God. Faith. Religion. Other things pertaining to them.

Religion is something I've been thinking a lot about recently although I'm not sure why. I'm not sure even what I think about it so this may get a little rambling.

I've never really been a religious person. I've not really ever required myself to sit down and declare my intentions one way or the other. I keep a bottle of water from St Winifred's well in North Wales on the bookshelf just in case my legs should unexpectedly drop off in the night but other than that it is not something that affects my life on a daily basis.


Recently, I have been thinking about faith, spirituality and religion. My first line of thought was to wonder if these are the same things. I'm not really sure that they are. Pin me to the ground and threaten to drop a spit bomb on my face and I will probably acquiesce that Yes, I am a Spiritual Person but I wouldn't call myself religious and I certainly don't feel I have faith in anything.

Students of the Romantics (in the Philosophical Byronic sense, not Mills and Boon) will recall the idea of art bringing us closer to the inexpressible and comparisons of the artist to God (And you thought my blurbs were just random blasphemy didn't you?) as well as the idea that the creative act is not a conscious one.

This I can personally identify with; the trance like state entered when one is painting… I'm not really willing to go into it here. It is down at bone level with the cheese wire of my soul. It is not something I can or want to tell you about, just know that I know it is there.

So, why would I say that is a spiritual experience as oppose to a religious one? Religion, to me, seems much more about having the set rules in place that one is supposed to follow. Spirituality is more like religion without the definitions. They are not two sides of the same coin, more like two sides on a sphere which after all, mathematics fans, has an infinite number of sides. Enough room for everybody then.

There has been, recently, a pull. I wish to know more about these things. I wish to know more about how Christianity is practised, about what it all means and a hundred other questions. I'm not looking for answers; I'm looking to generate more questions.

I was sent to Sunday School as a child, Methodist naturally, but all I can remember being taught was the theme song from the Toyota advert (Oh what a feeling! Toy-Yoda!). I also attended a C of E primary school which taught us some of the more practical applications of the Christian way of life; if you see a City supporter hurt by the side of the road, don't pass on by because you support United. Seriously.

Helpfully, there was a program on Channel Four on Sunday night called "Make me a Christian" in which members of the public were taken in hand by a preacher and encouraged to shed their less than Christian way of life. I watched it thinking I'd learn something and I did. I learned to stay away from the Evangelicals.

Sure, you know, it is TV. It is set up and it looked it. The preacher crouching on the floor exclaiming incredulously "You're a practising witch?!" to the girl who had somehow formed the idea that a piece of chalk and coloured candles were the way to finding a decent boyfriend. I was quite interested in what the Anglican Vicar had to say about things because what she did say seemed sensible even if she was dressed as though she was on her way to a hen night. I'm reserving judgement on the show for now. We'll see how they get on next week.

The thing is though, and I suspect it may be why I have never really found myself suited to organized religion, there is a lot of emphasis on Heaven and Hell and I don't personally need a carrot or stick to make me lead a moral life. I'll do it because I think it is correct.

I also find there is no greater off putter than an earnest hand on my arm and the reassurance that Jesus loves me. I don't believe that for a second. I could believe that he tolerates me and wishes I would put a bit more effort in, but love? Not really.

I've seen many great things done in the name of Jesus. Not big world changing things you understand but small, humanitarian gestures. The single greatest person I know was a missionary in Africa back in the 50's and even today thinks only of others and how to best serve her God. Her faith, love and compassion are infinite.

I've seen many terrible and selfish acts done by people who proclaim themselves Christians. I've been on the receiving end of their "I am considerably holier than thou" attitudes. One friend related to story to me of a girl in his church who fancied him and every day she and her friends would go and pray for the Lord to make him straight so he would go out with her. He didn't see anything wrong with it just as he didn't see anything wrong with the people who reined hellfire and damnation down upon him when he came out because he thought they were right.

Right now… I don't know. I need to keep thinking about this.

If I should die and there is a big beardy bloke wagging a giant finger reproachfully in my direction then I hope I will be able to stand up and say "Maybe I didn't do everything the way You thought I should do it and maybe I didn't get everything right but I always did what I could and tried to be fair in all things. I will hold my hands up to what I got wrong."

Maybe that is enough. Any thoughts?