Saturday, 23 April 2011

To believe or not to believe

A few days ago I came across a post by Bethan (no Y) regarding religion and her journey to find religion. Did she find it? Go read her post and find out... It got me thinking about my own struggles with faith.

I was brought up in a Christian family. My father's family are Catholic, with several priests in the family. My mother's family are Methodist. I chose to be baptised in the Church of England, presumably because it was familiar: both my primary and the local church are C of E. I went to sunday school and later church student group, and sang in the chapel choir at University.

Father Badger is firmly atheist. Not agnostic (i.e. not bothered, no firm beliefs) but militantly atheist: he firmly believes in no higher power, and he thinks that organised religion is a cause of evil in humanity. To an extent I sympathise with him: there have been many atrocities committed in the name of one faith or another; tribes and peoples are at war because of conflicting faiths. I do however think that if religion was not available to justify these actions, another basis would be chosen: race, colour or similar.

We were married in church, in the village where I grew up. This may seem hypocritical, especially when I say that my faith was already wavering. The vicar was fully aware that Father Badger was not religious, but said he did not see it as a problem as long as the vows were taken with the right intentions and that he was comfortable saying them in church. It was important to me to marry there, mainly because I see that church and its congregation as the centre of my community and upbringing and full of many people that mean a lot to me.

Over the last few years I have become gradually more aware, and recently consciously admitted to myself, that I don't believe in god. I can't pinpoint when it happened, and I'm not even sure if I ever did - I can't think of a moment in the past where I passionately believed, although I must have at some point. I can't see how a god could allow wars, famine, disease. There is no grand plan, no reason for everything. I do however think that church can be a great strength in the community, and provides a good set of morals for bringing up children.

The agreement I have with Father Badger is that Baby Badger must be brought up respecting other people's beliefs, be that in a god or in nothing. I want her to go to church occasionally so she understands her family background, but it's her choice when she's older as to whether she becomes involved or not.

My biggest problem with the lack of faith is guilt. My father is definitely not a believer any more, a result of deployment to war zones with the RAF, but my mother is still firmly Christian. I know she will be devastated if she finds out that I have no faith, and I really don't want to hurt her in this way, but I also don't want to live a lie. My way of dealing with this is to turn up to church on important occasions by way of it being a family event, but I don't read the prayers aloud and I abstain from communion. One day, though, she's going to ask me a question that I can't sidestep and the emotional car crash will occur.

Do you struggle with a similar dilemma? How do you deal with having different beliefs to your family? Have you had the conversation I dread, and how did it go?

Image: nuchylee /


  1. Can't help you with your dilemma but good luck with it. Just wanted to say that you're brave for posting about religion. I don't think I could as it's always such a contentious issue. I'm not a believer myself and really object to believers or non-believers trying to convince people that the are right when it's all a matter of opinion

  2. I agree, it is a very brave post. Well done.

    I can't help either. No one in my family is relgious in anyway and husband's family are the same. But they all complained when we married at the Town Hall and not in a church. To shut them up we had the Mini one baptised C of E. They all loved it, had a wonderful day but not one of them has set foot inside a church since.

    Interested to see what everyone else comments.

  3. It sounds a very very hard decision, I don't know what I'd do. I know it's wrong to "lie" especially in a religious context but perhaps it'd save your mum's pain?
    Really tricky xx

  4. I can't be any help here either but did want to wish you the best in whatever you decide. I really wanted to comment on your statement about bringing your children up to respect others beliefs as being admirable. I never had faith even when sometimes I would have liked to. My parents never spoke of religion leaving me to make up my own mind. Not having had it drummed into me I wasn't going to believe, and I'm ok with that.

    But I've taught in church schools, have known people of all different religions and feel it is so important to respect all people's beliefs. It's good to engage in theological debate, but respectfully so, without rubbishing someone's faith. You have the right idea.

    As for the conversation with your mum, I guess you'll just have to decide which is more important to you between not living a lie or letting your mum believe you still have faith xX

  5. From my point of view (Christian as you know) I would say that if you have a good relationship with your Mum then actally initiate the conversation with her. Of course it will not be easy but you have to be true to yourself and also honest with her.

    Perhaps organise a nice day out together and let her knwo there is something serious you want to talk about. In doing that she will have to see that you undertsand that what you say may hurt her but that it is not your intention and thet you have every respect that she has a strong belief.

    Just imagine how realeased you will feel having had that chat.

    Good luck, Mich x


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