Recently, I was chatting to a stranger in a coffee shop, and she seemed nice enough, and wanted to meet again for coffee.
All well and good, until, when we said goodbye, she said “Are you a Christian?”
That set alarm bells off in my head.
I am not decrying anyone’s religious beliefs, I am not trying to convert anyone, convince anyone, change anyone.
Nor do I like anyone trying to convert me. What you believe in, and the code you live by is your choice. That’s personal freedom.
But it gave me pause to think about what I believe in, and writing this is forcing me to form loose thoughts into sentences.
As a Catholic child, I went to mass every Sunday, and went to a Catholic girls’ school. Prayers were always being recited and chanted. In my boarding school years in England, Catholics were a minority at both schools (the predominant religion being Church of England), and we were bussed out to mass on Sundays.
That didn’t stop me from singing in the choir and I’d often sing Sunday services too (double church time!). To this day, those CoE hymns and psalms are favourite pieces of music.
Being a befuddled youngster, I didn’t really understand what the fuss was about, being bussed to a different church.
The differences weren’t huge (no Hail Mary, no kneeling, slightly different words in the Creed and Our Father) but really, for someone not really paying attention, not terribly different.
It really wasn’t until my adult years that I actually put punctuation into the prayers I’d been chanting all the years and understood the meaning behind the words. Hail Mary Full Of Grace The Lord Is With Thee Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women (in a monotonous chant)
is really different from a very lovely “Hail, Mary, full of Grace. The Lord is With Thee! Blessed Art Thou, Amongst Women!”
In my university years in Scotland, again, religion was a point of difference. My long-term Scottish Protestant boyfriend introduced me to the concept of Orange, the Hand of Orange and Catholics as ‘Tims’. All pertaining back to the Irish Protestant-Catholic divide. All new labels, as if being a Chinese girl from Singapore wasn’t exotic enough already.
At that time I was still unaware of divides. You know, when you’re young, the world just rushes past you, and every now and again you grab at something and pause. But otherwise, it’s all a whirl, coming at you at warp speed.
I can’t remember when I actually stopped going to mass. I know I started thinking about it all again when I became aware of people warring because of religious beliefs.
And I started wondering, am I therefore an atheist?
It’s not like I believe there are these gods in the heavens playing us like puppets.
Nor do I believe that stuff ‘just happens’. (I try, but can’t embrace that 100%…I’m a horoscope junkie)
Or personally don’t tap in to a greater spiritual source than I.
I just don’t feel I have to go to a special place to do it, or to put a name on it.
I appreciate that religious gatherings are a source of comfort and direction for many.
I do believe that religions were formed to unite people.
I personally love sitting in empty places of worship (of most religions) and soaking in the lovely, peaceful, sanctuary feel of most of them. From the accumulation of years of vibes of love, peace, and good intentions congregated within.
And I guess if I had to articulate what I believe in, it would be that.
That our ability to harness our energy for good and for evil is real. We just don’t consciously know how to use it.
Do I believe in God? Maybe not the guy in the drawings of the early school teachings, the guy with the beard, floating on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But divine energy? Yes.
I think God is in all of us, and collectively, we are all God.
To me, whatever your religion, the fount of spiritual energy is the same for all.
Whatever labels we put on our beliefs, I wish we could harness all our good intentions, and live on the side of peace.
Let’s not get caught up in the politics of religion. Let’s believe that we are all related, all connected, let’s not focus on our differences. Let’s believe that loving and caring for others is something to aspire to. Let’s respect everyone’s right as individuals, as long as they don’t harm anyone. And as much of a cliché as it sounds, I believe in love.
The power of love (and I don’t mean just romantic love) can change negatives into positives. I think if we all could tap into this fount of positive energy and harness it as a society, great things can happen. Let’s see God (whatever name you have for god) as the best of this positive energy and love, and a way to unite us all, and not a point of difference and hatred.