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Religious belief and the lack of it

he BBC has put out a thoughtful programme, currently available for listening to on their website (Radio 4).

Three women describe their experiences in moving from belief to disbelief with respect to Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism. Their remarks are interleaved with comments from religious advisers from the respective religions. These are all men (don't know if that is significant!) but are conciliatory and non-judgemental. The rabbi is Lionel Blue, a well-known figure on the radio in Britain.

Naturally enough in view of my own background, I was particularly interested in the views of the ex-Catholic, a sprightly lady in her 82nd year. She had been brought up in a devout RC family and wanted to become a nun when she was 15. However, her mother wisely advised caution, and by 19 she had changed her mind.

When she began to have doubts a priest advised her to read books which purportedly answered her questions, but this led her to read sceptical books as well and one day in the library she discovered she no longer believed in religion. She could date this event precisely: Saturday 5 November, 1949. She found the experience liberating and ecstatic - like an orgasm, in fact. She was afraid she might later come to doubt her disbelief, but she never has and now she describes herself as an atheist and humanist.

She compared believing in God to believing in Father Christmas: comforting, but undesirable in view of the lack of evidence. When, as a child, she discovered there was no Father Christmas she went round telling the news to all the children she could find. She was reprimanded for this by a mother who said she was spoiling things for them, but she asks: how could it be spoiling things to tell
them the truth?

From my own experience I'd certainly echo this lady's experience that ceasing to believe in religion is a liberating experience, though in my case it took considerably longer to sort my opinions out.

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