While I was being interviewed recently for a newspaper, I was asked was there anything I really didn’t want to talk about. I said no, I couldn’t think of anything. The interview was about my writing life, with a particular emphasis on my poetry. The title of my forthcoming book is called Portrait of an atheist monk at prayer. I don’t really want to mention the details of the interview because it is deeply unfair to pre-empt the contents of someone else’s work before publication, but it was a super interview and deeply enjoyable. What was interesting was the person interviewing me brought up the fact that I actually had been a monk – a Capuchin Monk, for six years, and that that fact would deeply interest people. Indeed it would fascinate them. The person was completely right. This is apparently interesting to people. It also interests them I have written a book on the subject, a novel, all about love and belief and atheism, called The Death of Finn. I wondered why people ask me about this. They seem to think this is a secret part of my life or something, or that I would be embarrassed about it, like I would be embarrassed about my being bipolar or suffering from depression. I recall being interviewed by psychologists who also mentioned my being a monk as thought it was a huge issue for me. I recall commenting to them that it seems fascinating to people that at one stage in my life I took a particular belief system so seriously that for six years I became a monk (something not all that odd in other cultures) but no psychologist, or indeed anyone else seems to comment of the fact I am married for two decades. The psychologist took my point and moved on to other issues. More recently someone told me they were talking to a member of a religious order, a new friend they had made, a new friend I was very wary of, and they had mentioned me in passing, saying they knew someone who had been in ‘the church’ but who grew unhappy and left and was now married. The member of the religious order apparently said that it was better that those who were unhappy not remain in the church and be bitter and poison things for others and that they were deeply happy for me now I have found my place in the world. I can only begin to express the joy I feel at making people like that happy, but that is not the reason why I left. I left the Catholic Church not because I was unhappy. I don’t believe particularly in pursuing either happiness or unhappiness. If one pursues either happiness or unhappiness as an end in itself, it ultimately leads to disaster, because it is the pursuit of an illusion. Happiness or unhappiness is generally a by product of an action or repeated actions. That is in itself the subject of another blog post. Moving on:
There were two main reasons why I left the Catholic Church. The first was the fact I was a writer. It is simply who I am. We do not follow belief systems easily, and it is a very easy thing to mistake a religious or spiritual calling for that of an artistic calling. The second was doctrinal. I left the Catholic Church because its doctrines were nonsense, extremely dangerous, life-denying, and obsessed with sex. To believe in an intangible, unprovable, invisible, all powerful super-being (God) is nonsense, as is the notion that there is only one true church. There are hundreds of thousands of churches, and all of them say they are right. (Some of them will kill you if you tell them they are wrong, or that you don’t agree with how they treat women, or make them dress in a certain way, which is a form of fascism.) To sacrifice one’s life in the hope of a future life after death is life denying – which is a crazy kind of motivation when you think about it. Finally the Catholic Church is obsessed with ones reproductive systems, and how one uses ones genitals, and with whom. It is a sexist homophobic institution that treats women as second class citizens. I left it not because I was unhappy. I left it because it was immoral to stay. I had made many friends in there. I lost them all after I left – an experience many ex members of cults write about. When I see the kinds of incredible violence wreaked on people, the kinds of absurd beliefs imposed on them on pain of death, damnation and ostracism, and the ignorance, bigotry and judgemental-ism that is spread and maintained in the name of God and love and truth and organized religion, I feel not happy, but certainly relieved, I do not and never will again be a believer. It frees the mind and the spirit to truly explore and create.