So anyway, this week I decided to become a humanist. For anyone wondering what that is, don’t be lazy. Look it up! I’m not being silly, but if I write a definition, I’ll have to reference it and add links and put in different colours for the links and frankly,
I don’t have the time, can’t be arsed, and if you have access to this, you have access to the largest encyclopaedia in the history of humanity.
To those who felt they knew me, and to those who think they know me, this will seem like a very sudden (and to some, drastic) decision. However, it’s actually a culmination of nearly sixteen years of going back and forth on the subject of belief and faith.
It all started when I was fifteen and spoke to a guy in my class about the Baha’i faith. Before then, only five faiths existed for me: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Satanism. The last being the largest one, or so the nuns would have you believe.
At that time, my Catholicism consisted of my mum yelling at us to,
“GET OUT OF BED NOW AND GET READY FOR CHURCH!”
Every Sunday morning, and me half dosing through the service. The best part of my Sunday in those days was that we went to KFC, got a family bucket with fries and drinks and spent the rest of the day at the park…aaah, bliss!
I was raised catholic, I had my communion when I was nine and took the whole catholic fear and damnation to heart in those days. I was seriously worried for my immortal soul each time I did something wrong and went to confession on all the ‘get-out-of-jail-free” days on offer…not that you can get up to much when you’re only nine years old, but that’s belief for you. My whole life I went to catholic schools so it comes as no surprise that I never actually questioned what it meant to be catholic. And when I spoke to this guy in class one day during “Guidance” (though St Paul’s was a catholic school, we didn’t have religious education as a subject), I learnt about the Baha’i faith.
Talk about the shells peeling from your eyes! There were hundreds if not thousands of other religions in the world. I was completely blown away. I went home buzzed and spending days in the library reading up on different faiths before gathering up my courage, sitting my parents down and telling them I wanted to switch faiths and become Baha’i.
Well, from my mother’s reaction, you’d’ve thought I said I’d killed someone! She went ballistic! But my dad gave me one of the few pieces of advice that I will always remember. He said,
“There are many ways to get from one town to another. Some are longer and some are shorter but the important thing is to get to the same destination in the end.”
He then told me to at least wait till I had done my confirmation classes and then make my mind up.
Actually his words were that I could then ask all the questions I wanted, and then decide for myself. And since my parents raised good mannered kids, that’s just what I did. We moved countries, and so I moved schools. In January 1995 I traded my liberal, hands off, city based mixed sex catholic school for an out-in-the-middle-of-fucking-nowhere fully hands on single sex catholic school. That’s another story that will earn a shrink a small fortune someday.
When I was sixteen, I started my religious confirmation lessons. This might seems late in the so called ‘western’ world, but in Zambia, it’s quite common to only begin get confirmed when you’re around the sixteen year mark. For the non Catholics out there, a very short definition is basically getting “confirmed” within the faith.
This whole period was actually the beginning of the end for me, even though from the outside looking in (especially since I did get confirmed) you would have been forgiven for thinking my demons had been put to rest.
I think it was a combination of me asking really odd questions coupled with a meditation weekend with a very open and honest priest. Now I’ve met my fair share of priests so when I say this priest was open then hey, this priest was open! He told me things I NEVER thought a priest would say. Like how yes, sometimes its okay to lie. Yes, Jesus did have brothers and sisters. The bible IS a collection of Jewish ancestry, beliefs, stories and prophecies. I was scandalised! You mean the bible isn’t Christian? Dear god!
Well, after learning all I could about Roman Catholicism. I figured what the hell, better the devil you know right? God only knows what I would uncover if I tried to join another church. Granted I was still a bit shaky on the whole predestination thing but I figured I would keep that aside for a while and come back to it later…yeah, that was the one that finally nailed the whole religion thing for me, but I’ll get back to that later.
So anyhoo, I got confirmed. I got pious. I wore my rosary with pride. I went to mass every Sunday (okay, it was compulsory at boarding school, but still). I prayed before eating a stick of chewing gum for Pete’s sake! I recited the ‘purity or death!’ slogan with all the other saddos that believed it. I don’t think you would have found a more devoted catholic at that time. But it’s easy being a catholic when you’re surrounded by nuns and churches and religious classes and did I mention out-in-the-middle-of-fucking-nowhere?
In fact, it’s easy to be anything when you are in the majority and supported by the institution that promotes what you believe in. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be a Jehovah’s Witness at Fatima girls. Hell, I wouldn’t have cared at the time. And you know what, that really bugs me now.