always wanted to be a man of God, and am fully qualified for that in an academic sense. I have three years’ experience as director of adult education for a large urban parish, and have taught as an adjunct in three different Catholic seminaries. Yet, for different reasons at different stages of my life, the Catholic authorities have never seen fit to admit me to a seminary as a student. That has been a source of intense frustration for me. And there’s a lot more I could say about the experience of old Catholic friends of mine who actually did become priests. They adhere to their vocations not for the emotional or financial rewards, which in their cases are at best minimal. They adhere by grace alone.
Like them, I don’t remain a Catholic because I like being Catholic. Given my experiences in the Church, I’m emotionally ambivalent about the whole thing, to say the least. And I haven't even gotten into all the slovenly liturgy and woolly-minded preaching I've so often been forced to endure. They cause me to say to myself: "I could do a better job in my sleep. So why won't they let me?" I remain Catholic simply because I am utterly convinced that Catholicism is true. And because I am thus convinced, I've reasonably concluded that it's God who won't let me become a priest—probably because I'd get too pleased with myself if he did.
Some people, like Anders, do become or remain Catholic partly because they feel good about it. And why shouldn't they? They aren't brains in a vat; and if Catholicism is true, then such a response is fitting. But some people, such as myself, become or remain Catholic partly in spite of how they feel about it. And in either case the same goes, mutatis mutandis, for certain other forms of religion. The question how feelings might constitute evidence for or against such a decision is not one that can be answered by easy, polemical generalizations.
All I can speak to on my own account is Catholicism. If one firmly believes Catholicism is true, one is going to come to see the central place of the Cross in one's life. I know I'm not a saint because I take no joy in that place. But all that means is that I am not yet what I am called to be. We should all know that about ourselves.