Putting Principle Aside

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I am an atheist. I do not believe in a god, or any gods. I do not believe in life after death or heaven or hell. I definitely do not believe in organised religion and the power it possesses in our world.

I was raised a catholic. I use the term “raised” lightly here – I attended catholic schools and we went to mass once a week and at Christmas and Easter but I certainly wouldn’t have put our nuclear family in the hardcore basket. I always had my doubts about the whole thing (cemented by being chastised by a teacher when I was about eight for asking our Bishop during a school visit why girls couldn’t be alter people!). After I left school and moved away to go to uni the catholic phase petered out for me and I treated the whole issue with benign neglect. That was until I started to work with victims of abuse by the catholic church in my professional role as a social worker and mental health clinician. My attitude turned from “couldn’t care less” to one of loathing and anger. My partner and I hold very similar strong views and we have recently made a decision to completely boycott all catholic institutions. We feel strongly that our young daughter will have no involvement with organised religion of any kind – until a time comes when she may make a decision for herself that is different to our own. This is a strong principle and belief for me that was recently challenged in a big way.

My partner’s 89 year old grandmother died two weeks ago after a very short illness. Her health had been deteriorating for quite a while now, especially since the death of her beloved husband almost 3 years ago, but I don’t believe any of us ever thought that long and hard about her death. In many ways she seemed indestructible. Grandma’s two passions in life were her family and the catholic church. Neither were fallible in her belief. Her funeral was held in her local church – the church she had attended all of her married life and the church where her own husband’s funeral had been held not all that long ago.

And so I had a decision to make – stick by my principles and boycott the funeral of a woman who I held in strong regard, or pay my respects and feel like I was letting my own belief system down. Those people close to me will know what a difficult decision this was. But in the end it was the photo at the start of this post that made up my mind for me. The photo is of Grandma with my little Sweet Pea on her first Christmas. Grandma loved my daughter, and her other grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with delight and joy. They brought so much happiness and comfort to her, she constantly asked after them and wanted them to be brought to her for visits. This photo is, for me,  just one example of how much love this woman had for my daughter – I feel that I owed her for that. Even if it meant going inside a catholic church.

8 Comments

8 Comments on Putting Principle Aside

  1. Annette
    September 29, 2014 at 11:13 pm (3 years ago)

    I am so sorry for your loss. Grandparents can be such special, important figures in our lives. For what it’s worth I don’t think you denied your principles by attending her funeral – the venue is ultimately irrelevant to your relationship with her and your desire to say goodbye. That’s a beautiful photo for you to use to tell your daughter about this important woman in your family.

    Reply
    • KAB18
      October 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm (3 years ago)

      Thanks so much for your comment Annette – it sounds as though a few people agree with you in regards to feeling as though I didn’t go against my principles at all which has been really interesting to read as it was something I felt soooo torn about at the time!

      Reply
  2. Toni @ Finding Myself Young
    October 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm (3 years ago)

    I think the relationship you had with her is more important than your religious beliefs, at least in the situation of a funeral. I wouldn’t want to deny myself a last goodbye with a relative simply because I didn’t want to go to a church. I don’t think you went against your beliefs completely anyway because you weren’t there to worship or pay homage to any religion, you were there to honour your relationship with a special family member. I went to a Christian school but my family isn’t religious at all. I’ve decided to not send my daughter to a religious based school either because I hated being forced to sing hymns each day and go to church services when I didn’t believe in any of it. I don’t really know what I believe now, I don’t follow a religion at all but I guess it would be nice if there was something after death but who really knows.

    Reply
    • KAB18
      October 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for your comment and thoughts Toni – I really like the part about not being in the church as a sign of belonging to a religion but rather we were there to say goodbye to Grandma.

      Reply
  3. Cam @ Gen-Y Mum
    October 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm (3 years ago)

    I’m a firm believer that no matter what religion (if any) people believed in we should respect their beliefs. I haven’t really attended many funeral but I’ve attended many weddings of various religious cultures. My attendance signified my support and love for the people I’m there for. I think I would feel the same at a funeral of someone whose religion wasn’t mine.

    Love and condolences to you and your family during this difficult time.

    Reply
    • KAB18
      October 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Cam – thank you so much for your comment. I have definitely been of your view too – I’ve been to many weddings etc… for many different faiths. I think the abuse I have seen played out within the catholic church in particular (and my past connection with that institution) has just made it a lot harder for me to even be seen as supporting them in any way.

      Reply
  4. Tamara
    October 7, 2014 at 9:05 pm (3 years ago)

    Karen, my thoughts to you all as you come to terms with the loss of Grandma. Sweet Pea will be reminded of Grandmas Love by you and this photo. I’m sure the decision about the funeral was not easy for you, but I agree wth the other ladies – a funeral is not so much about organised religion, it’s about honouring and remembering. Maybe you and Sweet Pea could create some special rituals that help you remember Grandma in your own ways too..

    Reply
  5. KAB18
    October 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks T. xxx

    Reply

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