my mistake...I'm only aware of what I'm aware of and the catholics I know are forbidden from reading the scriptures on their own.
Crazy. That's almost unheard of around my way. Being forbidden to read scripture is messed up and outdated by several centuries, lol. Historically it was because practicing catholics simply couldn't read and eventually this fact became leveraged for political influence in Mideval times. What resulted were corrupt popes and the crusades, and we all know how that turned out.
What separates Protestant Christians from Catholics is and adherence to scripture. We share a similar text. They have books that are not accepted by Protestants. But aside from that, they believe in a works based salvation in which you earn your way to heaven. That is anti biblical seeing how the bible says it's by grace through faith...not by works....that a man is saved.
I think you hit it on the dot. Those were my thoughts as well. Being raised catholic, we were taught that it was through faith AND through good works that we gained salvation. I wouldn't say it's anti-biblical, though. Good deeds done by Catholics is a practice done to emulate the good that Jesus did and by doing so is spreading the goodness of God through action. A life of service was seen as a noble thing to do. I agree with this still, even though I'm not Catholic. To do good things to benefit the less fortunate or to benefit more people than yourself is always a good thing, whether you're religious or not. I don't think many people would argue about whether helping the homeless is a good thing or not. Catholics may emphasize it, but works are not the main factor in terms of finding salvation -- BUT it is the defining factor that differentiates Protestant from Catholic in terms of practice. HOWEVER I'm not rejecting the christian pursuit and value it as well. To have faith in something is a great thing, and to base the belief that faith will lead to salvation is itself a noble pursuit aswell.
Another big difference, as you mentioned, are the texts. Both are called the Bible and are taken from the same source, or at least similar sources, but interperetation is different. As well as additional texts. Catholicism of the modern day has been defined by various theologic philosophers and thinkers throughout the ages who have shaped the religion into what it is through their views on faith and God. an example of this would be Dante's "The Divine Comedy", where the modern day concept of Hell is based. I could also discuss, the saints; Acquinas, Francis of assisi, but then I'd be going on and on and on
Unfortunately, Catholics also have given the Pope higher authority than the scriptures and whatever the Pope declares is considered divine and just as good as scripture even if it contradicts scripture. It is an inconsistent religion. And again, the very book that they claim to believe denounces them as not being true fruit of the vine (ie not Christian).
I could go on and on but I'm not a big fan of the concept of a Pope either. I especially have criticisms of the current one. The previous, Pope John Paul II was an intensely wise and loving man in my eyes, though. Had he not been the pope he would probably still affect global change in some way. He never let his title make his head swell, unlike Ratzinger.
And I'm not catholic bashing. I'll bash anyone who claims Christianity and yet denies the authority of scripture in their lives or twists scripture to fit them and not vise versa.
I just think your convictions in your faith are strong. You had no intention of bashing catholicism, but I feel as if you misunderstand Catholics. They're good people with strong faith... I just personally don't agree with the faith which is why I'm no longer catholic, lol.