Or: I was an Altar Boy once.
“I was an altar boy once!” I have a habit of dropping that statement into any conversation about religious beliefs that I am involved with. Of course, it is just a distraction, a sort of “blind-alley” comment that steers the talk down a different path, a (as that “smear of excrement” that was once our LNP, Prime Minister a few years ago called ); ” … bbq stopper”.
And I have done it again here, stealing the conversation away from “belief” to religion! Of course, belief and believing has nothing at all to do with religion. I sometimes would follow up on my above comment with; ”The Catholic Church is not a ‘religion’, but an institution!” … One does not need books, tracts and pamphlets to believe, one only needs to wake and feel the weather on one’s skin. One does not need images and icons. One only needs imagination. Does a child need to be taught fantasy, imagery, imagination? … No, but there are those who strongly, fiercely believe a child needs to be taught to believe in the unbelievable!
And I will state my opinion categorically, here and now, backed by every notion of accepted measure of sanity that ALL religion is a human construct … ALL a human invention … there is no supreme being, no omnipotent God … those descriptions alone betray a need, a hunger for an authority to command. “Human, all too human”. And I and any rational human being who has above capacity and dexterity to peel a boiled egg knows it and believes it … even if they do not practice it. If there is one bit of “wisdom” learned early, used universally and passed down with signaled dexterity through the eons of time, it is that the general MOB of humanity is best controlled and corralled with the dispersion and corruption of religo-politico adoration.
But hey … seriously … you’d have to be a mug …
I recall when my own children came to the age of schooling and we were shopping around for what we considered the “best” school system for them. One such system, The Steiner System, seemed to offer a new approach, a gentler curriculum. I never liked the idea of forcing a child to “grow up” before they are ready. I was not ready for primary school at exactly the age of five. So we attended a talk on the subject. The lady who gave the talk was very sensitive, very convincing with references to the gentle awakening of the child’s sensibilities and the action of guiding them through and down paths of least disturbance of their childhood years … opening one door and closing another as they made their way through the labyrinth of awakening to the world … very gently explained, as if in a sort of trance … that and the fact that she grew up just down the road from where I grew up gave substance to the yarn (her brother was forever stealing our grapes as he came home from school).
We took it … it worked out well for the primary years. Good result … ”I believe”. But! … Now, when I reflect on that talk, our perceptions, the lady’s demeanour, OUR DEMEANOUR … our ambition, the lady’s ambition. I wonder; was it really about the children, or about ourselves as adults? As I said above, a child doesn’t NEED belief, it has it in spades … but we adults presume the child REQUIRES indoctrination TOWARD a belief! … And that’s where the quip;”I was an altar boy once” comes in … after all, who, with a rational mind, would freely volunteer for such a position?
The sad thing is that “belief and believing” is an adult concept that masks a deep insecurity within the human condition. So we strengthen ourselves with delusions of many and varied forms … call them “Beliefs”, call them “Religion” … after all, is it not the most craven individuals that arm themselves most aggressively? So we have institutions even in this day and age utilising schools to “groom” the children with their variation of “spiritual corruption”.
But I would promote the idea of a “worship” of atheism. Not substituting Godhead or Gaia or even rough “Mother Nature”, let them alone … they will float along without our assistance. I would emphasise the belief in casual observance of the world around oneself. Step out on a morning and feel the wash of sunrise pour its ambrosia over the body like a soothing balm … or stand transfixed at the noon of the day and hark to the frenzied activity of life at full throttle … then again sit or lay comfortably in the velvet cloak of evening and let slip from your grip those worries and concerns accumulated throughout the working day, let them fall into the miasma of shadows of the coming night. For night is the metaphor of life’s ending … and finally let morphia’d sleep cleanse the mind and wash with dreams away this impertinence of temporal existence.
Atheism is neither a “belief”, nor a “way of life”. I see it more as a shedding of clumsy armour, the relaxing of futile defence against a non-existing fear. For if there has ever been a power more condemning, more controlling and exacting of behaviour so that even natural human activity can draw cruel conviction, it is religious/canon law. There are ample and sensible civil laws legislated by sanity, put in place by unanimous consent and obeyed by the majority that do not require ecclesiastical condescension. So if we have laws to guide us, common sense to inform us and a wide world of wonder to both awe and amuse us, why waste time and temper on another useless chore like bowing and scraping to false Gods?
You know, whenever I see those photographs of the Earth taken from outer-space and they show this cool, beautiful, green/blue/sometimes cloudy orb suspended serenely in the silence of space … it revitalises a belief within me that we are duty-bound and committed to extend ourselves to maintain and revitalise this luscious but lonely garden of delight! We can do no worse thing with indoctrinated discourse, than to deliberately lead the child (and the “child” within ourselves) from a world of innocent wonder, a world of curious discovery to a mendaciously manufactured shadow world of adult doubt and insecurity … through a prism distorted … through a glass, darkly …