Losing my religion

building a religion  Some rights reserved by papaitox

by Ana Santos, Founder & Editorial Director of Sex and Sensibilities.

A friend of mine took notice of the many good things happening in my life lately and told me that I should start giving thanks to someone for all my “blessings.” Maybe she thought that my hard work and track record had little to do with these “blessings” – I don’t really know, but I did know where the conversation was going, so I prepared to stand up and leave. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave fast enough because she still had to chance to say, “You should really go back to Church again.”

My tongue instinctively issued a reply that would not be fit for print here or any other publication that prides itself in being decent. It wasn’t a reply that was well—thought out, obviously, but nonetheless reflective of how I felt about the Sunday ritual.

I stopped going to Church many years ago. It was not borne out of a desire to sleep in on Sunday mornings after partying Saturday night, and it always surprises me when people think that I reached this decision just like that – as if religion were something you can turn simply off, like a light switch.

My religion – like many other Catholics – was so much a part of how I was raised. Belonging to a middle class Filipino family growing up in the West Coast of the US, my religion became part of my identity; I was a Catholic, others were Protestant.

I grew up in a very Catholic household and for many years would go to mass on both Saturday and Sunday. I think at the age of 7, I took on the vow of Lourdes, without even really understanding it and went to Church for months in the standard issue white dress with light blue belt similar to what the Virgin Mother wore when she appeared in Lourdes. I would diligently go to confession, really making mental note of my sins.

Once in high school, when our Religion teacher gave us a surprise quiz on the mysteries of the rosary, I was the only one in the class who got a perfect score. (Years later, I wasn’t even aware that another set of mysteries were introduced by the Church.)

In that context, deciding not to go to Church was a painful and quite difficult decision for me to reach.

And it was only after many years of conflicted emotion followed by attempts at making peace with the Church that I finally decided to leave it all together.

I think it started with castigation and admonishment that were becoming characteristic of the Sunday sermons. We were all sinners that’s why were pummeled by typhoons; all natural disasters were signs to repent or else.  Following this logic, I often wondered if those living in gated communities were less sinners. Of course, typhoon Ondoy kind of leveled the playing field in that respect. But then, I thought about the other more developed nations like Europe where the churches are empty and only occasionally filled with either aging citizens or Filipino OFWs.  I thought the Church was supposed to give me hope; was supposed to be something to believe in – something that would make me feel good rather than unworthy.

And then at some point, I simply felt betrayed.

My best friend is gay and when he told me, it didn’t make a difference to me. His sexual orientation did nothing to change the depth of our friendship.

But this whole institution where I first learned the values of compassion and understanding looked down on and could not accept homosexuality.  It could not show the same values of forgiveness, acceptance and compassion that it taught me – sometimes even required me — to show other human beings.

It was so ironic and confusing.

Later on, there were other comments that I felt were an attack on me as a single parent like when the pope came out with a statement about how single mothers were the reason why the family as a basic social unit was losing its sanctity and meaning.

What would these robed men who have never been married (supposedly) know what’s it like to live day in and day out with someone? Actually, that’s how I see the Church now; pontificating about things they know nothing about, like being pregnant and giving birth or the economics of raising even just one child. It is easy to spew out teachings about things that they will never experience.

There are still many occasions when I find myself instinctively performing acts of supplication. I kneel and ask for deliverance, guidance and often, simply give thanks. I just don’t do it in Church anymore. I still have faith; I still believe in a higher being and the principle of doing good and being kind to those around us. But I no longer look to the robed men for enlightenment.

I know now that there is a difference between religion and faith.

And judging from the growing members of the “Excommunicate Me” Fanpage on Facebook, so do a lot other people.

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Ana links being a sexual health advocate to her stint as a dating & relationship columnist for a men’s magazine for four years. During this time, she realized that there was a need for intelligent, culturally sensitive information about sexual and reproductive health.  Her full-length features on HIV/AIDS awareness, safer sex, reproductive health and other women’s issues have been published in Marie Claire, Women’s Health Philippines, Playboy, Metro, among others. She also maintains a weekly column in The Manila Times called “The Single Files”.

As a correspondent for international media agencies, Ana also writes about armed conflict and internal violence in Mindanao.

Ana graduated with degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by papaitox

Guest Writer

  • Bert

    And, mario, it’s not only Filipinos who are superstitious. Americans, Europeans, Asians, Arabs, Persians, Alaskans, also love to pray.

  • Bert

    I agree, mario. To those who want to pray…keep praying. If you can tell us what’s that for, please tell us too, :).

  • mario taporco

    Bert,

    If we can agree to one thing. Let’s just say, that a persons who have a naturalistic worldview should be accepted as fellow citizens and full participants in the cultural and political landscape, and not be culturally stifled or civically marginalized due to society’s extensive supernaturalism.

    Due to fact, that Filipinos are very superstitious; to somewhat.

    Don’t you agree!

  • rego

    its actually a very good point Bert. But sometime praying is about asking help and simply talking to your God. Its a its a way of communicating to your personal God.

  • Bert

    “You see Bert, there are reason(s) for praying. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for everyone.”-mario

    mario,

    It’s not for me, indeed, for a reason, too. What for, is my question.

    You have your faith in your God, you have to have your trust in your God as well, right? One cannot be separated from the other. It is said your God is all-knowing and all-wise therefore He knows what to do with you, with us, with everything.

    If He don’t know, or knows but want to do nothing, then that’s another story. In which case you will have to let Him know, then prayers will certainly help.

    In which case, that will make him a lesser God than what everybody is expecting of Him.

    If you have faith in your God, give Him the total trust that He deserved…stop praying/telling Him what to do is all I’m saying, :).

  • mario taporco

    UP nn Grad,

    “Food for thought while talking about “… losing my religion”.
    PROPERTY!!! There are some followers of some religions or sects who believe that leaving is not an option — PROPERTY!!! — and those who do leave have become avowed enemies worthy to be hurt or worse.” per upnngrad

    Let’s put ourselves in a situation. We are on a ship, taking in water and sinking. What do you do, do you jump ship and start treading water…,? Remember, there are lots of sharks out there; men with robes.

  • mario taporco

    Bert,

    “If you trust your God, trusting He’s all-knowing and all-wise, then you don’t do justice to your God questioning His wisdom by telling Him what to do by your prayers as if He’s not all-knowing and all-wise, as if He’s not a God but the same as you are.” per bert

    You have a good logic here.
    But where do you put your Faith in, man with robes or God alone?

    Now that I hear you, I’m speaking out.
    You see Bert, there are reason(s) for praying. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for everyone.

  • UP nn grad

    Food for thought while talking about “… losing my religion”.
    PROPERTY!!! There are some followers of some religions or sects who believe that leaving is not an option — PROPERTY!!! — and those who do leave have become avowed enemies worthy to be hurt or worse.

  • Bert

    If you trust your God, trusting He’s all-knowing and all-wise, then you don’t do justice to your God questioning His wisdom by telling Him what to do by your prayers as if He’s not all-knowing and all-wise, as if He’s not a God but the same as you are.

  • Bert

    I have no facebook to share anything, but benignO’s brilliance is shining in this thread, :).

  • Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be Excommunicated,
    Nothin’ to do and no where to go-o-oh I wanna be Excommunicated!

  • These are five otherwise beautiful words that have been imprisoned within the clutches of belief systems that presume to prescribe narrow definitions around how these words may be applied to one’s daily life. It’s high time that we use the better part of our minds to gain perspective of the sort that will finally set free these great words from the cage they’ve been kept within by the robes-clad officers of organised religion.

    * * *

    One can pray, but not necessarily to a god and certainly not necessarily to the god of any man who wears some sort of robe.

    One can go to church, but not necessarily to a church built for a god nor a church where one is obliged to listen to a man wearing some sort of robe.

    One can sin no more after gaining enlightening knowledge of what is right and wrong, and not necessarily out of fear of a fearsome place told of by a man wearing some sort of robe.

    One can be blessed by the fruit of real personal achievement and not necessarily by edict, gesture, nor absolution “given” by a man wearing some sort of robe.

    One can have hope, so long as said hope is substantiated by some form of aspiration and a concrete plan to achieve it, and not by some empty words delivered from a pulpit by a man wearing some sort of robe.

    * * *

    It is time we think and understand enough to distinguish the truly spiritual from the merely religious.

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  • baycas

    it’s ok, bert.

    praying is for everyone. even for those without religion…even without faith…

    “to ask earnestly for; to entreat or supplicate for; to beseech” is to pray. i’m pretty sure you will also pray.

  • LINDA FLORENTINO

    salam alaykom, just like the others, i also lost faith with these robed men as you called them,they looked up to themselves as more powerful than others, just look what they are doing now, threatening our govt of bloody consequences if their caprices would not be heed, , just imagine this people who called themselves people of faith, showing their true colors.

  • mario taporco

    Ana,

    It’s all about being focus, and how we value life and others. I do struggle about my faith but, also concern of my surroundings.

    You learn habits, and responsibilities by knowledge alone. Experiencing what life can bring forth is a good thing, and not a bad thing. It’s how that individual takes advantage of the situation. Whether your bless or not.

    Praying, comes from within.
    And, adversaries are from other people.

  • Bert

    “i’m really glad everyone’s praying…”-baycas

    I’m very sorry, baycas, to disappoint you, but I’m not praying, never will. What for? Things will happen, or not happen, whether you pray, or not, so, what’s the use? Heheh.

  • baycas

    timely indeed…p. r. a. Y?

    because the past two Sundays were about praying. today, it’s again about praying…

    be grateful (10/10/2010).

    be persistent (10/17/2010).

    be humble (10/24/2010).

    i’m really glad everyone’s praying…

  • rego

    I started losing my faith in cathloic church when I was third year college. Converted to baptist later. But eventually just stop going to church, any church, in a regualr basis when I realized that being relgious doesnt have anything to do with being spiritual or being christian for that matter. I just pray anywhere or go to some quiete palce for some enlightenment.

    Everytime I go to a cchurhc for some “enlightenment ” I just cannot stop imagining how many sins were comitted by the priest or pastor in that church everyday. worst of all how many children or women were abused in that church.

    I m better off going to a quiet place in Central Park and pray if i want some enlightnement. I know there so many sins that is being committed around area too. But at least there is noe hypocrisy of about being holy in that palce.

  • Ana,

    While I still go to church, every time I hoped to gain some enlightenment. Each time, for the past year or so, I have been disappointed. And you are right— the crux of the matter is that the Church was suppose to give hope, but instead of giving it to those who really need it— choose to alienate them. Where is following the commandment to love?

    There is a difference between religion and faith.

  • JJ

    Ana,

    I will pray for you.

    God bless.