I feel like I should preface this post with a warning. I have very strong anti-religious views. Although I strenuously disagree with the view that religious beliefs should be respected and not criticised, in the interest of choosing kindness I will try to be as moderate as I can in what follows. However if you think you might be offended by anti-religious sentiment, then please don’t read on.
I don’t know how much I ever really believed in god as a child, however I know my atheism was cemented during my Psychology undergraduate degree when I studied a Religion and Psychology module. It just seemed so obvious how man-made religions are, how culturally and temporally contextual they are, and how they originally fulfilled a function for people who didn’t yet have methods of understand the world or how it came to be. People desiring to feel like they could exhibit some control over their lives, to justify the unfairness and hardship of life with the promise of reward in another life, and to assuage existential questions and fears of annihilation.
I always used to wonder how my atheism would be affected when someone close to me died. I wondered if I would be so desperate to believe that I would be reunited with them, that I would start to believe in a god and a heaven. If anything though, losing Isobel has reinforced my certainty that there is no god, that religion is a man-made, politically driven enterprise which preys on the human desires mentioned above. I’m glad that I don’t have to try and reconcile belief in a loving god with their failure to protect the most vulnerable and most innocent of their people. The idea of Isobel being anywhere without me would cause me extreme distress, not comfort. I am reassured that I don’t think of her as existing anywhere and yet I can still find her in nature, in beauty. I feel all the more keenly my need to make the most of the one life that I have, knowing that is all there is. I find it tragic to think of other bereaved mothers living their days, ticking time away, believing they will be reunited with their baby someday – that’s if the poor unbaptised baby is lucky enough to be cleansed of their original sin(!) and manages to actually get to heaven.
I know religion in general is in decline, but the extent of belief in the baby loss community continues to astound me. I just genuinely don’t understand how anyone in this century can believe in a god, or would even want to, never mind someone who has had their precious baby taken away from them. How can a parent who has lost a child continue to trust in a god who had either decided to kill their child, or stood by and watched them die when they had the power to save them? I see such hypocrisy in the religious community. Most Christians completely ignore the horrors of the Old Testament, recognising that it is completely ridiculous and nonsensical so they focus on the New Testament. Their god is praised for the beautiful and the good – if a child lives it is thanks to prayer and the grace of god. Yet this same god is never held to account for the ugly and the bad. If the same child dies it is not because god failed to act, it is because there is a bigger mysterious plan we are not party to. If god has a plan why even pray?
When I was pregnant with Theo so many people said they were praying for him to survive. I found this hugely insulting. The implication being that I had failed to inform god that I wanted my first baby to live and therefore she had died. Theo lived because not because people prayed. He lived because of science, because doctors and researchers know they can’t rely on a god to save babies, and so they study and research and use medicine.
I don’t believe in any of the gods mankind has invented over the years but I believe in Dr Alex Heazell at the Placental Research Centre in Manchester and I believe in Dr Alyson Hunter at the Royal in Belfast. They are my gods.