I think that explaining some of the reasons why I haven’t posted about religion/faith/God might be a good start to actually doing so now. Naturally if you don’t want to hear it, look away now!
I doubt many of you will ever have heard me talk much about my faith, in fact, because it’s always been something I’ve kept more to myself than explored more openly with others. That’s not quite right, because in practical terms I went to a Benedictine school, go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, like to spend Easter at Downside, go to Mass, and happily declare myself a Roman Catholic, for example: these are all experiences I share with others and that have obviously played a major part in developing what I believe in. But when it comes to actually talking about what I believe in, and particularly discussing theological issues, I’ve generally kept my thoughts to myself.
So (and I don’t know which is cause and which is effect) I’ve always thought of religious belief as a very personal thing. Far from being an evangelist (and I never felt comfortable with the aggressive Christianity you see so much, and get thrust in your face too much, I felt, at university), I’ve always felt that my faith is something for me to explore in private, and certainly not force on anyone else. If someone asks me about what I believe, I prefer to say ‘I’m Catholic’ and move on (there are exceptions, of course) than to actually go into a description of what I believe.
A lot of this is probably because I, like most people, am not sure what I believe. Faith, by definition, relies on believing things you can’t be sure about (in a scientific sense), and it would be a rare believer who never questioned their own beliefs and faith. In any sphere it’s generally good to share ideas and debate, to help discover what you believe, but I have never felt confident enough about what I think to feel at ease arguing it. I never had any desire to talk to the CU lot at Oxford, because they were so confident in what they believed, or at least seemed it, and I knew they could easily argue why they believed it. Equally I had no desire to talk to non-believers, who could happily line up arguments against anything I had vague notions of… Religion is a source of such differing ideas/beliefs, none of which can be proven either way, that many people love to argue about it and are very good at doing so: I don’t and am not!
Partly that’s just me being non-confrontational – I don’t like arguing with anyone, or even disagreeing. I often have to stop myself from ceding to people’s points of view simply because I don’t want to put them off. And that’s probably a major reason why I haven’t brought up religion here. I know many of my friends don’t believe in God, and I don’t want a) to argue with them and b) put them off me! Which is crazy, because these friendships aren’t conditional on having the same religious beliefs, but I just don’t like to cause a fuss… I do think some appreciate the fact that I have never tried to force my beliefs on them, but I know that actually as a Christian I should be trying to spread the Word. I don’t have the confidence in my own judgement, however, particularly when it comes to such an enormous issue such as theology, to assume that I am right, so I could never try to persuade a friend that they, too, should be Catholic. Or Christian. Or believe in God. Or whatever. Because they are equally or more adept at making their own minds up.
For these vaguely-explained-and-not-very-well-described reasons and probably many others I haven’t mentioned, I’ve avoided mentioning God. Until now. I have thought a lot more about religion and my own faith since being ill, as I have about lots of things, and I guess I’ve realised that it is very important to me. I think it’s silly for me not to to talk about what I believe, particularly as it may help me to clarify things, and it may help friends/family to know what’s going through my tattered brain, and perhaps help you work out what you think (not that it’s about finding answers, necessarily: working out the questions is hard enough sometimes).
I will therefore be posting about my religious thoughts, and of course you are welcome to ignore such posts if you’d rather not know what I think. But please do feel free to add your own views, questions, anything: I’ve always been very open generally, but not about religion and so I do feel a little more naked than usual (and that’s saying something, considering the fact I’ve been loafing around in hospital in little more than a pair of boxer shorts).