Child and photo author's own
I was reading the entire internet yesterday, as is my custom. (I know I tried to give it up in last week's MILF TEETH, but irresponsible people have been uploading new stuff onto it.) Anyway, one website had put up photos of creationists holding up signs saying what they believed in – that God created everything, Adam and Eve are bigger ballers than evolution, and that the Big Bang Theory really means that an omnipotent God just decided to say the word "BANG" one day, like a total dude. Then another website had got scientists to write sarky captions next to these beliefs, containing helpful pointers about evidence-based trust, and how, if God created this beautiful amazing world, then he must have put the leukaemia and parasitic wasp larvae in it, too.
The scientists' snark was good, and some of their points weren't just strong, they were strident. It's really important to champion how far science has brought us, and clarify what Dark Ages the creationists and other such blindly religious sorts would take us back to. Except – except – I write this with a full moon above me, feeling open and clean in my heart. All day I have had a strong feeling that I would like to find a channel to talk to God. Enter a conversation with him, her, like I did when I was a faithful child. I don't know how to do that any more, though. Find my way to that which is sacred. The numinous. I'm part of a society that has thought its way past God, and so have I, rationally – but despite the website, with their scientists and its snark, the feelings still remain.
Even if you're reading this, fairly sure you've never had a religious inkling in your life, and pretty sure your parents didn't either, it's still likely that you come from a culture founded along religious lines. And there's got to be a cultural fallout when a society goes from faith to not – a gap to be minded so much more than people seem to realise. (I realise the Enlightenment was meant to have dealt with a lot of this centuries ago, but church attendance in Britain was entirely normal for much of the 20th century, and is still obligatory in many parts of London if you want to get your kids into a good local school, which is insane. Obviously, you're not an idiot, we all realise here that there are many faiths beyond the Christian one, too.)
I mean, if you take the foundations, basements, attics and guttering away from your house, and replace the landlord whom you always thought was there with an argument broken down into a 140-character soundbite that gets retweeted by Ricky Gervais – this is what it can feel like to rip religion out of our lives. It can be quite satisfying, writing a 140-character soundbite that gets retweeted by Ricky Gervais. But it's a different kind of satisfying from a life spent safe in the apparent knowledge that you are working towards a state of exultation in Paradise, where all the stuff you're missing in your life won't count for shit, as the loving almighty Dad we're all waiting to meet can see straight through to your golden, shining heart.
People used to believe, and still do in less secular places than VICE, that the older and weaker they got, the more good deeds done, the closer they were to this Paradise. Imagine thinking that was what was coming to you at the end of your life, not just a miserable demise into terminal mutilations, or a whizzy wheelchair ride off to an assisted death clinic in Switzerland. Instead, a luscious garden of delights! A reunion with everyone who ever loved you, and all of those feelings of love, and a totally harmonious reworking of the fact that, having been widowed twice, you might have two spouses waiting there for you, and the cousin you cheated on them with, and the staffie that was put down under the Dangerous Dogs Act. And yes, this sort of faith was what was taught to slaves to quell their desires for justice in this life, and used as a means of oppression of so many kinds of underdog, but the ideation is so very compelling – you strive and repent and strive and repent and all the stuff you ever loved will be there in the end.
The welfare state was described, at its inception, as something that was there to support us from the cradle to the grave. The safety net that would always be there to catch you as you fell. The Tories are currently having a lovely time running through it with a massive pair of pinking shears, slashing those feelings of security from beneath our feet. Imagine religion, then, as the welfare state of the mind. The knowledge that, however crap your current material situation, however hard on your luck or love you are, something warm is waiting for you and you will never truly be alone. Now imagine people coming along with their atheist pinking shears to slash that sentiment.
So go easy on the religious. The fall from faith is a long one. The landing is a hard one.