There was a life-size, gruesome Jesus in my local church when I was a child. Hanging from above the altar with an unforgiving gaze. He was the Jesus of the Crown of Thorns, barely alive on the crucifix with the spear wound in his side. If it had been today and that image were in a film, it would be restricted. I first met God when He was brutal.
And then I met Christians with guitars and smooth edges. Wholesome and probably good people who made me want to run a mile. How did we get from the crucifixion to Kumbya? I am a misanthrope at the best of times but I didn’t want muesli with Mass and the expression ‘prayer group’ sounded to me like an oxymoron.
I had Catholicism beaten into me (and therefore out of me) by cruel monks who should, even now, be brought out of retirement and taken to court for child abuse. I dodged God the way I would dodge the school bully.
Mass was torture. I volunteered to be in the choir and then to be an altar boy just to give me something do. The sermons were agonisingly long and dull. And all the while that life-sized statue of a dying Christ judging me and finding me wanting.
When I was eighteen I decided to not attend Mass anymore. My attendance up to that point was lazy deference to parental authority. There was a fight of mythical proportions where Christian charity was hard to find. But the bond was broken. I was free.
I didn’t, as many do, embrace atheism. It has always struck me as a frightened position to hold. No, for me, it was theological party time!
I dived into other religions. Buddhism, whose gateway author was the gorgeously named Christmas Humphries, seemed to resonate. It went beyond the life experience in a more credible way than Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.
I explored all things occult and became quite a dab hand at I Ching and birthcharts. I learned about Aleister Crowley and Madame Blavatsky. The Kabala was intriguing and then, stopped being so.
I met the Baha’is and found them to be such lovely people. I still hold them in the highest esteem. They have been sorely persecuted.
I checked out Islam, Hinduism and I attended spiritualist services and got messages from the dead. Oh, what fun! But my response to Christianity generally and Catholicism in particular was ‘ Been There. Done That. Got the Guilt Complex’.