Religion is an interest of mine, so much so that I studied it at degree level. When I started my course I could best be described as an agnostic so maybe I was looking for some kind of proof or evidence. During the course I identified myself with the Catholicism I inherited from my Irish forebears along with a tendency towards maudlin folk music and dark alcoholic beverages. I even got confirmed.
I did well as a Catholic student and reached the point of leading Bible study groups. So what happened? There was a point when I realised that no matter how much I wanted it to make sense and mean something, it just didn't. The only way to sustain belief is to ignore the overwhelming flaws that permeate not just Catholicism but any belief system that makes a virtue from suspending sense and rationality and replacing it with faith.
Billy Connolly once said that he went to Catholic school and got an A level in guilt. I know what he means. Even now I find myself whispering that I am an atheist instead of stating it boldly. The feeling is that I am somehow setting myself apart from that mass of semi-secular society who hold such strong views as, "I don't go to church but I believe there is a God type of thing and you have to go somewhere when you die don't you?" Why am I bothered by this?
I know from experience that Christians get strength from the fact that they are in groups, with clearly defined leaders and people to tell them what to do. Athiests, on the other hand, tend to be more solitary animals and the voice of reason can be isolated and easier to dismiss or attack. Its unlikely that you could get thousands of atheists to meet all over the world on a Sunday to celebrate the writings of Darwin and share a meal together.
There are now though more and more celebrities and everyday people unafraid of declaring their atheism, who don't tiptoe around the feelings of the religious bodies. The Internet is a meeting place of minds and whilst the Christian Church in all its guises is overwhelming there is a strong seed of rationality out there that is growing. I'm interested in how that comes to fruition and how hard line the fundamentalists will feel they have to become to counter it.
Until the next time...