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You Need a Sense of Humour About These Things

Unlike me, my wife has social interests and many friends. She meets up with a load, a gaggle, a gang, of women every Wednesday and they knit or cross stitch. She loves these meetings and the friendships she has forged over the years are incredibly important to her. So, obviously, when she tells me that some of the ladies hold a social gathering in a Baptist Church, where crucially, they give out free food, tea and coffee and conversation, I didn’t want to go. I was persuaded to go and so, all three of us went.

The Church is a small flat building with strong Youth Club vibes. The main colour scheme are shades of brown with tables placed here and there. A table near a far wall was full of people, one being the pastor that goes to my son’s school. He noticed us and seemed pleasantly surprised to see us all. He was complimentary about my child, which is always nice to hear. We found a seat at an empty table and my wife went off to make the drinks. My son went off to look at the toys on a table in the middle of the room. Sat on my own I noticed I was fiddling with one of my lad’s fidget toys. Spinning it between the fingers of my right hand, over and over. The ladies that my wife knew came and sat next to us and we made some conversation about my wife and her work. It was fine, all in all, my wife’s friends are lovely people that I have met before. Once or twice.

Then, other people started to arrive at the table. One was an older man, clutching a blue version of the King James Bible, who sat down and fired off a dozen questions. Fine. He told me that he lived in Litherland, which is near enough to where we were and obscure enough for me not to care. As I was eating, he carried on talking. Which is fine. Then a mother and daughter, or carer and client, or two friends – I didn’t find out, joined us. They didn’t really talk to us. Finally, this random group of people becomes completed by a woman in her forties, with a blue head band and forty nine percent of the world’s total energy crammed into her small, bird like frame. She talks at a hundred miles an hour and uses phrases like, “my own growth journey”, “align your chakra’s” and “my own spiritual journey”. I kept quiet. You can believe in crystals and chakra’s and that the moon is a sort of blue cheese if you want to. Go nuts.

The man with the bible asks if I went to church and I said, “no as I would rather do something else with my weekends.” Hoping that this would be the end of the conversation. It wasn’t. The man went on, “you don’t have to go to church to be spiritual”. Which is true but I am not spiritual. I was married by Spiritualists but that was because they answered the phone and were cheap. The woman who officiated did tell me that she “had a bigger wedding to get to”. Which was annoying. If I remember rightly, which I do, they were found guilty of a massive tax fraud. So, swings and roundabouts.

I said, “I know but I just don’t believe in that”. Because I don’t. A few moments pass where the blue hair band lady talks about her work which was interesting as she works as a charity fundraiser.

The man with the Blue Bible asked, “what happened to make you stop believing in God?” The problem here is that this question is based on a logical fallacy, it supposes that there was a time when I believed and that some event ruined that. To push this a step further it assumes that belief in a divinity is innate and is something to be lost like someone’s virginity or hair. I never believed in god. I find it hard to visualise the existence of a being that can see everything and knows everything but allows insects to eat the eyes of children, allows cancers in infants and James Corden a career. It maybe my ASD which prevents me from visualising this. I found it hard to conceptualise the fact that objects are made up of minute, vibrating atoms. I also found it hard to grasp that spermatozoa weren’t alive. They moved, they could smell and died. But, no, they’re just cells. As I said, I didn’t have a moment of anagnorisis or anything like that. I didn’t believe and then I read some books that helped me not to believe a little more. If, at the same point in my life, I would have read some books that argued for a God then I might have decided differently. It is unlikely but you never know.

I mentioned a book called “The Believing Gene” that I read a few years ago. It basically argues that some people are more likely to be religious than others and if you are born without this predisposition then it is unlikely that you’ll be the next Pope. That wasn’t the end of it. Nope. He asked again. Now, I normally tell the anecdote of being a tree in a Sunday School nativity play as the moment I feel from Grace. The teacher let her own son, who was – and I assume still is – deaf play Joseph. I felt that I would do a much better job because I wasn’t deaf. The anecdote focuses on me being a git and how even Sunday School suffers from nepotism. Depending on who I am talking to I can make this anecdote mean or silly. I kept it clean. I said that “because I was cast as a tree and not Joseph it showed me the fundamental man made nature of religion.” It is a bit of a jokey story I use to stop the conversation.

This is where the young lady started to get upset. I didn’t spot this because I don’t spot this things. My wife does notice these things stepped in and calmed her. She was upset because she couldn’t conceptualise how I was saying religion was mad made when in her mind it is “god made”. Her inability to see that the world may not be God made echoed my own about it being created by some man who wrote a bunch of guidelines to Bronze Age men that somehow still have relevance to a completely different world. You can argue human nature hasn’t changed that much since the Bronze Age, sure, but we don’t sell our children into slavery or worry about mixing seeds and the Bible contains no guidance whatsoever about sending an email at work and pressing “reply all” instead of “reply” resulting in the entire office knowing about your hangover and desperate need for a tea.

Once I had found out about her reaction to my off handed comment I did, truly, feel awful. Not enough to apologise as I was told I didn’t need to. But, still, felt like shite for a while. It became something I fixated on for a while and my wife had to talk me round. Through out the evening, it was only three hours after all, I did feel uncomfortable and this made it worse. I found that even though I can join a conversation about healing crystals and chakra’s and some woman’s personal healing path I find it very hard to hide that I think it is bollocks. If it makes you happy, and doesn’t negatively impact on people, then go for it.

The difficulty of two people with autism expressing a belief system is compounded by a profound lack of visualisation. I cannot see how people would believe so much that they have to tell me about it. She cannot see how people live without belief. She didn’t openly have a go at me and no one called me a stinking, commie atheist or ask how excited I am about going to hell. They wouldn’t as they were lovely people. The knobhead in the story is writing this blog. They were welcoming and once the conversation was over they moved on. They even allowed my silence. All of which is to their credit. Crying lady aside they accepted what I had to say and didn’t try and change my mind. I didn’t start spouting Hitchens or Dawkins at them either. My son had a good time, and my wife had a good time. I would, not on my own, go again but I would just stop conversation about religion a lot quicker next time.


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