Just like Christmas, I often feel a pang of guilt and hypocrisy at Easter time. For us, there is no religious element to either of these festivals as we do not attend church, nor do we believe in God.
As an agnostic, some may say that I sit on the fence when it comes to religion. In fact, there is much debate relating to the term agnosticism and its precise definition. For me, I just honestly do not know whether there is a greater force or not. Is it wrong, therefore, for us to celebrate at Christmas and Easter by spending time together as a family?
From being a baby to the age of sixteen, I religiously (it’s true!) attended church every Sunday. As a child, I enjoyed Sunday school and took part in many trips with them during holidays, including the seaside and Beverley Minster. As I grew a little older, I joined the church choir and also went to classes, eventually being confirmed. However, despite being an active part of my church, I never really had the overwhelming belief that others around me seemed to have. Perhaps Christianity wasn’t for me. This belief was perhaps cemented for me when I told my vicar that I had achieved 100% on my Buddhism exam paper at school. His response was, “Well, how did you do on your Christianity paper?”
I’ve always had an open mind when it comes to life and people. I socialise with people because I like them… religion, gender, age, ethnicity, gender, ability – none of these characteristics come into it. So, my vicar, a so-called pillar of the community, saying what he did took me back. It dawned on me just how hypocritical many members of my particular church were. There was a definite clique there, too. I just didn’t like the atmosphere.
Having said all of that, I’m not dismissive of Christianity or any religion at all. I got an A in my R.E. GCSE and desperately wanted to study it at A level, but the headteacher refused even when our R.E. teacher said he would teach it at night class to avoid any timetabling issues. I loved learning about other people’s beliefs. In fact, I feel it’s crucial that all children do as it provides a level of understanding about others, offering an insight into their lives and supports tolerance of and respect for all.
For me, there are so many elements of religion that can be the basis of leading a good life. Here are just a few of those things and my reflections upon them.
When people do us wrong, it can be easy to keep those feelings of anger, frustration and annoyance inside. However, while the person who offended us likely had a pang of guilt, to begin with, it is unlikely that it lasts that long. Choosing not to forgive will probably cause you more harm than good. Moving on from that hurt and offering forgiveness do not equate to becoming best buddies with the person who upset us, but it will provide a sense of relief to you and shows you as a bigger person, one with a good heart and a willingness to accept that everyone does wrong from time to time.
Thanking God is a significant part of everyday prayers within many religions. In my opinion, possessing an attitude of gratitude is an intrinsic part of life. Whether you are thanking the world for its amazing produce, such as the flowers and trees or the fruits and vegetables, or you are grateful for the support others offer you in bad times and good, doing so will make everyone feel as though their efforts were worthwhile. Of course, we shouldn’t do things simply for the praise or reward but knowing that we are appreciated always helps.
At times in our lives, it can feel as though everything is going against us. Perhaps we face financial difficulties, problems in a relationship, bullying in the workplace, whatever it is, adversity can make us feel pretty alone. However, having hope is vital. One day, things will begin to shift upwards, for the better. Hope allows us to focus on the future.
No religion is perfect. Society has evolved, meaning that some aspects can be very much outdated. However, there are way more positives to be taken from all religions than criticisms to be made. I hope my reflections have given you some insights into my own beliefs.