I suppose you’d have to ask yourself what came first. The universe or the gods. I say gods plural because apparently there’s loads of them. Imagine. All those years of praying to one and I could have been spreading the risk.
All those years…
It’s a big jump you know, to go from chucking all your faith in one thing, to well, all of a sudden having to have faith in yourself. When the idea was first forced upon me (and there’s no point in pretending I came to all these new ideas on my own, I might be good at thinking outside the box when it comes to a recipe for stew, but outside this box?) I was highly insulted.
Leave me alone, I said, you do your own thing and I’ll do mine.
You’re just as bad.
Because I never saw myself as that kind of person, you see. I’m not from that kind of people. You breathe, you eat, you sit on the toilet, you vote Fianna Gael.
It’s just done.
You go to mass.
You say your prayers.
You christen your children.
And you believe in God.
So when you have a notion at the age of thirty-eight that maybe it’s something that should be questioned, the last thing you do is voice your thoughts.
‘First rule of Doubt Club” and all that…
And you lie awake and you try your hardest not to think what you’re thinking. You feel disloyal, you feel dirty, you feel like Ally McCoist would if he pulled on a Celtic jersey to sleep in at night.
And whenever you think you might try to discuss it with someone, you wonder how you’d phrase it.
“This whole God thing, it’s bit of a con really, isn’t it?”
But no matter what way you phrase it you end up sounding like Fr Dougal; so you say nothing.
And anyway, I put up a good fight in those early arguments.
Wasn’t it nice to know there was someone out there, someone minding you. Right, so they might get cross every now and again and throw down the odd punishment, which depending on your sin could range from a broken nail to mass flooding… And then there was that bizarre notion about sending stuff to test you. Okay so it’s kind of confusing when the one person that you could ask to help you with said test was the scheming bastard that decided to send it in the first place, but sure maybe that was part of the test – and that’s where my arguments started to sound hollow, even to me.
So why am I still in the hotpress? (I can’t say closet any more than I can stop saying things like ‘Jesus, Mary and Holy Saint Joseph, how did her friends let her out in that?”)
Women my age do two things in a crisis. They say a prayer and they open a bottle of wine. Only a year previous I’d given up the latter and it had taken me nearly a year to stop apologizing for this decision. Sometimes people see choices you make as a judgment on their choices. So there is no way I was about to announce another that casts even more aspersions on their intelligence.
And then there are my children. By the time I’d had this midlife crisis (or midlife answer to a crisis as I prefer to see it) I already had baptized two and enrolled them in a Catholic primary school.
I could hardly come down to breakfast some morning and say ‘Hold everything. It’s all a load of rot, there is no god after all…” Nor would I be let, frankly. Him that must be obeyed, sometimes actually must be obeyed.
For this reason alone I nearly backed out of the whole thing. It seriously looked like it was going to be way too much hassle.
Offer it up, I said, old habits die hard…
But then there’s that really annoying second rule of Doubt Club… You can’t unlearn something. I wish I’d never been told about that one.
And man did I learn in those early months. I read and I read and I read. And when I wasn’t reading I was lying awake in the middle of the night with earphones watching debates on Youtube. Dawkins, Hitchens, Fry – I couldn’t get enough of them. People laugh about daytime atheists, but I was the opposite, I reveled in those nights where everything became clearer and clearer.
Because by day I was still doing things like hiding a copy of The God Delusion behind a tattered copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at the local parish book fair, lest anyone see the kind of debauchery I was really into…
So back to which came first, the gods or the universe… I only really found out this year really how long this whole planet has been around for. (I’m still saying they, cos, well, its unfair isn’t it? To assume that the one we dreamed up is more important than any of those other ones.) So they sat on their laurels for a while really before creating us humans, didn’t they? Why didn’t I think about that before?
There’s lots of stuff I didn’t think of before really, but I’m getting there. And my stealth sideways attack on the brains of my children is fuelling the urgency. There’s so much they need to know, so much I want to teach them. So that they won’t be thirty-eight when the penny drops.
Because for them, it is the beginning…