All my life I have felt conflicted about religion. It took a lot of maturity to finally express to my uber Catholic mother this Easter how much I truly question the institution that has been shoved down my throat since childhood. Sitting in a cold church at the horrid hour of 8 am this Easter Sunday, a rush of ideas, memories and questions came to my head. So many devout people, yet such a lack of real, beautiful energy within the confines of the church. Growing up a witness to the lives of many of those people, some are genuinely goodhearted folks whose efforts serve as glue to the framework of the church. Others though, wouldn’t think twice to talk about you the minute you turn your back and frankly I’ve always been a stab me in the front kinda gal, give me reality or give me death.
In Latin culture religion is inevitable and amongst Filipinos, a people who literally STILL nail someone to a cross and parade them around town in reverence, it is galvanized. When I was younger the church was such an integral part of my upbringing. Between singing in the choir and all the side work my mother put into it, there wasn’t a time where it wasn’t a part of my life. I can remember at an early age appreciating the positivity it brought to many people and the community it fostered. At times I’d even allow the superstition within me bubble up, giving into the concept of “putting my life in God’s hands.” In my teen years, this really fucked with me. I experienced so much devastation and depression much like other teens and I couldn’t help but think,”where is god now.” I aimlessly followed what was instilled in me not out of true alignment but out of fear of disrespecting my mother. My mothers love of god and religion is so impressive to me – the sacrifice, dedication and motivation, you can tell it is a REAL love. If the woman who made my life possible had so much love for it, how could I disrespect it with disbelief? Fast forward almost 7 years since I have broken out of my mother’s home and there is never a personal occasion that I am compelled to go to church on my own. In the process of sorting through my own mania I have come to terms with my inability to identify with religion. My god has become me, because to be honest no one on or off this earth can change anything but you. The concept of faith and spiritual well-being is important for progression in life, we need to believe in something but I can’t say that I have found any security in some mythical higher power. Every triumph against adversity I have experienced has been the by-product of solid faith in myself and a movement for something better. For those who can find this magical happiness and devout security in religion, congrats I can’t hate on you. I have spent a lifetime wishing that I could find that feeling but I just can’t commit to it above and beyond myself anymore. Maybe one day I will hit rock bottom and see Jesus in a dream or pizza slice, that day will probably warm my mother’s heart, but until then I stay firm with my belief in me.
A friend really got me thinking recently when she expressed that “for my parents, religion was all they had when they had nothing.” Is religion one of the only sources of solace for the literal and emotional broke? Was it birthed out of a byproduct of emotional illness needing repair before shrinks ever existed? It further solidified my belief in the religion of me, reforming and reshaping based on my personal state and striving to be the best me I can be. Maybe I am particularly jaded but investing whatever hope is left within me in something that is so intangible makes me nervous. The institution of the church behind religion is even more of a gamble because of his human input, inherently we are flawed and will make mistakes. Before we sing the praises of a theoretical god, we should look at how we treat others, ourselves and individual circumstances while carrying on virtuously. It’s a lifelong challenge for a heavy heart to avoid skepticism, maybe one day I’ll find that balance.