I have to say my beliefs or lack of them have no great impact on my daily life. I suppose they would if I were particularly religious but I’d probably place myself as comfortably agnostic with enough doubts to veer intermittently towards atheism and then come back to my issue being more with organised religion than belief itself.
I don’t claim to place any logic on it but in my view belief is something personal to me. So usually I would say I have some vague notions of belief in a kind of higher being but I would not describe myself as religious in any way, despite, or perhaps because I was raised in a vaguely (although not oppressively) religious household. While being perfectly comfortable around people who are religious, it is all fairly neutral to me.
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With one exception. I went to court earlier in the week for a 135 (1) Warrant under the Mental Health Act. It is the only situation that my religious beliefs or lack of them are ever questioned.
Usually, the process of applying for a warrant goes as follows.
I complete a written application in the office outlining the reasons we need a warrant. I have to include a very brief summary of the risks involved and why access would only be possible with a warrant (for example, explaining that previous attempts have been in vain).
On arriving at court at a specified time, I go to the Duty Clerk who has an office and he or she checks I have completed the application correctly and that I am properly authorised by the local authority.
Before I leave the office, there is a part of the document that asks to ‘delete as applicable’ whether you are going to make an oath or an affirmation. This is where my dilemma starts.
I have invariably stuck to affirmations. I always feel that slight childhood guilt at doing so though.
The clerk sends me up to a particular court room and I shuffle in very self-consciously – usually with some kind of trial in progress and sit at the side and wait for a gap in proceedings when I will be called up.
The clerk in the courtroom will ask me whether I want to take an oath or make an affirmation and provide a bible for an oath and – well, a script to read for the affirmation. It’s all fairly subtle.
Yesterday was a bit different. Through the ways the courts function, I found myself in what must have been the smallest court in the building. Rather than being asked if I wanted to make an oath or affirmation before presenting my evidence, I was asked more boldly (and loudly) if I ‘had a religious belief or not’.
Noting this was not a time for a spiritual self-examination, I stuck with the affirmation as planned.
But I was a caught a bit off-guard by the question.
I do wonder sometimes if I’m the only person who is genuinely perplexed by the decision to take an oath or an affirmation when I go to court. I spoke to a colleague about it and she laughed saying, quite rightly, there were much more troublesome dilemmas with which I should concern myself! Ultimately, as long as I have complete, true and accurate information, it doesn’t really matter.
But I’ll stick with my affirmations for now. Although I have a bit of childhood residual guilt, it somehow feels more honest for me, personally.
I wonder if I have reached a point of over-reflection!