Tuesday, December 13, 2005

As my Economics tutor used to say, Singapore combined the features of a command economy and the invisible hand (I can't remember the proper terms right now, so bear with me): the government provided the parameters within which Singaporeans were free to operate within. In that same way, I guess having a religion means that someone else came up with the parameters for how I should be living my life, leaving me free to do whatever I wanted within it.

And though I'm a firm believer in free will rather than determism, I do find myself more than a little frustrated with the boundaries of my life. I don't feel all that free. True, some of the boundaries are perceived rather than actual, such as the belief that there are some things in life that if I did, my parents would be very disappointed if they found out such as when I was dating my oh-so-white university boyfriend and kept him hidden from my parents because I thought they'd object, which turned out not to be the case. However, when it comes to parental disapproval, I'd much rather be safe than sorry.

And then of course, there's the law. Better not to speak out, in case you find every aspect of your past dug out and splashed across the papers. Better not to do anything that you'd consider a youthful indiscretion (and harmful only to yourself) in case you end up in jail for 12 months and your prospects ruined. Better not to do anything at all because this country is so damn small that news spreads incredibly quickly.

There's the betting argument that some people use to argue for the existence of God, in that if you believe in God, and you follow everything that He tells you, and there turns out not to be a God, then you don't lose anything. On the other hand, if you don't follow His ways, and there really is a God, then you've lost everything.

Of course, the argument conveniently neglects to factor in lost experience. I mean, let's just say for argument's sake that I found myself in the former camp. I'd be pretty damned pissed that I missed out on some many things in life because I felt I had to be good. In fact, I don't judge any of my friends, no matter how different we are (although, yes, I do lose a little respect for them if they indulge in things like infidelity, because... well, I'm like that), and I don't believe that any of them would go to Hell at the end of the day, and yet I judge myself so much more harshly. Like I shouldn't do certain things because they're considered cardinal sins, and if they're not confessed, then, yeah, I'm going straight to Hell.

And though I've kidded with my Muslim friend that yeah, confession sometimes feels like an unsecured overdraft that'll never be withdrawn from you (i.e. automatically wipes the slate clean once you've gone through with it), still, the issue I have with confession is that by confessing, then I'm admitting that what I've done is wrong, that I knew it was wrong and still went ahead and did it. But why would I have done it if I thought it was wrong?

Of course, I don't feel that it's one huge downer that I'm Catholic. There've been times when I felt incredibly down, and no one was around, yet still, I can feel that Someone's looking out for me. Atheists might dismiss this as a psychological thing, but still, it helps believing that I'm not alone, that there's something to hold on to. And I think there're statistics that show that people who don't believe tend to be more susceptible to depression.

So yeah, it can get very frustrating at times - being Catholic, and being Singaporean - and while I'm grateful for the benefits both have given me, still... I can't help but wonder, how would it be like to just not care and be able to do anything you wanted?


heelers said...

Hi ya.
Interesting point about lost experience if you go with the God bet.
Any atheists I've met didn't really seem to be savouring more of life than I do.
I'd say one of the pointers to God is that when you make an act of faith in him, well, the lights come on.
Looking up I saw the universe.
Zai Jian,
James in Ireland

LittleMissRandom said...

Hi James,

Thanks for commenting - didn't really expect anyone to respond to that!

While I'm not too sure on whether atheists, agnostics and other kinds of free-thinkers (as some call themselves in Singapore, not too sure if it's a term used elsewhere) enjoy life more, I was more using the economic concept of opportunity cost in this case.

The only Irish word I know is slainte, so I'll use that here!