Conversation 1 (of many to come)
Conversations with God
When I flagged to a colleague that I was about to write a very confronting series of personal posts, I was asked if I was going to launch another of my stinging attacks on religion. I said no.
And I am not.
But this first conversation does deal with my religious views and how they were shaped. My aim in drafting it is merely to put future conversations in context and give a frame of reference for the title given to this series.
The truth is, I once believed in God.
My parents raised me as an Anglican. I went to the local Anglican Church just about every Sunday until I was 15. I was baptised as a baby (something of which my memory is sketchy) and I was confirmed at 13 years of age.
For nearly two years I attended communion, consuming the body and blood of Christ while reflecting on my journey from sinner to saint.
There were times when I enjoyed aspects of my religious life, including reading the Bible and various other religious books, all of which I learned from. I quite enjoyed searching for spiritual meaning.
I never enjoyed getting up early on a Sunday for church.
My interest in religion and my belief in God started to wane at about 15 as I found it harder and harder to reconcile the state of the world with an all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful God.
From 17, I was an agnostic and by 20, a non-believer.
My journey to non-believer accelerated at university as I became increasingly attracted to the notion of evidence. To this day, evidence is very important to me, and to this day, without evidence I find I cannot believe in anything.
I have seen no evidence that there is a God and libraries of evidence that an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving god are inconsistent with the state of the world to date. I now view the existence of God unnecessary. Everything I have ever seen or heard can be explained without reference to a God.
I did go through a spiritual stage, believing in the possibility and even probability of a lifeforce or similar. For a while, I accepted the view that energy at the point of death was evidence of a spiritual dimension.
I subsequently concluded this was a cop out, a belief for the insecure – again not supported by any evidence whatsoever. Buddhism appealed to me as a way of life, but the idea of reincarnation also lacked any kind of evidential base.
The facts are, we can have morality without spiritualism, we can have the universe without spiritualism - and I have no fear of death and no concern about the notion that one day, I will be nothing more or less than a memory. I not only see no evidence of a God or of spiritualism, but I have no need for either.
I am not an atheist, because I also lack the evidence to say that there is no God with any certainty. Indeed, I would argue that to be certain that there is not God is as bizarre as believing there is one.
While I do not believe in God, I am aware that 15 years of religious education has impacted on and influenced me to this day, including on the content of these conversations. Indeed, this is an issue I intend to explore in the future.
So, given all of this, where did the title, Conversations with God, come from?
I love writing and public speaking. I view both as potent forces and great vehicles through which I can make a difference.
I have been accused in the past of lecturing audiences, both in my writings and my speeches, a ‘quality’ that can be confrontational. In this series, I want to be more engaging and have a conversation. Indeed, I want to have a series of interconnected conversations.
From definition, a conversation involves two parties.
I am well known for being direct, open and honest. In this series, I want to be more direct, open and more honest than ever. In considering this I thought to myself, who would one be more direct, open and honest with than God? Indeed, what would be the point of lying to God? What would be the point of beating around the bush or obfuscating with God. After all, in addition to being all-powerful and all-loving, he is supposed to be all-knowing.
Is not God the only being we cannot lie to?
Research suggests that on average, human beings lie about three times every 10 minutes and men lie more than women, particularly in communicating with women. We all lie constantly to ourselves and seem to have these inbuilt, innate mechanisms that enable us to accept our own lies – even if it means developing a contrived rationalisation. There are also so many things that most, if not all of us, will not say, even to ourselves.
I know there are things that I know about myself that I am as yet unable to articulate - even to myself in my mind. Perhaps these issues will find their way into words in this Conversation with God.
God is apparently male, knows everything and is, by all reports, very judgmental. He is therefore the idea partner for a direct, open and honest discussion about the intensely personal issues to be addressed in this series of articles. With God, and a fellow male, I feel less concerned about the vulnerabilities that will inevitably arise when honest, personal words are put to screen.
To know what those issues are, you will have to read conversation two. Suffice to say, this is the story of a journey, a human journey that will have resonance for us all.
Next week: Part Two - The Alternatives (intrigued?)