Monday, April 19, 2010

Religion and the Resistance

 If you are Catholic, Filipino and easily offended, I suggest you don't read this.
Anywhere you look, the Philippines is surrounded by marks of Catholicism that rule the hypocritical lives of my countrymen. Latest statistic show that there are more than 600,000 churches in the Philippines plus 20 million chapels. More than 90% of the population are registered as Roman Catholics. The rest have their own faith but is still bounded by the rules that were set for the convenience of the majority.

Needless to say, our schools follow a Catholic curriculum. Public schools and international schools are an exception, but for most parents of my time, academic excellence paired with the Word of the Lord is the foundation to becoming an ideal member of the society.
For 15 years I studied in an all-girls Roman Catholic school. A very conservative one. Actually, conservative is an understatement. It was more like attending military school and the Drill Sergeants are teachers who train you for religious combat. The mastery of the Bible and the tenets of anything and everything that Catholicism has to offer was ingrained to us at a very young age. Every activity started and ended with a prayer.  School rules are formed based on the premise: "What is Jesus going to do if he was running this ship?".

Learning religion started out as a fun experience. The basic principles of goodness and "God-ness" were explained in a very simple fashion that made sense to me. But as time passed, I started to question alot of things that didn't make sense to me. I didn't see the point of overwhelming students with religious facts that was comparable to a Theologian's curriculum. More importantly, we never discussed the real world.

The discrepancies of the Bible and history. Were the miracles and apparitions true, or were the suppose- to- be witnesses just delusional? Did they really hear the voice of God, or were the "chosen ones" high in opium? The conflict of science and faith. They say salvation is for the good, but the "good" that is specifically defined in all scriptures is practically unlivable in today's society-- does this mean nobody's soul is going to be saved? If God wants us to live by his image and likeness, why did he give us free will? Does he have a point system or levels on goodness and sin, much like Dante's vision? Some are more sinful than most, do they all experience hell at the same level? And if you are a genuinely good person but not overly religious, do you think you're worthy enough to party with the saints and martyrs in heaven? Or is salvation an all or nothing game?    

These questions I asked time and again. The lines, "because I said so, because God said so and because the church and the Bible said so", were the only answers to every sensitive yet logical question I asked. My parents were even questioned about my resistance to believe in anything that was taught to me. Academically, I wasn't good at anything to begin with. This reason was conveniently used to charge my curiosity to plain and simple rebellion and ignorance, so I was told to stop asking. For years, I resented my school. It didn't help also that there were alot of people who hated just because I am the way that I am. Funny enough, I know where they are coming from*.

(*Another tidbit about the Filipino culture: Being different is not acceptable, conformity is cool. But don't be too prudish because that's not cool either. Filipinos think they are liberated. Even if creativity and thinking out- of- the box is highly encouraged, you can only limit yourself to what is acceptable by the majority. You can never say anything bad about our culture. Anything you say would be taken against you. Most importantly, you can never, EVER point out that we are living a hypocritical life and our country is a walking contradiction, not even as a joke.)

From Allah to Buddha to Jesus: hypocrisy is not only limited to one religion. If you look at your own world and the bigger part of it, you would witness and experience sin everywhere. Because religion was hammered to the human psyche at such an early age- traditions, rituals and prayers is almost like an instant reflex that people actually forget that you should practice what you preach. It's a Ctrl+Z habit. You sin, you confess, you pray then you sin all over again. Fyi, that will not give you a spot to your so- called heaven.  

I am a non- practicing Catholic. Clearly, I do not go to church and practice any religious ritual. Vanity is my number one sin like most women. I can be greedy of what's mine and I would take whatever I can get. I'm pretty damn proud of everything ME, but I am jealous at the same time. I say "Jesus Christ!" when I get angry. My words can cut really deep, and I can be really, really mean and heartless if you cross me. I often think about violent and sexual thoughts, not at the same time and definitely nothing too weird or freaky. And yeah, I did covet my neighbor's husband: 5 years and running.

But I respect my parents and no words can express how much they mean to me. My brother, I consider to be half of who I am because I will love him no matter what happens. I am compassionate. I respect all living creatures. I appreciate kindness, and I try my best to be kind. I'm sensitive. I value my work. I am helpful. I am forgiving, if sincerity is shown. I always believe in second chances. I am arrogant, but humble when wrong--- I say sorry. I am always thankful and know how to show appreciation. I have manners and etiquette, which makes me act with sensitivity in front of people. I try not to hurt people. I am loving in my tough-love kind of way, and I have friends that would attest to that. I do not play with my words, my honesty is the one thing that sets me apart. But most of all, I embrace individuality.

If we are to be judged tonight, I'm sure that  "God" is just like you and me, only a million times cooler. He would definitely not have a score sheet of the number of times you heard Sunday mass, if you went on a pilgrimage once in your life or if you ate any of your holy cow for dinner. "God", is never complicated and I'm sure he does not want us to live with too many complications. He loves us too much for that. He would, however, keep tabs on two things: if you HAVE BEEN GOOD TO YOURSELF and BEEN GOOD TO THE WORLD. The rest are insignificant, even for non- believers like me.

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