Mormons, Catholics, Santeras… Oh my!

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Catholicism and Santeria

So, the other night I was going through our video podcasts, getting caught up on the ones I hadn’t yet seen. There’s a little blue dot next to the new ones, it’s really cool. (We use FrontRow on our Mac Mini, hooked up to our TV in our living room.) We watch probably 8-10 different ones, including a couple tech-related ones, a NASA podcast, and a couple more from National Geographic.

Well, one of the National Geographic ones was called “Santeria“. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so I clicked and watched. It was about people in Cuba, celebrating the Feast Day of St. Lazarus. (Or something like that.) It is a Catholic tradition, and in Cuba they go all out. They crawl on their hands and knees (or even bellies) for miles, with pain being a tribute to this “saint”.

The interesting part – and the reason for the little podcast – was a lady who is both Catholic, and a Santera. Santeria is a religion which worships many gods, who they believe correlate exactly with the saints of the Catholic church. So, St. Lazarus day also belongs to Babalu Aye, his “twin” African spirit.

I really don’t intend to put anyone down here, or start an argument at all… I’m really not sure why or how religious feelings go down so deeply, causing things like what Al Qaeda wants to do to “the infidels”, and all the similar events throughout history… but, when I saw this, it just reminded me that all religion is very strange. Even Catholics.

Now, you can say that the strange ones are the Santeras, who “made up” the African spirits that match the Catholic saints. And I know, the saints were at one time just ordinary, historical people. But… at least some Catholics pray to saints, and have these very ritualistic practices on the saints’ special days. It’s really just as religious as the Santeria religion. (Minus the animal sacrifices…) 🙂

Why do most Christians think Mormons are worshipping demons, and have strange religious ceremonies (temple proceedings, baptisms for the dead, etc) when Catholics pray to Mary, various other “saints”, and have very religious rituals that are commonly practiced? There are tons of Catholic dotrines that are way outside of what you read in the Bible, and now the Pope (who himself is “outside of what you read in the Bible”) is saying that Catholics are the only real Christians.

I’m not bashing Catholics. Or Mormons. Or Santeras. (Ok, they’re the strangest of the bunch to me, but…) My point is, religion is so crazy. What is it in us that feels the need to appease a higher power so that life will go well for us. And don’t think I’m giving “mainstream” Christianity a pass, either. There are plenty of “appeasement” rituals there, too.

The whole idea that by doing some ritual, or saying some set of words a certain number of times, or anything like that is so foreign to what Jesus taught and lived. Actually, he ridiculed the religious leaders who tried to make others follow meaningless rituals and religious rites. He just loved people, and wanted them to know that God loves them. Sin hurts us, and Jesus came to defeat sin and death for us, cause we can’t. And he did.

Religion is a feeble attempt at the reality of life with God that Jesus showed us is possible. And is made possible through him. Not some incantations or rituals we do once a year, or more. But life lived everyday in companionship with our Father who loves us, and Jesus our brother, and his Spirit who lives in us and teaches us everything we need to know.

You can keep trying to make God like you, with your religious rituals – no matter how big or small. Or, you can just accept that he does. And that’s that.

[Related reading: He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen]


  1. Hey Greg, if you are ever interested in talking I think I can clarify some of the questions you have about Catholics. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty confident that I can help you come to a better understanding of what you seem to have a problem with in regard to praying to Mary and saints.



  2. Wiz,
    I was thinking of you with almost every keystroke of this post. And it’s why I said “I really don’t intend to put anyone down here” and should have added “and this is certainly not Catholic bashing”. I would definitely be interested in hearing further reasoning behind praying to saints, to Mary, and the various other traditions of the Catholic church. But that wasn’t really my point here. Of course everyone has reasons for what they do (religiously) but I was just making the observation that really, most religions are the same. They are religious. We do stuff to appease a deity (or deities).

    In contrast, that does not seem to be how Jesus lived. Almost the opposite, as he was often accused of not observing the religious traditions of his culture at the time.

    I was (a very small) part of a project that hoped to expose some of the false doctrine of the Book of Mormon recently. It was very convincing. Crazy stuff. And what I noticed from several people who worked more closely with it was a repeating thought that “Mormon religion is just sooo crazy. How could anyone think those things???” But as I watched the video mentioned in this post, I noticed again that most every religion (especially to “outsiders”) is going to appear crazy.

    Without an understanding of who God is, and (maybe more importantly) what he thinks of us, all religions are the same. Mormon, Catholic, Santeria, Presbyterian, Islam, Baptist… you name it.

    At least, that’s how it seems to me. 🙂


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