We are currently observing the Holy Week here in the Philippines, and as such, some of us are experiencing a two day holiday before the weekend. For those not in the know, Holy Week is the week before Easter Sunday. Christians observe this special week every year to commemorate the birth and death of Jesus Christ, and the important events that came in between.
I know a lot of people who observe this week, and they have their own ways. I get a lot of comments when I say that I don’t observe the Holy Week since I am kind of an in-betweener, that is, I believe in the possibility of having a greater being but I don’t follow one, single religion. I am not sure if I fit the pattern of an agnostic theist, or a possibilianist.
A lot of religious people have been telling me to try and attend mass services or even camps, which I did, but it did not really satisfy my curiosity, to say the least. I have attended different masses for different religions, because of some people eager to convince me to follow their religion. I attended out of curiosity and the hope of finding a religion suitable for me. I find it a bit awkward, to be honest, to set foot in any church or religious place, but I tried at least.
I was born under the Roman Catholic membership, by default, since I really cannot make a decision a few seconds after being born. I was also baptized, observing the Roman Catholic tradition, so that makes me a Roman Catholic. I have attended mass religiously as a kid too, but being the early thinker that I am, I have made a few observations that made me re-think following a specific religion.
As a kid, I was told that if I don’t pray, I will be sent to hell or punished or experience hardship. But I soon met a few of my neighbors with different religions. A Muslim, a Buddhist, and some other local religions that I fail to remember. I asked them if they pray to God too (the Roman Catholic God) and if they do it the same way. The answer of course was a negative. I told them that they may go to hell since they were not following our religion, but their answer surprised me: I may also go to hell, perish for a lifetime or some other negative thing may happen to me because I was not following their religion.
This confused me as a kid, so I went and asked my parents about it to settle it. My parents are cool though, they said I should decide on my own and think of ways to answer my own question. They did not try to convince me by answering with a biased answer, they let me figure it out on my own. After this, trips to the church became a voluntary thing. This did not hinder our relationship or skew my belief about good and bad, but it did gave me the opportunity to observe people of different religions.
A few years later, I went to a Chinese school with pre-dominantly Buddhist observers with a mix of Christians and other religions. When someone asks me for my religion, I still was not able to provide them an answer without getting another question, so I decided to use “Buddhist” as an answer, since it is a religion which not everyone is familiar of, and their questions seemed to stop when they hear the term.
I attended a few more services. I have attended a few local religious groups, but I found a few activities that weirded me out, made me uncomfortable or just utterly questionable (morally speaking). I attended one service where they say “celebrities” and “showbiz personalities” or “stars” usually attend, but I felt like it is more of a mini-concert with a speaker rehashing a few speeches that it did not make it worth coming.
I also attended religious camps, but found out that people use as a means to socialize more than the original purpose, to commune. A few people persuaded me to go because they said I will “meet a lot of pretty girls”. The camps were okay, but it looks more like a team-building session rather than a commune with the Gods. And there are also speakers who are not quite convincing for me. They talk about things that I already heard, or already know, like what happens when I do something bad or good, etc.
To this day, I have not found a religion, but I think this is for the better, at least for me. It gives me the freedom to think and use what I have learned from observing a lot of practices to adapt to people with different spiritual backgrounds.