… or believe it not
[This is a continuation of yesterday’s little ramble, kicking off with the joys of The Retreat.]
My parents (probably my mother) would drive me up to Rathfarnham Castle – a Jesuit Seminary at the time – where I would be dropped off with my suitcase for a period of prayer and reflection with a bunch of my classmates. I would be allocated a room which was barely big enough to hold the bed, and left to my own devices.
The Retreat was strict. From the moment I arrived to the moment I left (three or four days?) I was not allowed to speak. Strict silence at all times. During mealtimes we were subjected to a priest droning out the lives of the saints or something and apart from regular Masses this was the only voice we heard. Except for the sermons! The sermons all basically seemed to be about sex. Sex was evil. Women were evil. Women were put on earth to tempt all us poor innocent boys into sex, damnation and the eternal fires of hell. Sex became a very interesting subject to my adolescent mind. I vowed to find out all about it.
The only good part of the day was a period where we were allowed out onto the grounds where we were to walk around in total silence and contemplate the evils of women. This is where I had my first taste of a cigarette. There was a shop in the castle and they sold cigarettes so I bought a pack of ten. Smoking a cigarette while I strolled the paths passed the time. A few of us used to gather behind the trees to have a bit of a chat and compare cigarette brands.
So I did learn something in those Retreats. I learned the joys of tobacco and also now had a fierce determination to investigate the evils of predatory women.
At this time I was having grave doubts about the Catholic religion. There were aspects that just didn’t add up as far as I was concerned. Even worse I came to the realisation that Catholicism was fine just so long as you believed everything, but as soon as doubts crept in the whole edifice collapsed like a house of cards. And this was long before some of the later revelations about the Church and its shenanigans. I began to realise that the Catholic Church and Christianity were two entirely separate things. Christianity was a philosophy of peace and love, where the Catholic Church was a man-made institution more interested in self-serving wealth and control of the people. I had come a long way from my ambitions to become Pope?
I carried on attending Mass along with the family but it was basically a routine to please my mother. I think I had secretly joined my father in that respect.
I remember one Sunday declaring that I wasn’t going to Mass. My mother was horrified. She begged and pleaded but I told her that as far as I was concerned the Mass was just a ritual that I could well do without. She begged me to pray for faith. I pointed out that that was a paradox – you could only pray if you had the faith to start with. If you don’t have faith then you can’t pray for it. That was a turning point for me.
Subsequently I used to have debates with my father (whenever my mother wasn’t around). I learned that his views and mine were virtually identical. He described himself as an Agnostic (but don’t tell your mother!) which he claimed was the only true religion – no one knows the afterlife without faith and it was therefore the only honest path. If anything, his philosophy was closer to Buddhism than Christianity. What was infuriating (and lovable) about my father was that he could debate any philosophy from any viewpoint. I remember one occasion out of devilment he invited a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses into the house and debated with them. He left them utterly confused. They couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.
I haven’t given religion much thought since then. I enter a church for Christenings, Weddings and Funerals but that’s about that. My thoughts are that if there is a god, he should look kindly on me as I have lived as good a life as I can, and if there isn’t a god, then why waste all that time attending to a religion? If there isn’t s god then I feel very sorry for all those priests, nuns and monks who have effectively wasted their entire lives. But then, if it makes them happy…?
"Christianity was a philosophy of peace and love, where the Catholic Church was a man-made institution more interested in self-serving wealth and control of the people."
The Catholic church is not alone in this: virtually all organised religions/churches are tarred with the same brush.
I know! Maybe I should have added "and allowing unfettered access to young boys"?!
I'm teaching Buddhism to Year 7 classes at the moment – they are greatly attached to the idea of karma
I am kind of attached to the concept myself. I would be nice to think that wrongdoers [and good-doers?] get their just deserts, I'm afraid it is more in the realm of wishful thinking.
According to the Christian religion, I was made in God's image. I can therefore say with a large degree of certainty that if He (i.e. the Christian God) exists then the last thing he wants is to listen to people telling Him how great He is and singing songs extolling His virtues. It might be fun for five minutes or so but an eternity…
That thought often crossed my mind too. All this prayer and adoration could only be fit for a deity with an ego greater than all creation.
It's weird isn't it?
I had thought to comment on yesterdays blog, but time slipped by…
I was brought up in an Anglican tradition, and suffered long walks to church on a Sunday in our charcoal black suits and back, in hot sun, as boarders in the first couple of years of High School.
Only after lunch could we strip off and go to the swimming pool, at least in summer.
But even before that, my Dad had worked his way up the hierarchy to become a vicar.
Not bad, for someone who left school early, yet later went to theological college, learned old greek.
Very practical as well, he had built boats, household furniture, even later a large reflector telescope.
But on leaving high school, for me the '70's beckoned, and beyond introductions to hash and LSD, going to art school, having already won prizes for painting, there were books, Timothy Leary & Baba Ram Dass & a whole bunch of Eastern mysticism, etc. Also The Whole Earth Catalogue. Music, of course.
Well, I got beyond all that. But it still remains part of my history.
Many years later I did attend a Buddhist Vipassana course, and found it profoundly illuminating.
Hmm, maybe revealing is better. The best examination and discovery of oneself imaginable.
No, even that's not enough. Like the best school lesson you did best in, magnified to your full self.
Still, I didn't keep up the practice, practise, as a piano player might or should;- I let it lapse.
On the other hand, I still keep up awareness of my breathing, which is where it starts.
Simple stuff. On the other hand, I still enjoy taking tobacco! And alcohol.
I don't describe it well. But it was a profound experience. Way more so than any LSD trip had been.
(Which I'd given up years ago – you only needed one, or just another maybe to make sure … ? )
But really, I'm glad I did try it, but have felt no need to have had it again, for decades since.
But back to Roman Catholic considerations.
It really is a different construct. Women were downplayed in the Bible? Roman oppressors?
There have been so many mis-translations over the years. What or who can you trust?
Although the original historian author has died, and his web page seeming too, these pages are preserved quite beautifully here … I suggest start reading from the 3rd paragraph here, and then next pages.
"Let us now move to where the Christian story began – to the Gospels themselves. And, in doing this, let us first consider what the Gospels actually tell us, against what we perhaps think they tell us."
There really are some remarkable revelations in the next few paragraphs and pages.
The time differences. Translation misunderstandings.
We can talk about Angel Investors here now, but dialogue and dialect from 2000 years ago?
I think it's worth reading through.
Worth reading indeed! I have just had a read and it is fascinating stuff. I have heard accounts before of missing gospels and poor interpretations and translations so it doesn't contain any real surprises. There have been many interpretations and I remember seeing a very interesting one a few years ago [BBC? Horizon?] that proposed the theory that Jesus had in fact been adopted by Tibetan Monks at an early age before returning home [explaining a large gap in history according to the gospels] and that after the crucifixion he returned to Tibet to live out the rest of his life. They gave quite a few proofs of this, but I would still be inclined to take it as food for thought more than "gospel" truth.
For other religions I work on the principle "if it makes them happy" and so long as they leave me and mine in peace I'm happy to live and let live.
Although I do occasionally have fun teasing the doorknockers with inconvenient facts.
Which is one of the drawbacks of these pandemic restrictions, the evangelists all have to stay home.
I thought their mythical Sky Pixie was supposed to protect them from everything, especially while they're out selling his product to the hard-of-thinking . . . . . .
It's a bit like the difference between Columba and his Irish bretheren and the Roman Church hierarchy. Says it all.