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I have been a proud dyed-in-the-wool atheist all my life, thanks to a father who believed religion was at the root of all the world’s ills. Unlike some atheists, while vehemently opposed to many traditional Christian beliefs and strictures, I don’t believe I was unduly bigoted about it – my best friend at school was devoutly Roman Catholic and I graciously succumbed to his mother tossing holy water over us both before we went out to play by the canal. Another friend became a Christian of the born-again tambourine-shaking Ned Flanders variety and I didn’t shun them. Growing up in a multicultural city, I was interested in the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim traditions of my friends and their families, but I never really got any spiritual cravings myself until much later, when dissatisfaction with the way certain aspects of my life were going made me realise I needed reassurance there was Something Bigger Than Me out there, some purpose to it all.

I dabbled with Wicca for a while, which was the trendy thing to do at the time. Wiccans have good marketing, but as a creed it didn’t suit me. I found the ceremonial aspects frankly theatrical (even, dare I say it, inadvertently comical) and I failed totally to relate to the earnest emphasis on goddesses and festivals and high magic. It all meant nothing to me personally.

What it did teach me was that I have no need for a structured religion. What I needed was a philosophy.

I have always believed strongly in some basic concepts. Nature, environment and heritage – these are things central to my personal belief system. I am not a blind follower of rules or teachers. Whereas some people find comfort and security in a religion that tells them exactly what to think, how to act and what to believe, personal choice in such things is important to me. I have an eclectic and enquiring mind, and whatever philosophy of life I follow must be an informal adventure that opens up a new world for me, not constrains the one I live in. It must look forward as well as back.

This brings me to the here and now.

I intend to follow the questing path – including all the detours and dead ends –  with an open mind and wherever it may lead me. No fixed destination in mind.

* Robert Louis Stevenson
** Maybe I should have named it Pathfinding for Dummies

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Viridian Green

April 2012

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