Now I am not turning this into a celebrity tittle-tattle blog but I have to admit to having carefully read some of the reporting about Tom Cruise’s divorce, particularly the insights into Scientology and how it operates. What has struck me is that Katie Holmes, like Cruise’s previous wife Nicole Kidman, has decided to return to her Catholic faith after leaving Cruise and the clutches of Scientology. In fact very few people know that Cruise himself was brought up a Catholic, and his faith was sufficiently serious enough that he tried out a religious vocation with the Franciscans in Cincinnati. Both Kidman and Holmes are technically called ‘reverts’ – they have left the faith and converted to another and then come back again. Katie Holmes has registered with the Jesuit parish of Francis Xavier in New York (click here). It is interesting to note that the tipping point for Holmes seems to have been that she didn’t want their child to be brought up within the cult-like confines of Scientology. The dynamic of children bringing their parents back to the faith is something that we priests see quite a lot. Of course it is easy to be cynical about the bulge in baptisms before the deadline for applications to Catholic Schools, but God is patient and infinitely generous and I have witnessed many purifications of intent.
Religious retention rates vary enormously through different faiths, churches and cults and sects. The impressive Pew Research Institute recently published these findings (right) about US religious retention rates – at the top of the list are the Hindu’s with 84% raised in that faith remaining Hindu. The highest Christian group were Greek Orthodox (73%) and then Catholic (68%). It was recently reported that the biggest religious group in the US are Catholics, and the second biggest group are lapsed Catholics! At the bottom of the pile are Atheists where only 30% brought up in an atheist household remained atheist. For me this is not a surprise considering children often rebel, some of the most religious Catholic 20-somethings I’ve encountered have parents who were strongly atheist. It may also ve because there is more hostility to atheism in the US than in Europe and other places. There are many factors why people convert and revert. For newer waves of immigrants – Hindus and Muslims for example – religious affiliation is the main part of their cultural identity and so the culture pressures on them to retain their religious traditions, if not beliefs, are high. The same is true for Hispanic Catholics, but less so for many Protestant groupings and sects that lack an the institutional depth.
I wonder if you can get odds with Paddy Power on Tom Cruise eventually reverting?