I was born into the world of Catholics. My parents weren't religious, but we were bred on guilt and the devil. Jesus was someone who was crucified because of me and after that some Irish Rebels died for my country, or more specificallly - for me personally. So it was a good start really. I learnt that if I ever did anything that felt good or right, it was probably wrong. And Jesus wasn't all that far away, he had managers on earth (a bit like school and work really), and they were the nuns and priests who you had to genuflect to because after all, they had given up all their wealth to go and live in palatial homes where they never got to experience fun things like paying bills or cooking or waiting for drunks to come home.
For a short while I liked the idea of it, but by the age of 7 I reckoned I was probably going to hell anyway because I got a chocolate stain ( it was a curly wurly) on my communion dress and I peed myself a few months later when walking in a May procession wearing that same communion dress.
By 11 or 12 I'd started to understand that the world was not actually flat and that it was probably unlikely that there was another layer of the world above the clouds. By 15 I'd confirmed that thought when I first went in an airplane. It was great being a rebel and not going to mass, even if it was difficult to explain to my parents how I got bitten by a horse when I should have been in church.
Years later it turned out that the whole thing was a farce - abuse, corruption, crime, the works. It turned out that the Catholic church was way up there with the mafia and the devils own tempation. But the miracle is this:
The badness of it all has made people even more supportive. As I always say, you can't underestimate the power of denial. The thing is though, that I didn't leave the church because of all the hypocrisy, evil and the works, I left it because I just don't believe that when you die you don't really die at all, you just get filtered into a good pile or a bad pile. Good - you go Butlins, bad you go to the Electric Picnic.
All the same though, the fact that they're still going strong is a miracle really, isn't it?