Six years ago a handy man came to our house and stayed for 4 weeks. Well he didn’t actually stay with my son and me, but he did visit regularly to do work around the place and have lunch with us sometimes. And one day just as we were about to start eating, he asked if he could say grace.
My 8-year-old son had found the handholding and head bowing odd but did it anyway. The handyman’s giving thanks to the spaghetti bolognaise had surprised me too at first but I got used to it during the following weeks and even came to like it.
In his book An Elegant Argument for Spirituality Without God, Andre Comte-Sponville asks if ‘Atheists have as much spirit as everyone else; why would they be less interested in spiritual life?’
Why indeed? Although I never really know what people mean when they say the’re not religious but that they are spiritual.
I don’t believe in God. I never have and most likely never will. After all I come from a family of atheists and communists, muckrakers and skeptics.
I was 10 years-old and my best friend was preparing for her Confirmation, twirling about showing off the new white flowy dress her mother had made for the big event. I asked her what a confirmation was and she said that ‘It’s when you promise yourself to God.’
Really? How come she got to give herself to God and dress up like a bride and I didn’t. I asked Mum. ‘Because she’s Catholic’, she said ‘and just because we’re Italians doesn’t mean we all believe in God.’
God or no god I still wanted to wear a dress like that, and surely my nonna could make it for me?
But when I asked my grandmother if she could rustle me up a dress like my friend’s, with its lace Peter Pan collar, she led me outside and declared authoritatively that ‘God was right here in our garden and not in any church.’ I couldn’t see anything except tomatoes and a chook shed but she seemed so confident that her version has always stayed with me.
Later in my 20s I visited a Tibetan monk. I was lost, depressed and flailing about for meaning and a Buddhist friend suggested it. Why not?
Once in the monk’s modest suburban home, he looked up at me from his armchair in front of the telly, ushered for me to sit down and poured me a cup of tea, offered me a Tic Toc biscuit. Then he went back to watching the cricket. Eventually he looked at me again, smiled and suggested I go away and meditate. That was it. Maybe I’m just not wired for religion.
Watch below as Rosemary Stanton speaks about her childhood in the religious sect the Exclusive Brethren. Post continues after video.