I've been ill recently with a recurrence, or should that be continuance, of the flu virus I had at the turn of the year. It has been quite debilitating and has caused me to have some time off work but it was during one of my recent visits to work that a colleague happened to let slip a conversation she had had with my boss. He had said to her that he thought that if I had been in possession of a 'faith' I wouldn't have been ill as there would be somebody there to look after me.
At the time it slipped gently over my head, like the duvet on one of the recent cold mornings, but when I had the chance to dwell on it I did and couldn't decide whether or not I should be offended or not - typical, bloody liberal I can hear Span typing! You can have a faith without it being a religious belief system can't you? If you have been or are a parent, husband, son, daughter, wife etc then you wish for the best for your children, significant other etc - isn't that a belief in something aside from religious subjugation?
My boss isn't alone in his thoughts by which I mean that my Dad has hinted in the past that he hoped one day I would see that being an atheist was a 'mistake' and that I would seek solace in something bigger. It's easy to mock religion if you are not part of it because if you aren't part of it you cannot accept the conditions and historical baggage that goes with being one of the true believers or fellow travellers, I'm sure other phrases are available. The ceremonies, chanting, prayers, responses etc aren't something that should be mocked because they are held up, by their adherents, as being the one constant throughout all the thousands of years that organised religions have existed in their current forms, give or take a few tweaks.
I do wonder about religion if only because we are still surrounded by its many trappings. I can't drive to work without passing a church, from one office window I am afforded a view of the local Roman Catholic church beyond which, on a clear day, I can see the St.Georges flag flying on the local Anglican church, if I look out of another window I can see the local Methodist church. Clearly if I was paranoid about these things I would feel that somebody was out to get me by posting a succession of none too subtle religious artifacts in my line of sight.
At the times of the big Christian festivals I do wonder whether or not I am missing something. I can't help wondering because I am by nature an inquisitive and enquiring person, even if I still don't understand fully how the telephone works, and I find myself seeking answers where possibly I don't really know what the question is.
I have over the years, as I have posted many times on this blog, found myself in the role of a 'religious tourist', not in the sense that I have walked to Lourdes or Santiago de compostela but simply because I have found myself drawn over and over again to religious sites whether they are the old circles at Knowlton or Chartres or the great churches of Paris. In fact, and I don't mean to trivialise this to cause offence, I have found myself to be like one of those people in Field of Dreams who James Earl Jones character says "People will come (Ray). They'll come to (Iowa) for reasons they can't even fathom". I am one of those people sitting in the Notre Dame, not fully understanding what it is that drew me there, marvelling at the architecture whilst all around me people are taking photographs of each other as if in some kind of 'Jesus wants me for a postcard' mode, whilst mentally ticking off another seen site. Or perhaps I am being disingenuous and my wonder is at something I don't understand whilst they recognise a tourist trap as exactly that.
Of course this summer I will be back in Germany, this time destination Cologne, and what is the most famous building in that city? Yep, the cathedral, visible from the hotel I am staying in and in just about every book, postcard or Internet article on the city. And I know that I will venture inside and I will sit through a mass, not understanding a word of it, or the various nuances of the service and I will step outside and feel that I have witnessed something special to millions of people and it will have an emotional pull and yet I won't be able to explain why.