It's a Miracle! I have had an epiphany! For 28 years i have existed on this Planet and finally, i don't believe in God!
Having been born an innocent impressionable child, it wasn't long before i was sent to school to receive my education. Catholic School to be precise. From the age of 4 (i was the eldest in my year) i was taught the Gospels. I remember, one night, waking up in the dark and feeling intense fear, the kind of fear that only a child can feel in the dark. I wanted to scream for my mum, but the words wouldn't come out, i was paralysed...literally. I remember the prayer i said in my head, i remember the comfort It gave me to believe there was a loving ‘being’ watching over me, protecting me and i remember how...after a time, my eyes closed and i fell asleep.
By the age of 6 or 7 i was praying nightly by my bed before i went to sleep. I would go through the members of my family, wishing that God would protect them, etc.. and i remember taking great pride in my belief. By this time i was in Church school (ie school built onto the side of a church (originally) that now takes up an entire block). We read the bible, practised religious festivals, observed Lent (quite strictly as it happens), did charitable work, etc...
Now, an unfortunate thing happened in my school, which i am not sure i am entirely comfortable revealing to the World (especially as some of you know me personally) but i shall reveal it anyway. Once aged 10 years old, the school organised trips to the local swimming baths. Each class went once a month (there were 4 classes in a year). The headmaster of our school personally supervised these trips. We would swim and play and have fun in the water until was time to go. We'd get out of the pool and shower and then, wait for it.... the Headmaster would 'check to make sure we were dry.' This involved touching naked boys, myself included. He did this to every boy in the year, year after year, class after class, for over a decade.
Did we think this was proper conduct? No we didn't. Did we mind him doing this? Yes we did, very much so!
Did we tell our parents? **Absolutely not!!**
This is a priest. This is a man of God, a man to be trusted without question! Well, as it transpired only last year, this wasn't all he was doing. As i read in the paper last year, he was in fact taken to court for allegedly abusing a boy in my year (abusing in the actual sense of the word, not just the 'harmless' shower thing). The court were shown a photograph of naked boys showering (myself included in this picture i might add) which he claimed was for the School priorian (year book). Despite over whelming evidence, he did not serve any time for this. Despite some hundreds of boys (men now) who were available to testify to this, he was given a suspended sentence.
WHY? Was it because the jury were Catholic? Was it the churches influence? Who knows, but I struggle to see how a greasy old man hanging around playgrounds or trawling yahoo chat rooms is worse than your Headmaster abusing his position of power to systematically groom an entire school!
Well needless to say, my absolute trust in the clergy took a knock after this, but it took a few years to to materialise, cos lets face it, you don't really start questioning things till you're in your teens.
By the age of 12, i had moved into the middle school, which was in a separate building. We received our religious education from a priest of the monastery. He was a genuinely lovely man, i like him to this day (though i haven't seen him for many years now) but he had problems, namely alcohol. I can remember a number of occasions when he arrived in class clearly drunk. He was never aggressive, to be honest i preferred him like that as he was much more enthusiastic about his lessons which as a result were a lot less boring. However, this wasn't the sort of image the school wanted kids going home to their parents with so mid way through the year he was replaced (somewhat short sightedly) with a young theology graduate, fresh out of University.
Buddy, i can't remember your name, but thank you! From the bottom of my heart THANK you!
This guy sought to teach us religion from the point of view of a sceptic. He took us through the bible, analysing the Gospels, comparing the testament of each and analysing them for inconsistencies and DEAR LORD there were a lot! I mean S*** loads!!
Now you might be wondering why this guy was doing this if he was teaching religious education?
Well that's an interesting question, which needs answering. He made the point to us that God is separate from the Bible. The Bible was written by man and therefore is bound to be imperfect. He taught us about the history of this book. How it has been changed and updated over the centuries. How some Gospels have fallen out of favour with the Church because the content is biased or inaccurate, etc... I learnt more about the Church from this man than i had done from all my previous teachers up to this point. Having said all of this though, he was keen to emphasise the point that this was not a basis for disbelieving in God. He was mearly giving us the facts as he knew them so that we could build our faith on God, rather than simply following the word of men who happened to dislike certain aspects of the bible in the 12th Century (say).
And so it was, i left the school shortly after to move to another Catholic school with my faith streamlined, updated, refreshed with this new knowledge. Rather than blindly believing what i had been told, i had a new outlook, my own outlook (or so i thought).
My next school was different, VERY different. It was technically a Catholic school, but it was nothing like the last one. It was what i would like to call a 'pseudo' Catholic School, in that it had 'Catholic' in the name, we sang hymns in the morning, etc.. but religion wasn't forced down your throat (i remember getting 1000 lines for forgetting what Good Friday was for in my previous school, the worst i'd have got here was perhaps a nonchalant roll of the eyes from my teacher).
Being removed from daily religious practise was weird. Not that i minded, i'd found the whole thing quite tiresome in all honesty. I had given up praying each night, mainly because of my young teacher from my previous school, so you could say i was a non-practising Catholic. From a religious point of view, my time at this school was pretty uneventful, so i'll skip straight to the end...
After leaving School i would be what most people would term an agnostic. I believed in a God (ultimately) but... (and this is a very very important point to grasp!!)
...My education had fostered a deep respect for Science in me.
How is that important? It is important because i had been taught the scientific method. It is important because i had seen the World described by science, BEING described by science. With my faith in the Bible long since shot out of the water, i needed a belief system (as we all do....or so i thought!)
Some years passed from 16 to around 22, lots of parties, etc... general youthful abandon.
Around 22 i was re-introduced to reading by a friend of mine who was much older, around 35. Like most teenagers i had seen reading as something you do in school, something that you've been forced to do all your life but never really enjoyed.
Anyway (coincidentally) the first book i was given was 'The Blind watchmaker' by Richard Dawkins. I am sure most of the people who read this forum are familiar with his book, so i won't explain it any more detail than to say it is a book on evolution and natural selection, as originally proposed by Charles Darwin.
I loved it! It fascinated me greatly. The idea was so elegant, so all embarrassing and more importantly, based in reality! In the years since then i have read quite a few science books along with a number a spiritual books also, ranging from Tao/Buddhism to islam/Christianity and back again. But somehow, i don't know how, my belief in an ultimate God, the guy who made it all possible, survived!
That's right, in the face of over whelming evidence to the contrary, i somehow managed to remain a believer in something that i had never (and still haven't) seen one scrap of evidence to support! Amazing, a miracle some might say!! (Sorry, i don't want to mock people’s beliefs, even though they downright deserve it!)
How did i manage to make it to 28 years of age, having needed evidence to back up all of my 'beliefs' (i use this word to encompass everything i believed to be true, i do not imply any faith when using it in this context) yet still lay all of the unknowables at the feet of god?
Well unsurprisingly, my enlightenment was to be brought round by the very man who originally gave me an alternative 'belief' system, Steven Dawkins!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!
Having read his masterful book, 'The God delusion,' I have finally been freed from the shackles of my upbringing. I have been a believer in evolution for years now, but i somehow still felt that there must be some kind of intelligence behind the whole thing. I was wrong!
That's right, you heard me... Wrong!
I look forward to the rest of my life, free of doubt, free of guilt, free of fear! I will never walk into another church as long as i live, even as a tourist. I will never pay £5 to see my Dad play in his Orchestra in a Church, i will never go to a church car boot sale, NOTHING! And i will do it with a completely clear conscience. Good bye God, i'd like to say it was nice knowing you but i've finally realised you were me all along.