An existentialist crisis for a non-believer...
I envy both true atheists and believers alike. They know where they stand and they are not for turning. It’s a little harder for us fuzzy fakers on the fence of religion.
I like to think of myself as a ‘spiritual being’ but a little like ‘conscious uncoupling’ – it’s just a just a fancy way of saying ‘God seems like he might be a bit of alright, but I can’t commit to hanging out every Sunday.’ Also, these days, I think he is getting a few things wrong, but chastising your deity regularly is probably not the way to endear yourself to them. Nobody likes a nag who always knows better, and I don’t need a pissed-off God working against me right now.
Having being dragged up Catholic, for me going to mass is a little like visiting an elderly relative who repeats the same stories over and over again. However, I recognise the reality of the world I live in, and while it's fine for me to be ambivalent towards religion, my ambivalence is not okay for my son. The good school in my area is Catholic and their enrollment policy requires a baptism certificate. Sure, I could argue against the discrimination with an army of solicitors, but it is cheaper to just get him Christened.
There are a few advantages to this religious flip-flop:
- The Grandparents who are true believers will be trilled as their grandson’s immortal soul is no longer going to hell.
- My son gets to do those other rites of passage, such as communion and confirmation, and I can’t wait to see him in a cute little suit.
- Each rite of passage comes with a day out – and an excuse for the extended family to get together.
- My son gets Godparents, traditionally the unfortunate sods who gets custody of my son should the husband and I get knocked over by a bus, but who also give enhanced presents at Birthdays and Christmas.
However, these side benefits are not my main reason for choosing a religious upbringing for him, my main reason for choosing it is to bore him to death by it. I feel that he is less likely to be hypnotised by the lure of a cult if somewhere in the back of his mind he knows ALL religions eventually involve a boring repetitive ceremony that has to be endured, when you’d rather be doing something more exciting. Nothing demystifies a charismatic spiritual leader quicker than realising he has a faint whiff of Catholicism about him, but one would need a certain familiarity with Catholicism to recognise this before you hand over your life savings.
Now comes the hard part – does this mean I will actually have to drag myself to church on a Sunday so he becomes familiar with the ritual? Do I have to learn the new words for mass and acknowledge that Vatican II happened? Or can I wait until he is four or five (or maybe six or seven) before I start – it’s not like he is going to remember the early years anyway, and it’s not like the Catholic Church are closing for business any time soon. Or will he become strangely intrigued by the sacraments if it’s something we start later in his life?
True believers and atheists don’t have to contend with these sorts of questions.
Cathy lives in Kildare with her husband, ten month-old son and too many animals for a small household, in fact the place often feels like a petting zoo. She is one half of the team behind AHomeMadeByCommittee (an Irish lifestyle blog) where she discusses motherhood, weddings, DIY, GIY, and everything in between. Follow her on @CathyCClarke.