Thursday, January 31, 2013

Religion, Skepticism and The Egg.

     It irks me sometimes when I'm in a social setting and someone asks me what my religion is. Perhaps I'm more irked with their motive for asking the question than the question itself. It sometimes feels as if it's being asked just so they can put you in this box in their head and will treat you accordingly for whatever your answer is.

 I'm a Roman Catholic. On paper. That's pretty much it. You can't count on me to be Catholic by practice. I find hearing Sunday mass uninspiring most of the time. Sometimes it seems people just go to church hoping Jesus would show up.Youth groups aren't for me at all, not that I find anything wrong with them. Even if I'm among fellow Catholics, I can't relate to their God. I can't relate to their patriarchal God who promises hell and salvation. I don't believe that God takes sides and demands to be worshipped because that would be against the point of creation. I don't believe in a God who claims to celebrate man because he's created in his image but decides that's not the case when homosexuals are involved. I refuse any teaching that ostracizes people who are different, who have controversial ideas, and mingles with the affairs of the state (ahem, RH Bill, ahem, Carlos Celdran).

 I'm a secularist (theist?) because I do believe that anyone can freely practice their religion as long as they don't infringe on other people's rights.

"Society is too diverse to sustain a state religion."- QualiaSoup

 My childhood was spent in this all-girls Catholic school. I remember actually looking forward to church, memorizing all the hymns, and reading the Bible for school and for leisure. Then came 4th grade during our Bible class when my teachers claimed that a.)animals have no soul, b.) God is all-merciful and will forgive all your sins and c.) there's a hell for us, despite being a merciful and forgiving power. I was a little bothered thinking that our dog Brownie had no soul, despite being one of the smartest and protective dogs we've had.
Me in 4th grade.

  Then  I remember raising my hand and asking, if God is merciful, loving, and forgiving, why would there be hell in the first place? I don't remember my teacher's answer but I remember that she gave me an unsatisfactory one. At that point, I realized I was gonna have to put the puzzles together myself. The more in-depth our bible studies were, the more I found inconsistencies. What's the point of creation if there's hell? What's the point of free will if you're commanded to fear God? Why is deviation from doctrine teachings a blasphemous thing whence one has to be punished instead of letting it facilitate discussion? Why would religious leaders claim that God is keeping score of everyone's sin?

   Upon entering high school, I realized that we're not really encouraged to be critical. Nobody can tell me the roots of all these beliefs and traditions because a.) majority of devout Catholics I know would frown upon my audacity to even question the teachings and b.) the rest simply don't bother to explore the esoteric meaning behind all the teachings because they're afraid to shake the foundations of what they already believed in. Nobody really told me to examine the flaws and biases of my religion. I just thought it would be a sensible move to read up as much as I can and educate myself.

    Let me be clear that I'm doing all this research on the side not to denounce any religion-including my own. I think it's just natural to be curious about the meanings and origins of one's religion. Simply put, I don't take things at face value these days. I refuse to succumb to social pressure to just take teachings as they are. For me, the only way I can find extraordinary meaning in being a Roman Catholic is to strip everything down to its core, to look at things in historical, political and cultural aspects, to study one evidence against another, and to be skeptical and investigate motives of people behind all the doctrines and laws.

 This kind of investigation can lead to uncertainty, disappointment, anger, delight, but half the time- enlightenment. 

  I find that reason and skepticism, especially in this country, may offend religious feelings. Forgive me, but I find that exploring the flaws honestly in our belief helped me come to terms with a lot of things in my life. I don't need the promise of eternal life to be a good person. Tradition comes and goes but being a person struggling to do good and trying to make informed choices makes life much better.

This 5-minute video by QualiaSoup sums up my feelings for critical thinking. I'm not saying I'm the best in critical thinking, but it's easier for me to handle thought-provoking and controversial stuff. You'll experience a paradigm shift. Sometimes, you realize that there are just aspects in humanity that is beyond religion.

 It's a bit strange how some people judge me for not going to church regularly or claim I'm so Westernized (coz you know, wanting to expand one's thinking is apparently a geographical trait) with my ideas about religion in general.
Source: via Joelle on Pinterest

You know what makes me feel closer to the Higher Power most of the time? My family. My friends. Nature. My gratitude journal. My letters to God. Sorry I'm not sorry that going to church just doesn't help me feel the same way.

I believe in love. I believe in empathy. I believe in the value of mistakes. I believe in reason and truth. I believe in beauty, purpose, and equality. I believe in experience. I believe in art, music, and poetry. I believe in prayer (in fact, I greatly appreciate it when loved ones pray for me) but I also believe in the grace and magic in taking action.There is not one spiritual path. There is no wrong or right religion.  Each are beautiful, wondrous, intriguing, and mystical in their own way. Perhaps one may feel there isn't a need for religion, doctrines, or any belief system- and that should be respected.

And now a quote from Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables:

"Ecclesiastes calls you the All-Powerful; the Maccabees call you the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you Liberty; Baruch calls you the Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all your names."

For me, God is Energy.

My friend Lorri linked me this beautiful story entitled The Egg. Some of you may get it, some of you may struggle at the concept, nevertheless, I feel it is the closest one can understanding why "to love another person is to see the face of God." (I'm still hungover from Les Miserables OK). Here is an excerpt:

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“I’m Jesus?”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”


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