Believer or Not: Reflections of a lapsed Catholic

I was born into a staunch Catholic family and grew up on a weekly ‘religious’ routine that was about as predictable as Lot’s wife looking back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nightly prayers before bed, obligatory family prayers in front of the altar every Friday, catechism classes followed by Mass in Tamil on Sunday. I went through all the motions and even made it to Confirmation.

Jun 07, 2024


I’m gonna start this off with a ‘blasphemous’ statement: I don’t consider myself a Catholic. *Cue gasp* What on earth is going on here?

I was born into a staunch Catholic family and grew up on a weekly ‘religious’ routine that was about as predictable as Lot’s wife looking back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Nightly prayers before bed, obligatory family prayers in front of the altar every Friday, catechism classes followed by Mass in Tamil on Sunday. I went through all the motions and even made it to Confirmation.

But here’s the thing: I never really enjoyed being a Catholic. Sure, Sunday school had its moments, thanks to the social buzz and shared laughs. But Mass? A total drag. Initially, I thought my boredom stemmed from having to attend Mass in Tamil with my parents. My comprehension of Tamil back then was about the same as my understanding of quantum mechanics — weak. However, when I switched to Mass in English, the boredom stuck around. There I was, surrounded by friends radiating spiritual fervour, while I sat counting down the minutes till it all ended. The worst part of it all? I had to do this week in week out because my parents absolutely insisted on it (read: coercion).

Was there something wrong with me? Was I the proverbial bad seed, or worse, possessed like something out of The Exorcist? After some introspection, I realised it wasn’t about any of that. Deep down, I simply didn’t believe in God. This became glaringly obvious when I stopped being scared of watching horror movies the minute it became religious because the belief just wasn’t there.

So, why is HERALD, a Catholic newspaper, publishing my article? Good question. But think about it — just because I don’t see myself as a believer, does that mean you should see me that way too? After all, in the eyes of the Church, I’m still a baptised Catholic.

Now, I have a group of close friends who are all practising Catholics — one’s even a priest. Not once have they told me that I was wrong in my stance or judged me for my beliefs, or lack thereof. And it goes both ways. We respect each other’s beliefs because, at the end of the day, it's about mutual respect.

I recall these friends visiting my home for the first time. They were excited and suggested having our priest friend bless my home. It really didn’t matter to me one way or another, but it mattered to them. And I figured, at the end of the day, a blessing — whether tied to religion or not — is a good thing. It came from a place of love, and that is never bad.

However, not all experiences have been this positive. I have been judged and condemned simply because of some of the choices I’ve made, which does not conform to the Church. I did not break any of the 10 Commandments, it’s about how I choose to live my life.

Naturally, these encounters have made me ponder the role of religion in forging one’s identity. While I may not go to church, there are many teachings that I still carry with me today, especially when it comes to compassion and community. This journey has also made me reflect on the importance of inclusivity in religious spaces. It’s crucial for churches to embrace diversity and promote a culture of acceptance, rather than exclusion. After all, aren’t we all sinners? Plus, the church is supposed to be a place of solace — and not just for one type of person. For everyone.

While I’m writing this, I should clarify that just because I’m a lapsed Catholic doesn’t mean I hate the Church. Au contraire, I cherish the good memories, the moral lessons, and the friendships. It’s important to recognise that differences in belief are part of life’s fabric, breaking the m o n o t o n y while adding diversity and richness. Respect is crucial; it keeps our minds open and our society accepting.

What ultimately draws us together isn’t religion — it’s our values. Are we kind? Are we ethical? Are we good? These are the questions that matter. And the fact of the matter is that you can be good without being religious. As for faith, well, it’s something that cannot be forced. The more you push, the more people pull away — at least that’s been my experience.

So, as I wrap this up, remember: just because I don’t identify as a Catholic does not mean I’m better or less than anyone else. It comes down to faith, which I don’t have at the moment. But you do. So, keep a little faith, and I might just surprise you and return to the church ala the prodigal son. After all, isn’t faith all about believing in things unseen?

(Our guest columnist, Arvin Reuben Yuvaraj is passionate about social causes, animal welfare, and LGBTQIA+ rights. As an empathy-driven leader, he serves as a public relations consultant and foundation lead for an international communications agency, overseeing initiatives across APAC.)

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