Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Me And My Religions

My parents weren't particularly religious. As a kid- and member of the cub scouts- I attended a Presbyterian church. After we moved- from Croydon to rural Kent- I attended the local Anglican church. At 14 I was sent away to a boarding school with a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition. I resented the compulsory chapel services and gave up on Christianity (for the first time) in my mid teens.

I was always intensely curious about what I suppose I'm going to have to call "spirituality". From an early age I devoured books about mythology, ghosts, reincarnation, psychical research and magic- not systematically, but as they came my way. 

When I was about 20 it suddenly occured to me that it was inconsistent to believe in the paranormal yet dismiss the Biblical miracle stories as nonsense. That laid the groundwork for my subsequent re-conversion.

I wanted to lead the good life. I thought I could do that by becoming a priest. So that's what I did.

Theological college taught me to think critically. I was shocked to discover that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not necessarily written by the Biblical characters with those names. I came out of the system as a mixed up liberal protestant.

A week or two after my ordination I realised I had made a terrible mistake.

The next ten years were pressure cooker years.  I became a charismatic, but found the culture stifling and infantile. I became an Anglo-catholic and found that didn't really fit me either. I was gradually drawn, under the influence of the radical theologian Don Cupitt, towards Christian atheism.

When it all got too much to bear- and I could no longer toe the party line- I left the church. Over the next five years I scrabbled around for something to believe in. I read Jung and Nietzsche and Krishnamurti and all sorts. I wrote articles about my search- some of which were published in the Guardian and elsewhere.

I'd always been a feminist of sorts. One day I read a pagan book and discovered it was possible to think of the Divine as female. This was wonderfully liberating.  For the first time I stepped completely outside the mental world of Christianity and became a pagan, a member of the Fellowship of Isis and then a witch.  Ailz and I ran a coven and were, briefly, pagan celebrities. We appeared on TV and got our pictures in the papers. Finally we wrote a book- The Illustrated Guide to Wicca. 

After which  I found I'd said everything I needed to say on the subject- and it was time to move on.

Since then I haven't identified as anything in particular. A year ago I started going to church again- for the company- but had to bail out before it gave me a nervous breakdown.

I believe that we're spiritual beings and that- to adapt Tennyson a little- we come from the great deep and return to the great deep.  The world is a role-playing game- or- as Shakespeare kept saying- a stage. This intuition satisfies me- and I feel no further need for putting on funny clothes or preachifying or getting into arguments.
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