I used to be very religious. It started when I was 8: when you learn everything about god through school. You kind of become indoctrinated. I was Christened and confirmed, and that probably compounded it. And then when I got to a Church of England school, it was even more pushed in your face. And I also really liked it! My quest was to read the whole Bible. Obviously I didn’t [laughing]. I just thought ‘obviously that’s how it is’. It wasn’t until I hit 16 that they actually made you question it. Then I thought, ‘hang on a minute, it doesn’t add up’. We learned about the theory of evolution, and I think I have more of a scientific brain, rather than a spiritual brain. So now it’s a bit bleak! I don’t know what I believe…I just believe in humans, and that you have the power and the energy within you to make things happen. Maybe I believe that humans can make their own religion, so like the religion of football, or the religion of consumerism, or…anything…religion of academia. It’s something that binds people. I think that’s what religion means.
But what I personally believe in? Energy. What you give to the world is what lives on. Even just tiny little snippets of information that you’ve shared, and when people repeat it back to you and you thought it was nothing, you see it actually made an impact. To speak is energy.
I think you’ve got to think scientifically about the meaning of life. So I think it’s humans who give themselves purpose. And actually if you didn’t have a purpose, I think that can lead to depression, or anxiety. It’s kind of sad. Like mothers can get the empty nest syndrome, because maybe they had the religion of the child, or child-rearing. You put all your energy into that, and suddenly they are leaving the nest, and you’ve lost your purpose in life.
You need to find something in yourself and participate in it. You can call yourself a Christian, but unless you go to the church and form part of the community it can become meaningless. I think the social element is important. Cults and communes all have that one common belief, something they all share without which you wouldn’t have the commune. No man is an island. You can’t function all by yourself. My uncle does seem like an island, inwardly shy and not very sociable, but even he needs someone, like my grandmother, and he goes to the pub every day.
My community at present is probably motherhood. You have shared experiences, and share advice. I never thought I’d be one of those women who just talk about children but I have turned into one of them. Motherhood is what gives meaning, and what bonds. It’s quite hard when you go to a schoolyard, you’ve got all these different women and dads from different backgrounds and belief systems, and the one common ground is the children. Once you venture past that…maybe they’ve forgotten who they were! Parenthood completely envelopes you, so maybe you can lose part of your identity.
Although I have noticed in our area, people do tend to go to church. It’s a family thing too, and there’s Sunday school. That’s probably what happened to me! Even though my dad is an atheist, and my mum was brought up Catholic – but she is more agnostic, or spiritual – if you move to an area and you don’t know anyone, the church may be an obvious place to go to meet people. I find some Christian people the most judgemental people; perhaps they didn’t go into it for the good of humankind, but to make friends! And for their children to meet other supposedly well-behaved Christian children. But I like the concept of Christianity, and I learned a lot. It taught me to be a good person. Especially when you’re younger, you learn about the world and how to treat people like you want to be treated. Christianity does outline those principles, and rules and regulations. Love thy neighbour, and that if you steal you may not only go to jail but you’re also a bad person, and you can go to hell! Which maybe as a child is more worrying.
We thought we would take my son to church, but we have other commitments. But I can imagine if we didn’t have that, so much family and friends, football and swimming, maybe we would be drawn to it. I know he’s taught it at school, and I think I actually quite like it. I want my children to have the same childhood as I did. Some of my friends who went to the same school as me, they say from the outset to their children, ‘some people believe in god, and some people don’t’, whereas I can’t bring myself to say that. When my son talks about god, I’m like, ‘oh really, yes! God! Jesus!’ [laughing]. It’s like not wanting to tell that Father Christmas doesn’t exist. He’ll figure it out by himself and then he’ll have to find out what gives meaning to his life. For now it’s fine.
And when you’re growing up, it can give you that comfort, to think that when you die you can go to some other lovely place, with my parents…It’s very bleak to say that when you die it’s over. How do you explain that to children? And that’s how I thought when my grandfather died, he was still there, in that lovey place, seeing me. And I guess I actually still think that, bizarrely, even though I don’t believe in the afterlife. [laughing] That’s odd actually! Maybe it is still within me. Even when I got married, I wanted to get married in a church. Even though I’m not religious, it adds more special meaning.
If I’m around someone who is very religious, I won’t say outwardly that I’m not. I kind of go with the flow and nod in agreement. Because I can always see it from their point of view. And I don’t want them to think that I find them silly for believing. So they might be confused to find out I’m not religious! Not that I’m shouting ‘bless the Lord’ or anything! [laughing]
If there was a religion that I could definitely follow, it would be Buddhism. I just love their philosophy: it’s not materialistic, it’s all about being happy within yourself. Everything is sacred, even an ant, a wasp, and isn’t it where yoga and mindfulness came from, the idea of being at one with yourself? Maybe if my husband was a Buddhist, and my friends, I would follow. But I just haven’t met anybody who is a Buddhist. But I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. I’ve just started yoga, and that’s got Buddhist philosophies, even in the end they say ‘namaste’. And I love it. There’s no competition, just following your journey. And I love the people in orange, who go around in London, the Hare Krishna’s. It’s all of them, in their orange, and full of energy. I just think, ‘actually, I want to be in that pack’. They look so happy! Chanting along. Individuals with one common belief. Perhaps that may be my next step, after the religion of motherhood.