6. My departure from religion -------------------------------------------------- Previous - Next - Contents

Martinshof, rear view As a baby I was babtised in a Lutheran Church, but to the best of my knowledge I never entered a Lutheran church after that event again. Not for any religious reason mind you. There simply were not that many of them in Holland.
I went to a Public Primary school ("J.A.de Vuller School") in Gorssel, but after that to the Christian Baudartius Lyceum in Zutphen for my High school education. We started the first lesson each day with a prayer and we had one hour a week Bible class.

I also had for a year or two private Bible tuition by the local Minister, van Voorst Vaders. I and two others would visit his home once a fortnight, and in his study discuss with the Minister various Bible issues. I quite enjoyed these and got on very well with van Voorst Vaders. During these couple of years I was also rostered to do the collecting at Church services on Sundays once a fortnight. I enjoyed these services too, not so much the sermons as the singing together with the whole community.
But then van Voorst Vaders transferred us to the official Bible classes as preparation to acceptance in the Church. I very soon found that this was definitely not my cup of tea. The things we had to learn, promise and believe in I found totally unacceptable and frankly very naive. I stuck it out for three months, then went to see the Minister to tell him the bad news : I was quitting. He accepted my decision good heartedly and without any ill feelings whatsoever. I believe in fact that he was glad I had been honest and was thinking things through for myself. Not a common occurrence in his experience I suspect.

During my teens and twenties I continued to believe in a God, but not connected with any of the established religions. I recognised then already the enormous discrepancy between these naive short sighted human focused religions on the one hand and the real world (nature, the universe) on the other. The two were in my opinion totally incompatible.

In our twenties Antien and I both believed in a God, so we thought it would be appropriate to get married in a church. I rang van Voorst Vaders and he joined us one afternoon for tea. We had an amicable discussion, but the bottom line was that we had to promise to live our lives according to the rules of the Church (the Dutch Hervormede Kerk, a very liberal one). Fair enough, but we did not want to do that. So the Church wedding was off and we were married by a Municipal clerk. Van Voorst Vaders came however to our wedding reception and wished us both well with his usual big and happy smile.

Martinshof, rear view A year later, you guessed it, we thought it would be a good idea to get our baby daughter Babette baptised. We felt that although we did not agree to the Church's doctrines, our daughter should not suffer as a consequence of that. So I once again invited van Voorst Vaders to Martinshof where we had a most pleasant afternoon tea with him.
But he again stated that if we wanted Babette to be baptised we had to promise to bring her up according to the rules of his Church. We replied that we could not promise that. So Antien and I decided that our children had to make up their own mind about these matters when they grew up.

Van Voorst Vaders, I am certain, respected our two decisions. Most people would, and did say "yes" to whatever was required to get married in Church and have their children baptised. We did not, because we took our belief most seriously. Van Voorst Vaders valued us very highly because of that. These things one should never ever skimp on. It is in my view cheating on one's own life.

I met van Voorst Vaders once more in 1981. My sister Wivica had invited him to say a few words of remembrance and farewell at my father's funeral, and he did. It was wonderful to see each other again after so many years. Two true believers (in our own way), but at opposite sides of an artificial "man made" fence.

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Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner