I don’t want to start off with a negative answer, but I want to say I don’t believe in anything spiritual. And I suppose what I do believe in is concepts like fairness, respect, honesty, that you don’t necessarily need to link to something extra-human. But then what do I mean with believe in those things? I guess principles you would ideally want to live by. Like a process rather than an endpoint. But that in their entirety can be achieved, without appealing to something higher.
I was brought up in a Catholic household. My mum is Catholic, she’s from Ireland. And she was brought up not to question that you’re Catholic and go to mass on Sundays. And so, I guess my mum and dad decided to bring their family up going to mass every Sunday. We went to Catholic school. And when I was a teenager, I really really wanted to believe in God. I was involved in Christian youth groups. Mainly because I had a boyfriend who was really involved in that and I sort of wanted to impress him. But I used to go to these retreats and see my friends have these amazing ideas that…they had this believe in God and it was so amazing, and I felt like I was missing out on something. To the point that I would even pretend that I knew, that that was happening to me as well.
But then after a while I just stopped thinking about it. I think I didn’t have a big sort of epiphany, ‘this is all bullshit’. But I just became interested in different things. And all the questions I was interested in asking, you could answer without looking towards something spiritual. And now I struggle to understand why people feel the gap. All those things I thought I was missing when I was a teenager, looking at my friends who had this faith, I’ve forgotten what they were, and I don’t feel at all that something is missing.
But I suppose the roots of my moral compass, it must be based in Christianity. Because that was what was drilled in to me as a kid. You know, there’s nothing wrong with, ‘do unto other as you would have them do unto you’, a lot of the principles, even though they might be rooted in something questionable or ethereal, but in the end of the day, they’re not bad guiding principles.
The only thing I might identify with would be historical materialism, which is the definition of a non-spiritual way of looking at things. Or theories of justice and equality of persons. And the need to even things out between them as much as possible. There’s no soul, there’s no pre-bodily personhood, and so when you’re born you’re born into these historical structures that are going to determine who you are. And while people should be equal, those things make them not equal.
Although I would like to say I’m someone who’s committed to fairness and justice, and corrected those historical structures that create those injustices, I recognize that I’m a person who’s benefited from them and I’m not prepared to go to extreme lengths to give up some of those privileges. I’m not giving away half of my salary, I still buy clothes, I still participate in these structures and keep them going, you know, I still breathe life into capitalism in what I do every day. So I guess that’s kind of hypocritical and contradictory.
When I was at school, and I had friends who went to the ordinary comprehensive, knowing that I was at ‘the Catholic school’, and they always had quite weird impressions that we were all incredibly disciplined, or that we pray every night and every morning. They always seemed to overestimate the importance of it. I would say, ‘I can’t come out to play today’, and they’d be like, ‘oh is it because of something Catholic going on’, and I’d be like, ‘no, I just twisted my ankle’, or something completely random. And I was always a bit bothered by that. I always thought people would have this impression of me that I was really pious and really committed. Not fun, I suppose. And I didn’t like them to have that impression. I guess in every group I was in, I wanted to conform to what was normal in that group.
Often I think a lot of non-religious people can be very dismissive of religious belief, and very critical. And are basically baffled by it. And don’t have intellectual respect for people who have faith. And I’m not like that. I can understand that people have a faith, and that it’s not something they’ve arrived at through rational arguments. It’s come from another place. That doesn’t mean that they’re crazy. I have friends who think that believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus. That’s not how I feel about it. I understand that faith is a massive part of culture, has a centuries long history to it, so I don’t find it strange that people have religious faith.