Friday, August 20, 2010

The God Debate

When I first started this blog I had a dozen different ideas for posts and I’ve been working my way through them based on what’s happening from one day to the next. I’ve been sitting on this one for a while because it’s potentially a bit controversial, nowhere more so than in my own living room. It also might be a bit heavy for a Friday afternoon but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately so for today it’s important for me to talk about it. My husband won’t want me to share this (I may be forced to retract it later on so read quickly!) but he considers himself an atheist. I was christened a Catholic and went to a Catholic school but really the only thing from those days I still practice is the guilt. I’m not sure I believe in God but I’m not a non-believer either. I wouldn’t say we argue about our different beliefs but we don’t often agree when it comes to spiritual matters. Atheists don’t believe in God or heaven or a lot of other things. Personally I think they’re a much maligned and misunderstood bunch who could teach the Micks a thing or two. There is a group called the Sydney Atheists (, whose motto is “Good Without God.” They believe in doing good deeds, without being motivated by religion or a smooth passage into heaven, but simply because as humans we have a responsibility to help others. I have to admit that this is one aspect of the non-religion that I wholeheartedly agree with, and I think the world would be a better place if we all felt this way.

I know it sounds morbid, but believe it or not but the biggest debate we have in our house is over what happens when someone dies. As far as I know atheists don’t believe in heaven or reincarnation, they simply believe that at the end of a person’s life there’s nothing. No white light, no pearly gates and certainly no spirit left behind to lurk in dark hallways. In contrast to this, and the typical Catholic viewpoint, I believe in the human spirit, and I think our hearts and minds are too powerful to simply disappear when we die. I believe that if you hold someone in your heart, and keep their photos on your walls and talk about them often, then they’ll always be with you. My version of heaven was partly inspired by a book that had a profound impact on me as a teenager: Bryce Courtenay’s April Fool’s Day. It’s a true account of his son’s battle with AIDS and subsequent death, and the impact on their family. Around the same time as I was reading this book, close family friends, my Godparents, tragically lost their young son to SIDS. The closing paragraph of the book brought me much comfort and it has stayed with me, and in a sense shaped much of what I believe…

Love is an energy- it can neither be created nor destroyed. It just is, and always will be, giving meaning to life and direction to goodness. Our love will never die.

It’s that energy that I believe we leave behind. When my son was born this belief was strengthened; that energy was palpable.

We may disagree on things like the hereafter but my husband and I did agree when it came to christening J, initially. We talked about it before he was born and decided to let him choose whether or not he wanted to participate in organised religion; we’d just help him make an informed decision. It wasn’t an issue until he arrived and I was hit with the realisation that he was, purely and simply, a miracle. Creating and sustaining a life is not as easy as you imagine it should be and I am amazed at times that there are 6 billion people on Earth! I know so many people who have struggled to fall pregnant or stay pregnant. There are those who’ve known the heartache of childlessness or the grief of losing a child. Some children are born perfectly healthy and right on time, but countless others are premature or plagued with lifelong health issues and disabilities. We had obstacles along the way but for the most part, our son’s arrival was relatively easy. He’s healthy and happy and I feel like I need to celebrate that fact and publicly acknowledge just how grateful I am for it.

Another motivating factor for me is what you might call “celestial protection”. I realised when J was born that giving birth doesn’t suddenly fill you with all the answers you need. Children don’t come with manuals; you need to figure it out as you go along. Parents are not (Shock! Horror!) perfect. We simply have to trust our instincts and do the best we can. All we can do is love them, believe in them and teach them right from wrong. We can do our best to protect them from harm and heartbreak but there are times when no matter how hard we try, how much we love them, we won’t be able to keep them safe. It’s a frightening thought, and that’s why I’m still leaning towards having my son christened. I’d like to know that if there is a God that he’s beside me, fighting in my son’s corner. Maybe he doesn’t need holy water splashed on his head for that, but who knows?

D and I may be divided in our opinions on this issue but we are united in our love for the life we have created. I don’t know if or how we’ll end this debate but I do know one thing: There’s no debating the fact that whether you believe your children are gifts from God, reincarnated souls who’ve been here before, or simply the product of a great love story; at the end of the day you love them the same, and really that’s all that matters. Have a great weekend x

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