Saturday 15 June 2024

Losing My Religion


Seeing the light

In case you're wondering, Dear Reader, the Pipistrellos are still alive after seventeen months of No Carbs. After all this time, there remain no interesting tidbits to share viz. recipes and dinner-plate still lifes and whatnots, as an unadorned grilled steak or half a dozen sardines can look a tad uninspiring to those not about to tuck in. So I'm feeling a bit like I've lost my religion. Again.

For there was a time when reading a recipe book was as rewarding and life-affirming as dipping into, say, The Book of Common Prayer*, and watching cooking shows on the telly was as honoured as attending Evensong**. Not to mention the ritual of Restaurant gatherings, and the near-worship of Celebrity Chefs. All gone now, and the vacuum left has been filled with ... well, living. There seems to be more time and space for the Other Stuffs in life that don't require the employment of the contents of our kitchen cupboards. Which is a sort of dilemma of its own—what to do with a lifetime's accumulation of gadgets?

The first time I lost my religion I was about six. The Anglican nun in Scripture, inexplicably, hem hem, told a lurid tale one day of witches in Nepal throwing naughty children off the Himalayan mountains. Next I knew, I was spending Fridays reading in the library lumped in with the No Religion/Other kids from places like Indonesia (ours was a very cosmopolitan school in the embassy zone of Our Nation's Capital), whilst the Roman Catholic and Church of England kids got to enjoy a more colourful Storytime.

There was already form in the Pipistrello Archive for such swift action. My dear Mother, at the tender age of five or so, casually mentioned the daily practice of her Catholic nun who would line the tots up in the corridor before class and smack each in turn, in case they were going to be naughty during the day. Not only was my mother the next day summarily removed from the school, but there was a wholesale abandonment of not just Roman Catholicism but any and all fellow branches of the Church. Just like that. 

In fact, I was shocked to learn, when old enough to hear about this familial volte face, that we actually came from a long line of Catholics***. I had presumed, since we laughed so heartily at Dave Allen at Large's Catholic jokes, that we must surely have come from the Other Side. But it turned out that my brief cherubic encounter with C. of E. Scripture was just an exercise in being allowed to Make Up Your Own Mind.

What finished it for me, however, came a couple or so years later. The mother of neighbourhood playmates thought I needed Saving and I was invited to come along to Sunday School and Church one day. I well-remember both my dear Mother's rolling of the eyes at my imploring to be allowed to go, and being sent back home to change before we set out as I was in a carefree 1970's unisex ensemble rather than a dress. I may have been saved from one shameful social faux pas, but the worst was yet to come.

Sunday School itself was a delight. Not only did I top the class in the comprehension exercises following whatever was the Bible Story of the day and was rewarded with a fistful of little illustrated cards with various biblical characters, there was even time for colouring-in! I already loved school and could see this Sunday School malarky was going to be a doddle. I loved it so, already!

But then, when joining the adults in the church, as I sat with half an ear to the service, daydreaming about trouncing my sleepy competition for title of Dux of Sunday School, who in spite of having years' head start on me in the bible-stories department, really seemed only interested in the colouring-in bit, I dimly heard the vicar utter the blood-chilling words: "And we have a Stranger in our midst today. Stand up Pipistrello!" 

All heads swivelled and all eyes fixed themselves on my crimson-blushed and knee-quivering form. While I may have had ruthless designs on Sunday-scholastic glory, my true nature was utterly mortified by being made the object of attention of a roomful of people, earnest Christians or not. As I stood with my shy eyes fixed to my feet, any vestige of my religion went whoosh! Gone. When back at home, and my curious Mother asked if I was intending to return, I looked away and mumbled something about not caring for it, no questions were asked and she was no doubt satisfied.

It's not to say that I'm not endlessly curious about Religion and fascinated by its history and evolution and would probably have enjoyed studying, say, comparative religion at uni. And despite lapsed-Catholic Mr. P frustrating any questions I might have about doctrine or particularities of Catholicism (he pleads ignorance on the detail on the grounds he was sacked as an altar-boy for ringing the bells at the wrong time, coupled with regular thrashings by the, ahem, Christian Brothers scrambling whatever he knew into a red-hot mess), I'm not that interested to spend too much time on it. Busy busy, and all that. But I did chance upon this handy flowchart, (and who doesn't love a good flowchart!), in case I ran out of things to do one day and wanted to pick a side and go for it. I do hope it helps you too, Dear Reader.

* Never read.

** Never attended.

*** Indeed, a Lockdown pastime was a touch of online Genealogy, where I discovered that not only was my paternal line as Catholic as my maternal, but each generation had at least ten kids and no-one, going back hundreds of years, save the obvious Black Sheep who did a bunk to Australia around the time of Federation, has ever left the County of Lancashire! I do wonder how tricky it was to stay Catholic during the times it was outlawed, but that's a personal genealogical investigation for another day.

Image credits: 1: Flying With Hands; 2: via Reddit

Bats In The Belfry