I joined the Catholic Church from a Baptist and Pentecostal background during college, Easter Sunday 2007. Lots of Catholics leave the Church but not many Protestants come in, particularly if they're not marrying a Catholic.
So I'm often asked why I became Catholic, especially living in Wheaton where Catholics are few. This is kind of like being asked, "What makes you you?" We can do our best to give a nod to nature, nurture, and choice but we'll never be able to fully explore it.
That's true for me with my conversion and I'm discovering new 'reasons' all the time. And I acknowledge that accepting Catholicism was also a rejection of a lot of the Protestantism of my childhood. That being said, here are 3 main reasons I became Catholic.
1. The marriage of Faith & Reason. Many Christians still hold that scientific evidence isn't trustworthy since the Bible doesn't mention things like evolution. But Pope Benedict XVI said that faith and reason are never at odds. If you think they are, you're misunderstanding at least one of them.
The natural world and its laws are part of God's creation so how can we reject part of God? Let me quote Godspell's character, Galileo in saying,
When it comes to God, I find
I can't believe that he designed
a human being with a mind
he's not supposed to use.
As a young man in college desiring an honest faith, I needed to hear that.
2. Continuity with the past. Growing up in my Protestant church(es) I had the sense that 'true' Christianity came about with Martin Luther and the Reformation. The Early Church, of course, had it right and was perfect until corrupted by Catholicism (insert dramatic music here).
So many Protestants are left with at least a thousand year gap in which there were basically no 'true' Christians. But how could God allow that to happen?
J.R.R. Tolkien once described a mustard seed. It grows and changes over time and the grown tree looks nothing like the original seed because it's not meant to. This is the Catholic Church, he says.
No, there weren't titles like "pope" in 1st century Mesopotamia but these developments are okay and part of God's providence. God uses human agency. And logically, it made much more sense to me that God was always guiding the official teaching of the Church.
There was no thousand year gap of corruption. I accepted that God was there all along and the Holy Spirit has guided the development of Christianity at all times.
3. The emphases in Catholicism seemed truer. I don't wish to anger any Protestants but I really have issues with some emphases in Protestantism. They tend to be less focused on community and looking out and much more focused on the self and looking in. (Catholics, of course, have the opposite problem.)
A perfect example is the individualism found in many Protestant circles. It's just so American(!) and tends to give the gospel an American flavor, which I just don't like.
You get hints of this individualism in some Protestant language. "Have you read your Bible?" "I don't like the music at that church." "Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior." No, he's not! Jesus is the savior of the World!
I think Protestants (and really all of us) can be so focused on our own faith life that we forget everyone else. I think this plays out in things like "church shopping", a phrase I'm convinced can only lead one to conclude that finding a church that suits you is the same as finding flattering pants for your body type.
I found in Catholicism an emphasis on action and not just faith. An emphasis on caring for the poor in all their forms. And I found a primacy of community over the individual.
In Catholicism I heard, for the first time, that we are meant to fit the Church (like a good pair of pants), and not the other way around. That still rings true to me.
Update: After receiving feedback from several individuals, I decided to clarify my reasons for converting and to offer "specifically Catholic" reasons for choosing Catholicism. Thanks to those who gave me feedback. And you can find Part 2 of this post here.