Friday, December 6, 2013

Did that really happen?

I've just started a new blog called "soundtrack of my youth" which I plan to be a series of short autobiographical stories of my childhood that I could share with my children. I have no family at all - no parents, siblings, aunts etc so I am the only source of historical information for my children. As I was setting up the blog I decided to close this one down. I felt my faith journey had come full circle back to agnostic/atheism. I hadn't posted for a while and feel I had nothing to say. 

When I was writing the blog I recalled a film we had seen at school about a quadriplegic woman who had become paralysed aged 17 in a diving accident. On the one hand it was a moment from my past but on the other hand, out of all the years at school it was one of the few things I remembered. I recalled feeling cynical at the time that this was a paralysed woman who was happy. The subliminal message I was sure the nuns were giving us was that only our brains would bring us happiness, not the pursuit of carnal pleasures. 

Well, in sharing this blog, my friend Jane remembered her name, it was Joni. A quick google search and I had not only found the woman but the video too. And then I felt the pangs of guilt for closing this page down. I feel embarrassed and awkward about my "faith" journey. All my "clever" friends bar 3 are atheists (& one of them in my vicar & the other his his wife LOL).

So I've put this blog back up, knowing that some who read it will sneer at me and think less of me. Anyway, to get to the point  - here is the story of Jony Earikson Tada who it turns out is an evangelical Christian. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I haven't posted for a while as I've been having a bit of a crisis of faith. In fact it's been so long I couldn't remember where my blog was so I googled myself to find it and whilst I was looking, this picture popped up.....make of it what you will. My Christian friends will say "Ah, a God-incidence". My other friends will say "Coincidence".

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jesus-lite is not for me

Reverend Giles Fraser has written a brilliant piece in the Guardian today that encapsulates in a few words, thoughts that I, in two years of writing a blog have consistently failed to express. Whatever your persuasion, it's well worth a read.

One paragraph really spoke to me -

"And when such people speak of Cheesus they have to wear that sickly smile too. It's that I-know-something-you-don't smile. Patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time. And if you disagree with them they will pray for you. It makes you want to bang your head against a brick wall."
That was definitely how I felt when I first starting going to an evangelical church. BUT, and that is a big BUT, I came to understand that my reaction told me more about myself than those being kind to me. I felt they were "patronising, superior and faux" but I was wrong. They were the genuine article (in their own minds). If there was one place where I would find authenticity, it was with these people. They really believed!
Even though I have never made it over to their side, I've always felt welcomed and cared for, though, in the spirit of authenticity I have to repeat that I'm an atheist with Christian lapses.
Atheist friends, who are in the vast majority in my life, ask me, "Why do you go to church?". I can't answer with any intellectual rigour except to say that I feel life is generally better when we as a family go.

At the moment, we are living far away from "our church" but to whom have I turned when in need? My vicar.
I don't really believe there is life after death, but I do hope I'm wrong.
I feel that the belief system that I have tried to adopt helps me to be a better person. I know atheists who live more moral and ethical lives than me, so perhaps that just makes me feeble-minded....easier to take a fully constructed mode de vie off the shelf than think one up for myself.
I think this is something that Alain de Botton in his book "Religion for Atheists" recognises. He has come to understand that there are aspects of the community and ritual found in church that are absent from, but would be beneficial in atheist life.
“Differ though we might with Christianity's view of what precisely our souls need, it is hard to discredit the provocative underlying thesis, which seems no less relevant in the secular realm than in the religious one--that we have within us a precious, childlike, vulnerable core which we should nourish and nurture on its turbulent journey through life.” 
I do feel nurtured when I go to church and more importantly am reminded about being aware of others, thinking of others and what I can do for others. This is a fundamental difference with all the "New Age" philosophies that abound. They are, in the most part, about "me"...what can I do for "me" to make me "better". They are, in my view, about going into the self and are self-absorbing.
Returning to Rev. Fraser, he says in his final paragraph, "It can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills and  Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside."
"The disciples run away, unable to cope with the impossible demands placed upon them. The hero they gave up everything to follow is exposed to public ridicule and handed over to Roman execution. And the broken man on the cross begins to fear that God is no longer present"
Like, Rev. Fraser, I feel this is glossed over in many re-tellings of the Easter story. The Evangelical focus on the resurrection fails, in my view, to address the  reality of the existential crisis that occurred in the days before the crucifixion. I believe that, it is this existential crisis that speaks more powerfully to all humanity and relates to our daily lives. The fact that this was then followed by the crucifixion and resurrection (if it it is true) the real Easter miracle.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


In the Bible, Jesus' temptation for 40 days outside the city walls is described in Matthew 4:1-11. I've put the relevant section at the bottom of this blog.

This speaks, very strongly to me today. I have again given up alcohol and unhealthy food for lent. I think I'm on day 11 at the moment but have lost count. It does clear my mind but also allows other thoughts to bubble up.  

I feel that I am "in the desert". Other translations describe Jesus as being outside the city walls rather than the desert. I am physically out of the "city walls" of home and in a different land.
I have been tempted.
Whether it is tempted by the hot buttered toast I made for my son for breakfast or other temptations.
I know that many of my friends are atheists and I describe myself as an atheist who has Christian lapses and I am by nature atheist but hoping that I am wrong.
Alain de Botton has written a fascinating book, where he explores what atheists could learn from religion.
Whilst I have turned to the bible for inspiration I know that many people of other faiths or non-faith do a similar thing - it might be called "detox" or "retreat".

I'm also reminded of a lovely part of the film "Evan Almighty" where the "God" character Morgan Freeman explains how we can learn lessons from life. You can watch it here - 

He says "If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience, or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?"

I'm fascinated by this thought process. Have I asked for something subconsciously or otherwise? Recent experiences have forced me to articulate what I do and don't want from life. If hadn't had those experiences I would not be so clear in my thinking.

This quote from Proverbs 26:24 (NIV translation) came to me today as well - 

"Enemies disguise themselves with their lips but in their hearts they harbor deceit".

The Message translation puts it even more strongly - 

Your enemy shakes hands and greets you like an old friend,
    all the while conniving against you.
When he speaks warmly to you, don’t believe him for a minute;
    he’s just waiting for the chance to rip you off.
No matter how cunningly he conceals his malice,
    eventually his evil will be exposed in public.

I'm in a country where I'm trying to communicate in another language so there's always the strong possibility of misunderstanding and mistranslation to add to the confusion but that doesn't mean that deception doesn't exist.

As usual, I am left with more questions than answers.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I am feeling a very strong disconnect between the words of Jesus and the whole structure of the church (Catholic / Anglican etc). I cannot see the justification for the amount of money the church hordes. How much good could be done with that money? The church hordes money, and has incredible wealth in buildings etc and yet takes more from the people. 

I can see no link between the man that was Jesus and the robes that Priests and Vicars wear. 

In my mind it's becoming more than a disconnect, it's becoming a chasm. 

When I think of Jesus, he was a man who had no possessions, no ego, what he had he gave away, he did not wear special clothes. 

Then I think of the gargantuan structure of the church and I cannot see a link.

Just imagine if the next Pope did a Bill Gates and gave away 90% of the wealth of the church. How much good would that do? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bear Grylls and Christianity

Over the Christmas break I spent an enjoyable few evenings with my two children listening to the audiobook of Bear Grylls' autobiography. Something he said in chapter 25 has stuck with me. How often have I over analysed, over complicated faith? How often have I tied myself in theological knots, ending back at the point of atheism? When he was 16 he had a low point with the death of someone close to him. He said this;

"I remember sitting up a tree one night at school on my own, and praying the simplest, most heartfelt prayer of my life.
Please, God, comfort me.’
Blow me down … He did."

This experience sounds very much like that of a friend of mine who as a teenager was suffering some anxiety and worry about something. She asked God to comfort her and instantly she felt a protective cocoon of warmth and love.

Neither of these were Damascene moments but rather a gentle warm glow of a hidden ember than causes a log to gradually catch fire, slowly emanating warmth. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Women Bishops

Initially I was surprised to see that I had neglected this blog for so many months but this lack of posts is symbolic of my lack of progress on the "faith situation". I've been in a bit of limbo and slipped back into atheism. I have started to feel inauthentic and stopped describing myself as a "Christian".

I've been trying to make sense of the "Women Bishops" vote. If God exists and he has a plan then what was the purpose behind what happened?

It's trying to find answers to questions such as this which leads me to love unintended consequences. If you want to read more about that then try

It occurs to me that one unintended consequence of the failed vote is that everyone is talking about the Anglican Church and getting really passionately vocal (for and against), including me. My outrage at the vote has, curiously, drawn me back towards faith.

Last week my friend said "It makes me SO angry that I want to become a woman bishop, and I'm an atheist".

I replied that when looking at the New Testament, Jesus was very much ahead of his time in how he treated women and put women to the fore. I spoke about  the story of Mary and Martha. My friend stopped me and said "You talk about Jesus like he was a real person". I said "He was!". My certainty surprised me. Those words have stayed with me for a week now, like a coat I can't, or don't want to take off. I am now struggling to understand what it is that I don't believe in. I believe that Jesus was a real person who did what he said he did. Surely that counts as a mustard seed of faith?

It has been so exciting to see my twitter timeline awash with tweets examining the meaning of the bible. Quite often I am reading some amazingly insightful comments from non-Christians. 

I've copied below a few tweets that struck a chord with me. Caitlin Moran, writing in The Times, summed it up nicely saying that it's like being able to be an MP but not the PM or work for NASA but not go into space.

So so sad. Just voted for another 8 years of arguing with each other while the world watches with incomprehension. Don't give up on Church.

The Queen should do an episode of undercover boss where she tries to get a job as a Bishop in that Church Of England she's in charge of.

It was once rumoured that from the top of Canterbury Cathedral, on a clear day, it was almost possible to see the 21st Century.

As it is, many people, atheist or not, have gained an understanding of the workings of the church. I had never heard of the "House of Leity". People have had access to scripture and discussed scripture. How extraordinary that the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:13 is being discussed on twitter.

I'm using the English Standard Version below but it is worth checking out other translations.

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man in Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God".

I have to say that I'm with the Bishop of Liverpool, who in his speech in favour of Women Bishops explained that Christ is not less than God and therefore a woman is not less than a man. So the meaning of this paragraph seems to hinge on the meaning of "headship". 
Those against women bishops just lift out the middle bit "the head of a wife is her husband".
Whereas the Bishop of Liverpool says "God is the head of Christ” can't mean Christ is subordinate to God or a less authority than God because that would be denying the full divinity of Jesus.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams sums up how many people (not just clergy) are feeling "There will be people feeling profoundly vulnerable, unwanted and unsure".
I cannot understand the line of thought of our Dean, in saying that he voted against to prevent a schism in the church.
Surely both positions cannot be correct. One group is right in the eyes of God and one group is wrong. Those who have, I imagine, studied scripture most closely must be the Bishops so I would take their lead.
I cannot think of a worse position than being a Woman Bishop, who is told by a church "You are not wanted. We want a man". I cannot imagine how awful that would feel. It would seem to me that, the very fact that a church wants a man, is the very reason they should have to have a woman, because whilst I can understand that some people may genuinely feel it is a faith based issue, my gut feeling is that there is a larger group who unthinkingly wish things to remain as they have always been. 
Wouldn't "stand-in" Bishops be colluding with those who are against?
Just imagine that this wasn't about "women" but about colour. The words could not even be thought or written down as it would be met with utter outrage but is it really any different?
I believe the church should make a decision one way or another and some will stay and some will leave. Both positions cannot be right.