I WAS about eight years old when I realised that organised religion was a giant confidence trick.
The thing that made me aware of this was my mother’s plan to send me to the local Catholic school. We’d just moved out of the migrant hostel after arriving in Australia from England and I was bound to a new school.
Although my father was an atheist he was a nominal Catholic, and had succumbed to family pressure to marry in the church.
My mother, abiding by church rules, had converted from Methodism to Catholicism. That marriage and conversion carried a mandatory commitment to raise children as Catholics. Such was the power of the church in those days.
I rebelled and refused point blank to attend the Catholic school. I wanted to attend the local public school where my mates from the hostel were going.
To rebel successfully, I had to present a cogent argument to my mother. That is, I had to investigate and think about religion.
My conclusion was simple. How could anyone with reasonable intelligence believe this rubbish? It is a conclusion I have carried with me since.
That is not to say I object to anyone believing what they want, no matter how illogical and fantastic it might seem. If it helps deal with life and harms no one that’s fine by me.
I’ve developed my own theories about spirituality and often think it could reside in certain places and things. Not so much in a supernatural sense, like religion, but in a psychological sense - the sense that we might feel something in those places where those things exist.
For instance, I think that forests, deserts, the sea and trees and certain animals have an intangible spirituality.
I can therefore sympathise with the old animist religions that were prevalent in Papua New Guinea before the missionaries arrived. Indeed, those old beliefs seem not to have diminished in the face of the Christianity taught by the churches.
Apart from claims of supernatural intervention, the other thing that bothers me about religion, especially the organised kind, is its overt political nature.
I can’t for the life of me see much difference between popes, mullahs, shamans, priests, rabbis and pastors and other trumped-up appellations of rabid capitalists and mercenary politicians. To me, they all try to manipulate people for their own benefit.
To do this they have taken the teachings of naïve prophets like Jesus and Mohammed and subverted them into political systems. Men were busily doing this even while Jesus was alive before the Peter O’Neill of the time, Pontius Pilate, disposed of him.
I think people might be better off listening to the purported words of those prophets, who all seem to have been good men, rather than the words of the churches’ spin doctors. Those old historic words are still echoed by humble men and women of the church who believe in goodness above all else.
The evil that is apparent in what those religious spin doctors devised is perhaps best summed up by the photograph of that crazy Muslim police officer who recently shot the Russian ambassador in Turkey.
Or perhaps not, perhaps he was just outraged at the awful carnage that has been wreaked in Syria in religion’s name.
So this Christmas don’t celebrate the mad doctrines of the Christian churches. Celebrate the goodness of that naïve prophet called Jesus, who was, after all, just human like the rest of us.
And if you don’t want to do that, celebrate the life of that great Greek Bishop of Myra in Turkey called St Nicholas (aka Father Christmas), who used his inherited wealth to alleviate the suffering of his flock.