Pt 2: Finding and losing faith
(I am writing this blog as a spiritual autobiography as the only thing I can claim to be an authority on is me).
As I said, I came from a non-religious background, unless you count Socialism as a religion. Then, in 1970 something happened to my Father. He started bringing religious books home and talking about God. He had become a Christian and I was really rather pleased. I hoped it would mean we were now one of the church-going families of out village. I also hoped it would mean that my Father’s anger would abate. I cannot judge my father on this as I have a very bad problem with anger myself, but my Father’s anger used to flare up without warning and take the form of personal abuse.
I was disappointed that we were not attending the Parish church, but a mere Methodist chapel. This was closer to my father’s routes – there was a strong link in those days between Methodism and the Labour Party. Eventually I became rather proud of our church’s lack of pomp – it was closer to what Jesus would have wanted. I was also disappointed that religion had no effect upon my Father’s anger, in fact he became more authoritarian and somewhat pompous. He let me know that I was a disappointment to him – not the kind of son he had hoped for.
I attended the church and also the youth club. The thing I liked about church was hearing stories of people smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain or of resisting the temptation to recant their faith under torture from the atheist Communists. What I hated about church were the cliques. I had not passed the ‘Eleven Plus’ exam and so was not eligible to attend Grammar School. All the other kids were from Grammar School and would talk down to me. I was an outsider so desperate to get in.
I did not really find God in church as I had hoped. By 1974 I was not attending and neither was my Father. I do not know why he stopped, but I remember being very upset when he told me he was not a Christian and totally agreed with anti-immigration policies of the Right. It was around about this time that I did encounter God in a more dramatic way.
I was taking O’level R.E and studying the Gospels. It was whilst reading the Sermon on the Mount that I had an overwhelming revelation that this was obviously the truth and one that could change humanity. It was so superior from the Left-wing politics I had been hearing. Not only that, but I actually felt that, as I read the Scriptures, Jesus was with me. Again it was not the kind of thing I could talk about until year’s later, but I have heard so many other people who have had this experience – including recently a highly qualified scientist from a muslim background.
I believed I was a Christian and had found Christ in the New Testament, not in church. I prayed and thought of myself as a spiritual person, but this faith had nothing to do with repenting of sin and I knew nothing about the substitutionary death of Christ. But I was happy and felt an enthusiasm for being alive. I argued with the atheists and agnostics at school and could not understand why they held out against this wonderful God.
All this came to an end when I was around 17 and I saw a theologian on TV called Don Cupitt. He claimed that much of the Gospels were a myth and there was no physical resurrection of Jesus.
I was destroyed by this and I just assumed he must be right because he was a posh bloke on telly. My faith collapsed and I drifted into atheism. To be continued …