I was educated in a convent school in Tilbury in Essex. Mostly nuns. The headmistress, Sister Bernadette, was terrifying - she truly put the fear of God into me. On the other hand Sister Dominic was beatific. I didn't ask to be a Catholic but that's what they drummed into me. I became an altar boy and although I regularly officiated at funerals, when my father died they decided that at eleven I was too young to attend his funeral. That decision still rankles. More than rankles in fact.
At fifteen I stopped going to church. I lost my faith. I became an agnostic. Sure, there might be a God but I didn't know if my God was the right one. Besides, I didn't like the way he operated, the way he ran the world. In the end I decided I preferred to make my own rules, write my own scriptures, develop my own modest morality.
I knew there would be a price to pay for my wilful independence. As a Catholic the denial of God meant that my soul was forever blackened with mortal sin. I didn't mind. If I died and went to Hell it would be a small price to pay for my principles. If there was a God and that was how he treated me then I didn't want to share eternity with him anyway.
Of course, now I'm older and death is getting closer I'm not quite so sure about my views. I'm not so sure about anything in fact. Driving home from work the other day I began to wonder what my death would really be like. Is there an afterlife? What if there is a God? What would I say to him? I hope I would ask him why he allowed the Holocaust.
On the other hand, maybe it was time to place an each way bet on eternity. A quick visit to the confessional perhaps. A few Hail Marys, an Act of Contrition. A sort of insurance policy. Just have to hope I'm praying to the right God. There aren't too many Muslim churches in this part of the world.
I don't think so though. You have to believe in something. At the end of the day I still believe in my own religion. It's not perfect, although no-one has died for the sake of it. Not as well-thought out as all those other religions either. Doesn't demand much in the way of faith. A bit of a joke religion really. You'll never hear me on Thought For The Day.
And of course, if I've got it wrong, boy am I going to have to pay the price in the hereafter. I'll pay it though. Like I said, you have to believe in something.