ON BEING AN ATHEIST
It’s a vicious word. Being an atheist had always been equated to being godless, heretic, sometimes even satanism. This is understandable. Most often, you encounter people calling themselves atheists parading their opinions on the orthodox world in hostile rejection of religion altogether. I mean for a person to declare that he doesn’t believe in anything and is furiously debating the existence of something that they believe doesn’t exist is a complete waste of time and energy. They can call themselves atheist, but life is not as simple as that, right?
As for me, this may be the only time I’ll be labeling myself as an atheist for a lack of any better word to describe what I think has been my position regarding the universal scheme of things.
This may surprise the old people who I used to accompany during the reading of the Pasyon during Semana Santa when I was just in my early years. Actually, it may surprise everyone (except some close friends). I was a member of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (student catechist) during high school where we teach Catholic education to elementary students at the local public school. I mean, I still get communion when the fancy takes me.
My great grandmother on my mother side was a devout catholic. I used to go to her room and ask her to tell me stories of Saints and church miracles and for a while I was fascinated. I still remember those stories with fondness and looking back, I think that may be the reason why I was so religious when I was young. Catholicism and its teaching, the church and the Holy Trinity, it was the only way that I could make sense of the world and the universe. My parents and the rest of my family work hard everyday, so they can be good parents and people, so that when they die, eternal life will be granted to them. I assume it the same for other people.
But sometime during my high school, in the thick of youth adrenaline and hormones and all the confusing things of being in those awkward years, I began wondering about other people. I became aware that there are other religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, even the animists. I was trying to reconcile my Catholic upbringing with the things I learned, to how things really are. I realized that not all people gets communion. Why is that? Not all people goes to confession? Why is that? I also realized that not all people who does all these things are good. So where does this all lead? Is every unconscious thought accounted for by God? Is a person who had been meditating in the wilds not eligible for heaven as most Christian acquaintances have pointed out to me– in vain.
Also, why is God male?
How about the unbaptized still born child? They haven’t committed any sin yet, but they may have to stay in limbo. Also, how about the poverty stricken families whose only way to survive is to steal? Perhaps it was the inadequacy of the christian doctrine that made me unsatisfied with it. There must be something that could explain everything. And there I realized not the loss of my faith, but an awakening to curiosity. I encouraged myself to ask, and to doubt. There is more to life than our religions, as there is more to life than my own lectures and beliefs. And in my questioning, I have found myself back to believing. The Virgin Mary, Christ, God, Holy Spirit. I also believed that there is karma, and universal scheme, destinies and fates. Also that the universe is expanding and that the secret to nature is being revealed to us everyday in science. I also amused myself reading Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Also, I have joined a Taoist group here in Manila, although my participation may have not been very satisfactory. I could tolerate ritual, I do tai chi like religion, but what I couldn’t tolerate is someone coming up to me one day saying, “You should be careful with what you’re doing [Tai Chi], you think you’re just exercising but its so much more,” warned a supercilious officemate of a certain major religious denomination. Of course I said nothing, lest I offend him.
And this is what I would like to explain in this long drawn article. That when one says he/she is an atheist, it doesn’t mean they have abandoned “faith”, at least not me. And please don’t put it upon yourself to save my soul. I guess that is the insulting thing about the coming of the Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic missionaries. That being “faithless” thus equates failure of the soul to understand their <insert religion here> version of reality.
For one thing, what this new freedom of thought had made me, I believe, is a better person. More understanding, and more open. I get to read a lot of books without giving any thought if it disagrees with my beliefs and with this, new worlds open to me everyday, a new mode of existence where god is both relevant and irrelevant, where everyday life becomes as sacred as the rituals, and where everything becomes more meaningful. I still get thoughts of being a nun actually. And I still amuse myself with stories of Saints. I still go to church and contemplate the sermons.
P.S. I’ve been hesitating posting this write-up. I apologize if I offend anyone with this post, for some reason. I mean no harm. And I’m open to a healthy debate if it would appease anyone’s soul. 🙂