A word that often conjures up controversy.
Up to about eleven years old, religion to me meant going to Sunday school, colouring in some pictures of Jesus, being quiet, having to dress ‘posh’, singing songs I didn’t know but MOST important we used to get some Opal Fruits. Green ones were my favourite. They still are. To anyone under 30, that’s a Starburst to you.
Very quickly despite being made to feel guilty about anything that appeared to be outside of the rules of the Bible (in particular drinking at whiskey at 15, rolling up your a-line Marks & Spencers navy school skirt and/or smoking through a polo) – I made my own mind up that I’d never seen this God person or Jesus and that the stories of fish and bread and walking on water all seemed rather unrealistic, plus religion had done me no favours at all so I decided to leave religion right there. To be honest I don’t think I ever believed. I just believed for Green Opal fruits.
At my friends dads funeral last week, I finally got some understanding of what religion means to people. In this chapel of beautiful glass stained windows and wooden carvings, the congregation of those paying their respects were in fine voice singing to the hymns. I find some religious funerals difficult, if you’ve been touched by sadness and cruelty in life it is hard to believe that someone out there is supposed to protect you. I don’t believe in God. I never will. However fundamentally in this funeral where people came together, where people smiled at each other and held compassion for each other. Where a large group of people for that small amount of time chatted to each other, supported each other, hugged and empathised. Where colour, gender, sexuality – where any differences seem to disappear and in place a large huddle of people gathered to just be there for each other. I thought to myself. That is religion. Religion is a collection of rules and morals that fundamentally should mean we are a huddle. A huddle of acceptance. A huddle of live and let live.
Unfortunately as we see from the raging wars, from the homophobia, from the racism and hate, many humans have chosen to interpret religion on the whole as a weapon to be used against each other. One where people can feel superior, one where people often think they can set rules that you should live by. One then that can only fail.
As happens so often when I’ve thought to myself, I think I’ll write about ‘this’ this week something else will come along and cement the reason why I have to write ‘this’. As I walked my dogs on Tuesday afternoon on the cold but sunny banks of the canal, two hilarious poodles, tanned and white, ran up to my dogs and one stole the ball from mine. No matter what the owner of tanned poodle did, tanned poodle was not for giving up the ball. Don’t worry I said, I’ve got a spare. We got chatting. For whatever reason over the next ten minutes we ended up chatting about loss (her husband, my daughter), difficulties, strength, new beginnings and religion! We both agreed that we were not religious but interestingly she said, do you know what …….this is religion, this is spirituality, this is what religion is. A meeting of two people who are strangers yet who care, who give time and who leave each other that little bit more fulfilled with life.
Poodle owner gave me a hug as she got into her car. Take care cariad, she said.
Religion – believer or non, the one sentence that I do try to live by is to treat others are you would like to be treated, can’t go far wrong with that one!!
Happy Sunday x