This morning, my wife was sitting on the couch in the living room area when she mentioned to me that our next door neighbor Tricia told her that she was sending her son to catechism class on Saturdays, our neighbors being Catholics. My wife said that maybe we should enroll our kids in catechism class as well.
I groaned audibly, as I had thus far managed to dodge the issue. As I discussed in previous posts, I was once Catholic and my wife, who emigrated here from the Philippines, was also raised Catholic. However, she has not attended Mass at the nearby church for years and does not manifest any demonstrations of religious devotion. She does not wear a crucifix nor do we have any religious displays in our house. In stark contrast, when we visited the house of one of her Filipina friends a couple of years ago, this lady had crucifixes and Virgin Marys in practically every room in the house, as well as a miniature shrine in the corner of the upstairs hallway.
As lucky as I am in this regard, I grudgingly accepted that I had to go through with having our children baptized. Besides, my kids were just infants at the time. It's not like they were being indoctrinated into anything. But I resolved that I would not put my children through religious education and have to go through with communion and confirmation.
But back to the conversation, I told my wife that my dad made me go to catechism on Saturdays when I was a kid and I hated it. I said that children should not be indoctrinated into a religion. Rather, they should be given the opportunity to make a choice when they become adults.
For a moment, I feared that the discussion would degenerate into an argument. But then things took an interesting turn. My wife paused a moment in thought, and then she said, "When I was a child, my mom went to church every morning and then she died in an accident when she was only 37 years old. What good did it do her?"
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at her insight. I followed up her remarks by pointing out to her how many religiously devoted Catholics there are in the Philippines who pray and go to church every day and yet look what bad shape the country is in. My wife voiced her agreement with this.
As an aside, my wife's step mom is very religious. When we stayed at their home when we visited the Philippines in 2004, she went to mass at 6 a.m. every morning at the church that was located conveniently next door to them!
I also mentioned to my wife that one of the problems that the Philippines suffers from is overpopulation, because the Catholic Church, which is very influential there, staunchly opposes all forms of artificial contraception. Stardust has a post up about this here.
The Guardian has a good article here about the consequences of overpopulation in the Philippines, focusing on a Filipino rice farmer named Marlon Tayabon, along with a companion video that is worth watching. Below are some excerpts from the article.
Just after dawn, Marlon Tayaban makes his way down the terraced paddies in Banaue, in the northern Philippines where the rice farmer has his home and fields.
The farmer is on his weekly trip to the market, where he has to buy more food than he sells because his ability to produce children has far outpaced the capacity of his land to feed them.
Thirteen years ago, when Tayaban started tilling the paddies, he had two fields and two mouths to feed. Today he has no more land, but six children. The producer has had to become a consumer. That was not a problem when grain was cheap. But in the past year, global prices have tripled.
Longer term, the challenge is to grow enough rice for an expanding population. The Catholic Church - a powerful force in the Philippines - is predicting rice instability for at least three more years. A solution will depend on improved technology, new hybrid strains, more efficient irrigation and measures to tackle the demographic drivers of demand. (Underlined for emphasis)
That part of the solution will only come about when the Filipino people are ready to throw away the mental chains that shackle them to the Catholic Church in the Philippines and reject the notion that an institution made up of celibate men and women should have a stranglehold on matters of sexual reproduction.