Wednesday, 9 May 2007

In the beginning...

Well if this is truly to be a blog about religion, and lack thereof especially, it seems prudent to explain how I fell from religion.

Within a few months of my birth I was christened into the Church of England. I still have the bible given to commemorate it. Of course I had no choice in the matter, and I still somewhat feel that my acceptance of such affairs was taken as a given. I think the main reason though, may have been to assure my grandmother I wasn't headed for Hell or Purgatory, if I happened to die too young. Being Catholic I'm sure that was a fear. Growing up until about the age of four I can't remember any overt religious presence, but then I was very young and may just have taken it as make believe.

Anyway fast forward to Primary school and I enter into a Church of England school. It was the local school, so I don't believe this was an attempt at early indoctrination, but it certainly worked that way. There were bible stories in the Year 2 reading section, all Samson and David and Goliath, but I don't think I ever read them. There were hymns sung at assemblies and visits to the local church on special occasions. But all in all I would say there was little proselytising.

However by Year 4, we began R.E. Religious Education. I thought at first this was great fun, and it was in many ways. We learnt all about Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Its only now when I look back that I realise there was questioning of God. No mention of doubt. It was all certain.

Thus I went through the first years of my life blissfully unaware of the possibility of 'God's' non-existence. Yet all it took was the nonchalant question of whether I still believed in 'God', by my (slightly older) next door neighbour. This opened a flood gate. Suddenly there was a world without 'God', that before I had no idea could exist. What's more, I could think of to good reason to why I believed.

However this was not enough to end my faith. It took a personal tragedy to do that. Not too long after that fateful conversation, my Godmother died. It was really hard for me to understand. How could it have happened? She left behind two of her own children, and I felt such sadness for them, and just the sheer thought of losing a loved one. I shouted and cried and prayed to 'God' to bring her back. If he was there 'He' had the power, 'He' could do it. But 'He' did not. From then on I saw no good in this 'just' god. If he could let such suffering happen, then he was inhuman and I had no time for him.

Yet I still had a belief in him. But instead of the great purveyor of love, justice and peace which many Christians see in God, I saw only a crippled old man; too weak or evil to help mankind. This belief eventually faded and agnosticism took over. I neither knew nor cared, but I still had a strong dislike for Christianity, due to past experiences. But I was still searching for answers that would fit with my rational understanding of the world, and thought I had found them in Taoism. However that proved short lived, due to the endless backwards and forwards of Taoist belief.

I later stumbled upon my own form of Pantheism, though I didn't know it as that. My belief was of a god that was the universe, detached and uncaring about humanity, not sentient at all. This belief survived in one form or another up until my reading of 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins. This book opened my eyes to what I had really believed in all along. My early attempts at trying to find some kind of answer in spirituality, was due to the importance and sanctity our culture gives to such ideas. He's book changed my views about how we as a society view and treat religion, and I urge you to read it. It may not convince you outright, but it may just open you to the possibility of a world without gods or superstition of any kind. And that is a view I would thoroughly recommend.

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