I recently told my (Catholic) mom, that living life as a believer is a lot easier than living it as a non-believer (me); because through faith, you shared the responsibility with someone (the one) else, you trusted someone had your back, someone you could ask for (and so you should receive); as a non-believer, you were on your own.
I grew up Catholic, I did all my catechesis until my confirmation (at 15), and then I stopped believing. It was not sudden, it was a process.
I first started questioning the act of the confession — how could I be “pardoned”, for the wrong I did to my friends, family and specially, my mom; by someone other than by the people to whom I had done wrong to? — not a priest, whom had nothing to do with my acts, in the first place. If I were to confess to anyone, it ought to be to be people I did wrong. Otherwise, no repentance was valid. So I stopped confessing.
Then my grandma died and it hurt.
I married catholic, and whilst a non-believer, I thought of the ritual of marriage as the perfect way to celebrate the love I had for my partner. The ceremony was celebrated by a priest who is more my uncle than a member of the clergy; it felt special and it was. Whilst at the ceremony, all I thought and wanted was for my grandma to be there. Having it in a church, was the closest thing to celebrate her memory.
Then my father in law, Jorge, died, after a long and painful illness, and whilst it hurt, it was also merciful; he didn’t had to suffer no more. That time in the hospital and later in the care home taught me a lot about love, pain, God (or the lack of) and human kindness. It thought me about charisma and vocation, it thought me about giving yourself up, for others and what to expect (or not) afterlife. It was the perfect example that heaven or hell is experienced while you are very much alive. Sometimes both, the very same day.
Since, I have gone reflecting on the meaning of God, the meaning of religion, community, human rituals and the sense of community. I have also reflected the role they play in our life. Religion is something more present when things go wrong and you are desperate for an alternative. Religion outgrows wether you believe there is a God or not. It is a way of belonging.
Whilst me and Helga were living in Seoul, some 10 years ago, we attended mass as way to interact with the Latino community in Korea; whilst living in Chicago, we did so as Sunday ritual to reflect on life and the week that passed; then we moved back to Costa Rica and we took on different rituals; but in doing so, we lost the sense of community.
Today, as I wondered the Kindle store of a non biz book to read, I stumbled in to Sasha Sagan’s little book For Small Creatures Such as We, Sasha is Carl Sagan’s daughter, and in this book she reflects upon this same conundrum, religions or believes, far from just the faith that unites groups of people, also gives them a sense of community. So what to do when one is a non-believer? What rituals do we share?
Cue in love. The universe. The tiny probability of life on this planet.
For such small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through loveAnn Druyan, in Contact by Carl Sagan
As humans, we crave community, connections, rituals and celebrations. Life and love as a result are such much worthy of it. Belonging, no matter where you are, through your feelings and interactions got to be the way. One. Big. Way.
I am lucky to have a wonderful family in Helga, my parents, siblings, and in laws; but I am also lucky to have a life full of stories, friends, foes and experiences. To welcome every day anew, to have learnt that things are neither good or bad, they just are; and, that it is how we react to things what makes all the difference. To be positive and to believe that none does wrong on purpose. That you, just as me, all we wants is to be acknowledged, appreciated and happy.
Religion has allowed our ancestors and many people today to find purpose, community and a sense of security against the unknown; it also has served as moral compas for how we are to behave as society. For me, it was rituals that brought me together with my family and still is; but as I search forward, I’ve learnt to embrace my culture, acknowledge my own skepticism and celebrate life, the universe and the tiny probability that made us here, today. Ultimately, if I am gone or those around me first, I take confort in that life, whilst we had it, was loved.