It’s not easy being an atheist. It must be wonderful to have faith in something bigger than us; to believe we really are here for a purpose, that there is a bigger plan.
Sadly, I just can’t go there. As spiritual as I am in my unwavering reverence to nature, the terms and conditions of organised religion have way too much editing and fine print for me.
Friends who are religious, I know, feel an element of pity for me; as if I am missing out on a major life component, like children and marriage – their raison d’êtres.
This gnawing realisation has become more acute this week. Why? Because I now live in Melbourne. And once again, as much as I would like too, I just can’t buy into this city’s religion either.
On my trip for coffee this morning, my dog and I felt underdressed. I wasn’t wearing team colours and my dog was bereft of a footie scarf. My favourite barista wasn’t keen to talk about the UK phone hacking scandal as normal, overlooking me to make a snide comment to a stranger in the queue in a Collingwood scarf.
A banter ensued that had the entire coffee shop engaged, causing me to skulk out like an ignored pet, past shops lined with coloured bunting and cars with flags flying, back home to my unadorned home.
Not one to miss out on a good time lightly, I emailed a gang of friends to organise a “bland final” party at mine on Saturday, guaranteeing a football free sanctuary. “We can have our own celebration, an I’m rooting for no one shindig”, I promised.
And as the hours ticked by and the replies came in, I realised pretty quickly that I would be spending my Saturday cleaning out the linen closet. Even my friends, who normally declare themselves footy phobic, would be donning scarves to cheer at TV’s in pubs, backyards or at the game itself on Saturday. Like lapsed Christians, the faith kicks in at certain times of the year it seems, that final season is Christmas and Easter.
“Just say you’ve got a team and come with us,” my friends have urged. “You need to have a team if you live here,” another warned. “The guys are hot,” another explained, “It’s all about the eye candy”. And then there’s the rationale, “AFL players aren’t like NRL players, they’re good boys.”
This last comment is the one I can never buy, my biggest obstacle to taking that leap of faith necessary for AFL devotion.
You see, when I arrived here a year ago, I moved to St Kilda, right about the time a schoolgirl called Kim Duthie appeared on the scene. The ensuing debacle was like wading in lewd sewage, each step more putrid, each revelation more gag inspiring.
I discovered characters such as Ricky Nixon, the manager/agent of some of football’s so-called finest. Then there was St Kilda player, Andrew Lovett, and his sordid rape case (he was acquitted), the persistent rumours surrounding Stephen Milne. I even saw a photo of Captain Nick Riewoldt in a naked romp with other players in a hotel room. Classy.
With all this going on, let’s just say my local team did not charm me, nor was I inspired to start wearing the red, black and white colours of the “saints” any time soon. Or ever.