It is said never discuss religion or politics if you want a harmonious life. I have no idea whether this blog will cause a ruckus amongst those of my friends who have faith in a deity or not, I am hoping not.
Recently I have become virtual friends with a number of people who follow a religious path, whichever that may be. It seems most religions include good and evil, a God and Devil of some kind.
I am not about bashing any religion, just getting that out there first, but it made me think about my own journey with religion.
When I was young I was christened in a church, my parents followed the Church of England faith. Church wasn’t really a major factor for us though, we rarely went with the exception of the “big” celebrations such as Easter and Christmas. I do remember though that I loved the Christingle ceremony of sitting in candlelight, the entire congregation holding a tangerine wrapped in ribbon, stuffed with cloves and a candle stuck in the middle. The children all sitting cross legged before the nativity scene at the front of the church. Carols were sung and the atmosphere was one of happiness and unity.
During my primary school years I sang in the church choir, we were given a pound for additional services we sang in such as weddings and christenings. I can’t sing, I am completely tone deaf, but my friend Rachel’s mum was the organ player and choir mistress, both Rachel and my sister were in the choir and I think she felt sorry for me and so allowed me to join too ~ although I mimed so that I didn’t spoil the beautiful harmonies of the other singers. It was great fun and I liked being all dressed up in the choir cassock robes with my little choir medallion hanging around my neck in my special seat right up in front of the altar in the choir stalls.
As I grew older I attended a boarding school that was part of the Church of England but leaned towards the Catholic church in it’s services as it used incense and psalms were sung in latin. I remember often holding the heavy candlestick by the alter throughout the services, with my hair hidden under a white head covering. This was usually a punishment as I *cough* sometimes was badly behaved, resulting in expulsion, long story for another time, and so standing holding a heavy wooden candlestick throughout a service was a pretty good punishment, I remember having very tired and sore arms afterwards. However, the job of holding the incense and boat for it to be burned in was often clamoured for and considered fun, incidentally I was never given that honour. It looked something like this…
Whilst at boarding school I went through confirmation classes and was duly confirmed, I think I was in my mid teens at this point. As boarders I remember we made tapestries to cover the kneelers in the chapel, which I have to admit I enjoyed making and got a thrill seeing the one I had diligently created being used in the services. They looked something like this…
Religion for me at this time of my life was just something you did and followed because it was expected of you.
As I grew older and left school I continue to occasionally visit our local church with my mum for the special ceremonies and was later married in the same church too. When the children came along they were duly christened and attended the church Sunday School. I helped out every 3rd or 4th week with the drinks, snacks and craft work. The parents of all the children attending worked off a rota and we supplied the biscuits when it was our turn to help out. The vicar at that point was a really lovely young man with 4 young children of his own. He played guitar and would have the children sing along with him as he played, he sometimes did this in church too.
When my youngest had just completed her first year of primary school we moved away from my home town. I looked around at the local churches and didn’t find one that resonated with me. Mostly because they seemed very forced and too happy for my liking ~ I’m not a very happy clappy person and the churches encouraged clapping along and dancing by your seat whilst the musicians played, yes ~ guitars and the such like ~ no organ! It felt too alien to me and so we only attended when the schools had their services there once or twice a year.
Then in 2009 my mum passed away. It traumatised me and left me with a cavernous hole in my life. I think this was the point when I started to question my beliefs. Why was I following something that I didn’t, as it turned out, believe in. It was the familiarity I was clinging on to and not the content. I was used to the old fashioned services, the ritual of it all ~ now if I attend a service it all feels wrong, hollow and makes me feel uncomfortable.
Over the years both myself and my husband regularly questioned religion and how we felt about it. It all really came to a head, so to speak, when we decided we wanted to renew our wedding vows. Unsure of how to broach the subject we both sort of blurted out to each other that we didn’t want it to be a religious ceremony. It was a huge relief for us both, realising that we both felt the same ~ it would have been very awkward if one wanted it to be a religious ceremony whilst the other vehemently did not. We discussed our feelings and beliefs and decided that we wanted something that reflected how we now felt and make it a fresh start to our marriage. It was almost like starting afresh from a completely different place.
We decided on a humanist ceremony as this is not a religion, just a way of living, following a ethical path and simple values.
The plan was to have it at a local venue, surrounded by friends and family and to include our daughters in the ceremony. Unfortunately, my health took a nose dive and so we chose instead to renew our vows at home, in our conservatory with just the girls and our humanist celebrant.
It was a very moving, touching and poignant day for us. On several occasions we were moved to almost shedding a tear, listening to the celebrant talk about our relationship, how we met and what we mean to each other. Both myself and Dave exchanged new wedding rings, to mark this new beginning in our lives. We had a sand ceremony involving the girls and the celebrant had even gone to the trouble of visiting Filey and gathering up some sand. Keeping some as it was and then colouring the rest in five different colours to represent each member of our family. To hold the coloured sand we each had a glass/receptacle that represented our personality best. Dave had a whiskey glass, me a wine one, Keisha a “vegan” glass mug, Tara a “beauty” one and Tasha a skull mug. The uncoloured sand was poured into the base of the vase, then we each in turn poured in our coloured sand, topping it off with shells collected from Filey too. It was quite simply perfect…
So where are we now? The girls all have their own take on religion and spirituality. You can be spiritual without believing in a God. I think we are all what can be termed as spiritual , each of us for our own personal reasons are not religious. We don’t believe in a God and creation but in science and evolution.
Yet, even though I am not a religious person, I do not mock or ridicule those who are. I believe firmly that everyone has a right to their own beliefs, no matter what they are. Saying this I also strongly feel that no~one has the right to push their beliefs onto another person, using their different perspectives to wage a vendetta against that person. THAT is not okay with me, so yes, I respect your right to believe but when it comes to what you believe in then that is where we will have opposing views.
So, to all my friends who do have a faith it makes no difference to me what you believe in, I like you for who you are not who or what you believe in. It is knowing right from wrong, having compassion and wanting to make this world as good as you can despite the atrocities that go on daily around us. If we each are open to doing just a small random act of kindness a day then the world is a better place for it.
At some point we all die, where we go from there none of us really know ~ how can we and does it really matter? We can’t prevent dying, it’s a given, we are born, we live and we die. What does matter is what we do and how we live our lives and the legacy we leave behind.
I’m neither good or bad, I have done things I regret and others that I am proud of. I live each day as it comes, sometimes I win and sometimes I don’t ~ who among us is perfect?
So my thoughts on religion ~ live and let live, love over hate and acceptance above all.
Those who choose to use their religion to promote dreadful acts of terrorism and incite hate are the rogue few.
I abhor those who use this as an excuse to throw hate and violence as a “reaction” to these terrorist incidents to those of certain religious following. I will stand beside them and fight with them to expose those who do this.
Life is for living, how we choose to do it is our decision. So please remember respectfully that I may not follow the same path as you but we are all going towards the same destination. I do not believe in God and never will, no matter how much you may wish me to join you in worship. I respect your religion, please respect the lack of mine.