Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
My relationship with religion has been, so far, non-existent. That’s if you don’t count the forced trips to church every odd Easter Sunday, and obligatory carol concerts throughout those tumultuous years of primary school. Now, having just entered my twenties, whilst I would not consider myself an ardent atheist, I would neither label myself as theistically minded. Although this mercuriality is unlikely to settle on one side or the other, what I do seek is the ability to think outside these two labels and exist somewhere more fluid. Everything about our society seems to be working towards the dropping of labels and judgement on the way people choose to go about their life. In co-ordance, I too wish to be more open-minded.
The refiguring of my relationship with religion all started when my housemate told me she had started attending church. My instant reaction, unsurprisingly in an age where religion is less focal to our views on existence, and ashamedly now I look back on it, was to laugh. Religion is bad; all bad things in the world stem from a belief in the messages in the over-interpreted bible and God cannot possibly be real (although I have always liked the idea of God being a female). After getting into the depths of discussion with her, I made the decision to be more open-minded about this. Primarily because it was something she found real gravity in (and I had always trusted her choices and opinions), but secondarily to this, I desperately want a world, or at least want to actively work towards a world, where terms that seem to define us no longer bear so much weight on our identities. She was going to church to ask questions; she didn’t have to be religious. And, after deep discussions and many a tea break, I realised that one doesn’t have to declare their love for God in order to enter the threshold of religion. You can enquire and be able to walk out that door still an atheist and not converted or forced into a nunnery- I’m not saying that is what I thought.
If we are, however, talking about religion and being more open to exploring it, what resonated the most with me in this discussion was the question of coincidence. Sometimes things happen that make you think, hold on- is there actually something more to this? Was it me or didn’t I just ask for a sign and suddenly one appears right in front of me? Did I imagine it, or time this just so, so that a gust of wind or an unsettling breeze passes through me when I talk to a loved one? Surely, you cannot deny, we have all experienced a significant coincidence in our life by which we will always distinctly remember; and you probably were so freaked out by it that you never enquired any further, right? Was this because to do so meant to open the intricate box of metaphysics and philosophical thought which has long since confused you? Most likely, that was the case for me too. The discussion of this would be endless and perhaps lead to you losing yourself in thought; it was always best left un-thought about. But, undoubtedly, sometimes it does feel like there is something more to life- whether that be a God in existence, a spirituality to the world, or a belief in the afterlife, perhaps. The point is I am asking you to delve into these questions, and let you know it is ok to want to enquire further, it does not make you religious to walk into a church and ask: ‘what’s the deal with this?’.
Perhaps you also always thought yourself a scientist, a modernist, and the two cannot go hand in hand, right? You could not be more wrong. A scientist can be in the midst of solving cancer, working towards a ground-breaking new vaccine, whilst still believing God had a hand at creating the world we walk on. He doesn’t need to call himself an atheist, a theist, or an agnostic. He is free to exist wherever he wants, and he is also free to enquire. This wouldn’t force him into being religious.
You may, on the other hand, believe God could not possibly be real- I know my other housemate holds this opinion profusely. Genocide, natural disasters, human trafficking- how can God let all of this happen? How on earth could there be an all-good and all-knowledgeable God (I’m really delving back into my GCSE RE days, now), who lets atrocities like this happen? I know I’m often dumbfounded by this whenever I switch onto the news. What I say to that is: great question! Go and ask someone! What would you think if I told you that people openly have discussions about this in some Churches, and the ones who regularly attend Sunday sessions hold their drawbacks and limits to religion, too. The Church isn’t impenetrable to atheists- its doors are open to you at all times, regardless of the opinions and views you hold. It welcomes all, and that is, for me, the epitome of religion.
And also, if you fancy just going along next Sunday to bop to the songs, they’re not too bad either, and its also good way to feel a part of something magnificent. You need only go with an open mind and a question.