I was just thinking back to the days when I’d I used to pray each night like the semi-devout catholic I was. Semi, because I wasn’t so much into catholic traditions and beliefs, but more of a “being good is what I want to be and Catholicism just so happens to be the most accessible way I know how” kind of way.
I remember praying for peace on earth, corny as that may be; protection and blessings for family and friends, with name-specific mentions for people whom I felt most on need of divine help; and I’d ask for blessings for myself too. I also remember praying for my grandma (on my mom’s side) and my grandpa (on my dad’s side), the latter of whom I’d occasionally met when young, and the former who’d taken care of me through my primary school days.
And, if you’d believe it, I’d also ask Good to bless my enemies and people whom I’d disliked, and the strangers I hadn’t met as well as those I had. I’d end it off with a “and please bless everyone else here on Earth” for good measure, making sure everybody got a serving of divine help.
Every night I prayed without fail, even when terribly tired. I couldn’t, wouldn’t, let the world down.
But as I grew up I started approaching life with a skeptic’s mind; I believed only in things backed by science and proof and I’d developed a strong need for evidence. God slowly left my life. (Do prayers work? Is religion rational? Can miracles be proven?)
Nightly prayers became weekly; then disappeared altogether. Church, which I attended occasionally, was attended to even less (never). But life continued as normal, and nothing seemed to have changed.
Every once in a while, though, while lying in bed, I’d wish for someone to talk to. Someone to listen as I blather about the state of the world and the state of my life. The God I prayed to each night played this role of cheap psychotherapist and friend brilliantly, but I found I couldn’t remain true to my scientific self and continue with my prayerful nonsense. These days I’d find it harder to push Him away than to embrace the beauty of religion. But still I did.
It was then that I’d realise that life had changed. I’d realise too that ever since I stopped calling myself a catholic I’d grown that little more selfish; that little more “bad”. Conceit, narcissism, concern for oneself; these feelings took over. No longer looking through compassionate eyes, the mind took over where the heart once ruled.
But it’s part of who I am now, and I don’t think much about it anymore.
A pity really.
But like how you never can quite tell when exactly the sun has set while you’re watching it, my becoming “less good” happened without my knowing when; maybe it had something to do with my abandonment of religion, but then again, maybe not. Maybe I just grew up.
As I lay on the bed tonight, I reconsidered my position on religion. Maybe it’s unscientific; maybe irrational; maybe ridiculous. But if it helps make me a better person, would that not make it worth scientific scorn? To give in to my temptation of prayer… yes, I don’t believe in a God; yes, I pray each night. Deal with it.
It reminds me of a philosophical debate I recently had with myself regarding the merits of charity: would it be better to give (to the needy; to charity) with selfish intentions, or not to give at all?
Though I didn’t finally settle on an answer, I was leaning toward the camp that was pro-giving no matter what. Who cares if your intentions are selfish? If it helps the world, if it doesn’t make anyone worse off, do it.
(Some shamless self-promo: I’m currently raising funds for World Vision, through which Lix and I are sponsoring a child called “Chippo” (a girl who loves drawing onions too much in our opinion). My fundraising is through GIVE.sg, and you can find my fundraising page here, called “Run Forrest Run!”, named after Forrest Gump, my favourite runner! I’ll be running the full Standard Chartered Marathon this December and will be dedicating my run to them — for every minute I run below 5-hours (my previous marathon timing), I’ll pledge $2 to the cause!)
And I’ll remember you in my prayers tonight.