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.

bible

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.

my religion

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.

No Religion.

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:

 phys

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?

 


Also linking up for  Weekend Rewind at Maxabella Loves and leaping Down the Rabbit Hole at Calm to Conniption.

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  • Hugzilla

    Great post. I’ve gone from being a firm atheist of the “you live, you die, you rot” variety, to becoming a believer in the afterlife in my mid 20’s after having a spiritual experience that utterly convinced me that death is not the end of everything. My best friend passed away and she did come to visit me. Completely changed my life. Sounds really trite but it is still the most incredible and profound experience of my life (and that includes giving birth to my children). I don’t try and convince other people of my beliefs though, and it’s not a religious belief. I might write about it one day.

    • Funnily enough- I have had what I thought were spiritual experiences- but I’m pretty sure I was dreaming. A few I can’t explain away readily which just makes me think I’m not smart enough to put it all into logical order- but you know what? If I’m wrong and we get to see our loved ones again, I’ll wear it. I’d be fine with that. I’m really glad you got to see your friend- whatever it was, losing your bestie would be horrible and the comfort from that would be immense.

  • Great post. While I’m not yet an atheist and think I’m agnostic, I don’t believe in heaven or he’ll either. I just wasn’t brought up with that concept. For me, when we die we just go. It’s a blackness that exists…like space or something and we are gone. Being brought up Hindu has meant those who die are cremated so it’s not like you can visit their graves or anything. It feels very final. Not sure yet how I’ll cope when my parents die.

    Oh and I love that you were that kid!!!

    • It is final, isn’t it- when there’s no continuation of visiting a grave on special dates etc. It’s a funny custom really, but I still go to Mum’s grave a fair bit. It helps, I think.

  • Love this post. My hubby was very much like you and was asked to leave Scripture and he too chose Church of England but is now an Atheist. I was raised a Catholic, attended a Catholic school and want nothing to do with that religion now. I believe in something, I’m just not sure what it is.

    • Hmmm maybe the C of E is unwittingly producing atheists? 😀

  • Marissa Parsons

    I don’t have a religion, my kids are free to choose what they want, but I am not an atheist either. I cannot shake the concept of “something” else being there, I just don’t know what. I’m pretty sure that organised religion matters very little to whatever else may be out there anyway. I think whatever or whoever is the answer, we all end up in the same place. I too have had what I consider to be a spiritual experience, and I just can’t make myself believe that it was nothing more than a dream. Perhaps I just have too much blind faith.

    • Everyone processes things differently- if it sits right with you that it was a spiritual experience, that’s fine. For me I can’t shake the niggle that that isn’t logical. I like to be able to explain and undertstand things, you know?

  • I’m Jewish but I have never practised but I have eaten a lot of chicken soup. I love Christmas, we practised Buddhism when I was a kid and I went to a Quaker school so I have covered a lot of bases. I can see how organised religion ticks all the boxes and answers all the questions for so many people but not for me. I don’t know what I believe about the universe but I’d like to think there’s something out there. My mum has promised to come and haunt me too, perhaps I should tell her not to bother?! I do believe that we should live every day like it’s our last, and I guess that follows on that we should live our whole life as if it’s the only one we’re ever going to get, wouldn’t that make every day a bit richer, sweeter and more precious?

    • wow you sure have! Mum collected Buddhas so we had them everywhere plus lots of books on the subject- as far as they go, it’s a nice religion, I think.

  • Oh that last bit about wanting a physicist to speak at your funeral brought tears to my eyes, it’s beautiful. My family have never had any religion either, and so I have grown up quite unbothered about it. I haven’t done enough thinking about to call myself an atheist. Maybe agnostic, but that fence sitter word is too complex for my “whatever” attitude. I am all about the legacy of what you leave behind from what you do now, rather than worrying about a mythical afterlife. Love echoes.
    Dani @ sand has no home

    • It is beautiful, isn’t it? It really has comforted me a lot. Love sure does echo.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I am catholic but I practise on my own terms. I believe that is you are a good person, you go somewhere. I do not push my religion on my kids as I want them to believe in whatever they choose. I like the thought that the people who have left me here, I will see again someday. It is just comforting for me. Religion can be so evil and if people learn not to push their beliefs on others, then the world would be a happier place.

    • I agree Natalie- I find nothing more off putting than people forcing their religion on others

  • I was also kicked out of religion classes at school. For the exact same reason haha. I’ve actually never heard of anyone else being kicked out before!

    • Oh you’re in good company- I know quite a few!

  • Kirsty @ My Home Truths

    I think we are very similar Amy although I don’t think I’m a complete atheist – i think I’m a little agnostic as well (irrationally there HAS to be something else, I just don’t think it is represented by any of the main organised religions). I’m the odd parent at school with one child in scripture and the other not (he refuses to go – he’s too logical for faith!) but I’m all for openness to all faiths – just as long as it doesn’t get shoved down my throat!

    • I agree- the throat shoving is SUPER off putting!

  • Scotto

    I used to be a church-goer but rebelled against it after they refused to help us (my first marriage) despite having given to them for years. It was then that I saw the church in a whole different light, and it wasn’t a good one. Organised religion is a scam and I don’t want any part of it. That aside I do believe in a higher power, be that God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, nobody knows. I just think this can’t be it, there’s too much going on in the universe and we, as a species really don’t know that much. The idea of reincarnation intrigues me, whether that’s another go as someone else or we just keep our own life over and over again but each time turns out differently and maybe eventually we go on to a higher plane. Who knows but it’s interesting to ponder.

    • Reincarnation is a fascinating idea, I agree- I’d happily be wrong if that was the case. I’m sorry to hear that the church wouldn’t help you- I’ve read a lot of similar accounts over the years.

  • I don’t really believe in religion for a number of reasons. We never went to church because dad just thought it was a place where they take your money for nothing. Also after dad committed suicide I had a religion teacher do a class (knowing my situation) about how all people who commit suicide go straight to hell. I didn’t have to be ejected from that class, I ejected myself. That “religious teacher” was the father of the bully from my brother’s grade. I refused to go to RE after that if he was the teacher, but he was only filling in for a few weeks. Shithead.

    Anyway, I went to a highly religious high school (because I got a bursary) and they forced us to sing hymns and say prayers at every assembly + in chapel + in religion classes + at any other school function. If they caught us not singing we’d get detention so I’d just move my mouth pretending to sing. That kind of sealed the deal for me hating religion because I didn’t think it was right to force it down my throat and punish me when I didn’t comply.

    I’d like to think there’s something else out there and that I’ll one day see my dad again, but in all honesty I don’t think there is.

    • Oh Toni, I’m so sorry that was done to you. What the hell is wrong with people? How can they justify that abhorrent behaviour towards a kid in the throes of such enormous grief? It’s disgusting.

  • I just don’t feel it. No biggie.

    • Fair enough 🙂

      • I mean faith… I hope you don’t think I meant your excellent post, Amy!!! I just don’t feel any faith, no matter how much I want to and I’ve made my peace with that. x

  • I really do want a physicist to speak at my funeral! Love this post Amy, religion is so tricky to talk about when you don’t ‘have it’.

    I was brought up by 2 lapsed Catholics – both my parents hated organised religion after bad experiences at catholic school… so it turned out that my sister & I were the only 2 non-scripture kids in our entire (middle class, conservative) primary school… I loved it ‘cos we got to hang out in the library while the other kids were told they were going to burn in hell… or whatever … organised religion scares the bejesus out of me (sorry, bad pun!), but ironically, my sister has recently converted (or ‘reverted’) to Islam. And my father has re-found Catholicism. And my other sister is going out with a Jewish boy… interesting times!

    • Wow that’s quite a mix! I’m interested in religions in an abstract way. Your non scripture sounds more fun than mine- colouring in class in primary!

  • I lost my dad at an early age and it does make you think about life after death and does this exist. No haunting either but I certainly subscribe to living every as it would be your last.

    • It’s a shame- I’d love a good haunting sometimes! Ah well 🙂

  • Catholic, ambivalent. I do think prayer is meditation with purpose, even if we are only praying to our ‘higher/better selves’. And I totally dig the physicist’s version of energy constantly transforming – I truly believe that.

    • Meditation is great- without religion even- just a way to relax and to focus.

  • Well that was quite beautiful “not a bit of you is gone, you’re just less orderly” – I honestly love that.

  • A precious post. I believe that a person’s spirit, soul, essence lives on. I am not a believer in the great story of Jesus, but don’t begrudge those who take strength from their belief in their god, it’s just not for me. Losing your mum, so sad.

    • No, I don’t begrudge it either. I don’t really understand it- but then- I don’t have to, either.

  • Tash from Gift Grapevine

    I love the end of that quote “…you’re just less orderly” – what an amazing way to put it. Great post Amy – something tells me that you were a fan of the film “The Craft” in high school, yes?!

    • Ha no the Craft came along a bit later and I was annoyed at it’s inaccuracies- but I did enjoy it!

  • Great post (once again). I love the questioners. Reading about your interations with R.E. teachers made me smile.
    I blame Fiona Horne for my Wiccan phase. 🙂 Tho I loved it.

    • Thanks Karin! Yes, Fiona Horne was awesome back in the day- and a wonderful witch too!

  • I can completely relate to all of that. Too many questions – though I wasn’t kicked out, I had questions but I was also a very sweet kid so the CRE teacher loved me because I WANTED to believe even if I was confused as heck. Also totally loved Wicca as a teenager. Lol. So much. And yeah non-religious rather than atheist I feel fits better.

    • Yours had more tolerance and patience than mine- though maybe I just wore her out!

  • Jennifer Abel

    Good post that reminded me of me! I started life as a Catholic but in my adult years I decided to worship mother nature, she just makes more sense to me. #aussieparentingbloggers

  • I would say I’m curious rather than anything else. I don’t believe in heaven and hell but I love believing that our spirits or energy remain after we die. I have a lot of faith in the ‘universe’ and I also think Mother Nature is pretty amazing. There are aspects of a lot religions that I think are beautiful but I am happy not to follow one to the letter.

    • I think nature is astonishing and religion is fascinating as an observer 🙂

  • This is a question I’ve been pondering a lot since my Dad passed away and have no answers. He was a scientist and an atheist so I love that a physicist can find a comforting way to explain it. I was brought up C of E, my husband and kids are Catholic I’d like to think that there is something spiritual out there but personally I’m not into organised religion just kindness and compassion.

    • Kindness and compassion sounds great to me xx

  • I’m an atheist too, similarly I cam e to this through research and trying out a few things that didn’t fit. I also find it a bit daunting when the full implication of this sinks in. I love the quote about the physicist. What a wonderful way to look at life.

  • Tamzen Temple the blog is all about what a Temple is and the ridiculous materialistic things that take away the simplicity of life. The Temple otherwise known as a home. You can search all you want but the greatest blessings are probably contained there. The ones you love, a warm bed, a table to share a meal and peace in one’s mind to survive life. Whether it be religious, spiritual, worshipping nature or aliens as long as they make you into a caring real human is all it comes down to for me.

  • We are atheists too. My oldest, is one child who needs to see physical evidence of something to believe it. She is 16 and very scientific. There must be a rational reason for everything. Having said all that, there have been may unexplained things since my father has died… things that have just bewildered us…..

    • I am an atheist- but I’m open to being proved wrong in that regard!

  • Well I’m going to throw a spanner in the works here and say I’m a Catholic convert. My father is a staunch atheist and mother an agnostic so I don’t know where my beliefs came from. I choose to believe and wouldn’t dream of judging anyone else for believing what they do or don’t. I agree with the fact there are some terrible things about organised religion and I guess I’ve adapted it in my own mind to something I’m comfortable with. Great post Amy 🙂 You’re not afraid to say what you think.

    • That’s okay Pinky, I still love you! 😀 I don’t hold religious choices against people unless they use it to harm others. Then I’ll come out, atheist guns blazing!

  • It’s funny – I was brought up Catholic and am vehemently against organised religion now. And I don’t believe in God (well not the God that people pray to). But I do kind of believe in the Universe and I do kind of believe “everything happens for a reason” – and my husband has pointed out this is the equivalent of believing in God so … it’s complicated.

    I do know that when my brother died at 18 that was it for me and ‘God’ because that’s when I realised that no matter how much praying you do, it’s not going to keep your family safe. But I know what you mean when you mention that at times like that (losing someone you love that much) faith is something that’s very nice have

    • The Catholic Church itself has a lot to answer for. And yes, it’s so hard when you lose someone xx

  • I was baptised into the Catholic church when I was 8 years old, but never regularly went to Church. I guess now I would be considered a non-practising Catholic? My husband wasn’t brought up with any religion & is an Athiest also, like his Dad.
    I don’t buy into the whole God thing, but I do believe there is more. Not heaven, not hell, but something else?

    • I think that’s the deal- once catholic, always catholic- it’s in the rule book 🙂

  • Anna @ BombardedMum

    I was christened Anglican and have been dotted with religion throughout my life ever since – went to a catholic school (and topped the religion class!), then a uniting church school (and also topped it much to the hilarity of my family) and have recently worked at a non-profit with a uniting church funding base. Two of my best friends when I lived in America turned out to be Mormons – very interesting religion. I was entirely terrified in Year 1 when the nuns told us if we do the wrong thing, we will be burned in hell! Way too far for my liking… So I guess religion has popped up all over my life without looking for it. Rather than necessarily believing in God, I have a faith. I have a faith that there is something bigger outside ourselves and wherever you find yourself in life, you are there for a particular reason and so might as well make the best of it. I believe in fate and what crosses our path is meant to be the journey we take in life – we do have the power to change it a lot of the time and to make the best of the situation we find ourselves in. I had my children christened and got married in a church so it has been some foundation for me throughout my life. I don’t practise it in a church but I try to live my life honestly and morally right. Maybe it is an ethical or moral code I live by, rather than a religious code? Religion and the meaning of it is complicated and even more when our children are connecting to it at school and in their own lives and we support/guide and nurture their journey. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • That’s a fair variety!
      Yes I believe many of us live life governed by ethics based on common sense and kindness and not religion.

  • Grace

    I’m a practising Christian. Despite this, I’m not completely convinced about the afterlife or the concept of heaven. But I think it’s okay not to know all the answers. Just as it is for an atheist. We all have different belief systems. As long as we’re not harming others or ripping them off, then I don’t see a problem with that.

  • I’m not at all religious, but I am spiritual. I believe we come back to this life again and again to learn something and until we do, we keep coming back. I believe in Karma and I believe in the energy of thought. I was raised Catholic and dabbled with Wicca and Buddhism, but for me no religion is the best option.

  • I’ve been meaning to read this post all week but I’ve been so busy with kids and work. I was brought up in a Christian home and have a generational Christian family. I made a decision to be a Christian at 11 but it wasn’t till I was in my mid 20’s where I was given a vision and I was wide awake and I knew without a doubt that God was real. When I read posts like yours I assume that not much research has been done but you have read and you have asked questions. And you’ve written your post so beautifully and it’s heartfelt. The only thing I wonder about is what type of eyes and what spiritual influences are already on ones life to come to a decision to not believe in God? And that’s not just a question for you but for everyone. Having done my research and just seeing the world we live in there is a definite evil force that will do everything in its power to cause confusion and pain. And the moment we lose something precious the walls go up and they pretty much block out a view of God. When I’ve had crap things happen in my life I run to God not away. Everyone’s response is different and one day when we aren’t here, it won’t be about who was right or wrong. I actually believe we will wish we had lived differently and had done as much research and seeking as possible to find an answer without a shadow of a doubt. You always write posts that are thought provoking. Don’t ever stop. X

    • Thanks for your kind words and certainly some thoughts to ponder there. Thanks for sharing xx