Sunday, 3 October 2010

I have no faith.But am I still culturally a Christian?

Last week I attended the funeral of my Aunt Teg. She was 92 but had been relatively fit and alert until the last couple of months.


The funeral was a Christian service, in which I took part in although I am an Agnostic. I did so for two reasons.

Firstly, out of respect for my Aunt, but also for those who attended who were believers. I did feel standing mute while the service went on would be appropriate.

Secondly, I still have much affection for Welsh Hymns. In this case Cwm Rhondda and Calon Lan. Though there was a Redwood moment in the latter as the Vicar a Yorkshireman was clearly mouthing the words.

A year ago I attended the funeral of my Brother-in Law where there was a Humanist Celebration, but except for the absence of Hymns and Prayers there was not really all that difference. And it served to my mind the same purpose in that we were able to say goodbye to Roger and it helped to ease our grief.

But this has left me wondering. I began questioning my belief in God at a very early age and once asked my Grammar School Headmaster as to why Catholics could miss the religious part of the School Assembly, while I had to attend? For this I was threatened with corporal punishment and kept my mouth shut in my opposition . Though I also kept my mouth shut during the Assembly Prayers.. However despite a life a non-belief (or at least questioning)..Am I still culturally a Christian?

I was reminded of this when Jeremy Paxman (Who getting more unhinged daily) asked Ed Milliband “Are you Jewish” and “Do You believe in God” on Newsnight. (Ed said yes to the former and no to the latter). Though what relevance it had to his abilities is beyond me.

I think I join Miliband in his answer . All my life has been influenced by Welsh Chapel culture in particular and even if I look on this as little more than a folk tradition it is still there

O f course if either myself or Ed Milliband were to stand for office in the USA we would probably have to have to express a belief in a God in order to get elected. Some states actively bar non-believers from holding Public Office and in the UK Atheist could only affirm in order to take the seats in House of commons in 1886.

I hope we are not going to see Ed Miliband lack of faith being used by the right to give some implication that he is therefore unsuited to be Prime Minister or worse his cultural history.

Perhaps the Old joke from Northern Ireland is still resonant.

A Rabbi was stopped by a Paramilitary gang in a Belfast Street.

“Are you a Catholic or Protestant?”, they demanded of him.

The rabbi had no idea which side they represented but was relaxes as he said “But I’m a Jew”. His integrators paused then one said “Are you a Catholic-Jew” or a Protesnat Jew?”

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