Religion – What’s Yours?
I have always been led to understand by a wise old man, my dad actually, that you should never discuss either politics or religion because it leads to nothing but discord and trouble.
Incidentally he also told me when I became a dad never to fall put with adults over children or dogs because no sooner have you established an irretrievable position and animosity when the children will have suddenly become ‘new best friends’ and the dogs are sniffing each other’s unmentionable parts.
However and true to form last week I ended up discussing religion with a friend who is a very firm believer in God and whose faith has acted as bedrock for his life.
What she couldn’t understand is why I don’t believe and how did I arrive at the conclusion that religion wasn’t for me.
I should say at this point that I have absolutely no problem with anyone who believes and in fact one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know and have ever met is Father Damian who is the Roman Catholic Parish Priest in Great Billing.
He is quite simply a remarkable man whose honesty, allied to a great sense of humour makes it impossible not to like him, and on top of that he hasn’t tried to convince me.
So when did I decide that it wasn’t for me.
Like many of my generation, born in the late 40’s early 50’s and especially those who were children of servicemen religion was always present.
From day one at Carswell County Primary School in Aldershot, (my home town) and yes we did have a slate board and chalk; we were subjected to morning assembly and prayers.
Saturday was a day off and on Sunday I was taken to Sunday school where army chaplains carefully explained that God was clearly on our side because we’d won the War.
Or at least that was my recollection as a five, six and seven year old.
I suspect looking back that there may have been an ulterior motive which was to give our Mum a break, (I was one of five at the time to become six in due course) and it also allowed Dad to pop into the mess on Sunday lunchtime.
By the time we had moved to Abingdon I along with my eldest brother and my sister were ‘allowed’ to walk the mile or so to Sunday school on our own which was preferable to staying home and having to endure Liberace who was the staple Sunday afternoon diet on the TV.
Can you imagine letting an unaccompanied 9, 7 and 4 year old walk over a mile today?
Anyway it was at this point I started to have doubts.
If God was all-seeing and all loving how come he was on our side in the War?
Surely he should have been neutral?
The other thing was that I had discovered science where there was always a logic and reason for how things worked.
It is perhaps why I did two apprenticeships between leaving school at 15 and being 24 both in engineering disciplines.
So how come in the stories a single man could perform unexplained miracles like walking on water and did they really think that Jesus came to England?
I know the hymn Jerusalem is popular and even I like to sing it but really how can you believe the words of a song where the answer to every question it asks is NO?
I was having none of that thank you very much.
It was on the way home from a Sunday school when I was eight that I decided I just didn’t believe any of it which to their great credit my Mum and Dad both accepted and never attempted to change my mind.
I do attend church at least once a year on Remembrance Day but not for the religious content of the service but to remember those who I have known and the millions I didn’t know who paid the ultimate a sacrifice for the Country.
I have to say I regret that in recent years the service has become increasingly religious which puts me off and especially when I see the number of people from all religions and cultures who attend the Remembrance Service to remember their countrymen and women.
I think it’s fair to say that ‘I’ve had my moments’ of fear, stress and anguish along with everyone I know who have also had ‘their own moments’ to some extent or other but even then I have never regretted my decision or felt the need to turn to religion.
I have seen those who have found great comfort and solace in following their faith and in some ways I quite envy their commitment to it and good luck to them.
Though I can’t help remembering the story about W C Fields who was a lifelong agnostic and who allegedly was during his final days visited by a friend who saw him reading the Bible.
When asked if he had found religion he answered No and in his best drawl said “I’m just looking to see if there’s a loophole”
So was my old man right?
To true he was.
History has shown if nothing else that religion has caused all kinds of problems including all-out war and the death of millions so I think I’ll heed his warning and stick to sport.
Oh bloody hell it’s the Six Nations?
Now I will explain why England is better at rugby than the other Home Nations?
Pull up a bollard and I’ll tell you all about my Rugby religion.