BIG KISS – Belief in God, Keep it Strictly Simple!

I started life in a fairly religious – Roman Catholic – family environment. My Father was not particularly religious in that I believe he was a Christian (probably keeping it simple) but not a Church-goer. In fact he had only converted to Roman Catholicism on marrying my mother.

My mother came from a German Catholic family background where it was quite a normal way of life not only to attend church on Sundays but to observe all other Holy Days and frequently attending morning mass and evening services during the week. This is pretty much what most families in their community did.

I was brought up in Heston,, England. This was a London Suburban parish run by the otherwise African Missionary Order the White Fathers. This was part of the service they provided to the community in which they had a house which operated as a base for missionaries during their early theological studies before they were sent to the Missions in Africa. My Mother’s brother was one such Missionary who had been assigned to this London parish suburb whilst he completed his studies before going off to Africa.

So I was brought up as an active church-goer, serving at Mass several times a week and also other services such evening Stations of the Cross and Benediction. Not surprisingly I decided entirely on my own initiative that I wanted to become a White Father missionary like my Uncle, and at 14 went off to 1st year seminary in Scotland. Other boys would probably still have fantasised about become train drivers (Astronauts had not been ‘invented’ at that time!)

During my summer leave after 1 year at the seminary and before going off to a higher seminary in the Midlands, I simply announced to my parents that I really didn’t want to go. Without argument, they accepted my decision and I returned to my school which happened to be run by Dominican nuns.

A few years on I got married and despite my earlier active and even enthusiastic religious background I very easily slipped into the habit of not going to church. However, whenever I visit my relatives in Germany I find myself in a village community where the church is still a key focal point in community life. I quite happily pick up the habit – temporarily – of getting back into the community spirit and attend church with my relatives, quite as if I have always continually done so.

It is perhaps hardly a surprise, then, if I say I have a couple of times fairly recently tried to get back into the church-going way of things. First real attempt was maybe 4 years or so ago, and lasted a good year as far as I recall. I lapsed again, until currently I am 2 months or so into having another try at re-assimilating.

But I don’t feel I could stand up and claim to believe all those details of dogma and prayers that still almost trip of the tongue, by rote.

As much as I want to believe, I find I can’t go along with almost all of the detail or even acknowledge an allegiance and belief in Christ. I used to think my difficulty was entirely superficial in that I did not like the abandonment of the Latin Mass, and could not feel comfortable with being expected to shake hands during the Mass when called upon to do so – even as a symbolic sign of Peace. Now I have almost gotten used to these things and have discovered that I can’t claim to believe ‘without question’ in the divinity of Christ and his resurrection, for example; also I am alienated by the belief in Indulgences which I think still persists.

But it goes far deeper – I find that when it comes down to it, I simply believe in only one thing – that there just has to be a GOD. But as a human being, not even the oldest scriptures or claims of miracles can convince me that I have to believe in anything else as a condition for being ‘saved’. I have no objection to others finding comfort in their faith and belief in such details and dogma. Indeed, I envy especially families who clearly enjoy the comfort of the conventional family religious community environment – just as I did as a young person.

But apart from the extraneous community spirit, I do not feel that I am missing anything. Indeed I am quite content with the richness, fortunate as I am, of my own broad family community centered in my own home.

Simply put, I feel that come the time, if we are fortunate enough to find that our spirit lives on and there is an afterlife of one kind or another, I have absolute faith that by having lived an essentially Good Life, we can all expect to be ‘saved’, and enjoy whatever rewards may await in a place that may be described as ‘Heaven’. I am confident that neither I nor any of my family or friends – even those others whom I have met along the way whom I have not personally liked – none would qualify for the punishment of what could be understood as ‘Hell Fire’. Following on from this, I hope and trust that those, of whom we learn in history and in the news of our present times, who are essentially evil will suffer whatever punishment is their due in that afterlife.

To that extent I personally have faith in the existence of some sort of god – I don’t see how creation and existence can be answered in any other way. But even that, I would not insist on imposing on others – in the final analysis the only true answer to this BIG question is to admit to Agnosticism. That is – we are merely human and with our human limitations cannot possibly ‘know’ anything for sure. As much as I question religious dogma and the claims of any of the multitude of various religions and sects, I equally question that an Atheist cannot claim the non existence of a form of Supreme Being with any certainty either.

So, I would like to think that a lot of trouble and strive, unhappiness and even evil in this world could be avoided by a BIG KISS – a Belief in God but Keeping it Seriously Simple!

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