I think my story is probably very boringly similar to most converts out there.
I was brought up in the Catholic faith (shock! “poor thing’ my adult friends say) – I found it to be a stultifyingly boring experience … hour-long sessions at church on a Sunday (while dad was out playing tennis) in which the only good positive thing that came out of each session was that it had an an end and we would stop for fresh sausage rolls en route to the tennis club. There were attempts to send us to Sunday School … but thankfully they didn’t last too long – more I think because it interfered with the social aspect of our lives than with actually thinking that it was a boring crock of old stories. My relationship with Catholicism was steeped in a fear of purgatory and eternal damnation, I wasn’t actually questioning the validity of the claims. It was just bloody boring.
The boarding school I was sent to in the last years of high school was secular by nature, but it still had a very strong contingent of Afrikaans christians (we by the way are english-speaking South Africans) … one of whom was my hockey coach. I confess that there was a period that he got me … I became BORN-AGAIN. I described it as ‘the happiest time of my life’ – everything was going well. My mum’s reaction at the time (over the phone) was lukewarm to say the least … somehow re-borns are more scary than Catholics? Fortunately that too was short-lived – (one month I think) … It was hard work. Pray all the time. Praise God all the time. Meet all the time to say “we love God’ all the time. I relapsed and went back to my old ways of being a wicked teenager again.
After that it faded into obscurity until I had my first child. And then internal conversations …”I’m not really a religious person, but … my child needs to be exposed to some kind of faith’ (really!). After my stints with Catholicism and Christianity, I did know that they were not the paths that I wanted to take. My husband in all of this is very typically in the dad-camp – ‘up to you babe, as long as there’s a Greater Being’. I came across a book called Conversations with God – which was very much a progressive stance on all things Biblical – and I really really liked it. Neal Donalde Walshe’s God made a whole lot more sense to me than the dude I’d been previously exposed to – and it became a message that I embraced …. (I did ignore the part where he says that his hand just started moving across the page and the words followed – it was God doing the writing) . There were also elements that I couldn’t get to grips with, such as reincarnation, the claim that that our souls CHOOSE the families that they are born into (yeah really, tell that to my domestic worker who lives in a shack in Khayalitsha) – I did try, but eventually, I also started thinking it was ridiculous. We carried on our lives … without a quest for belief .. just trucking along, but still classifying ourselves as Christians (the schools do ask for this info on application forms)(??!!).
And then ….
The God Delusion … It was so left field … I had picked it up at the bookshop, but then put it back because I feared that it may be offensive. Then an friend/associate who’d also read Conversations recommended that I read it.
A LIFE-CHANGING BOOK IF EVER THERE WAS ONE.
This was 3 years ago … My children believe in God because they are exposed to bible stories once a week – they also know that I don’t believe – they don’t know why, they haven’t asked (they are 8 & 5)… but as yet, I have not been able to explain to them how I got to this point. Partly because my husband cannot & will not accept my atheism (I do tell him as gently as I can that that is religious intolerance at its’ best) and to date, I have also felt that I am not fully capable of stringing together my rationale in a short concise anti-inflammatory introductory ‘paragraph’ .
However, I am now feeling better equipped … yesterday I listened to a podcast with John Loftus and the guys from Irreligiosophy – I have found my paragraph!
1. Geography will generally dictate which faith we get exposed to as children
2. All believers think that it’s THEIR religion that is the correct one.
3. If we can as an outsider, question the faith of another, and feel justified in laughing and ridiculing their claims, so too, must we look at our own with the same sceptical filter that we apply to others.
With these 3 tenets – surely the next step is to start questioning everything?
I continue trawling the net for podcasts to listen to while I run – slowly slowly my confidence is growing.
Thank you for the conversion. It was swift.