As a child, I was asked to leave scripture class. I was that child- the one with too many questions that weren’t satisfied with vague answers and admonishments to just believe. I pestered the teacher about the fate of children who’d never heard of Jesus. I came up with all kinds of scenarios and demanded answers.
In short, I was a volunteer religion teacher’s pain in the arse and so was relegated to non-scripture, which is where my Dad had wanted me to begin with. Mum, on the other hand, had wanted me to choose and for no logical reason, I’d chosen Church of England. I’d picked it because I had a vague notion that we had English ancestry, so I figured that was the one for me. I did mention there was no logical reason, right? The poor, long suffering teacher did try with me for some time. The first was rather elderly and has probably been martyred for her efforts with me by now. She wasn’t the last, I tried my luck once or twice more- but I never lasted long.
I’m the product of a lapsed Catholic and a firm Atheist. After my foray into C of E, I happily did my time in non-scripture but it wasn’t my last adventure into religion. In my teens I discovered Wicca. Oh, I loved it. Gods and Goddesses! Spells and ceremony! WANDS! Of course there was more to it than that but as a teen that was enough to capture my imagination and interest. The way I saw it, spells were no different to prayers, you just had to put a bit more effort in. During this phase, I taught myself meditation, learned about herbs and herb lore, read into aromatherapy and crystals and spent all my money on books and Peace Angel clothes. I read tarot, runes and palms (self taught from books) and played with ouija boards and tried really hard to be spiritual but I was much more enamoured with the idea than the reality and gradually moved away from that, too.
As a young adult, I read more books. A bit of Dawkins, a bit of Howard Bloom. I talked to my Grandfather about organised religion and how it had been used to control people. Can you have an un-spiritual awakening? If so, I had one of those. Gradually.
I’m now what you’d call an Atheist. This is based on a lot of reading and a lot of thinking. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. Sometimes having no religion is hard! Losing my Mum was one of those times. She was pretty into the spiritual side of things and did promise to haunt me if she could. The fact that she hasn’t done so, to my knowledge, isn’t any kind of proof, of course. But being an atheist means that this life, this one you’re living right now? This is it. No afterlife, no heaven, no hell. A switch flicked off.
In a way, that depressed the hell out of me. I don’t have the comfort of thinking she is in a better place or that I will see her again. I don’t feel like she is better off or perhaps back with her own mum. I just know she isn’t here anymore and that is that.
This is something I have really found hugely comforting:
On the other hand, no afterlife means something else, too. It means this is it in a more positive way- what better way to live your life to the fullest than to know that this is your one chance to do so? What better reason to enjoy what you’ve got while you have it?