The tussle between Faith and Fact
There must be many people who were brought up in a religion of one kind or another and who have lapsed as they grew older. Age is not kind to faith. Facts get in the way of belief. Religious behaviours sully the simple beliefs. If ministers cannot be examples why should their followers? Anyway, facts are enough for one life; learning them and developing new ones are quite time consuming. Besides, the controls religions of all sorts try to impose become tiresome and seem to fail to acknowledge our own growing up.
In the early stages of life religion probably provided comfort, a haven from the outrages of the adult and social world with all their competitive demands. If the Supreme Being wasn’t very responsive nor was He, She or It as critical as their earthly representatives sometimes were. Mostly, religious ministers and sisters were kindly and understanding. Some were positive saints. Others were, like the rest of us, intermittent sinners as they – and we – explored the boundaries of relationships and tiptoed round the edges of propriety. We all recognised that a life without exploring is a poor one. Exploring involves risk-taking. Risks can fail and damage.
Electricity bills, thoughtless bosses, and kids combined to make us aware that we have one life, one journey on this amazing planet, and we’d better make the most of it. If we maintained our religious practice, so much the better. If we didn’t, not much the worse. Maybe time became our master and made demands on us that precluded the finer points of worship and religious observance. If we did our best, helped as many people as we reasonably could and lived lives of honesty we had surely behaved enough to merit whatever came with death.
Life is a practical affair. If we reach a time when we can ponder what it is all for, we are fortunate. Maybe then our religion can be fitted into a reasonable existence; or perhaps we can rationalise its absence. There will be things about it that we miss, for sure. A quiet time to ourselves once a week. An opportunity to think about those who have gone before us. Some familiar music and songs and a few well repeated readings are soul soothing, whatever the faith attached to them. You do not have to believe everything they say you should. As an 18-year-old once so wisely said to me “Religion is religion; my faith is my own”. Out of the mouths of babes…
Religions have signally failed to adapt to the times. Not all. Some have become painfully businesslike, promising wealth and worldly success in return for subscription and attendance. These give religion a bad name and don’t qualify as religion at all as far as I can see. Others plough on with their dreary shibboleths about birth control and the like, making a congregation of hypocrites out of perfectly good and loyal members. Denial of the joys of life to good people is as wicked as the teaching of out of date facts. Fake news is condemned from the pulpit even as it is often communicated from the altar.
There are many good ministers. My No 1 son, Richard, is one. He makes a church of reality for a congregation of realists. It is a light service of Light. I can attend it without a qualm. He buries the dead with a skill born of experience and inward confidence. If someone is to bury me one day I hope it is Richard. He will span the gap between my faith and my facts most comfortably.
Even the most ardent scientist wonders in the small hours of the night if the DNA of life could really be an accident. There is no shame in having a doubt whilst retaining a longing to believe. Maybe it is a matter of time. What we want at one moment is different for our needs at another.
When the rain comes you need an umbrella.