I came to Catholicism through cricket. In primary school, each week two hours were set aside for religion. “None of the above” wasn’t presented as an option, so I picked the group who were playing outside.
Frantically defending a wicket against the spin bowling of frocked nuns led to friendships and a new group. With my mother being Irish, it was also the only religion that I knew much about, though my parents left it up to me to decide my own path when it came to faith.
A few years of excited church attendance on Sundays — the local Indian community in my dorp was also Catholic, which meant great food afterwards — and I took the final step and was confirmed. My atheist father even gave me a Bible (printed in such small type that teenage me would never read it).
But this was shortly followed by a time of becoming a more critical participant of the whole life thing. Catholicism was also not the “in” religion: thanks to the house master in our high school being Anglican, a group of my friends went off and pursued that religion. Evening meets and speaking in tongues quickly meant I was an outsider.
I eventually shifted to the other end, becoming an outspoken atheist. People who needed religion were “stupid”.
I was quick to criticise and slow to understand why religion still plays such a large role in life.
Now I have a job and pay taxes. I understand why we all desperately need something to get us through the week. Some people pick vaguely legal substances. I prefer to fly a pixelated vessel through deep space. Billions get together and talk about being better people by worshipping whichever imaginary friend they have grown up supporting.
But the need for religion has been abused by the institutions that oversee worship. Picking a deity also means joining a larger organisation and ascribing to its rules. Those are in the eye of the beholder, and it can mean that scripts made for peace are used to justify violence, or to interfere in people’s reproductive choices.
So I have picked something else to guide my life. A simple mantra: don’t be a dick.
If you look at organised religion, especially the dominant Abrahamic versions, there are two narratives: worship the guy who created all of existence, and be a good person. Islam asks that people give up time to do charity work. Christianity warns you against sleeping with your neighbour’s wife.
All these rules, or commandments, are codified. Following them justifies the institutions of religion. But I don’t think we need any of that if we all just follow that mantra when making decisions: don’t be a dick. If you’re not a person with dickish tendencies, then you won’t sleep with your neighbour’s wife, and you will help other people out.
It follows that the rules that govern religion come from human nature. We are here because we have always been curious and worked together to harness the best of humanity.
So let’s get rid of the middleman. Humanity is pretty incredible when it wants to be. Just imagine what we could do if we took all the energy and expense we expended on religion and put it into each other. Instead of obsolete rules that hamper us, we could wander through life with a curiosity that is guided by that one rule: don’t be a dick.
Maybe then kids at school can play cricket just because it’s fun.