Sunday, March 31, 2013

Will I ever get a faith?

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.


Span Ows said...

Typical, bloody liberal!...oh.

Faith is a good thing but I don't think organised religion has anything to do with it (shocked hush); as soon as it becomes organised loses something, it becomes false. I have faith in Nature, which is with us and all around us every day, it is tangible and can also be Good And Evil, in fact that's what I think God ever was, man's written version of Good. With sickness it is even more important but at least having faith in something helps Nature (using your own body) heal you.

I'll never forget the picture in a Quito church showing how the people gave thanks to God for saving them from a plague...that had already killed most of the town...err...

Paul said...

The last paragraph made me laugh - which means I must be wrong in some way!

Really appreciate your post, gives me something to think about - I agree about faith not having to be based on religion.

The Great Gildersleeve said...

A very thoughtful post Paul. I can identitfy with what you have said and yes Span's comment.

I do have a faith and find myself talking to a being I can't see or hear and yet don't really pray as such. I have in the past.

I go through times when I make my mind up when the end comes that is it. But Mum and Dad kept their faith until the end and through times that would test any one. Probably even someone in the profession.

But as you say when I do step into many of these churches I do find comfort so is it the faith or the fact such places are so calm and peaceful?

Then again some things happen in life that make you stop and ask was that purely a coincidence or something more than that.

Dara Ó Briain was asking questions about something not disimilar on his Twitter account over Easter so you are not alone.

Is blind unquestioning faith good or is it better that you do not take it on face value. Or accept that doubts will always exist.

A final point is that many Dr's, surgeons and sientists who you would think more likely to have doubts seeing what they do still have a faith.

Paul said...

Thanks Gildy, plenty to think about in what you have written. I do think it is still the 'big' events such as Christmas and Easter that make me think about the question of faith. I am a bit with Span on the nature thing because I find myself in awe of a lot of it.

The Great Gildersleeve said...

Was watching a sixties show last night(Wayne Fontana, Dave Berry, The Mersybeats, Mike Pender original front man of the Searchers)

Mike mentioned how the older you get the years pass by all too quickly and how Christmas seems to come around so often.

Wayne had less than complimentary things to say about the politicians and received a big round of applause, after his rant he went into that song of Labi Siffre - Something Inside So Strong.

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