Sunday, 28 August 2011

No, I haven't found Jesus...

...I didn't know he was lost.

So while I was in Nottingham, at Wollaton Hall café (see previous blog post), I got chatting. There I was, minding my own business, polishing off my jacket potato and veggie chilli, alone, when a voice from the next table said "Was that good?" "Absolutely delicious", I said, looking up at an elderly man in a beige suit, white socks, pale slip-on shoes and with very few teeth. "And what was it?" he asked. "Veggie chilli and a jacket potato" I replied, in a way that I hoped made it clear that I wasn't really in the mood for idle chit-chat (I had a blog to draft, after all).

Undeterred, he went on with the small talk and within a few minutes of perfectly pleasant chat, I'd discovered that he lives locally, comes to the park every day, has a niece who lives in Hove, thought I was either Australian or from Cambridgeshire (?!), had been a mathematician, retired at 52, and had written three books since retiring. Innocently, I asked "Oh, what were the books?" "Funnily enough, I have one here", he said, pulling a small white book from his equally white jacket pocket. I glanced at the cover, couldn't work out what it was, so I flicked through a few pages and was none the wiser. I saw poems, personal memories, fables and a random list of chapter titles with no discernible connection. I made a few suitable noises of appreciation and handed it back. He started to talk about chaos theory and how mathematicians try to make sense of everything around them, trying to make order out of chaos, he mentioned the butterfly effect and various other concepts I'm relatively familiar with.

And then it came - "You see, as a mathematician, I see life as a journey, a logical progression, from questions to the final answer, from ignorance to knowledge and that only comes when we understand God and Jesus and the real love which follows." My heart sank. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with religion - when it's kept private but I could see where this was going. He continued for a good four or five minutes while I shuffled my feet and nodded politely, until he reached "Don't you see? You'll finally be complete and free when you love Jesus." I couldn't take any more so I was quite diplomatic (for me!) and said "Well, of course, everyone's entitled to their own opinion and no-one actually knows who, if anyone, is right. But I'm an atheist, I feel perfectly complete and free already thank you, and I personally disagree with your views on the subject." Unsurprisingly, he ploughed on, not aggressively and not exactly preaching, but not letting the subject go either. I picked up my bag, put on my jacket and received a rather convenient text which gave me the perfect excuse to leave.

It was a shame - he'd seemed like an interesting person to talk to at the beginning but once the topic had headed to where he clearly wanted it to go, it was pointless. The subject wasn't going to change and he clearly wasn't prepared to listen to my views even though he thought it was perfectly acceptable to foist his on me. I really don't understand it - most religions preach tolerance and yet seem to be entirely intolerant of anyone who doesn't share their views. Personally, I'll never understand why anyone would want to live their life being told what to do by an invisible entity, a big book or some bloke claiming to be speaking for the invisible entity. Personal responsibility, people! Do what YOU believe is right and take the consequences if there are any! OK, I'm getting down off my soapbox now before I'm accused of foisting my views on anyone! ;-)

So, a potentially nice chat spoiled! What a shame.


  1. I'm confused by your statement "Personally, I'll never understand why anyone would want to live their life being told what to do by an invisible entity..." followed by "Do what YOU believe is right...".

    What is "right" if it is not an invisible entity?

  2. In my youth, I taught Sunday school at an Anglican church in Canada. I rarely attended church and so I was surprised when the minister stopped by my home to invite me on board as a Sunday school teacher. I told him I never go to church. Perfect, he replied. You won't feel like you're missing anything by teaching the kids and not attending the services. But I don't believe Jesus is God, I protested. That's O.K., he assured me. Our new curriculum takes it for granted that folks believe. Jesus as God never comes up in class. Just promise you won't tell the kids Jesus is not God and we won't ask you to tell them he is. And so it was that I came to teach Sunday school. I still recall the class on generosity. We all sat in the shade of the tall trees on the church lawn and enjoyed ice cream cones that I bought.

  3. I just stopped by to wish you a very happy holiday season and all the best in the coming year!

    Our local paper did a piece on Brighton-Hove. They thought London, Ontario, should follow the example set by Hove when it comes to rebranding. Our paper had the idea that Hove rebranded itself with the phrase "Hove, actually."

    Loved following your stories from Spain. All the best in the coming year.

    Cheers, Rockinon (Ken W.)

  4. Sorry for the delays in responding. My blog has stopped telling me when there's a comment so I had missed all of these.

    Jeremy: I didn't say that "right" is a visible entity. YOU are a visible entity. You decide what to do and it should be based on your own moral code, not one dictated to you by anyone else (visible or otherwise).

    Rockinon: interesting concept about the Sunday School teaching. Don't ask, don't tell seems like a bizarre but workable way of doing things. Having said that, you only said that you protested that you don't believe that Jesus is God, not that you don't believe in God at all, and that you only rarely attended church, suggesting that sometimes you do. Do you think his reaction would have been the same had you said you were an atheist but were happy to teach it all as long as you weren't asked if you believed?

    Ah, Hove Actually!! That is such a long-standing phrase now that some people genuinely do think that's the name of the town. What was London, Ontario going to rebrand itself?!

  5. Oops, and thank you for stopping by - on 25th December too! I hope you have a great 2012.