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I'm not one for religious zeal
THESE days I class myself as an agnostic but I was actually brought up in a religious household.
My father, in particular, was a regular churchgoer and when we were old enough he would encourage my brother and I to join him for Sunday Evensong. We used to go early - not out of religious conviction but because our uncle was the churchwarden and he would sometimes let us ring the church bell. Sadly for those living in the vicinity, the single peal was as monotonous as it gets. But we enjoyed inflicting the misery, which wasn’t a good start to the evening’s Christian experience.
Apart from bell-ringing, there was no fun to be had at Evensong, yet we didn’t want to upset our father. So my brother and I struck a deal with him. We’d sit through the first part of the service but when the vicar rose to deliver his sermon we would also rise to leave. Even back in the 1960s the church wasn’t full, so you can imagine our evacuation didn’t go unnoticed. What hope - or desire - the vicar might have had for our salvation was never revealed but he can’t have been pleased that we so conspicuously shunned his oratory.
The only other close encounter I had with religion as a young teenager was during a Billy Graham gathering I was persuaded by a school teacher to attend in Leeds.
The evangelist was actually preaching to a huge audience in London and the event was beamed to us live. He was quite funny, which made the event seem like Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Anyway, Billy unsurprisingly implored us all to be saved. Many shouted that they did, indeed, require salvation and for some inexplicable reason I got caught up in the mass hysteria.
Thankfully, the religious zeal didn’t last - but it did leave a legacy of embarrassment that I’m only just, after all these years, comfortable about confessing.