This week Rye Lane’s happy clappy church community made my normally somnambulant schlep to work considerably more bearable with their recruitment drive at the train station. Thanks for that, but I’m not convinced that credit is jew.
For the first time ever I arrived at the station in time for the train that I was aiming to connect with. Displays in the ticket hall informed me of a similarly punctual train while the Christmas crooning acolytes of All Saints church filled me with cheer. I also filled myself with the gingerbread men they were giving out.
There’s something about Christian girls that I frequently find attractive; it’s the same with socialists. That morning’s bevy of Alpha course recruiters would have led the most pious mind to impure thoughts, and I certainly indulged in the sin of lust before stepping onto a train so miraculously empty that I almost got a seat.
Looking out of the open train doors from South Bermondsey towards Canary Wharf and the surrounding clutch of buildings that make London’s only exciting skyline, across the railway arches dusted with ice, and towards the rising eastern sun, a surprising thought dawned. Despite the good luck I had experienced that morning, despite reading the literature foisted upon me and eating the gingerbread man replete with food colouring stigmata, I couldn’t be less religious.
I’m not an atheist, I’m not agnostic. Both these positions imply a relationship with the concept of God, and that’s something I don’t have. I’ve never really been called to specify my religiosity; it’s not a topic of conversation. If it was then it would be substantially more socially acceptable to declare an interest in Jah or fairies than a Christian god. By which I mean a lifestyle spirituality that everyone knows is made up.
When I discovered that members of my family were religious I felt a little bit like I’d been told they had decided to live up a tree to prevent deforestation. I was aware that people might do such things – just not normal people, or people in my family. If you lived in a country where religion was the norm, fair enough, but it seemed like a strange thing to choose to commit to.
I think that kind of reaction is a bit depressing. I don’t mean that I want to start denying evolution or prefacing opinions with quotations from the bible, but to live your life with no sense of the “other” is a bit prosaic. What can I do though? I certainly can’t summon faith from nowhere, nor would I want to try. Maybe just brief recognition that I exist on the ineffable manifold of reality in my everyday life would be a start. It’s a hard thing to keep at the forefront of your mind though. I normally think that professing not to believe in organised religion is equal on the wanky scale to people from the city being anti fox hunting, but maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to castigate those with unspecified spiritual curiosity.
Obviously having written this I may well have jeopardised my chances at the pearly gates, should they exist, but I ask one small mercy. I would like to be allowed to keep DVD footage the expression on my face when it first becomes apparent that I’ve backed the wrong transcendental horse. The facial contortion required to communicate that amount of surprise would be sure to make satisfying viewing, hopefully enough for me to while away eternity in the fiery pits.