Thursday, March 25, 2010

What is Faith, really?

*This is a crosspost from my Livejournal account*

A few days from now will mark another holiday in the Philippines. Lent has actually started way back on Ash Wednesday, it is supposed to be a period of time to make sacrifices all in the name of faith.

In your country, it's probably known as Easter. But for a Catholic country like mine, it is far from Easter bunnies and chocolates. People usually take this time (more on that later) to reflect on all their shortcomings and do penance.

Having been raised in a Catholic school for a huge amount of my life as a child and an adolescent, and at the same time in a Protestant household (we kept it a secret from the school since I was baptized as a Catholic and my parents married in the Catholic church), I had been taught that this is an important time of the year to reflect on Jesus' sacrifice for mankind.

No, don't scroll down just yet. This will not be a holier-than-thou post, you should know me better.

Back then I took religion quite seriously, believe it or not. As a requirement in a Catholic school, I had my First Communion in second grade. We also had regular confessions, masses and what-have-yous, the nuns did their best to ensure that their girls would not end in eternal damnation.

And being the double-agent that I was (yeah right), my parents who were church leaders (mom and dad both served as Elders and Deacons) got me involved in church activities. I taught Sunday School and didn't really do well on the job (hah! figures!). My parents would ship me off to those youth camps for a week every summer (usually before my annual piano lessons start) until the summer before my junior year in high school, I caved in and allowed myself to be baptized. Yeah, you know that drill where they dip you in this swimming pool and declare you saved? That.

Things took a different prespective when I started college. I started hanging out with different people and started feeling guilty of being so holier-than-thou with thinking of how they would be going to hell because they were not "saved". It was then I realized that religion was just a big business. Trust me, you think those bishops, pastors, elders and deacons are men of God, but really...they are still human and the call of money can be hard to resist.

I've had classmates of different faiths, even a Hindu foreign exchange student who I shared cigarette breaks with and introduced to our local kikiam that's being sold in one of our old haunts in campus. It was then I realized, what's the point of claiming whose religion/faith is more superior. Hey, what matters is that you have faith in a greater being and you treat your fellow humans and other creations with respect. It's not really about going to whichever church because that's bollocks.

To be honest, I think this lenten season is just like a trip to the shrink's clinic. Of course, you see those banners for spiritual retreats everywhere and come Maundy Thursday the annual "Alay Lakad" (a pilgrimage to Antipolo with stops along the way for Stations of The Cross).

But when you look at it, it's all one big business venture! Those retreats don't come for free, and the route of these so-called pilgrims are littered with vendors selling everything from cold drinks to shirts to religious relics.

I think it's a total load of bullshit. What's the point of repenting and leaving all "enlightened" (give it 2 weeks or so, oh Enlightened One), so is this like going to a therapist and relapsing back to your old compulsions after the session? Don't even get me started on those who hit themselves (Silas, much?) or get themselves crucified all in the name of penance and then would booze it up afterwards bragging about their cohorts.

If you ask me, Lent is now a good excuse for a long weekend. Hooray for living in a Catholic country. Long live the Church.

Yes, I am being sarcastic.