[OPINION] I was an atheist, then a Christian, and now an agnostic

Malissa Agnes W. Strauch
'No matter which side you're on, it's wrong to make people feel unsafe for believing in the things they do, or feel that they are lesser than you for not believing in what you believe'

Being raised an atheist as a child, as well as being a former Christian made me realize that there is discrimination on both ends. And realizing that somehow made me a better person.

Growing up atheist meant a lot of religions saw me as a blank slate that they could eventually “save.” It meant repeatedly answering questions about the afterlife or the origins of the world or my sins, when I was just happy existing in the present.

Madalas iniisip ng mga tao, ‘pag wala kang sinusunod na patakaran mula sa Higher Power, wala kang moral compass, o taliwas ito. Or self-serving lahat ng ginagawa mo. Minsan nga evil pa tingin nila sa ‘yo, tukso, ginagamit ni Satanas, weak. “Kaya ka [depressed/nahihirapan/namomroblema/etc] kasi wala kang Diyos.” (READ: [PODCAST] I’ve Got An Opinion: I don’t believe in god)

Lahat ng support group, aid organization, donors, hospital, at charity na pupuntahan mo ay religiously affiliated in some way. And it feels like nothing done there is ever truly free or out of goodwill. And sometimes even kung mabuti ang intention nila, rinding-rindi ka na sa Gospel, atbp. It’s just not the way you see life. Sometimes they preach a love that does not include you.

Switching teams

Choosing to convert to Christianity in high school meant I had to hide from my family if I wanted to read the Bible, because if they saw me, titigil sila sa may pintuan at tititigan ako nang masama. Minsan may kasamang rant pa. Every time magbubukas ng TV at may masamang balita, tatanungin ako “Asan na Diyos mo?”

Matutulog kang may kaba at lungkot kasi namomroblema ka na hindi maliligtas mga mahal mo sa buhay, and you just really want them to be okay – now and in the afterlife. Gusto mong i-share sa kanila ang saya knowing you’re forgiven, there is hope, everything happens for a reason, pero ‘di mo magawa kasi pagtatawanan ka nila. Masakit ‘pag minamasama nila ang bagay na nagbibigay ng ganoong ligaya at pahinga sayo, and you wish they could experience it too, ngunit alam mong hinding-hindi mo sila mapapapunta sa simbahan. Minsan binubuhusan ka ng galit at frustration na parang ‘di mo deserve kasi ‘di naman ikaw ‘yung mga gumawa ng masamang bagay, which some religions are known for. You have sincere faith, and the religion you belong to isn’t like that to you.

In limbo

Fast-forward to today, and I identify as agnostic now. I’m no longer concerned with God or the afterlife. I’m at peace with the questions I cannot answer. I see life as something we all get to experience once, and when we’re gone, we’re gone. The neurons that comprise who we are, the body we live in, the circumstances that make us uniquely us, they fade away. They cease to exist. We are ephemeral beings with a lasting impact on those we leave behind. (READ: [OPINION] Walking away from the golden calf)

We are full of potential, valuable, yet subject to the circumstances we are born into. The compiled actions of everyone existing, a massive butterfly effect, holds our fate. But I don’t insist that I am certain. 

But being on both ends of the faith spectrum made me understand and extend just a little more empathy and patience to the person in Freedom Park asking me for 5 minutes of my time, kasi alam ko matutuwa siya ‘pag uwi niya sa bahay. It’s letting people pray for me and say “God bless,” kasi alam ko minsan, ‘yun ang kaya nilang gawin at ibigay sa akin. But I do intervene when I hear others telling someone suffering that it’s because kulang sila sa pananampalataya or there is a reason why they had to endure so much pain – there is none.  

It’s understanding my atheist friends’ memes about religion, knowing it comes from being tired of their religious relatives’ preaching and the ways of life they don’t subscribe to. It’s their way of turning the tables. But I do call them out from time to time or apologize on their behalf when things get too condescending or rude. (READ: [OPINYON] Ikinasal ako sa isang atheist)

No matter which side you’re on, it’s wrong to make people feel unsafe for believing in the things they do, or feel that they are lesser than you for not believing in what you believe. – Rappler.com

Malissa Agnes W. Strauch is a BS Development Communication student at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños. She loves eating pasta, buying clothes sa ukay-ukay, and lives to tell stories.