When I was a child and in the process of being educated about the love of God and the excruciating agony suffered by the Christ at Calvary - all for the benefit of saving my pretty worthless soul - I swallowed everything I was taught hook, line and sinker, as the saying goes. As a child Christian, the fishy metaphor is apt. What I could not see then, but can see all too clearly now, was the complete contradiction between what I was taught, and how it was taught to me, and what I trust is spiritual reality.
To begin with (and let me say here at the outset that this is not a judgemental outburst against those who for all their supposed knowledge and wisdom really seemed to have lost the plot) the teaching of Christ's loving message was completely out of touch with the background of his vengeful Father, ever waiting to dole out punishment for all my little transgressions. Also, the way in which I was taught, so beloved of the Protestant low Church, was very much in the Pauline mode. Thus I developed a mindset that was overloaded with guilt, imminent divine punishment, coupled with a need that I abhorred of seeking to convert others to "my way" of thinking. (I never was very successful at doing that, and maintain my abhorrence at indulging in that practice even now.) Suddenly, my reading of St. Paul threw into high relief a kind of familiarity that was pressing all the wrong buttons.
Perhaps that would have been a good time to dump my copy of the Holy Bible in the nearest bin, but I have always had a powerful aversion to destroying books. In any case, it was possible that I would have been throwing away the good with the bad. I have spent some days thinking over the feelings that have arisen, and the end result is a deep sadness. No real anger remains over my father's........oh hell, let him go!
It is the sadness of apparent loss of something that may yet reveal something of deep value. I just don't know. It all seems to be so far too late! And when I look around the world, and frankly I am no lover of mankind, I nevertheless sense a deep regret at the huge loss that our species is suffering in the name of religious and political fundamentalism and egoistic arrogance, of arid intellectualism on the one hand and a swamping by an ocean of emotionalism on the other. Yet for all that is wrong, divisive, demanding and non-loving in this suffering world, I cannot deny that there is some intuitive good. For all the mistakes we make, there are some redemptive aspects to our behaviour. On such small and shaky foundations lies all the hope I can muster.
A long time ago, I was told that I had barely scratched the surface of Christianity. Maybe, just maybe, the Christ said, and still says, something we - or at least this non-religious I - have a need to hear.