Of Religion

I have rarely written anything about religion, especially not anything that’s going to get posted somewhere public.  I think a book on journalism I once read even listed it as a taboo topic. I remember one clinical instructor also mentioning religion as one of the no-no topics to bring up in psychotherapy sessions unless the client mentioned it first. Write or talk about religion, prepare to get attacked. And thus, I’ve actively avoided writing about it for fear of getting aggressively struck down by those who have opinions and beliefs about it that are in opposition of those I personally have.

But today, I dare.

I’ve never really been a very religious person. In fact, I’ve been more attracted to the concept of spirituality than to that of religiosity. I’ve witnessed people who were almost fanatical in their devotion to following religious rituals, but nonetheless easily succumb to immorality and disrespect of human dignity the moment they step out of the church. I hate such hypocrisy.

 …

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” — Billy Sunday

 …

I am a Roman Catholic by faith. I have always been so since I was a child. And I’ve observed that out of all Christian denominations, Catholicism is probably the one with the most lax of followers here in the Philippines. There are few restrictions. Rules are more like suggestions. While the faithful of other Christian denominations are almost never remiss when it comes to their church duties and responsibilities, most Catholics are more of the slack kind. Our attendance in Sunday Mass is not checked. We are not obliged to pay tithes. There are no strict restrictions in food or vices. We are encouraged to be faithful, but there is no strong sense of pressure to follow prescribed rules, regulations, and rituals by the letter.

 …

There was a time in my life—the Dark Year, I call it—when I lost my faith in Christianity, questioned even the validity of theism. I mulled over arguments supporting atheism, and I was scared to recognize how I could see sense in them. For a whole year, I never set foot in the Catholic Church, nor any other church, for that matter.

But one day, I was moved to go to Church again. I don’t know what moved me; all I know was that everything in my being felt softly carried to Church at that moment, when Mass was about to start. It was not even a push; what I felt was more like a pull. And so I attended Mass that day.

And nothing could have prepared me for what I heard in the Gospel and the homily that day. The core issue that was bothering me and undermining my sense of happiness for the entirety of that past year was the very issue tackled by the Gospel and the priest’s homily. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For one whole year, I stop hearing Mass, and then the one day I go back, I hear the very guidance which I needed exactly at that moment to help me put together the pieces of my shattered life again? If it wasn’t a divine doing, I don’t know what it was.

 …

Since that experience, I’ve renewed my Catholic faith. I am still not a zealous observer of many Catholic rituals, but I have gone back to hearing Sunday Mass every week. I am still no expert at the Bible or at Christian dogma, but I try my hardest upholding and living the Christian faith in my everyday life. Always in Mass and sometimes in silent prayer in the privacy of my room, I find myself moved to tears. I cry for different reasons. Sometimes it’s because I recognize the irony of God’s great love contrasted with my own human weakness and failings; other times, it’s out of sheer gratitude; still other times, I do not know exactly why I cry when I contemplate God’s mercy and grace.

 …

I admit that there is still a lot about Christianity and the Catholic faith that I am not knowledgeable about. Many things about divinity, religion, spirituality, and faith, I may not even be capable of fully fathoming in this lifetime. But all I know is, my Catholic faith has never failed me. I had rebelled and gone astray, I had considered converting to Buddhism, agnosticism and even atheism, I had ceased even to care about any kind of faith or non-faith there is in the world. But the second I stepped back inside the Church, I found myself given the exact guidance and answers I needed. The moment I so much as tentatively dipped back to the praise and worship of God and the seeking of Him and His guidance in this earthly life, I found myself unconditionally welcomed by His love, mercy and grace. He took me back. [Listen to this beautiful song by Jeremy Camp, Take You Back. Always touches me. :)]

 …

“If you are not as close to God as you used to be, who moved?” — Anonymous

I am not up to arguing about which religion is the “best” or “right” religion, or even whether we ought to practice religion, spirituality, both, or none. I am not wise enough to defend my faith in oral argument; I only know how to defend it through the way I choose to live my life.

 …

I highly value tolerance and respect for others’ choices, especially in matters such as these. I have never liked the idea of forcing the practice of a particular religion or way of life on another, and I hold in high regard people who understand and practice what respect means, in the real sense of the word. This is probably the reason why I found this message of Charles Dickens to his young son to be especially touching and relevant:

“You will remember that you have never at home been wearied about religious observances or mere formalities. I have always been anxious not to weary my children with such things before they are old enough to form opinions respecting them. You will therefore understand the better that I now most solemnly impress upon you the truth and beauty of the Christian religion, as it came from Christ Himself, and the impossibility of your going far wrong if you humbly but heartily respect it.” — Charles Dickens

This is admirable parenting, and I think it so not because it recommends Christianity, but mainly because it humbly offers the practice of a religion as a choice the child can make for himself. May we, as citizens of one world, also uphold the value of respect for others—be it for their beliefs and practices in religion or spirituality, their race or ethnicity, their choice of gender or sexual orientation, or their political affiliations. This is in recognition of the humanity in each of us, and the human dignity we are each called to uphold and respect in our fellowmen. ∞

We are one. Image courtesy of thelovenotebook.tumblr.com

We are one.
Image courtesy of thelovenotebook.tumblr.com

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5 thoughts on “Of Religion

  1. Fantastic post! Kudos for your bravery. I attempted my first “religious” post last week and even then, I knew it was tempered and watered down because I was a bit afraid (even though I knew it wouldn’t be read by most of the people who follow me).
    Thanks for giving me a little more hope about “coming back.” I’ve always been a highly spiritual person, but after a childhood with strict Catholicism, I’m still searching (a bit) for my heart’s religion.
    Thanks for posting!

    • Hi MamaMick! Writing about religion is indeed a challenge and *scary* as heck, especially if you’re like me who’ll go the extra mile just to avoid sparking argument and conflict with others.

      But what ultimately moved me to dare write about it was the need to share my story of faith and “coming back,” not for the purpose of persuading others to agree with me, but for the sake of the story itself, for the telling of it as I experienced it. I find that the potential of it inspiring, touching, or illuminating something in others is worth the risk. I also read your post on Mother Teresa, and I think it helps cultivate inspiration and hope in this day and age when it’s most needed. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts on this! 😉

      • We must be kindred spirits! I totally understand the inclination to go the extra mile to avoid conflict. You nailed it when you shared that this post was not for the purpose of persuading others but rather to tell the story and experiences as they happened to you. You made me feel comfortable, let me into a private space and never once did I feel judged or less than worthy for my own spiritual journey. That’s so difficult to accomplish in a “religious” post and you did it beautifully!
        (thanks for reading and commenting on my post about Mother Teresa–I went a bit more “zen” in my entry today, but the message seems the same).
        Cheers!

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