I was christened but I’m not a practising Christian. At present, I hold no religious beliefs. I have no qualms in sharing this with anyone, and I have never faced hostility in publicly airing these non-beliefs. As the world’s scientific knowledge increases, it would seem that so do our options in terms of what we do or don’t believe in. There seems to be a new wave of atheism ever growing in numbers these days: Atheists that are perhaps guilty of preaching about the ridiculousness of believing in a higher power just as vehemently as any religious preacher promotes his own cause.
A colleague once confessed to me that she was a Christian and regularly attended her local church. She was witty, pretty, young and well thought of, yet this information was only imparted to me after months of knowing her, like a dirty secret. Why?
I am guilty of having scoffed at those toiling to church on a Sunday. I have revelled in my scepticism of the existence of all things religious, and I – in a nutshell – took the mickey.
But who am I to criticize what brings another human being comfort?
Then I witnessed the deterioration and death of a loved one. A loved one that had absolute faith that they were going somewhere better and I found myself facing a whole new emotion as far as God goes: jealousy. Don’t get me wrong, I have had no great spiritual revelation since this event. No sudden calling to pray and no new found belief in a higher power. The difference is that now I just wished I did. Personally, having witnessed death first hand I cannot think of anything more frightening than facing your final hours with a fundamental belief that there is nothing else. Nothing.
So many of us are so quick to ridicule what others choose to believe, and it’s easily done when we are young, bulging with confidence, and have no comprehension of a situation so dire that faith may singularly be the only thing able to bring us comfort. With the one hand, we pooh-pooh the existence of God; an invisible entity that has no proof of existence, and with the other we are leaving out our mince pies for Father Christmas and our pound coins under pillows for the tooth fairy. And quite right too if you ask me. Would those in the anti-faith brigade deny a child this little bit of magic?
Of course, religion is chiefly responsible for so many atrocities on a global scale, but is this the fault of my colleague who bakes for the Church bizarre and loves to sing hymns? Is this the fault of the average Joe who silently prays for his ill loved one? Or is it human nature: that there will always and forever be an unresolved power struggle? A power struggle that – if religion no longer existed – would simply be about something else?
Faith is not a crime, but a devotion that does not require proof, that’s all. After all – a child can have absolute faith in something they have never seen and it’s considered the norm, even charming and magical. Is it that much of a leap to have the same respect for our adult brethren?
I hope I find a little faith one day. Maybe not the faith of an organised religion, or one all powerful God, but something.
Something spiritual that brings me peace.
Something that the people I leave behind one day will be glad I had.