So this week’s meeting is all about personal stories – why you’re an atheist, agnostic, secular or (I know there are a few of you who come to the meetings!) religious person. So I’m going to share my story here, or at least part of it – the part where I realized religion was a thing, and I didn’t have one. Part 2 (where I stumble around desperately looking for a religion of my own) is coming after the meeting, so I have at least something to talk about while I’m there.
I’m hoping that other people will also want to share their own stories; if you want to write for what I’m hoping will be a series, please let us know. Or indeed, if you want to write about anything, please let me know.
Without further adieu, part one of my story.
I’m not sure of the exact timing, but sometime during the most awkward stages of adolescence – I’d say thirteen or so – I noticed something strange about the world around me I’d never before noticed: religion. Religion was everywhere! There were churches and faiths and people prayed and had meetings and were just everywhere I looked.
And the question you’re asking yourself right now – how the hell did she manage to get to thirteen without noticing most of the world is religious – is answered in two ways.
First, is that I was never raised in any kind of faith. I wouldn’t call my parents atheists, certainly not then even if they are now. But they were firmly dedicated to the idea that, once I was old enough, if I cared, I’d make up my own mind.
And there’s the second reason – I wasn’t interested. I’m still guilty of being vastly more interested in what’s going on in the inside of my own head than outside in the world around me, although I try my best these days to not spend all my time reading fantasy novels and playing video games. I simply didn’t notice, because it wasn’t part of my world, wasn’t something I had ever seriously considered or even put any thought at all into.
But lo, the time had come – religion was everywhere, and I was an awkward adolescent, and clearly, by not providing me with some form of religious belief, my parents were deeply warping my development as a person. I had been cheated, I had been wronged! Everyone had a religion but me.
If you’re noting at this point the similarity between this argument and almost any form of teenage entitled whining, well, you’re not wrong. Everyone also had a much bigger allowance than I did, and they all got to stay up much later on weeknights.
My mother, wily woman that she is, responded to this passionate accusation by telling me that my religious views were, of course, my choice, and she would fully respect my decision and support me in any religious undertaking I chose to engage in. Assuming you’re going to be Christian, here’s a bible to explore that option, feel free to read it once your homework is done. Joining a church would be possible – historically speaking your family is Anglican, would you like to join an Anglican church? You’d have to be baptized, of course, and take courses on your proposed religion, and get up early every Sunday to go to church…
At this point I realized that having a religion was going to be an awful lot of work, and went back to my fantasy novels as the more enjoyable option.
But the eyes of the mind, once opened, are not easily closed again, and I would spend the next fifteen years wrestling on and off with this problem, religion. Did I want one? Did I have one? And if I didn’t, what did that make me?