A lot is made of religion in society, albeit less so than at any previous point in recorded history, nobody actually really gives a shit anymore. That being said, it’s still an ever-present aspect of most cultures, largely because of the benefits of Christmas and churchyard barbecues in the summertime, and so, every now and then, I find myself wrestling with thoughts of its place in society as well as in my own life, often these thoughts breeze by like the autumn leaves but sometimes they stick to the pavement of my mind, like wet autumn leaves. There’s a lot of value in religion, this is self-evident as anyone can see that it brings a sense of community and a greater meaning to life for those who follow it. Certain sports stars seem to ascribe it a lot of significance, something that I have noted keenly in my efforts to be more like them, in addition to kicking cats and cheating on my wife. All these thoughts have begun to gnaw away at me, like relentless God-fearing mosquitoes and I’ve decided I can’t take it anymore and so it’s time to sit down and choose to believe in God or not.
Like many of you reading this, my relationship with religion up until now has been spotty for the past twenty or so years. Of course you know that, for the first three-ish years of a person’s life, they don’t latch on to abstract concepts like faith and theism and so I won’t bore you with the details of my infancy. My first actual experience with religion was in primary school, where we did a prayer in assembly every morning and sang some nice hymns, pretty standard. But obviously at this point I wasn’t interacting with Christianity at a high level, the only prayers at this time were me asking God to let me beat Gym Leader Norman in Pokémon Ruby and to smite my older brother. At some point throughout that time I asked my dad whether he believed in God, he answered that he used to but not anymore! I was aghast at this betrayal of the faith I had grown up not questioning but then pretty much changed my mind to match his over the next few months without realising, like I did with all my opinions until early adulthood. Honestly, I don’t know whether my mum believes in God, neither of my parents mention it unless directly asked, which I guess isn’t a sign that she is excessively devout in any case.
As I progressed through school life, from a hymn-singing primary school to a academically-focussed secondary school, my rebellious methods like replacing the word ‘dance’ with ‘fart’ in Lord of the Dance (now Lord of the Fart) began to wane in favour of a more logical and cerebral form of atheism. Though this was no less smug than my religious song parodies. There tends to be a very unpalatable air of superiority from your typical teenage atheist and I was no different, though not quite as bad as what you may see on the likes of Reddit these days, suffice to say that there was a decent amount of “magic baby” stuff and “Why does God let bad things happen?”, not really grasping that the whole point is to have faith in spite of those things. I latched on to new heroes like Ricky Gervais as I chuckled and humbly nodded along at his savage takedowns of the Bible. Popular comedy cartoon Family Guy was another influence that emboldened this attitude, their takes on religion were never particularly funny or mature, but damn were they true. (Genuinely watch this, it’s embarrassing that this was written and put out by multiple grown adults)
Towards the end of school though, I realised that it didn’t matter and people can think what they want, in fact, there are probably a lot of benefits to having faith in an almighty in your life. One thing that is looking more and more like a positive the older I get is that no one raises an eyebrow when religious people don’t have sex. They’re just weird like that. But be a completely non-religious person who hasn’t had sex in the 23 years you’ve been alive and for some reason that’s “weird” and “why are you telling me this”. So it would be nice to be devoutly religious as a fallback to explain it. Obviously I’ve had loads of offers, girls falling over themselves saying “Pleeease, let me to sit on your face! Make my ass look like the shroud of Turin!” but unfortunately I’m saving myself until marriage when such an act is approved and by a clergyman (or woman). As well as being a get-out-of-jail-free card for being a virgin, I sense that being a zealot is also a pretty good explanation for all kinds of weird behaviour. You hear all these stories about people enforcing gender roles, refusing to marry gay couples and generally being hateful of other people on the grounds of religion. I’m not saying I want to do any of those things or even that it would be cast-iron excuse, but it’s not a bad option to have in the back pocket in case I ever become that kind of guy.
But above all, the main thing that prompted this mindset in me is how funny it is to say things “All glory to God” when you win £5 in a bet and to cross yourself like a Catholic whenever you load into a game of Hearthstone. I can’t really explain this, but whenever a sportsperson is interviewed after winning a major honour and they say “I just wanna thank God”, I think “That’s boss” and log it into the part of my brain that banks all the cool phrases to parrot out that makes up the entirety of my conversational vocabulary.
It also tracks that if these guys and girls at the top of their game are ascribing all their success to God, there must be something in that, and it’s worth at least giving it a go, 10 minutes a day praying seems like a pretty good trade-off for a Superbowl win and a super model girlfriend.
With all these benefits, it seems obvious that becoming extremely devout, is cool, good for your soul, and a very funny ‘bit’. So then why is my mind telling me yes but heart still screaming no? I think the main thing is that there are too many branches of too many religions to pick just one, it’s like a food court with its plethora of options and you know I’m not gonna do the research into what the differences are between Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and all the other ones. So in the interests of simplicity I’m just gonna flip a coin, heads is Christianity, tails is Rastafarianism. Heads, damn. But luckily that was a practice. Tails, nice one mon.