Thank you to Shawna’s article for inspiring this article
My faith rollercoaster
My parents were strangely mismatched back in the 70’s. It was rare for a protestant and roman catholic to elope; even rarer to get married. Especially in the part of Scotland that we lived in. Scotland was, and probably still is to an extent a very religious country. People support football teams based on their religious views, and also live in certain places based on faith. In England, it’s a lot more relaxed. People say, “Oh, I’m CofE” (Church of England) but they probably haven’t even been to church once in their life. I have. I’ve been to church and sat through sermons and read the Bible, et al.
It all started when I was a young boy. My Mum had just split with my Father and we were back living near my Gran and Grandad. They decided to send me to the nearest School in my area, and luckily it had a good reputation for getting things done with the kids. We had sports, and activities and everyone played nice. It was really good. Plenty to do there. The teachers were tough but fair. Our classes were always under strict control. We were urged to do the best for ourselves. It was a devout Catholic School. A faith school of sorts.
My Father had always been a barrier towards my Christening, or Baptism, or whatever religion they decided. He always said to my Mum that if I wanted to be Baptised then I would have to choose that for myself when I’m older. Dad was non-religious. He believed that when death occurs a person is now worm food and that’s it. But all credit to Dad in his mind he was enabling me to choose the path that I wanted as an adult, rather than it being chosen for me as a child.
Now I was placed in this faith school. Which was fine, there was no need to partake in religious activities should I not want to. Or so the principle said to my mother as she was placing me there. It was somewhat different being at the school, though. I remember my first day like it was yesterday. I remember at the end of the day as I was getting ready to walk home with my new found friends. When the teacher told us to clasp our hands in prayer. It seemed strange to me. I had never been lectured about religion before. I didn’t even believe in a God at the time. Why should I pray? Nevertheless, I was told to join in and thus started a slow brainwash to believing in Catholicism.
I don’t blame them, though. The teachers couldn’t have known. At least 80% of the School were Catholics, and I think I was only one out of three boys that didn’t have a “Confirmation” video to excitedly show the class when the time came. The teachers were doing their duty, helping most of the class get in touch with their religious side. Me? I was just caught in the crossfire. Yet there was something humbling about having a greying old dad watching over me when I didn’t have a tangible one.
I finally left school as a believer. Not religiously devout. I wouldn’t attend church every Sunday like my gran did. But I would say grace and I’d always say my prayers before bed. I always wished well for people. Never bad things. I always wanted good things to happen to my family and friends. And my enemies? Well. Fuck them. God didn’t give a shit about them. But there was the other side of Catholicism that looking back I really didn’t like. The whole guilt. I was constantly feeling guilty. Guilty about my sins, my life discrepancies. I feared judgement. St Peter pointing his strong wavy finger at me, “You have sinned too much! To hell you go”. Always fearing hell. Fire and brimstone. The one place no-one wants to go. I think everyone has a different idea of what hell is, mine was a like a molten lava with all of us tortured souls slowly melting in it over and over and over. Urgh. I hated that there was no-one to set a bar. Where was the bar for hell? Tony Soprano thought he was going to heaven. Look at the stuff he’s done. Me? I thought I was hell bound. Where was that damn BAR?
It wasn’t until I watched the film “The Da Vinci Code” that I started to doubt what I had been taught. Actual historic education of those times was new to me. I hadn’t ever looked into what happened back then or the roles that people played. Excited, I turned to books. I nosedived into the biggest historical era books I could find. I learned about Alexander the Great, The Velvet Glove, Roman Occupation of the known Mediterranean world, Mediterranean trade, the Phoenicians, The rise of Christianity, What Islam has brought to the world, The Dark Ages and so, so, so much more. Needless to say, I ended up booting my religion out of the ballpark. It wasn’t like one day that I decided to split up with it, it was a slow process over about two years of questioning my faith and reading historical information. I mean I didn’t just read one book and say, ok, my faith is gone. It was literally a ton of books.
But I’m not judgemental. This is the path that I walk. I’m absolutely sure everyone is walking their own path right now and that’s absolutely fine with me. I think we’re all different. I also think afterlife and religion are so personal that even in similar faith circles the perception of the unknown is entirely different. So I lost my religion. I can’t say it was an easy ride. God was my father. A father that was absent for most of my life. He was gentle, kind and patient. But he had left me. I spent at least a year angry. But I got over it in the end.
I’d love to call myself a Secular Humanist because I believe in other people. I believe in humanity, whatever race, religion or label a person should give themselves. I believe that humanity can achieve great things when properly conditioned to do so. But I also believe that we have far to go yet. We war, we destroy and we kill over things that we really shouldn’t be doing. We’ve evolved to a species that has literally taken over our planet. We need to start living well together, or we’re doomed. I believe we can, though. Us humans have accomplished great things against the odds.
So now I exist as this entity that believes that people are essentially good and that everyone has a good side to them, however, evil they can be at times. I really don’t want to push anything onto my Son. I’ll be doing the same thing as my Dad did to me. In my eyes, he’s not equipped to make an informed judgement yet. He can barely wipe his own backside. How is he going to make a decision that will (in his mind) determine his fate after death? I think not. The kindest thing I can do for him is to allow him to ask questions. He has before. One day he asked me who Jesus was. It sparked a conversation between us about Christianity, the Bible and God. Purely informational. I really don’t think it’s fair if I were to make his mind up for him like School did for me. Believe this or go to hell. I thought God gave us free will? I’m passing that gift to my Son.
And if he wants to be a Catholic as a man, that’s fine with me.
Wants to be a Muslim? Sure. I’ll buy him a Quran and we’ll read it together.
I’m not judgemental or oppressive. But throughout my life I’ve had people telling me what I should and shouldn’t believe all from a very young age. And against the wishes of my Dad. But he wasn’t there, so that really doesn’t count! I’m gifting my Son the ability to choose for himself. Be educated on the matter. Allow him to learn from himself. Trust himself. And make an informed decision when he feels he is ready to. He has plenty of time for that.
And me? Well, I’ll continue to spread the love.
Be safe, my friend.
Thanks for reading: My faith rollercoaster