I believe in God, but is it just a fairy tale? – Jim Duffy

If the ‘religion they gave me’ is rotten to the core and to the top, is it okay to just drop it, wonders Jim Duffy.

Brian McFaddens song Irish Son contains a powerful critique of the Catholic Church in Ireland (Picture: Michael Gillen)
Brian McFaddens song Irish Son contains a powerful critique of the Catholic Church in Ireland (Picture: Michael Gillen)

What do Brian McFadden, Cardinal George Pell and Pontius Pilate all have in common? Answer – they are all odds with the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, there is no ‘boom, boom’ at the end of this one. No other witty or pithy punchline. But it is a fact. And if I’m being honest, a pretty sad fact.

McFadden, for those of you who have no clue who he is, is an Irish singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the late ’90s with the Irish boy band Westlife. He now has a “solo” career in which he performed the song Irish Son. In this clever ditty, he has a right go at the Roman Catholic religion. More to follow on that.

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Cardinal Pell has just been found guilty of the sexual abuse of boys and this week spent his first night in prison. He was the top man in Australia for the Church, a cardinal, and a top man for the religion looking after the cash in Rome.

Pontius Pilate was the man in the New Testament who found Jesus Christ guilty and sentenced him to be crucified. Or so the story goes. So, all three men are not on the Pope’s Christmas card list – so to speak. But, this has left me with a bloody headache this week...

I just happened to be chatting to my fiancée, who by the way, does not believe in God or any religion. Philosophically, I think this makes her agnostic. But, the Church in Rome may call her simply a non-believer. I was thinking about my own “faith” and how it comes and goes. I told her that I am still struggling with Jesus Christ and whether or not he is the Son of God, as I was taught at school.

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My partner said that I could read the Harry Potter novels and they would be just as credible as the Bible if they had been penned 2,000 years ago. In short, fiction. In fact, she argues that organised religion and my “faith” was just as believable as Harry Potter. So, I decided not to argue as I needed to go work it out.

Then at 2am, as I listened on my IPad to LBC, I heard Darren Adam, a night-time presenter, suggest pretty strongly to a caller that religion was really all “fairy tales”.

Crickey, I thought, even one of my favourite and most-trusted radio presenters was dissing my belief in Jesus Christ and my religion. And this made me think a bit deeper.

Both my partner and Mr Adam were so dismissive of it that they had no problem saying so or arguing the toss about it. And guess what – they did not get struck down by a bolt of lightning or visited by a plague of locusts.

They both seem to be just fine – in this life. It is me who is struggling with the guilt of questioning my “faith”. And it keeps bothering me.

In his 1994 ballad, McFadden sings about the fact that we will not find peace inside God’s home – that’s the Roman Catholic God by the way – as basically those who run the operation are simply not to be trusted. This is addressed, I guess, to how this particular church conducted itself in Ireland.

And now enter Cardinal Pell. Someone so senior and, as I was told by my RE teachers, so close to God was found guilty of terrible breaches of trust and appalling conduct.

I don’t think Jesus will be pleased and I have no idea what St Peter will say at the Pearly Gates when Pell eventually arrives there. But, for now, he has again blown away any arguments I have with myself and others as to the veracity and culture of my religion. What in God’s name am I to do?

If the “religion they gave me” is rotten to the core and the top, is it okay to just drop it and tell St Peter, if I meet him, that I was disenchanted with the headlines and felt that, morally, his church was bankrupt?

This is how many people must feel as they attend their gatherings this weekend. And I genuinely feel saddened and sorry for them as they too struggle to believe in the authenticity of the church’s teachings and messaging when yet another big gun goes to jail. It is a little depressing, despite the joyful sermons from many a pulpit.

McFadden has moved on from religion and my fiancée is not interested. But, I really do want to believe. She tells me I have been indoctrinated at school, “with the religion they gave me”.

She and McFadden may both be right. But, trying to undo the feelings of guilt and genuinely wanting to believe is tough in the extreme. I do feel that, as simple human beings, we need some form of spiritualism.

Of course, some would argue that’s why organised religion does so well in its numbers. But, is that it?

I don’t believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or the Jedi religion, so why would I believe in the Roman Catholic, Islamic or Jewish religions or, for that matter, Scientology?

But, hard as I try, I keep having a nagging feeling that I am being constantly watched and assessed by a higher power who one day might call in his or her chips.

I don’t think Cardinal Pell is going to get into heaven now. But, I am still hoping that, despite McFadden’s disillusionment and my fiancée’s belief in Harry Potter, there is still something out there worth my private prayers.