When I was a child my parents did not lead me in ways to suggest a reverence for the word or meaning of God. They even spelled it differently: Gawd! Pronouncing it with exasperation, as if someone had let them down again. At the time my friends and I thought the Catholic kids who were educated in the scary looking building down the street belonged to the Others so we teased them. As I grew I ditched my ridicule but maintained my curiosity regarding God-fearing personalities. I was curious enough to marry one. My first wife was a gentle soul, raised in the ways of a Christian. She practised her spirituality rather than spouted it. She was subtle in her evangelism; leaving a newish version of the Gospel out on a side table for example, knowing I liked to read almost any text. It was that gentle persuasion that got me accompanying her to services on Sunday. I came to understand the Bible not as the Word of God but for its intent.
This became my God Period: going to church on a regular basis with my growing family. During those years I included myself through reading, leading, singing and otherwise participating in finding out more about my spirit. It was fun and rewarding. I learned a lot about people. I think it helped me be a good father to my children and a husband to my wife.
A survey from Angus Reid Polling landed in my email inbox last week asking me to identify my faith status from a long list of choices. I chose ‘none of the above’ for several reasons: I don’t practise the tenets of any one faith, I don’t attend any religious functions, I don’t pray. I believe that religion no longer has a place in my life. The idea of God still fascinates me as it did when I was using it to understand community but I am not a godly person. Calling myself a humanist sounds banal. Being an atheist just sounds argumentative.
Yet here I capitalize the word God. I still feel as godless as when I was a child. I don’t believe that a god created all things. As an artist I have sometimes entertained the notion that I am the maker of my existence, yet I resist using The Creator’s name as an expletive out of respect. I feel I can appreciate the many deities that are worshipped throughout the world while never feeling the urge to kneel. I have witnessed some amazing things but do not believe that these happenings were the result of a divine hand. I refuse to give credit to a supreme power, nor will I accuse such an entity of meddling negatively in my personal affairs.
Many philosophers, I have read, describe themselves as anti-theist. I find much in common with that willful declaration. My spiritual side comes out when I’m being silly, when I’m feeling carefree holding hands with my wife, when I’m awestruck by the vastness of the universe and all it contains.