Shopping for Religion
Ever wondered whether your religion is the right one?
My father is a man of 68. He was born a Roman Catholic and he’s still a Roman Catholic. However, unlike most people, he’s never been “just a Catholic” all his life.
He is perhaps a doubting Thomas. Maybe, he’s a skeptic. Perhaps, he’s just a philosopher and believes that the unexamined life is not worth living. So he examined his life as a Catholic, questioned Catholicism’s veracity as a religion and investigated other religions to find out whether he is missing his true calling. My father started shopping for religion – or more accurately – shopping for the right Church.
First on the list was Seventh Day Adventist. My father has a large family; he has a total of 14 siblings of which 3 have passed on to the next life. Some of his siblings are from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. His cousins – at least those I knew of – are also from the same church. It was therefore natural that he was drawn to it first.
He often met and sat with his cousin from Makati. Whenever my father was in Metro Manila – which was as often as his wanderlust bit him – and whenever my uncle went to Bicol, the two would meet to dicuss the tenets of this particular denomination. They’d sit and talk for hours, with the Bible open between them. They’d argue and then they’d agree. My father did not eat pork for months and tried to convince us to do the same. But soon, he was restless again.
Next, he turned to the Protestant faith (I don’t know exactly which church he went to, though). The same scene played out, with the religion’s advocate and my father meeting often to discuss religion. My father also went and attended mass at the Protestant Church.
Then, my mother’s co-teachers who from Jehovah’s Witness visited our home. They were selling religious booklets, magazines and pamphlets. My mother bought the literature but left it unread on the center table. My father saw it, started reading and was hooked on his next mission: finding all about Jehovah and Jehovah’s Witness. The next time my mother’s colleagues visited, my father spoke with them at length. Anyone who was looking on would say he was in absolute agreement with what he was hearing. He bought more magazines and newsletters and – he kept buying them. He read them and the Bible until late at night and was apparently in the grip of religious fervour. After a few weeks, however, my father was his old self – still curious and raring for more.
He then tried Iglesia ni Cristo. I don’t know how he made contact with this particular denomination, but one day, a group of people from this Chruch visited. My father was all smiles, was very cordial and listened intently to what was being said. He also went to worship with them. He would also talk to us about his activities – what he believed and what he did not believe.
His interest soon waned, however. His associates visited our home three times to look for him. Curiously, my father was always out and unavailable every time.
My father went back to the Catholic faith and started going to Sunday mass with us again. However, his curious soul would not be stilled and he chose to go to another extreme. He became a member of all sorts of groups within the Catholic Church. He tried El Shaddai, Couples for Christ, Yahweh, etc. He attended their meetings. Three days a week, he was always in a religious meeting; every Sunday, he was always at mass. He read the Bible every night and regularly said the Rosary. He exhorted us, his children, to do the same and preached us countless sermons about how we should be more devout than we are. It was inevitable, really. He soon tired of this new ocupation. He dropped off his religious groups and stopped attending meetings.
My father remains a Catholic. He goes to mass every Sunday and he regularly reads the Bible. Perhaps, you will say he has just tired of religion shopping – and you may be right. However, I believe that he has finally found his niche, and he no longer feels any need to wander and hop from faith to faith and from church to church.
Whatever the case, I admire my father for questioning his religious beliefs. It’s not so often that a person is brave enough to ask if his belief is right. It’s not often that a person has courage enough to go out of his comfort zone and stretch his boundaries. My father has been very brave and has displayed such courage. At the end of the day, if I were asked to choose between my father and a person who has never dared to question his Catholic ubringing, I’d say my father is the better Catholic. He opened his eyes and chose to believe, whereas this other person is just following blind.