LETTER: Wise words from my drill sergeant

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Personally I found Simon Clare’s confession, ‘Godless Alternative’ (WSCT August 8) uplifting. He is clearly a thoughtful, kindly and sensitive individual and I found myself in agreement with many of his views.

Although more than twice his age, my pathway of inquiry has been along the same lines. At my school at Dulwich, (motto - ‘God’s Gift’), at the age of 14 every boy was obliged to be Confirmed - according to the Book of Common Prayer.

I refused - not because of any premature intellectual doubts - but simply because I had never been Baptised - my parents being non- believers.

In the case of my father, there was a good reason - he having served in the trenches on the Somme also in the mud of Passchendale for close on four years.

A gentle, self-effacing individual, he was discharged in 1918 suffering from ‘severe neurasthenia’ - or in simple terms, ‘half mad’.

Like Simon Clare, since my teenage years, I have been in search of ‘The Truth’ which, of course, had eluded me. To my mind, there simply is no way of knowing. For those of a religious disposition, it’s a matter of faith - but for us sceptics, there are no easy answers. If asked to put a label on my own beliefs, I think it would have to be ‘Christian Agnostic’.

During my period of basic training for National Service, one was ordered to attend Church parade every Sunday morning. The drill sergeant would shout the command, ‘Roman Caffolicks take one pace forward - the remainder of you ‘orrible lot are C of E’ - adding, ‘and take your ‘ats off in the Lord’s ‘ouse’! A fellow in our hut appealed that he was an atheist - to which the sergeant retorted, ‘That counts as C of E, lad’.

In hindsight, there was a good deal of wisdom in our drill sergeant’s coarse remarks. The Church of England remains a civilised, tolerant slightly dotty institution that welcomes all-comers - without asking too many questions.

And anyone fortunate enough to attend choral evensong in a cathedral or an audience at a performance of the St Matthew Passion - might just be tempted to contemplate the existence of a supreme being. So my advice to Simon Clare is, ‘Keep searching - you could just be wrong’!


Ayshe Court Drive, Horsham