Sunday, September 25, 2011
Are we inmorals?
(Published in the online edition of I Love Chile)
A good American fellow who lives in my town, told me that we Chileans are immoral people. Despite we claim to be Catholic –he said- we seldom go to church, we use to take commitments with no intention to fulfill them, we provide information having no idea what we are talking about, just because we are ashamed to say “I have no idea”. “You immorals!” –he told me- “are the biggest liars I've ever met in my life”. The hardest thing to accept for him is the lack of seriousness with which we Chileans use language, he said that we seems to speak just because we are unable to remain silent. He is convinced will never be able to distinguish when a Chilean is talking serious, kidding or simply is cheating him.
It's funny because I use to say or thought many of those things about Peruvians, Bolivians and Argentines. Maybe I see a mirror of my own faults in them, who knows?. However I cannot accept that Americans are as correct as they think on themselves, in my experience they lie, cheat and steal more or less same as us, but they respect some forms that in Latin countries we consider naive. Maybe it has something to do with religious puritanism.
The different approach to religion is, in my view, fundamental to understand many differences between gringos and latinos. We may be seen as a country of atheists considering the inconsistency of our actions and the catholic moral standards, but catholic religion is fundamentally different from any branch of protestants.
Catholic relation with God is a sort of permanent bargain for miracles. If God can not give us miracles it has not worth for us, our religiosity is more practical and positive. Few people in Chile think that they are obliged to go to church, our relationship with the church is relaxed, the very pious Catholics are the only who take seriously the Mass and rites. In Latin countries it is rare to find someone who actually believes that God is watching their actions and will punish him after he dies, most Catholics think that's a ridiculous superstition.
In Anglo-Saxon countries to "fear of God" is a highly prized virtue, it is almost synonymous with being a decent person, kids are raised in the fear of God in Sunday Schools, and the evangelical preachers describe in great detail the hell that awaits those who are evil. Fear is a strong motivation for gringos.
We believe in miracles instead, we see God, the Virgin and the saints as a kind of Santa Claus dispensing miracles and good luck. For miracles people are willing to make sacrifices that horrify the non-Catholics, have you ever seen people paying promises in the religious fests? Moving in their knees for long distances, they pay cash and in advance for a miracle, no need a virtuous life, with a physical sacrifice you can obtain the same.
I think those are two fundamentally different ways of looking at religion. Which of the two forms is best? individually I think that believe in miracles it is much more practical, because we can almost immediately see the results of our faith, those who fear hell and hope the heaven have to wait all their life to see if their religion was true. However, from the social point of view, the fear of God is much more useful because it forces people to behave according to rules of conduct dictated by the preachers, among others.
My personal faith is entirely based on the hope that miracles can happen. I do not care what he's going to happen after I die, but I pray every day for the things I hope to get. I got enough worries in my life to worry about what will happen to me after I die. So I prefer the religion of miracles and saints offering me the impossible, and I trust in the guardian angel caring for me. Although sometimes seems he is not doing a great job, but nobody is perfect, not even the guardian angels.