Monday, 18 October 2010

On Faith-a-Faith-a-Faith

Yes, that was a George Michael reference and yes, this is a post on religion. Well, my experience with religion. I'll do my best not to offend, which certainly isn't my intention, I've just been thinking due to not being able to sleep.

I've mentioned before, in passing, that I'm atheist. While I fully respect others' right to believe in something higher, it's not something I can really convince myself to believe. It hasn't always been this way; I grew up Roman Catholic. I was baptised and confirmed, I went to Catholic primary and secondary schools - I was even an altar boy until someone spilt candle wax in my hair. God, in short, was everywhere when I was growing up.

And then, all of a sudden, he wasn't. I'm not sure what it was, but all of a sudden, I no longer believed what I was being taught, in what I was saying. A lot of it is due to the lifestyle I lead being completely at odds with Catholic doctrine, but it wasn't only that. Whatever belief I had once possessed, vanished. I stopped paying and I stopped going to church. I stopped believing. *

Since then, apart from christenings, weddings and funerals, I've only been to a church once. It was when my mum rang me to tell me she was ill. I'm not sure why, but I decided the best course of action would be to jump on the bus and go to the church. I was probably looking for an answer, an explanation. I don't know really, it's a bit blurry. Anyway, when I arrived 20 minutes later, the church was locked. In my emotional state I decided that, if there was a supreme being watching over us, he evidently didn't have any time for me. [Don't worry; I do know this is stupid. For a start, you could argue that I'd already stopped believing in him so a trip to church was a bit pointless in the first place. Secondly, if God does exist, he's got his hands full and can't really take on management of the logistics and opening hours of his many houses.]

The reason I'm thinking about this now, is that I can't sleep and my mind is wandering. To be more specific, it's wandering to the night before my French GCSE exam. I remember not being able to sleep then, and praying for some shuteye and an easy exam the next day. Even now, when I'm nervous, anxious or frightened, part of me still attempts to contact a higher being to ask for help. It's what I did this morning. I almost prayed that an email I sent on Friday would not have the complicated consequences I've been afraid of all weekend.

Now, that's not the wax-covered altar boy within trying to get out. It's not an indication of suppressed religious belief. I think it's a comfort mechanism. It's one of the things I miss about having a faith; that in times of trouble, [I'm fighting the urge to say 'Mother Mary comes to me'] you have somewhere to turn - even if the problem you're fretting over is completely trivial. Even now, despite my avowed disbelief, I wear a St Christopher when I go on long journeys. Am I hoping that the patron saint of travellers will ward off any danger on my route? Perhaps. More likely though, is that it comforts me. Things like this make me feel better, like touching wood when I tempt fate.

I do hope I haven't offended anyone with my insomnia-fuelled drivel this morning. As I said at the beginning, I fully respect people's right to believe whatever they want, and part of me envies that belief, too. I look at my mum, and everything she's been through, and admire her ability to keep believing. It's just for me, it has never quite fit. That's why when people from the church come to give my mum the Eucharist on a Sunday I always decline when they offer. Maybe it would make me feel better if I accepted, but what's the point of going through the motions when there's no belief attached? What's the point in praying when I don't believe anyone is listening? Surely that's more disrespectful, if anything.

* I am now unable to sleep, and have Journey's Don't Stop Believing stuck in my head. This will not be a good day.


  1. Speaking words of wisdom, Let it Be...

    Anyways, I was not raised with church or God - it just wasn't part of my life at all. My mom believes, and I honestly don't know about my dad.

    I have come to the conclusion that I am okay with no God in my life. I am basically an atheist - more likely agnostic though. I actually feel like those who pray when times are tough are kind of foolish...I know those are harsh words.

    It's funny because when my grandparents died and i attended their funerals the ministers would pray for them and stuff and I kept thinking that the prayers didn't comfort me, the stories about their lives did. That's what I'm about - the things we do on earth. In a weird way I hope there is a heaven for my grandma - because she believed. I just feel like it doesn't matter what happens to me.

    Thanks for making me get all serious about religion!

    I hope you got some sleep! I saw this journal for insomniacs - I think I'll buy it. Each page says: Tonight I couldn't sleep because:

  2. I'm an atheist-living agnostic (basically, if there's a god, I don't believe it wants any involvement in our personal and moral affairs)and have been since I was very young, though my mother wouldn't know since I was going through the motions.

    Even so, I have occasionally, during incredible lows, felt the urge to pray. It isn't so much about belief, but there's a definite desire for comfort. When you're all alone, who'll tell you things will get better? No one, so you try to come up with something.

    Anyway, it's not unusual nor is it a sign of an internal need for god as many religious people claim. It's a need to not feel so helpless for a moment; but it's all in the mind.

    I think that made sense, and I hope you get some rest soon. :)

  3. I can sense that you still have your faith within you, it's just that you're convinced that you don't. Because the moment you thought of going to church the moment you got worried about your mom, you still believe that there is 'Someone' above to blame and talk to.

    I am not a good catholic too, i don't usually go to church nowadays like i used to when i was in high school. But whenever i feel lonely or worried, i instantly thinking of talking to him or whenever i get nightmares i always woke up praying "The Lord's Prayer".

    I hope someday you will find your faith back Tom. Being a believer doesn't mean going to church every sunday because there are places with Catholics who couldn't because there's no church at all. It's all about faith that there is someone 'omnipotent' who controls everything in this world.

    God bless Tom, hope you could find your peace.

  4. Is this why you were in the 20sb chat room at 0400 at your end? I saw and I yelled at you to go to sleep. I don't know if you saw that.

    I agree with you to such a large extent. I'm supremely polite when Jehovah's Witnesses ring my doorbell every Sunday, but I don't see the point in accepting their prayers for me or their little Watchtower booklets. If God exists, then don't waste your prayer on me. Give it to someone who will be comforted, who will appreciate it. It's lost on someone like me.

    I don't believe. I can walk into a temple or a church or any other religious house and I am struck by the architecture, I am curious, I am strangely detached.. but I don't feel anyrhing more.

    I was raised Hindu, with a very secular outlook. We got dragged around churched and gurudwaras and just about anything my parents could find to hammer home a point: everyone has their own beliefs and you respect them, no matter what you think.

    So as a confirmed atheist, I'm happy to live and let live. The thing is this: If, when I die, there is a St. Peter with some pearly bloody gates.. he's not going to be mad at me for being a heathen who never prayed. I'm a decent human being, and I try not to fuck up too badly. And surely, in the end, if there is a God- that's all God cares about?

    There's only been the one time that I was absolutely furious with someone who tried to comfort me with the idea of a God. When Lisa died, someone (foolishly) told me, "Well, it must be God's plan". I think I threatened to throw something at them. it's not exactly comforting to hear that God wanted your best mate hanging about, twiddling her thumbs in heaven instead of hanging out on Earth with you. And I suppose it was funny, when at her memorial service, the pastor messed up her name.


    In other news/advice: warm milk laced with bailey's. before bedtime. *squish*

  5. Also. Damn you. I have George Micheal stuck in my head.

  6. I think this is a common struggle for our generation. So don't feel alone in that. Sometimes it takes some good sitting down and writing through it to figure out where you really stand on these things. And then, really, its no one's business.
    I do wish you wouldn't apologize or worry about offending anyone with your views and personal takes on faith and religion.
    Apology shows doubt or questioning one's own opinion, which never really feels all that good.

    But in an attempt to make you feel a little less alone in this, I'll offer a few of my own posts that struggle with Faith and all that jazz.

    (on Faith and Hope)

    (on Death, the hereafter, and Faith)

    xo xo. :)

  7. I read this post last night at work and I'm commenting just now.

    Few things:

    First, I admire the honesty of this post. At least you're not "one of those guys" who tries to impress by saying he's religious and all that BS.

    Second, personally, I'm am not a "perfect" Catholic. I mean, I do believe there's someone out there but I don't really think about it too much. I haven't been to church in a long time and I only pray when I need to or when I remember. I think it's comforting somehow to know someone's out there. I don't know. I really don't think about it. (Damnit. Now I'm thinking!)

    Third, I don't think you've offended anyone. People have their own beliefs. And you're not alone.

    Fourth, the song "Don't Stop Believing" has been playing in my head since last night. I blame you!

  8. Hey T. I actually really love what you said here. I wouldn't say I'm atheist, more agnostic if I had to put a title on it, but it's funny how I'll find myself doing the same thing... 'praying' when I feel like I need to. Maybe it's a little more 'wishing on a star' lol... but it's all the same! It is comforting, and maybe we're talking to a higher power, or just to the voices in our head, but it somehow still makes me feel better.

    And no lie, as i was reading this, 'don't stop believin' started playing in my head, and then when i got to the end of your post, my jaw dropped... because it was already playin in my head before I even read that. SOOOOO CRAZY! haha. <3

  9. crap man! I start the post one day and the first song gets stuck in my head. I finally make time to finish it and now I have to go to sleep with the other song in my head. Really? Its not even fair

  10. I'm an atheist as well.

    And I have to use that term carefully among my friends. Particularly the ones that also study philosophy, because as you can imagine it's a logical minefield. Some people argue that the atheist stance is irreconcilable with life, with how we actually believe. For instance, a common argument is that the atheist denies God because she is unsure that God exists. But the atheist cannot also be sure that he certainly does not exist. Thus the most common stance is to be agnostic.

    But I dislike this. I declare that I am atheist. I once argued from an etymological point. That the root of the word atheist means literally 'not-religious'. Which I feel is more fitting. Of course there are many other arguments I could fly at you, but I have a habit lately of turning my comments into essays.

    On a more personal level, I understand the reflex to pray when you feel a need for safety. I was Buddhist for many, many years. And I miss it dearly when times are hard.

  11. @ Allison - I have a newfound respect for you after seeing you dodge two not so great song references and pick out the classic. Well done. The insomniac's journal sounds fantastic. I also know exactly what you mean when you talk about the stories of your grandparents' lives comforting you more than prayers. I'm the same. At first I thought maybe it was my upbringing, and repeating prayers parrot-fashion at school had made them lose their meaning, but it's more than that. The stories are personal, and specific to the person you're remembering.

    @ Z.J - You made perfect sense, and I agree with you. I don't think it's about me being religious somewhere deep down, I know I'm not, it's more that I'm looking for reassurance. Someone to say it's going to be alright.

    @ Mish - thanks for commenting, I really do appreciate it but I think I'm happy as I am for now. The little stroll to the church when I found out my mum was ill was really out-of-character for me; it's not something I'd do now if something went wrong. That said, thanks for your kind words. :)

    @ Risha - I didn't see you yelling at me no. Maybe, SEEING AS YOU YELL AT ME SO MUCH, I've started blocking you out! But yes, live and let live. But at the same time as I respect other people's beliefs, I expect the same respect for my lack of belief. Saying the bad things that happen are 'part of God's plan' is a lazy and unimaginative way of trying to make someone feel better. Worse, too often it comes across insincere even if it's meant well.

    @ tallbrunette - Can I just say, I read both posts on the tube on my way to work. Your writing blew me away. I may not share your faith in God but I'm pretty much in awe of your way with words! Can we be friends? I think my incessant need to apologise might be a British thing. My Spanish housemate once told me he'd hit me if I said please, thank you or sorry one more time. I apologised. He hit me. I just know it's a sensitive subject, and I know some of the people that read the blog regularly are religious, and wanted to make it clear I wasn't judging anyone, or implying that what people believe is incorrect in any way. Perhaps I went overboard! Sorry! Seriously Tom, enough.

    @ Gnetch - Haha! I'm GLAD it got stuck in your head. Was that the no coffee night? It is comforting to think there's someone watching over us, I mean it would be. I can see why people do turn to religion for comfort when things go wrong. It's just not for me.

    @ Stargazer - Excellent work! We're obviously on exactly the same wavelength. I might try wishing on stars - although last time I looked up at the stars I was so drunk it made me feel sick. I'll wish on a star when I'm sober, and let you know how it goes.

    @ Erin - I'm like a pandemic. People from Manila to the States have been infected with my choice of poor tunage.

    @ Rachel - reflex is the word I was looking for while I wrote this. It is almost a reflex reaction, I don't think about it, it just happens, then my brain catches up with itself. I imagine saying anything around philosophy students is a minefield, you lot think in ways unlike most other people, I think. However, at least you can explain yourself in a way that a thicko like me can understand. Where were you when I studied French philosophy for A YEAR? WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU?

  12. Interesting! I'm not a believer either, but I'm more agnostic than atheist. I can't know anything for certain either way, so I'm inbetween, so to speak:) I believe in reincarnation, though. I think.

  13. :( I don't yell at you all that much.

  14. Tom-
    yes. I would love to be your friend.

    And my Faith is a shaky subject, but still not one to ever apologize for. But then, you ARE British. and so is my mother. (straight out of Manchester.) So I understand the apologizing thing.

    I believe you were familiar with my work even before you read my blog- as you are indeed familiar with Sophie on the Trickster Syndicate. ;)


  15. Okay, so I'm a little bit behind on this response.

    First off, you should not fear, as there is nothing in this post that could be deemed offensive, and anyone who considers it offensive is clearly one of those people who just thinks everything is about them.

    In my early college years, I went through a period where I questionned all that I believed, including my belief in God. I was raised in a Christian home, though I didn't see anything to bring belief to me until I was about 11 years old.

    I found, that though I doubted His existence, I still prayed when things started to go awry and found myself sending Him silent requests.

    I think in those instances, and ones like your own, it becomes an action out of habit. So used to having that 'comfort' their that we utilize it even when we're not sure we believe it anymore.