>I preface this my remarking that I am irreligious Jew who belongs to an
>atheist congregation, but I went to Catholic school for some years. I grew up
>in the South (Virginia), so I know a bit about American religiosity.
***** The Roman Catholic Church had never formally condemned the theory of evolution. However, in 1950, Pope Pius XII issued a papal encyclical letter Humani Generis which discouraged belief in evolution because it played into the hands of materialists and atheists. Since approximately that time, the Church taught that the Genesis creation story should not be interpreted literally, but symbolically....
... On 1996-OCT-23, the Pope sent a formal statement to the Pontifical Academy of Science which stated that "fresh knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis." He did not identify this new knowledge. Italian newspapers reported this development as front-page news. Il Messaggero published the headline "The Pope Rehabilitates Darwin". Il Giornale printed "The Pope Says We May Descend from Monkeys."...
Catholics, on the whole, appear somewhat less dogmatic at least on the question of religion & science than Protestants. This is probably because fundamentalism has been mainly a Protestant thing, though there are some hard-right Catholics whose views resemble Protestant fundamentalists' on this score.
>Most American religiosity is a civil religion
>without hard theological content
Mark Twain wrote: "Presbyterianism without infant damnation would be like the dog on the train that couldn't be identified because it had lost its tag." For most Americans, religion has become so liberal as to resemble a dog without its tag -- hence the emergence of fundamentalist dissent against mainline Protestant churches. (In Presbyterianism, this fundamentalist dissent is promulgated through _The Presbyterian Layman_ at <http://www.layman.org/>.)
>As for the actual rationality of believing in the literal truth of Catholic
>dogma, it's not supposed to be rational. The mysteries of the Church are
>_mysteries_; we're not supposed to get them. Is it irrational to accept a
>faith that has mysteries? I am not so sure.
Twain went further than Pascal in the definition of the essence of faith: "Faith is believing in something you know ain't true."