Saturday, 17 March 2012
I'm not religious but...
I'm not religious but...
I don't think about religion much either. I don't read Richard Dawkins and I don't go to church because I just don't feel the need to. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in fate. Or heaven or hell.
What I do believe in, absolutely and utterly, is other peoples right to claim the comfort, community and shared care which religions give to those who need it (as long as no harm is done). I don't believe in attacking or intellectually deconstructing other peoples beliefs. I believe other peoples beliefs are their and no business of mine.
So why am I sharing this with you?
A footballer fell over on a pitch. Lots of people tweeted the hashtag #prayformuamba... and then the comments appeared, retweeted into my stream, that prayers were not what was needed for muamba, that medics were needed.
Well the thing is, how do you know for sure? In the same way I can't prove there isn't a god, I don't think anyone can prove there is one either. But I suspect the outpouring of tweets, well wishes and thoughts are singlehandedly improving the internal relations of the football fan community as we speak. If some of those fans choose to express their concerns in terms of religion because that is what they turn to for comfort in times when they feel fear, or grief, or sadness, then who are we to remove that?
You don't take a teddy off a 5 year old who's crying. And in my mind, having a pop at a bunch of people who believe prayers work right now, that's kind of akin to removing their teddy bear.
It's a pretty poor world we live in if we cannot allow adults the same warm comfort and solace at times when they feel they need it because of some weird innate sense in ourself that means we need to impose our own thoughts, belief patterns and superiority on others.
I used to work as a Court Officer in the Probation Service. I also was asked to be the Diversity Rep, in the absence of anyone else volunteering. One day, one of the Probation Officers came to me and asked me why some of the other Probation Officers were being so dismissive of her religion, explaining to her that 'they couldn't understand why someone so intelligent believed not even in one god but in many of them, like some kind of weird fantasy book'.
I didn't know what to say. I was young, I guess, and I was the wrong person to be a Diversity Rep. I don't know why I was asked either, and part of me hopes the suspicion it was because I was the only white girl going to lunch with a bunch of black girls were completely unfounded. The lady whose beliefs were being questioned was a female Sri Lankan, a Hindu and still one of the most sparkly, vivacious and wonderful people I've ever known. In fact, coincidentally, I seem to only ever have crossed paths with utterly lovely Hindus.
She felt her intelligence was being called into question, but even more than that, her culture as well as her religion. For her, family, culture and religion were unquestionably intertwined. She did not question her heritage, she did not question her religion. This was because her religion was not something to be questioned - instead it was linked to spirituality, something she felt, not thought. Therefore, to her, it was completely bizarre for someone to question her thinking on the matter. It was like someone questioning where she was born, how she was born, and how she would die.
For some religions, culture and tradition entrenched within it are so closely linked to ones sense of self that to try and detach the two is simply impossible. To remove the religion would remove the need for the tradition and if you remove tradition from a life wrapped around it, then you remove the community from that person because that is where community crosses, where contact is made, where predictable paths cross and recross again.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, questioning someones religion? It's might look simple to you, from your purely intellectual point of view, but religion isn't intellectual. It's spiritual. And this little unlabelled person aint messing about with no one else's sense of that.