BY Ysabel Anne Aluquin

The questions begun on a random lazy Sunday morning, as I begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed at an ungodly hour. 

All my Sunday mornings followed a certain routine: shower, my mom screaming at me to finish getting ready, sleepy car rides to church, a cult-like catechism class and me half-awake in mass. As mundane as it was, it was my life ever since my family uprooted and moved to Singapore. I never really saw the point in it all. Why did I have to attend class to be loved by God? Why did I have to sit through an entire homily to prove my loyalty? How did sitting in an uncomfortable church pew cement my place in heaven?

My movements in church slowly began more and more robotic as time went on. I sat, I stood, I knelt, I stood and I sat again. I no longer had to stare at the TV screens to recite certain parts of the mass, they just rolled off my tongue. It was like a strange dance where I knew all the steps, but didn’t see the purpose in it. Muscle memory had taken over my body and at some point, I just zoned out and counted the minutes that passed. Why do we have to put in all this effort just to convince God that I was good? Why must I constantly and consistently pray when God is always listening anyways? How does this make me a good person?

I had so many questions and no answers. I remember going over to the Vatican during a family vacation and how I found myself in a confessional. After confessing some sins, the priest stopped me and asked me if I prayed everyday. “No, I only pray when I really need God to listen.” I can’t see his facial expression, but I can practically feel the judgement through the screen. He released a loud sigh and told me to come back when I take God seriously. Don’t they say God is always listening anyways? Is it really so wrong to only pray when you need him most? What about forgiveness?

I didn’t want to have to ask my parents these questions, I didn’t want to have to have “the talk” with them (and I’m not talking about the birds and bees). This was a much more painful talk, a talk about how I’d given up on their way of life, on their ideals and their beliefs. It was a talk I was not ready for and a talk I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for. ‘Till this day, I have yet to breach the subject with my parents. Instead, I avoid all questions about church, about praying, about God. I don’t know how to tell them that the priest in our church — who berated homosexuals — was berating me, a flaming bisexual. I don’t know how to tell them that I’ve grown into something different, how I no longer visit the church or pray everyday.

Instead, I’ve learned that although I do believe in God, I don’t believe in needing to participate in these religious experiences in order to feel his presence. I’ve found a relationship with God that suits me and works for me, that allows me to be at peace with my decisions when it comes to my religion. I may not pray every day and I may not wake up for Sunday mass anymore, but I do believe that God listens to my prayers, whether or not I say the sign of the cross and whether or not I directly call on him. My beliefs have lead me to find my own kind of ~enlightenment~, one not found bound in the pages of the old or new testament, but one bound in my own love for myself, God and my beliefs. I no longer fear the rejection I felt in that Vatican confessional because I’ve taken control of my relationship with God and although it’s not generally accepted in my family, I’m a freethinker now.

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