It has occurred to me that I know very little, about anything really. I am quite well read, I have an education from institutionalised schooling. I debate with experts in their field. But what do I know?
The little village I grew up in centred very much around two chapels, one methodist and I can’t remember what the other one was. We also had the church that was Church in Wales. The very Welsh people of the village went to chapel, got married in church and had their funeral in chapel.
What I remember most about growing up in this community was never leaving a house on an empty stomach, especially the farms. You were offered a drink, Ribena for the children and a panad (cup of tea) for the adults on entering anyone’s house. Baked goodies were always offered, even gluten free ones would be baked if they knew in advance we were coming round as my mum is Coeliac and both my sister and me had been tentatively diagnosed and so we lived on a gluten free diet. Crisps were always to hand for children, even in houses where the children had grown up and moved out.
Conversation was always about something going on in the community or what had happened in chapel. My grandparents seemed to be a regular topic, they were held in high regard by the older members of the community. My grandfather probably kept the pubs open!
The village was steeped in tradition, everyone was expected to be early risers, put their faith in God, keep their houses clean and tidy and work for the community. As I grew up I began realising that going to chapel and working for the community were more traditional than anything else, because it was the ‘done thing’. I also, sadly, found that a lot of the faithful were so convinced of being forgiven on their day of judgement that they did awful things without a care. I learn that theirs was a vengeful God who struck down unbelievers and so every misfortune that befell me was because I didn’t believe. Even if that misfortune was being hurt by one of their own, God fearing folk, it was my fault because I didn’t believe in God.
I never took religious education seriously. I took pleasure in ridiculing the faithful as unintelligent people who needed some explanation of why they were alive in the first place and had no idea of science, no common sense. I haven’t really had a spiritual side to me at all. I thought it was namby-pamby, hocus-pocus silliness.
Now I have grown up a bit, spoken to people with true faith, seen the workings of good people who don’t just bake cakes for a community gathering to get praise, that I have come to question this lack of spirituality. Guess what? I have a spiritual side after all, I just didn’t recognise it for what it was. Mine has nothing to do with religious doctrine, or belief in the supernatural. I believe in love, patience and hope. That given enough time and love anyone can do anything they put their mind to to at least some degree. We can all get better than we are right now, just by believing in our own abilities and getting out there and doing it, full of faith that our hope is enough to get us through until we achieve our goals.
Now I come to read passages from the Bible, extracts from Buddhism, bits and pieces of other religions, it all seems to say the same thing. Hope for better, do good things, strive towards your goals without hurting anyone in the process and good will come to you. I see none of this vengeful god that I was lead to think of when my village peers spoke of their religion. I see no, thou shalt, or shalt not, apart from a few bits, which are pretty much common sense. I see love and peace, patience and forgiveness. I see hope, over and over again, I see hope. There may be no scientific point to life, but is it really worth living without hope?