by Rod Harvey, Marketing Manager, Gold Coast, Australia
Completely open and free without a care in the world… that’s how I lived when I was a child.
Before I arrived on the scene, Dad served as an infantry soldier in WW II in the Middle East, Greece and New Guinea, followed by an 18 month stint in the RAAF, based in England. When he spoke about the war, we only heard about the camaraderie and the mischief; nothing about atrocities and death. He rarely spoke about those who didn’t survive the war. Only ten percent of his original battalion came home.
No wonder he was an atheist.
Although my parents were irreligious, they encouraged us to find our own direction. I attended Sunday school but didn’t enjoy my brief sojourn. The teachers were too stern. School religion wasn’t much different – it was a drag. But at least there was no homework, apart from being ‘good’ (I didn’t pass).
However I do admit to momentarily wanting to be an altar boy because my mate was and he dressed up in a cool outfit. I think that was about the time I wanted to be a ballet dancer… and that too passed.
By the time I was 18 my openness and sense of wonder had shut down. My interest in God was zero and I had become a skeptical agnostic with strong atheistic tendencies. Life was about sport, the pub, women and work.
I went to a friend’s wedding – a lengthy traditional high mass. It further reinforced the futility of religion to me as I sat through the rituals and Latin liturgies. If God spoke Latin, how the hell (oops) could I communicate with him? I certainly didn’t fancy the idea of kneeling on the ground and bowing my head. Why did they do that? Surely there were better ways to show devotion. To me it felt cold and subservient.
As time went on I saw inconsistencies and bias in religion that cemented my viewpoint. Overall, religions professed to represent love, yet women were generally excluded from ‘holy positions’. One religion tells men not to touch a woman for 12 days after her period starts. Another tells women to cover their bodies with clothing from head to toe.
There’s an imaginary place called ‘hell’ that is used as a form of blackmail to get people to behave as the church wishes. Some religions hint at providing more ‘heavenly’ benefits to chosen followers over outsiders. Many religions persecute people because of ideological differences.
I observed how religions sent their ‘representatives’ throughout the world to change and control the natural way people lived their lives. Wars were started in the name of God. The prevention of the distribution of condoms resulted in thousands of people dying from Aids. I saw monks wandering like beggars being fed by people, then cloistered away to pray, rather than becoming self sufficient and getting out to serve their communities.
I felt that religion was a cop out because you could turn up, pray and then be quite ‘ungodly’ until the next session. To me, this promoted irresponsibility; there appears to be much self indulgence in worship.
No wonder so many people shun God, when there is so much conflicting feedback and controversy about religion.
Does this mean I have something against people who are religious? Not at all; love of people is high on my priorities. I say live and let live. There were times when I was envious of people who were sustained by their faith. I also appreciate the service that is given by people from various religions to their communities, particularly to the disadvantaged.
What I object to is the manipulation and control influenced by those in powerful positions within many faiths, along with extremists and religious scholars: people who often appear to be devoid of love. It is the antithesis to ‘live and let live’. We see similar characteristics with the leaders of some countries.
I reached a point where religion was meaningless and felt it could not be a true unifying force, so why bother? It was futile.
Yet surprisingly, after a few decades of apathy, I now have a different outlook…