When I was growing up, my family were quite religious. Not overzealous, door-to-door, preachy religious or anything like that, but my parents went to church a lot. They were both on the parish council, and Vicar of Dibley was my mother's favourite show. If it had been released a decade or so earlier, I might well have been a Geraldine rather than a Sarah Jane. Dr Who is a much cooler show to be named after, right?
The church my parents were members of was quite progressive - their local head honcho was openly gay and had been in a committed long-term relationship with one man for most of his life. They lived in a little cottage adjacent to the church. One of their most popular priests was a woman, and they frequently had inter-faith services where they invited people from Jewish, Muslim and other Christian groups from around the area to encourage religious tolerance. They also had services where you could bring pets. I remember being quite tempted to borrow my friend's python for the event, but then noticed the biblical parralels of my situation and decided against the idea.
Being as progressive as they were, my parents never forced the idea of God onto me, and I was never made to go to church with them. I was taught science and evolution as fact, and then religion as choice. You can see how I came out of childhood with a very different perception of religion to most people. It was only until I set off into the big, scary world that I saw what some people were doing under the guise of religion and went 'WAIT WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU STOP THAT. YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.'
I never really knew how to feel about the whole God thing when I was growing up. What I did know was how to cut a win/win deal, where both wins were for me. There was one particular day when I was young when I really didn't want to go to swim training. I don't know why, but it probably had something to do with it being the middle of winter. So, to test the waters of religion, I got out my prayer hands.
Ok God, here's how we're going to play this, I began, If I don't have to go to swimming this afternoon, I will totally believe in you. For reals, God.
I smirked to myself, considering that all I had to do was believe in something and I could get what I wanted without even having to get up. And if there wasn't a God, what did I lose? I'd have to go to swimming, but I probably would have had to anyway. As it turned out, I didn't go to swimming that afternoon, although I later realised that my mother forgetting to take me to one of my millions of after school activities is hardly proof of a supreme being. This coincided with me realising that this was a deal I could really only use once and I had kinda wasted it.
I guess it's pretty safe to say I never really took organised religion that seriously. The only thing I can really remember about my brief period of Sunday School attendance was the time I took along my favourite doll. It was a replica of the E.C. doll from the old ABC Kids show 'Lift Off' and when I sat down in the little circle of chairs they set out, I put E.C. in the seat next to me. After the roll was marked, the teacher asked if there were any new people there that day, as she did every week. I put my hand up and said,
'Yeah! E.C. is new!'
The teacher probably laughed at first, because how adorable, right? Keep in mind that I was actually the most adorable child ever:
That's me with the ringlets. Unfortunately for my Sunday School teacher (and all future teachers), the ringlets probably helped with my ability to lead a crowd.
'Ok, seriously though. Any new people today?' she asked.
'E.C! You haven't put her on the roll yet,' I insisted.
Then, all the other children joined in until the teacher was forced to change the subject. So naturally I repeated this exercise every week until the poor woman was forced to change her weekly announcement to, Are there any new students who aren't the doll? and my parents decided to let me sleep in on Sunday mornings.