We cannot control acts of violence committed in the name of religion, but we can live our own lives, spreading God’s love to believers and non-believers, writes Youth Speak News’ Alister Vaz. Photo/Pexels

Speaking Out: Be a living testimony for the secular society

By  Alister Vaz, Youth Speak News
  • June 23, 2017

A recent Ipsos poll conducted for Global News showed that 51 per cent of Canadians polled believe that religion does more harm than good.

Initially, I blamed the results of the poll on the secular society we live in, but as I continued to reflect, I realized that I had been too quick in coming to my conclusion. Maybe the problem is not society, but instead those of us that practice our religion.

Although I can’t speak for people with other beliefs, I can talk about my own mistakes as a practising Catholic. I think that over the last five years I have been two types of Catholic, extremes at opposite ends of the spectrum, neither being the right one.

When I started high school, it was my first time being around people with such different religious beliefs. I remember getting into arguments with atheists about the existence of God. I also remember having this feeling of superiority, that I was better than other people who were not Catholic. Although I did not publicly condemn them, my attitude was very immature. I was a part of the first extreme, being judgmental of those who did not share my beliefs.

Many people dislike the Catholic Church for this reason, because they feel it is too judgmental and “old-fashioned.” Maybe they have a point. I eventually realized that if I wanted to reach out to others and evangelize, I could not do it by passing judgment or belittling them.

Realizing my mistake, I experienced a complete change into a more accepting, loving Catholic. I was friends with people who believed in God, and those that did not. I showed respect to everyone regardless of their beliefs and I enjoyed productive discussions about religion, instead of arguments. I thought I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do.

Then, in a moment of self-reflection, I realized that in my attempt to be accepting of all people, I had lost my own Catholic identity.

I was so focused on accepting others that I had changed myself to become like them. If an outsider was to look at my friends’ lives and mine, they would not be able to see any difference. The only difference between my friends and I was the one hour of Mass I went to on Sunday. I was now part of the other extreme, a casual Catholic who was proof that religion made no difference.

The Ipsos poll is an indication that we need to find balance in our lives so that we are accepting of all people, but also live our lives in a Catholic manner. We don’t have to shove our faith onto other people, but we should instead inspire them with the way we speak, act and live.

Does religion do more harm than good? Maybe or maybe not. We cannot control terrorist attacks or other acts of violence committed in the name of religion. What we can do is live our own lives, spreading God’s love to believers and non-believers.

(Vaz, 19, is a first-year accounting and financial management student at University of Waterloo.)

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