Updated: Apr 22, 2019
A little blog post musing on religion. I considered becoming a Humanist celebrant - but hand-on-heart I can't agree with the humanists that all religion is a harmful force in society. Prejudice, hatred, bigotry - all of these are dangerous - but I'm convinced they spring from human fear not a belief in God.
I loved Bishop Michael Curry's sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It was such a powerful speech. Nothing could shake that man's resolve to speak his truth - not even a rigidly scheduled royal wedding, being broadcast live across the world! And it's quite clear that for Bishop Michael, his determination to make the world a better place springs from his belief in God - just as it did for Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi.
I believe that most people, throughout history and across countries and cultures, have a profound need to understand the value and purpose of human existence in a way that connects us both to one another and to our own experiences of love, loss, altruism and morality.
For some this understanding results in the deep conviction that God exists - as He/She is conceived by the major theistic religions or through their own more idiosyncratic conception of Him/Her.
I would love to believe that there is a God - whose love and strength can somehow right the wrongs of the grotesque injustices so many people suffer. I am not sure God exists. Sometimes I feel sure He/She does not. But still I hope.
I am sure that organised religion inspires many people to immense acts of goodness, kindness and self sacrifice. And, that sadly, it inspires others to hideous acts of cruelty, intolerance and coercion.
It's a dangerous habit to ignore your own conscience, and so the idea of a creed that the faithful must sign up to, line by line, makes me uncomfortable. I worry that it encourages individuals to leave their doubts and concerns at the door; but I also understand that for many the fellowship and spiritual support of belonging to a community of believers is a source of huge strength.
For me the hope that God might exist is bound up in my capacity to be moved by religious or spiritual art and culture. Surely hope can never be a bad thing...
In short I believe religion is complex, difficult, dangerous, wonderful and important. Having worked for ten years as a programme maker for BBC Religion and Ethics, I have learned to listen and read and think before I judge. I am just as happy to lead a secular ceremony as I am to lead one that makes use of prayer, music, art and traditions from one or more faiths.
My only condition is that I will never leave my conscience at the door. I could not preside over a ceremony or a celebration of beliefs that I felt were in sharp conflict the principles I try to live by - of tolerance, justice, equality, kindness and love.
But no-one's ever asked me to do that!
If you'd like me to help you to create a unique ceremony that reflects your beliefs and values, please have a look through my website.