How this Religion Bury My Family into Poverty

I was born into a highly religious family. I had no choice but to attend church services ever since I can remember until I graduated from college and got a job. It took me 28 years to figure out how to finally free myself from that eternal prison, but still, part of me is being tortured on a daily basis until today.

I acknowledge the creativity of Felix Y. Manalo in discovering a religious business in Iglesia Ni Cristo that would give his family a steady income for generations to come. I, however, feel pity for people who have to deal with their own financial burdens while chasing that so-called eternal life.

Ever since I can remember, our family was one of the poorest in our neighborhood. We are seven siblings and my father had no regular job. I am the youngest in the family.

When my father and mother met, he joined her religion so he can marry her. They were both active church members and spent their entire married lives being deacons.

My father had to reject a number of job offers because the job schedule always contradicted his church activities as the Head Deacon – the first major reason why our family struggled financially early. There is zero compensation for being a deacon until today.

More than a decade later, my mother died and since she was an SSS member, my father received a monthly pension as a survivor. When he turned 60, he had his own pension. My mother’s pension was the big reason why I finished college I’m the first one in the family to complete a degree. My brother finished his own college degree six years later.

When my brother graduated from college, I was already working for four years and I was already one year out of the church without my family’s knowledge. I had a good job during that time working as a manufacturing supervisor in a multinational company. Four years later, my brother got married and had his own family. His job? An INC minister.

I am single, have a good income, and have no worries at all. I am not rich but my income is enough for me to live a luxurious life if I want to. But I am living with my older sister and her family with two teenage daughters. I become the breadwinner of this family since they are living in my own house. I have no problem with that but her family’s surging expense on religious activities is making my mind restless.

We are living in Luzon and the rest of our siblings with their families are living in the Visayas. All are active church members and officials except me.

So how this religion is making my clan struggle financially?

Our oldest sister back in the province living in our old house with her family is the local church’s head secretary. She has no regular job and is spending around 80 hours per month in office and church activities. She has zero compensation. She is spending an average of P480 per month on church contributions and around P200 on transportation. Snacks are additional expenses.

She is spending an average of P680 per month and losing 80 productive hours while not making any income and relying only on her sons. Her husband, who also has no permanent job and is a deacon, spends around P400 per month in total. These figures can be far bigger in actuality because of other expenses like snacks, fares, unexpected contributions, etc.

My second older sister and her family spend almost the same amount because although the couple is not church officials anymore, they still have two children who are financially dependent.

My third older sister who is living in the city with her husband is almost in the same situation. Her husband is making a lower than the minimum salary but she is spending around P440 per month and throwing away around 20 productive hours per month.

The worst situation is in my own household. My brother-in-law is about to retire and has no job. My sister has a small sari-sari store that barely makes P300 of gross income per day. The couple including their two teenage daughters are spending an average of P3,500 per month! Yes, P3,500 per month on church-related activities while barely making a living. And since I am the breadwinner of this family, this figure comes from my own pocket which is torture for me if you may ask.

All of them are church officials visiting the church several times a week. Transportation expenses are the main culprit.

It is always hard to think how can someone throw away P42,000 a year without making enough money to cover these expenses. The big problem is, that I cannot tell them to stop because if I do this, I could not imagine what will happen.

I do not totally blame all of these on this religious organization. The problem is, I cannot convince my family to stop because all of us grew up in this belief and since all of them have their own family already, it is hard to decide. I cannot think of a good time when we, siblings can sit around the table someday and talk about this life-changing decision, adding to the fact that my only brother is also a minister, and I actually helped him financially to finish his studies.

I know it will be extremely hard to convince my siblings to change course because all of them think differently but I hope someday some of my nieces and nephews could realize the fact that religion is just business and one can still practice faith without sacrificing too much which could lead to financial difficulty, and poverty.

Right now I have no clear plan to totally get out of this financial mess but the moment my two nieces finish college, I’ll have my own way.

I turned humanist not because I discovered something overnight that changed my beliefs. I turned humanist because there is overwhelming evidence and literature provided by science and history that the Bible is nothing but a work of fiction.

Beliefs should not be carried from generation to generation. Beliefs should be based on personal knowledge as a product of research. Faith should not that be expensive that you sacrifice a big part of your time and income.

I have a close friend whose family is also spending more than P3,000 per month and has no permanent job while struggling to pay his Internet bills. I don’t understand the logic behind this nonsense belief.

Contrary to the belief that religion can help people’s morale, there are a number of research from prestigious institutions that suggests religion actually makes people poor. Imagine those wasted hours and money if used properly, could lead to a more productive outcome.

Religion is a real pandemic and there is no cure for it and you’ll suffer financially for a lifetime if you can’t get away with it. Throwing away P42,000 a year (estimated total for my whole family) for something that has not been proven to be true is just madness. I wouldn’t gamble my short life for such a thing, especially when lectured by people who have lesser scientific, historical, and even Biblical knowledge than me.

I still respect people who have faith because it works for some people, especially those who are earning beyond their needs.

If you grew up in a highly religious family and want to get out but can’t find a better way, maybe we can share with each other our own experiences.

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