The Evolution of Jesus II: from Life Giving Spirit to God the Son and beyond.

A couple of decades after the first visions of a risen Jesus, a Jewish zealot called Saul decided he’d seen him too. He came to imagine a vision he’d had in his head was this same Jesus, who then revealed to Saul – all entirely within his head as he admits – what his death and return from the dead really meant. Paul, as he renamed himself, announced that God had decided Jesus was a good man and returned him to life after his execution. In doing so, God made Jesus his Son (you can read all this poppycock in Romans 1:3-4). Jesus was now a life-giving spirit, the Saviour Christ: 1 Corinthians 15:45. (Maybe though Jesus always had been this; it’s kind of confusing, but in Philippians 2:6-8 Paul seems to think Jesus was some sort of quasi-divine being from the get-go. Take your pick. Whatever.)

Memetic selection ensured the survival and perpetuation of Paul’s bizarre idea, one that was, after all, not unfamiliar to the Hellenised people of the first century. The superstitious embraced and transmitted it without knowing a thing about any itinerant Jewish preacher. 

The next stage of Jesus’ evolution came twenty or so years later, when a believer we now know as Mark decided to write a back story for this Christ. He created his story using Jewish scripture, Paul’s ideas and the rules of the sect to which he belonged. Who knows if Mark believed Jesus had ever been a real person who trudged around Palestine preaching the good news about the end of everything, but in Mark’s story he had him do just that. He decided, crucially, that he wouldn’t have Jesus become God’s adopted son at the time of his spiritual resurrection. Instead, Mark had him become God’s son at his baptism (Mark 1.10-11).

This wasn’t quite good enough for the next two cultists who attempted a Jesus narrative. While they plagiarised much of Mark’s story, they changed details and made up more for Jesus to say and do. Importantly, where Mark had avoided suggesting Jesus’ resurrection appearances had occurred in the real world, Matthew and Luke showed no such reticence. Their Jesus(es) showed himself not in visions but in the flesh. It’s likely Matthew at least knew he was creating a symbolic, literary representation of others’ visions.

At the other end of the story, Matthew and Luke invented largely incompatible birth stories for their hero. For Matthew, Jesus was the Messiah from the time he was born, fulfilling all the prophecies Matthew borrowed to create his nativity story (he doesn’t: the Messiah, according to the very ‘prophecies’ Matthew manipulates is not divine but a human warrior).

Luke, on the other hand, is determined to push Jesus’ divinity even back further. For Luke, Jesus became divine when God magically made Mary pregnant; Luke’s Jesus is quite literally God’s son (Luke 1.35). Unfortunately, Mary forgot all about being impregnated by the Holy Semen Spirit later on in Luke’s ridiculous story. Nevertheless, Jesus’ status had evolved again; he’d become God’s son from the very moment of conception.

Even this was not good enough for the next version of the Jesus’ story. The writers of the fourth gospel decide to make him eternal and part of God himself. Plundering Greek philosophy and Paul’s ruminations from Philippians, they declare Jesus the ‘Logos’; the Word or aspect of God responsible for the creation of everything (John 1:1-5). And despite this being as far from an itinerant peasant preacher as it’s possible to be, even more gullible folk came to believe it.

Jesus’ evolution was still not complete, however. The council of Nicaea in 325 decided that Jesus was ‘begotten not made’ (whatever that means) – but couldn’t quite decide whether being the Logos and the Son of God actually made Jesus God Incarnate. It wasn’t until the Council of Constantinople in 381 that a collection of bishops decided Jesus was, after all, officially part of the Godhead. The apocalyptic preacher from the backwoods finally became God the Son, a mere 350 years after he lived (if indeed he did).

Jesus has continued to evolve ever since, becoming all things to all people; a God pliable enough to be whatever his followers want him to be: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Evangelical, Mormon, fringe cult. He’s evolved into a schizophrenic deity capable of being both meek and mild and bellicose; best buddy and chief executioner; Christian Nationalist, socialist and capitalist, gay and anti-gay, pro-family and anti-family; anti-abortion and pro-gun; environmentalist and iconoclast; the one who promotes a prosperity gospel and the ‘One True God’ known (only) to a select few. Every contradictory manifestation is supported by the Bible, the Church or tradition. Every one is non-existent and ultimately pointless.

That’s some evolution.

More on Prophecy

Commenter Koseighty wrote this response to Don Camp following Don’s assertion that we’re living in the End Times. Koseighty explains perfectly how Biblical prophecy is constructed and how inevitably it can only fail.

Don said:
I base my conclusion (never absolute) on the fact that all the markers of the end of the age are converging in these days.

Koseighty: This is what every generation of Christian has said since, and including, Jesus himself. But, besides being nauseatingly clichéd, it shows you don’t understand Jewish apocalyptic literature.

Here’s how Jewish apocalyptic literature works. It’s written in two parts. In the first part the author elaborates all the woes afflicting the people, most often in highly symbolic language. In the second part, the author tells how God is going to set things right, again most often in highly symbolic language.

The first part, the woes part, is not in any way prophetic. The woes and abominations it describes is how the author see his world at the time of writing. The second part, while prophetic, is imminent. It is not something that will happen thousands of years later. The author’s prophecies are going to happen any minute now. “Behold, I come quickly!”

Inevitably what we see in these writings is the first part accurately describes the time of the author, and the second part fails to occur. Believers then either twist the words of the second part to “show” they really did happen, or they place the fulfillment at some future date, collectively called by Christians “The End Times™.”

We see this in Daniel. Scholars can give the year Daniel was written – 167 BCE, if I recall correctly – because the first accurate part describes events prior to that date, and the second prophecy part never happened.

The same can be seen in Mark. The author describes the, current to him, destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but the imminent coming of Christ in clouds of glory doesn’t happen.

The same with Paul. He describes his times and the imminent resurrection at Christ’s coming (which will include Paul and his followers), but neither the coming nor the resurrection ever happen.

As with the author of the Revelation. He describes his current view of the world and the Roman empire and the imminent destruction to precede the imminent coming of Christ (“Behold, I come quickly!“) which never happens.

Sorry, Don. You’re making the same mistake all those Christians have made before you. Taking Revelation as a prophecy of a distant (to the author) future time instead of happening right then in the time the author was describing.

Perhaps the church should have listened to all those heretics rather than burning them. Perhaps they should have read those heretical texts rather than burning them. Perhaps then Christianity could have come to an accurate consensus on these things rather than the ridiculous one they came up with.

The End Is Always Nigh

No-one could possibly live their entire lives in accordance with Jesus’ exacting and impractical commands, loving their enemies, turning the other cheek, giving to all who ask. It can’t be done, which is why no-one, but no-one, manages it.

There’s a reason his expectations are so ridiculously unrealistic. Jesus didn’t anticipate that people would have to live according to them for very long. He fully expected that within a very short time, God would be imposing his kingdom rule on the Earth (Mark 1:15; Matthew 4:17; 10: 5-23; 16:28; 24:34 etc). The old system was about to pass away and the new golden age of the Kingdom of Heaven was just about to make its spectacular appearance. This was Jesus’s good news: if his fellow Jews changed their behaviour in the way he commanded, they could earn a place in the Kingdom (Mark 9:35; 19:47, Matthew 25:34-40; 31:36; 20:27-28 etc) Sacrificially serving others, putting oneself last, going the extra mile, all of it, was a small, short-term price to pay for eternal life in a renewed Earth from which all evil had been eradicated.

Of course, it didn’t happen. The Son of Man did not descend from the clouds within the disciples’ lifetime to make Earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). As the first century progressed it was obvious that Jesus’s prediction of ‘thy Kingdom come’ hadn’t happened in the time scale he (and Paul) had anticipated. Consequently, his good news had to be adjusted*. We see this in Luke’s gospel, which starts to speak of the kingdom as an inner, spiritual experience, and in the fourth gospel where the coming kingdom is eliminated entirely. By the time of 2 Peter, its non-appearance has become the nonsensical argument that the then one hundred year delay was so that God could give people more time to repent.

All the same, the new cult’s members were now stuck with Jesus’s unreasonable commands. They’d been codified in the stories about him that were by then doing the rounds. (I’m of the view that the various sects within the cult created the commands themselves, as short term rules while they waited for the Great Reset.) As a result, the words put in Jesus’s mouth went from being instructions for the time at hand to impossible demands for the long haul. Two thousand years later and they’re still there. So how do most Christians deal with them? By ignoring them, dismissing them, insisting Jesus didn’t mean them literally, which of course he, or his scriptwriters, most certainly did.

The early cultists, believing an angelic figure would soon be descending from heaven to kick start God’s Kingdom on Earth, were wrong. Just about as wrong as it is possible to be. The writing they left behind, the so-called New Testament, is testimony to the failure of their beliefs.




Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Some years ago, when my grandson was 5 and new to school, he asked me whether people could come back from the dead. My father, his great grandfather, had recently died and I wondered if this had prompted his question. I told him I didn’t think people could return from the dead and asked him what he thought.

I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘They told us at school that Jesus came back from being dead but I don’t believe it. Do you?’ I told him, as he’d asked, that I didn’t.

It would be weird if great granddad came back from the dead, wouldn’t it,’ he said.

It certainly would,’ I agreed.

Flash forward to this weekend. Dennis and I are looking after my granddaughters. The eldest, 5 herself, mentions Easter. ‘They said at school that Jesus died in the cross and came back to life. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe in God or Jesus. It’s all too silly.’


Apart from these two conversations, which they initiated, I’ve never discussed religion with my grandchildren. I’m opposed to the indoctrination of young people. As a teacher my aim was always to help them think for themselves. While I’m only their grandfather, I want my grandchildren to make up their own minds about the claims of the ideologies they encounter. The views both my grandchildren expressed about God, Jesus and the resurrection were entirely their own.

What do their responses reveal?

1. That the much vaunted Christian assertion that we are born with an instinctive awareness of and desire for God is nonsense. I’ve come across several blog posts recently, including one by those boneheads at Answers in Genesis, claiming just this. It’s a notion loosely based on Paul’s claim in Romans 1.19 & 20:

…what can be known about God is plain to (people), because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

On the contrary, until children are actively indoctrinated with notions of God and the Christian fantasy, they do not have an innate sense of any of it.

2. That pushing ideas about God and Jesus on to the supposedly impressionable young minds is counter-productive. Even very young children have a level of discernment that can distinguish between fact and fiction. Not subject to peer pressure and free from the ridiculous notion that they are sinners, they are capable of seeing through ‘silly’ religious ideas.

3. That Jesus was way off the mark (as usual) when he said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ They’re not interested, and the longer they’re able to keep away from him, the better.


Misinformation: Who Decides?

Back when I was in college in the 1970s, we had long, worthy discussions, as only students can, about censorship. On the whole we decided this was a bad thing. No-one’s views, we felt, should be eradicated or even doctored so that parts we didn’t subscribe to were removed from what they had to say. Of course they’re was no Internet back in those days. No texting, no Twitter, Tik Tok or Facebook. They were a long way in the future and inconceivable to those of us in the age of printed media, vinyl records first time round and three UK TV channels. Undoubtedly censorship existed; mainstream media, which is pretty much all there was apart from the occasional ‘underground’ magazine, reported on what mainstream media deemed it was necessary for us to know. Alternative or even questioning views were without a voice, which is presumably why they were considered to be alternative or questioning. There was no representation of gay or lesbian people, much less the B and T of LGBT, of radical politics, black voices, feminism or spiritual perspectives that weren’t aligned with mainstream, respectable Christianity, the state religion.

You might think this was a good thing. Surely, you might say, it made life simpler. Everyone knew what to think about and what they should think of what they thought about. There was no space for the extremist views that proliferate today, made possible by the Internet. In this latter respect you’d be right. And how much poorer we were for it. Those with dissenting, questioning and alternative voices were relatively unheard. Not so today with social media platforms. Mainstream media and politicians, the ‘system’, no longer control the agenda.

They are not giving up without a fight, however. The British government is determined to introduce laws that will make it a criminal offence to publish ‘misinformation’ or ‘harmful’ views on social media. Initially designed to prevent ‘misinformation’ about Covid-19, it has far wider application, allowing the suppression of any views that are contrary to the narrative of the day. We all know that there is misinformation out there; the Earth is not flat, Jesus is not returning soon and the world is not controlled by shape-changing lizards. It is not this sort of misinformation governments object to. As far as they’re concerned, you can believe and express this sort of rubbish as much as you like.

What these new laws are designed to control is the agenda – what I’ve already referred to as the narrative of the day. And who determines what the agenda is? Those self-same governments and their unelected advisors, who rely on a compliant media to parrot the narrative they’ve decided upon. We saw this clearly during the pandemic. Dissenting voices, not yet criminalised by draconian laws, were nonetheless suppressed, including those of respected scientists not part of the prevailing groupthink. Social media, under threat of state control and heavy fines, were pressurised to stifle views that contradicted the official line. Without a doubt, many of the views were unsupported by evidence and some were abusive*, but this does not entitle any government to suppress all contrary views. We live in a western democracy, after all, and not an authoritarian dictatorship.

If the proposed new laws had existed two years ago, would the view that lockdowns were largely ineffective be considered by the state to have been ‘misinformation’ or harmful? Almost certainly. A significant number of scientists are now of the view that they most certainly were, and far from preventing the spread of the virus created serious long-term problems in the social, societal, healthcare, economic and educational realms. What about the view that the vaccine’s effect would be relatively short-lived? Again, it is more than likely this would have been deemed to be misinformation too. (I’m strongly pro-vax; they’ve got us through the pandemic here in the UK, but we must face the fact they are not as effective as we were first told.) Repeat for the efficacy of face masks. Repeat for the exaggerated predictions of doom. 

Not far behind Covid on the system’s agenda is climate change. Who will decide what is ‘misinformation’ about climate change? You guessed it: those same official bodies; governments and their unelected advisors but also other interested parties like so-called eco-warriors who haven’t a jot of evidence to justify their pranks. And who will decide what is ‘misinformation’ about climate change? Again, those the self-same people.

Would the fact that the world is becoming greener be deemed to be ‘misinformation’ or harmful? Yet this is happening due to planting programmes, chiefly by China and India, and the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere on which plants feed. Consequently, there is 5% more vegetation now than there was twenty years ago. It is helping mitigate some of the effects of global warming. What about  that climate change is part of a natural cycle and would be happening (though perhaps not as quickly) without a human contribution? What about questioning the fact that while the UK is determined to reduce it’s 1.1% contribution to the world’s pollution (to 0% by 2050) by imposing green taxes on its populace, the majority of countries, many making significantly greater contributions to pollution, are doing nothing at all? Would this kind of comment be deemed to be ‘harmful misinformation’? It seems likely to me that it would: it doesn’t comply with the prevailing narrative/groupthink/agenda.

Laws like that proposed by the British government have no place in a democracy; Authoritarian regimes impose such draconian measures in order to silence their citizenship. I’m not sure what we in the free world can do to prevent such laws but we should not be walking blindly into them: we accept them at our peril.


* It goes without saying I am not arguing for the protection of those who post abusive, hateful comments online. I’ll address this issue next time.

Jesus Sees Dead People

On his blog Escaping Christian Fundamentalism, Gary Matson has been considering the origin of resurrection belief, looking particularly at the possibility that sightings of the risen Jesus as recorded in the New Testament, were visions or hallucinations.

Naturally, his resident troll, FT Bond, recently banned from the site, objected to this suggestion, even though there is very good internal evidence that this is exactly how the belief in the resurrection arose. I felt compelled to raise the matter – no pun intended – of the occasion in the gospels where Jesus himself sees long dead people, apparently and inexplicably returned from the dead. In all three synoptic gospels Jesus chats with Moses and Elijah who appear in front of him. Mark 9.2-10 relates the story, usually referred to as the Transfiguration, as follows:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

So what is going on here? There are three options:

1. Moses and Elijah were actually ‘resurrected’ or otherwise miraculously returned from dead.

We can safely rule out this first possibility. Two men who had been dead for centuries did not suddenly return from the dead or even from their eternal repose in the bosom of Abraham for a cameo in the Jesus story. 

2. Moses and Elijah were a vision that Jesus and his three associates experienced simultaneously.

Jesus and the three disciples experiencing the same vision simultaneously is clear evidence of shared hallucinatory experiences in the gospels. Mark and Matthew (and possibly Luke) understand the story in this way, using the term ὤφθη (ophthe) meaning ‘appeared to’ or ‘appeared in front of’; ὤφθη usually conveys the sense of ‘apparition’: something that appears that has no physical presence: a vision. The synoptic gospel writers use it almost exclusively in this sense.

3. The event is an invented story. It didn’t happen in reality. There was no hallucination, no vision. It is a fiction devised to convey a symbolic point.

The symbolism is this: Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, and in this episode are seen to give way to their superior: Jesus, God’s Chosen Son. He supersedes the old Jewish folk-heroes in every way. Most scholars, and even some conservative Christians, argue for such an interpretation. As symbolic fiction, however, the episode has little or no basis in reality.

Let’s now apply the same analysis of the options in terms of the resurrection stories:

1. Jesus really did come back to life after being dead for 36 hours.

There really is no evidence he did because a) we know this doesn’t happen and b) Paul, who wrote the only first-hand account we have of someone ‘seeing’ the risen Christ, admits it was an hallucinatory ‘revelation’.

2. The disciples had visions of the Risen Jesus similar to Paul’s and to those they are said to have in the Transfiguration story.

Significantly, both Paul and Matthew use the phrase ‘appeared to/in front of’ (ὤφθη, ophthe again) when describing sightings of the Risen Jesus. Luke does so on one occasion too. There is no distinction for the gospel writers, therefore, between the way they describe the vision of Moses and Elijah (ὤφθη, ophthe) and the way they describe Jesus ‘appearing in front of’ the disciples after his death (ὤφθη, ophthe). Moses and Elijah ‘appear to’ the disciples, then the Risen Jesus ‘appears to’ them in the same way. In this option, the Risen Jesus, like Moses and Elijah, are mere visions in people’s heads. 

3. The stories of the disciples resurrection visions are fiction: made up stories about visions, designed to convey a symbolic point. 

There is no reason to suppose that the stories of Jesus reappearing after his death are in any way different from the fiction that is the Transfiguration story. Matthew and Luke were both skilled in creating symbolic events to hammer home the significance of Jesus; the Moses/Elijah story is one such; the nativity, the temptation in the wilderness, voices from the sky, cursing of the fig tree, walking on water and healing of the blind are others. The resurrection belongs to the same category as these. It too is symbolic fiction with only a limited basis in reality. We know from Paul that some people had visions that they took to be the Risen Jesus. The resurrection narratives are the made-up stories invented to illustrate those visions.   

You pays your money, you takes your choice…




I am immortal.

My immortality is conditional;

It has to be protected.

A fatal accident could deprive me of it,

Or an illness; a virus even.

But if I can avoid these, by taking all necessary precautions,

I will live forever.

Spend my life in my house,

Avoiding contact with other people,

Wearing a mask, vaccinating.

It might not be much of a life, but if it guarantees eternal life,

I willingly surrender responsibility for my own health.

This is what the government tells me;

If I do all of these things, I won’t die.

And I believe them.


I am immortal.

My immortality is conditional;

It depends on believing the right things,

And having righteousness imputed from on High.

My church tells me so;

It is what the Bible teaches.

And I believe them.

It might not be much of a life, but if it guarantees eternal life,

I willingly sacrifice my integrity on the altar of wishful thinking.


I am not immortal.

I will die. I will die of something,

Be it one of the innumerable viruses human beings are prey to,

An infection, cancer, heart attack, accident.

This is a fact.


In a little over a hundred years,

Every person alive today, the babies born last night,

Will be dead.

Every one.

Like those who have gone before.


Not one person living today was alive in 1900;

They are gone. Every one of them.

They are not in heaven, nor in hell.

They are not lying in the ground awaiting resurrection.

They are gone.


Nothing I do, nothing you do, can prevent it;

No magic formula, no amount of masking up, no perpetual hiding from life,

Will save you from death.

Come to terms with it;

Death is inevitable.

Defer it as long as you can, by all means,

But don’t think it isn’t out to get you.


You will not survive your death.

There is nothing on the other side because there is no other side;

No eternal life, no immortality.

Only arrested development allows you to think otherwise.


Live now.


Friends and family offered Jack their condolences. He and Martha had been together for forty-one years and her passing wrenched Jack from the life of comfort and security that had developed over their time together. More than half of him had died along with his wife, when he had always assumed he would be the first to go. He was the older by two years and statistically, he knew, the life expectancy of the male was lower. Maybe, he thought, living with him had taken its toll on Martha, carrying her off earlier than either of them expected. 57 wasn’t old these days.

He stood at the back of the crematorium in a daze, which was how he had been for the last week, shaking hands with all the well-intentioned relatives and acquaintances. They meant well, but their platitudes rang hollow, not because they weren’t sincere but because that was how Jack felt: hollow. Their words and gestures rattled around the empty space inside him without touching the sides, and then faded away into nothingness. ‘Good of you to come,’ he responded, the same to everyone; automatic pilot. ‘Yes, thank you. Good of you to come,’ until Alice, his sister-in-law, reached the front of the line. Where had she been when Martha had been in the hospice? he found himself thinking. Maybe she wasn’t his sister-in-law, he thought, giving her the benefit of the doubt – she’d been married to Martha’s brother George – but all the same, she was family. She should’ve put in an appearance.

‘God bless you,’ said Alice.

‘Thank you. Good of …’ He stopped, looking down at the little woman in black whose hand he held. She looked awkwardly over her shoulder to those in the line behind her who looked down at their shoes or out of the window.

‘God bless you?’ said Jack. ‘For Pete’s sake, Alice, it was a humanist service. God wasn’t invited. Martha was quite specific about that.’ And suddenly there was something there inside him after all, an echo of the past, another abandonment.

‘I thought…’ began Alice, ‘I only meant…’

‘Yes, I know what you meant,’ said Jack, ‘and I thank you for it, but not in the way you think.’ He finally let go of her hand and she moved off quickly, coughing nervously.

‘My condolences,’ said the next embarrassed mourner, shuffling forward and offering his hand. ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Don’t be,’ said Jack, his inner strength growing by the second. ‘Martha and I had a good life together. Well, I know I did. But you know something? This isn’t just the aftermath of something that happened once. I am not a footnote to… some previous life.

The man – a distant uncle perhaps – looked aghast.

‘And neither are you,’ said Jack. ‘Neither is anybody.’ His voice rose uncomfortably as he took to addressing all of those who milled around or waited in line. ‘So don’t come and join me for the funeral tea at Greystones, because I won’t be there. I’ll be out discovering what comes next. And that’s what you should be doing too. So get out there… and live!’

There were tuts and gasps all round and Alice spluttered, ‘Well, really!’ but Jack didn’t hear any it. He was already on his way out, jumping into his nephew’s SAAB and giving him directions for the Outrageous night club.

Lessons from Life 12: Purpose

A few years ago I got into a ‘discussion’ with a Catholic priest who had said on his blog that there is no purpose in life without God (meaning of course his own particular brand of that particular fantasy.) I argued the opposite: that while some people found purpose wasting their lives worshipping and serving an imaginary being, others found purpose in a wide range of far more worthwhile concerns and activities.

Purpose need not be cosmic in scale nor equate with big, ambitious projects, like saving the world or other people’s souls. A purpose can be modest and parochial; it has only to be meaningful to you. I pointed out to my deluded correspondent that he, like everyone else, frequently had purposes other than a delusional pursuit of God: short term purposes like visiting the store, supporting a sports team, cultivating a garden, writing a blog…

Several scientific studies in recent years have come to the conclusion that having a purpose in life increases one’s chances of living longer. There is a clear correlation between the two. This doesn’t mean adopting a random, makeshift purpose is going to increase your chances of living longer; the purpose needs to be worked out for its own sake, and to be genuine and heartfelt. The potential to live longer is a bonus (good genes and a healthy lifestyle play their part too, of course.)

As for me, as you weren’t asking, my purpose is to enjoy life and to help others, as far as I’m able, to enjoy theirs; to enjoy my relationship with Dennis (having taken so long to be my true self!); to care for my children and grandchildren; to be with friends; and simply to be, here and now. Whether these will help me live to a ripe old age or not, I really don’t care. They give my life meaning and make it feel worthwhile, and that’s all that matters. No God necessary.

What I learnt in Sunday School

I was expelled from Sunday School when I was 8.

My parents had moved from one side of town to the other and I had likewise changed Sunday Schools. Neither my mum nor dad was a church-goer. I suspect I was packed off to Sunday School each week to give them both an hour’s break from at least one of their offspring.

I quite liked my original Sunday School. It was run by two ladies who seemed positively ancient, Victorian refugees in the Swinging Sixties (not that there was much swinging in the northern English town in which I lived.) They had us sing a lot of songs about Jesus and we stuck pictures of him in an exercise book. These two activities were acceptable in my sight, not because of their Jesus content but because I rather liked singing and sticking things in books.

The new Sunday School had none of these moderately pleasurable activities. Instead, it focused, week after week, on hammering home to little groups of 7 and 8 year olds that Jesus had died for them on a cross and had then come back to life. This, an earnest young woman or frightening older man would tell us, was for real. Now, while I watched Doctor Who on TV (the original) and read Superman comics, I was under no illusion that these were in any way real. I knew they weren’t, and I also knew that the equally far-fetched Jesus story was also made-up. And it wasn’t anywhere near as good.

Despite what the earnest young woman and the older man told us, my undeveloped 8 year old brain just couldn’t accept the weird story of a man who came back to life to save me from something they were calling ‘sin’. Sin, they explained, was all the bad things I’d done that upset God. Now, if I was honest, I did occasionally do things that upset my mum – I once peed up against the wall in the back lane and that upset her a lot – but I couldn’t really see how anything I did could upset God so much he’d need to send his son to die on a cross ‘in my place’. None of it made any sense.

I took to asking the earnest young woman questions about it, not out of a need to know, as I recall, but out of mischief; I seemed to know intuitively that she wouldn’t know the answers. Why did God get upset? How did Jesus dying make him happy again? What had it anything to do with me when it all such a long time ago? (I knew it was a very long time ago because we’d learnt all about the Romans in real school.) 

Sometimes the young woman would ignore my questions. Other times she would attempt an answer, but these made so little sense that I took to behaving very badly, disrupting the little group whenever I could with silly horse play. She retaliated, eventually, by bringing in the frightening older man to tell me off. To no avail. I still couldn’t take any of it seriously, and continued to play up.

Before long, my parents received a letter in the post, informing them it would be better if I didn’t attend Sunday School any more. They seemed disappointed – they’d be losing their hour’s peace – but not particularly surprised.

The point of my telling this story is that I wish I had listened to my 8 year old self. He seemed to know instinctively that all this Jesus talk – this Christian ideology – was nonsensical. I didn’t listen, however, and ended up, after joining a particularly evangelical YMCA in my teens, falling for it hook, line and sinker. I seem to remember that a sexy young American evangelist played a part in my conversion. (Plus, he had stickers! See above.)

Evangelicalism consumed my life from that point on, influencing crucial life choices and leading me to suppress who I really was. It would take me thirty years to break the chains and escape.