Religious Identity and the Isolated Generation: What Being Catholic means to Religiously Involved Filipino Students Today

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What does being Catholic mean to religious involved Filipino students today? An important contribution to the study of religion and youth in the Philippines, this thesis looks at the religious identity (defined as personal religious meanings) of students involved in Catholic organisations in colleges and universities in Manila. One may suppose that this sector of young Filipino Catholics will be more orthodox in their beliefs and practices. On the contrary, because of what appears to be their selective posture towards the beliefs and practices of Catholicism, these students may easily be characterised as ?cafeteria? or ?split-level? Catholics. The thesis counters this claim by arguing that in fact, they are better described as creative Catholics in view of how they reflect on the elements that to them define what being Catholic first and foremost means. Indeed, three themes surrounding being Catholic are emergent: a personal and experiential relationship with God, an action-orientated relationality in which right living is more important than right believing, and a critique of their peers? and the Catholic leadership?s misguidedness. Collectively, these three elements of self-fulfilment, relationality, and critique help in the reconfiguration of the concept of reflexive spirituality. Given these themes, being Catholic among religiously involved students today can be seen as an undercurrent of experiential religion of humanity in which God has become immanent, and religion only makes sense in light of what one does to his relationships. In other words, as far as they are concerned, a Church-defined Catholicism in terms of tradition and central doctrines is giving way to a self-defined religious identity. The self-defined character of their religious identity becomes evident, too, when one turns to their moral views. It is very intriguing that they are conservative with regard to divorce, homosexuality, premarital sex, cohabitation, and abortion. They do not, however, invoke moral error in their arbitration of these moral issues but instead underscore a humanistic value of relational commitment, which reflects their reflexive spirituality. Alongside this is the view that religious authority is no longer in the institution but in the self as a morally capable individual. It is in light of these ideas that their moral views are described as conservatively liberal. Does the self-defined character of their religious identity mean that these students are becoming less committed as Catholics? Not necessarily. What is interesting is that in spite of their criticisms of the Catholic leadership, their deviation from traditional religiosity, and their apparent moral autonomy, they are adamant and serious about being Catholic. Christened in this thesis as indwelt individualisation, the concept refers to the attitude and the processes governing the religious identity construction of individuals who, by negotiating what ought to be believed, practised, and resourced from within the confines of their institution and elsewhere, are adopting their religion in a more effective and meaningful manner. These attitudes and processes are explored through the emotional anthology of resources shaping my informants? religious identity. The thesis ends by reflecting on the social conditions that may account for the emergence of these students? reflexive spirituality. Engaging thinking in the sociology of generations, the final chapter offers a provocative proposition that religiously involved students today may belong to an isolated generation. The generational conditions include economic vulnerability, family restructuring, and political detachment. Demonstrating an intriguing paradox, the ontological insecurity brought about by these conditions has created the space for their individualised religious identity, which, at the same time, navigates it as a lifestyle choice.