So here’s a thing I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, but have always dallied because it’s a weird one to approach. It is a truth universally acknowledged that religion causes wars, and it causes them primarily because as a species we are stubborn and uninterested in trying to understand other people’s points of view. One religion claims to be true, another disagrees without actually looking into whether or not they really have anything against the other’s beliefs, and then they fight it out in monstrous and bloody ways.
Now I don’t particularly anticipate entering into monstrous and bloody combat with any of my readers, but it’s not exactly the platform you want to begin on, is it?
It has taken me half my life to come to terms with God, and my own personal belief system. I’m pretty lucky, because my life hasn’t been that long yet. It takes a lot of people much longer. I started as a staunch atheist, led by my intelligent and logical parents to believe that science was the be-all and end-all. The key reason that never resonated with me is probably also to do with my parents. I’ve always been an avid reader, led by my Mother into fantastic worlds of fiction, and it’s given me a strong appreciation of meaning. I grew up in a world of Indian folklore and Norse myths and legends about Odin and Freja. It was (and is) fantastical and more importantly, meaningful stuff.
In my own story, which is my life and where I am the protagonist, I’m constantly searching for meaning. I practically feel like I know when I reach chapter ends, because I’m caught in cliffhanger situations of not knowing what to do next. It’s quite thrilling. The quest for meaning quickly overtook science as the be-all and end-all, and therein was the first spark of belief, because science just can’t answer that fundamental “why?” question. I wandered over from science to philosophy via high fantasy and Sophie’s World (the best book of all time).
I then became a circumstantial Christian. I love to sing, and our local church needed more choristers (or any choristers) so I signed up. I spent the first 6 months insistently only going for the singing until I realised that I’d caught the bug and was starting to firmly believe in God. He (the Christian God) was giving the 20 or so people at our church (a church big enough for about 500) meaning, which was the thing I was looking for. At around the same time, my grandmother died, and I probably needed to think there was meaning to that event as well.
This also coincided with my arrival at “horrendous teenager”, that fabulous phase of becoming someone you’re always going to look back on with a slight feeling of regret and a lot of cringing. My personal rebellion was to fall into the arms of Christianity. I volunteered at a Christian youth club, went to church every Sunday and was often a bit happy-clappy, and attended several fantastic Christian rock concerts. My parents were exceptional in their ability to be supportive throughout a phase they must have seen as completely bonkers. My Mother even bought me a beautiful bangle for my confirmation which I still wear constantly.
By the time I came to university I think the novelty was already waning. The Bible remains to me one of the greatest works of literature of all time, but it’s a fiction and I’ve never shied away from claiming that. The virtues of Christianity are innumerate, but they are also just the virtues of people. The sins of Christianity are problematic at best, and the more time I took analysing what I truly believe, the more clear it became to me that Christianity wasn’t something to continue subscribing to. At the same time I was learning at lot about various religions through my degree, and through the intersection with diversity that being at a massive top-level UK university brings.
And so, to the conclusion. I’m still looking for meaning in everything. It makes me comfortable to believe that my life is being guided towards that ultimate meaning, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. I don’t necessarily believe in one God, and I certainly couldn’t tell you if he’s male or if she’s female or if they’re neither. I believe as confidently in a huge teddy bear controlling my life as I do a giant man with a white beard and a toga. But I definitely still believe in something, and I definitely believe that my belief helps me find meaning in life and be a better person.
And also I don’t intend to start any bloody wars with anyone over them not agreeing with me. Which I think is a positive.