Monday, May 2, 2016

Religion, isms and stuff

I AM not a religious person—although I was born in the Philippines, Asia's only Christian country (besides tiny East Timor) and raised by a conservative Catholic family that goes to church every Sunday morning and say graces before and after meals. I spent summers in a seminary, was an altar boy, and preached the Bible in high school. Yet that time I never called myself a religious person.

          As I entered college, and Martial Law gripped the country, I slid past the Faith and embraced Maoist-styled Communism—as I pursued a journalism career. During those years, I also created many friends who were Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists (not converted in a foreign land but believers in their own countries of birth) as assignments took me on the road. A Hindu factory worker in Madras taught me meditation lessons and how to cook awesome curry dishes; I played music and collaborated on community projects with Muslims in the south of the Philippines; a Buddhist monk in Kashmir influenced most of my ruminative writings and art etc etcetera.
          We hold on to our respective beliefs—non-denominational or apolitical, something that we keep in us, something that makes us happier and peaceful. Adherents to traditional faith (Christianity, Taoism, Islam etc) also find peace and happiness in their church—in fact they've been here for many, many years even before mass communication, market economy, and “I am spiritual, not religious” was cool.
          Hence, I wonder why some of us openly ridicule other people's gods in the internet and elsewhere. Yes, every faith has their own bigots—as in any ideology has its own fanatical hypocrites. This is the world where we live in—it's messy, it's imperfect but we can at least try to chill a bit and dance to the Bee Gees with our Christian neighbors or play chess with a Mennonite or Cherokee. Dorito's bombards us with annoying ads as well as Verizon and Nissan Sentra. Some Jesus Christ followers irk us, as do our passive-aggressive BFFs and Charter telemarketers. We ourselves can also be super-annoying. Best that we can do is, IGNORE what we reject inside and leave them alone, let us respect other people's “madnesses.” Unless they slap us in the face without provocation, let them be. We can judge and irk and diss them anyway we desire, I don't think it's that easy to pull them out of their beliefs. So let's cool out and have some chai.

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