I am a cradle Catholic which means, as only cradle Catholics will understand, that as far as the RC church is concerned they have got me for life. The theory is that we who were born and baptised Catholics might at some point in our lives renounce ‘the faith’ and we might well renounce ‘the faith’ for quite some time, - the Church is quite understanding, even forgiving in theses matters - but beneath it all, when all is said and done, we are still RCs, and rather like lost lambs might eventually find our way back to the fold. The important point is that as far as ‘Mother Church’ is concerned we have no choice in the matter. It is our destiny. Even what I write here will, as far as the true RC believers will tell themselves, be nothing but proof that I have ‘lost the way’ and that with a good deal of prayer I will find ‘my way back’ to Mother Church.
It might comes as no surprise to some of you that Stalin, when he was still known as Joseph Jughashvilli (I understand the spelling varies according to how much vodka you have had to drink) trained to be a Georgian Orthodox priest and it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination that he learnt much of his murderous methodology from the church. Although the various flavours of the Russian Orthodox church might have very little in common with Vatican’s Roman Catholicism and want very little to do with the Vatican’s Roman Catholicism, it will not have been lost on either variety that once you have convinced someone that their destiny is in God’s hand and that you, as God’s representative on Earth, call the shots, there is not a great deal they can do. It is a crude but very effective form of brainwashing. That seems to be a lesson Stalin learnt. Make them ‘love’ you, and they will do anything for you, even kill those who don’t ‘love’ you.
I write this now, late on Saturday night (here in Britain) and on the eve of the Christian churches most important annual feast day, because despite being ‘lost to the church’ and despite thinking that a great deal of what it ‘teaches’ is just some much hooey, that it’s not quite as simple as that. For in my own very private and very obscure way I have ‘a faith in God’. But I do not believe that the historical figure of Jesus Christ was ‘God’ or the ‘son of God’ or in any way divine. I believe that he was born, had brothers and sisters, married and shat just like most of us. I believe that he was a devout Jew, more devout than many, that he belonged to the Nazarene sect whose aims were twofold: to purify the Jewish faith and to rid Palestine (or whatever the Jews regarded as their home) of the occupying Roman forces. I believe that there were quite a few chuntering around that neck of the woods believing themselves to be ‘the Messiah’. I also believe that the church’s central figure of ‘Christ’ was wholly a creation of St Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus, who cobbled together a Christian myth from all sorts of sources. James, Jesus’s brother rumbled Saul quiet early on and wanted very little to do with him.
I must admit that the beliefs I have listed above are not based on thorough and deep research but upon merely reading two books (well three, really, but I’ll come to that later on). They are A N Wilson’s Jesus: A Biography and the one rather provocatively entitled Jesus: The Terrorist about which I have written before. And I must also admit that I have laid myself wide open to any number of criticisms by saying as much. I should, though, in fairness to myself add that my convictions also lean on my life experience and what, at 61, I know of humankind. The third book was one I read over 40 years ago and of which I remember very little. It was written Hugh Schonfield and called The Passover Plot, and no doubt it, too, is decried by the wise men of the Vatican as just another potboiling piece of shit. Which is fine by me as I can’t remember the first thing about what I read in it.
So that’s me having put the RC church and ‘cradle catholics’ in their place. But I should also like to add that, within reason, whatever the faith, I think it is better to have a faith than not. In that respect there is nothing that distinguishes Christians form Muslims from Hindus from Buddhists from Zoroastrians from - the list is infinite. You might even include humanists. In their very modern and oh so enlightened way they might deny vehemently that they are ‘a faith’ and the more militant humanists might even consider calling in their very expensive lawyers and suing for libel. But, sorry chaps and chappesses, you might not have ‘a God’ but as far as I am concerned you are a faith.
What is most intriguing is that however much these different faiths disagree and however much they feel the need to kill each other, fundamentally their principles are identical: love thy neighbour and all that entails and acknowledge that there is something greater than humankind (call it God, Allah, Jahveh or whatever you like – just don’t pretend he/she/it doesn’t exist). Oh, and there’s more to life than gold and silver.
At the end of the day I don’t give a flying fuck whether the RCs believe I am reclaimable, benighted, misguided, ‘lost’ or anything else. That is no longer my problem. John Hume observed that ‘man created God in his own image’, and that about sums it up. I am grateful to ‘Mother Church’ for whatever good it passed on to me, but I like to think that one of those things is to be honest with oneself, and whatever my conscience tells me will remain between me and my conscience (which is, by the way, a cynical little toad). I am no longer a Roman Catholic. I don’t believe that Jesus Christ was in any way divine. But I do believe that I am nothing without other people and I do believe that in our hearts all of us – all of us, even those who think they are the worst of the worst – know what is right and what is not right. And I pray that each and every one of us can find the strength in ourselves to do the right thing by others. It would sound horribly wishy-washy to end this particular rant with an exhortation to love one another, so I shall put it another way: don’t be too hard on the schmuck who has just cut in on you. And maybe he won’t be too hard on you.
So, a happy Easter break to you all.