When the world seems awful

I woke up this Sunday morning distracted after having frantically called and messaged my Mum and stepdad last night to check they were safe after the BBC News app pinged up on my phone informing us of the London Bridge incident. They had been to see Depeche Mode at the Olympic Stadium that night, and seeing as I have little-to-no geographical awareness of where things are in London, I didn’t know if they were anywhere near there, or if anything else had happened near them.

It had become somewhat of a dark joke last year; everytime we heard the percussive ping of the breaking news headlines pop up on either of our phones, we dreaded hearing that another celebrity had been found dead in their homes, and secretly hoping David Attenborough was still alive and well. On Christmas Day at my brother’s house, we heard the noise-of-doom on my partner’s phone whilst we were sat round trying to answer the ridiculous questions of my brother’s Christmas Quiz, and I sarcastically piped up, “oh no, who’s died now?”, which in hindsight, isn’t the most appropriate thing to have said but unfortunately that is what I said. Tom took his phone out of the space between the sofa cushions, glanced at the lock-screen and replied, “oh no, I don’t think I want to say!”. It was of course, a notification to say that George Michael had been found dead, aged 53. We sat in shock for quite a while, discussing how bad 2016 had been for bad news, and for famous people passing-away and wondered how many more faces would be talked about in the past before the year was up.

But of course these are individual people and most of them died by either natural, drug-induced or suicide related reasons. It was achingly sad to hear about Bowie and Prince’s passings and even those who I did not personally know much about. Not many high-profile deaths come as good news. However when the news is of yet another terrorist attack on a city, or a nightclub, a famous building or even just a bus, the thing we want to hear next is that the police have caught and ended the lives of the perpetrators. The lemmings, blindly and irrationally following commands of their cowardly leaders who are intent on spreading hate, ruining the lives of people who have nothing to do with them. All in the name of an imaginary being.

It is scarring and scary, and we don’t seem to be able to do enough about it. I know that  sounds monumentally defeatest but there is internet, there is print, there is travel, there is free-speech and there is unstoppable influence and these things can be, and usually are fantastic tools for movement and for good causes. But people will continue to follow blindly and be brainwashed as they have done for thousands of years. Years decorated by the untimely and unwarrented events to blame for the sudden decline in a specific population going about their daily lives. These foolish few will continue to be able to buy household products and make bombs that could kill innocent people enjoying a pop concert. I hated having to write that last sentence, but can we actually say that anti-terror movements and procedures will mean that this NEVER happens again? No, we cannot. We can’t control people and monitor their every movement, and that is frustratingly fair and right.

However we can one-by-one teach our children that they have their own minds. They can question and they can have good powers, just as forceful as the preachers of evil ideology living out their anger-filled desires through impressionable young people. We can wrap our kids in bubble wrap and not go and visit the local music festival because we are scared it might be a target for attackers, or we can pop the bubbles in the plastic, rip it off, stamp on it or whatever floats your boat and allow them to see, to hear and to be brave. They will see or hear about more terror attacks, as will we, and I will still frantically try and contact my loved ones if the attacks happen in a place near to them, as my family did when I was due to travel on the Picadilly Line on the morning of the 7/7 bombings with my stepsister, but thanks to her friend being a little too hungover to get up as early as we had planned, we were still in bed when it happened.

I am scared. Scared that it will happen near us or our beautiful children and family members elsewhere. But I am also scared that the fear of it happening will stop us from living our lives. So I think we just have to let the fear subside just enough, and teach our kids that they are brilliant, and brave and powerful and they can do good, have good values and good morals just because they want to, as opposed to needing a god or other source of scaremongering hierarchy to ‘make them behave and be good people’.



What the Devil?

Trying to come up with a title for this entry was quite tricky. I’m aware that it’s a sensitive topic, one that will always spark lots of debate between people, often within in the same social group. But I LOVE talking about religion. So when a man knocked on my door a few weeks ago in the late morning, I wasn’t not sure he was wearing comfortable enough shoes for the bumpy little journey we went on whilst stood on my doorstep.

He had come to deliver God’s message (note to God – use a courier, much more efficient)… he was trying to hand me a bit of paper and I politely said “Oh, no thank you…I’m an atheist”.
“Atheist?”, he queried scepticaly, “how long have you been an atheist for?”…” Um, all my life”, I replied.

Now this is not technically true, I haven’t always felt like I was an atheist, I was Christened as a baby, in a church in Cornwall, as was my brother and we attended a Church of England primary school where we were regularly subjected to listening to (and watching) our amply-bearded headmaster, foot upon a chair and guitar in hand, strumming awkwardly away and singing ‘Kumbayah’.

But, religion wasn’t particularly discussed at home, one way or the other and I guess as a child I kind of assumed I was supposed to be a Christian if I was asked about my religious beliefs. But come my early-twenties and then with some crucial eye-openings from a completely Atheist Tom, I finally started to consider my own thoughts in that area. I came to the sudden realisation that God had done a pretty shitty job at making sure we all believed in the same things.

The conversation with the older man at my door progressed onto the creation of the universe and all things good and bad. He was arguing that although he felt the Big Bang probably did happen (but the Earth is only 6000 years old apparently), it couldn’t possibly have just happened, it couldn’t just be ‘one of those things’, someone very powerful must have designed and created it all. He went on, to say how poverty and starvation are the fault of mankind themselves (God, you slipped up in your designs again there, didn’t you, yes) and that ‘He’ made the Earth to have enough food for every person to ever live on the planet, and it is our own fault that people are starving. That and war of course. I then queried him about things like disease and natural disasters, why does God feel the need to inflict that on to innocent people?
“No, no, those are things created by an evil being, an evil being is responsible for that”.
“Oh!” I giggled, “Who’s that then?”…
“Well Satan, the devil, of course”.

Oh crap.

“Oh, so Satan made me disabled?”
“No, Satan didn’t make you disabled…no that’s *metaphorical head scratch*… just one of those things”.

Well now I know! Thanks for that insight, you ignorant twerp, what does that even mean?

The Big Bang, life, the universe, every single thing in any place, ever, was created by God, but a simple gene fault causing disease… Just a random occurrence?

This, more than anything else (but not exclusively) is the reason I am now a comfortable and happy Atheist. Surely a God, having all that sparkly power and whatnot, would find disease just another little blip to iron out.

Unfortunately the typical response from most Christians I often hear is ‘God moves in mysterious ways’, when they are searching for a reason for the unfair things which happen to us. But not in my case. The man at my door had no answer for me. Religion has given me nothing apart from the knowledge that I am simply an anomaly.

Personally, I need to believe that nobody is to blame for the things I struggle with. My parents each unknowingly passed on the gene faults which cause my nerve disease (I got both faults, go me!). I have had children of my own knowing full well that I will pass on one of those faults to each of my children.

I know all of this thanks to science and medicine, in which I have a lot of faith.

TJB… Thank you for helping me iron out my thoughts. X.