Me, God and the Atheists

A Catholic and an Atheist walk into a bar. Ok, no, scratch that. A Catholic and an Atheist walk into a party. The Catholic is dressed as a clown, the Atheist as a French Onion Seller. By the end of the night, the Atheist has the Catholic’s phone number, and few years later they’re married.

There’s no joke here, though all the elements are pretty much there. The Catholic and the Atheist come to know each other Biblically, or, Biologically if you prefer. Over the course of two years, two children pop out. Cute little half-breeds – Atheist/Catholic, Atholics-Catheists, a veritable yin-yang of contradictions and belief, existing harmoniously. The Atheist agrees the children will be raised Catholic. The Catholic agrees that the children will be given the choice of whether to stick to the faith.

The Atholic-Catheists grow up. They experiment with their beliefs. They question. They exist in a pleasant between that constantly shifts.

And then, the Catholic gets sick and dies.

And that’s where we are now.

Incase any of you aren’t very good at guessing, I was one such Atholic-Catheist, my father the devout Athiest, and my mother the sceptical Catholic. And this post is about my very personal relationship with God and the Atheists. (There’s a band-name in there)

When people ask me now a-days how I would define my belief, I am usually quite unwilling to respond. My reasoning for this is that I have a deep-seated fear of fundamentalists on either side of the spectrum. Perhaps the advantage of being raised by a lukewarm Catholic and an Atheist who enjoys Church music, is that I never had to pick a side, because there was always a middle ground.

I am suspicious of anyone who is 100% certain of anything because, as Obi-Wan put it, only Siths deal in absolutes. And because I’m a John Mill girl, personally, and I believe that we should be willing to question everything. Blind faith, in whatever form, is utterly abhorrent to me, and it makes my flesh crawl.

Until recently however, it wasn’t something I paid much mind too. Depending on the company, I defined myself differently, willing to play Devil’s Advocate and challenge conceptions. Since the loss of my mother however, I have learnt to keep a tight lid on my spiritual beliefs. And this is because of the ugly habit fundamentals have of attempting to use my grief and bereavement as a recruitment tool. I don’t know, maybe they get a ‘Faith-Miles’ for every person they convert.

I remember the moment it became clear to me why I was so uneasy with people telling me my mother’s death was part of God’s plan. You see, nothing could endear me less to a God than the idea that the entity of whom I should rely and pay homage to was actually directly responsible for the loss of my mother. Why on earth should that make me feel better? I’ve just been told I have to worship an invisible asshole, who sits on his ass, picking off people by the millions and leaving us to suffer and guess as to why.

I was always more comforted by the idea that God did exist, but that he had no control over us in our earthly lives. He was just there to listen, to understand, and to welcome us when we died. Like a benevolent pen-friend we’ve spoken to for years, coming to pick us up at the airport. Except there’s no return ticket. The pen-friend kidnaps you, gives you a harp and puts you on a cloud to chill for eternity. Awkward.

Atheists, as it turns out, aren’t much better at the comforting thing. I can’t talk to them about my uncertainty of the whole “God’s Plan Malarkey” without incurring a torrent of cynical, self-satisfied mockery about the baseness of the belief and its ludicrousness. (Because sure, comfort me about my dead mother by insulting her, and what she believed: that’s smart). For all their criticism of religion, I’ve never met a fundamental atheist who hasn’t acted like he’s an elite member of a ‘Chosen people’, going out into the world and leaving debasing comments on religious posts like an inverse-missionary, spreading the word of science.

“You’re right, of course Madeleine,” they say, “There is no plan. There is no God. When we die, that’s it. We are extinguished from this earth. Worms eat us. Or crazy grandchildren keep us in a pot on their mantelpiece. End of.”

Thanks guys. Great. Fucking. Comfort.

I know what you’re thinking at this point – Madeleine, you can’t live as a contradiction for the rest of your life, becoming more Atheist in the company of Christians, and more Christian in the company of Atheists, but currently I don’t see a way around it. I want the comfort of Catholicism without having to associate with a misogynistic, militant pedo-ring and their Machiavellian God, and I want the empirical nature of atheism without having to join the smug-club and their ‘hope you enjoyed the last few months with your mother, cus you’re never going to see her again’ attitude.

I don’t want to call myself an Atheist, but the day my mother died, I was no longer a Catholic. And it wasn’t because I was angry at God. It was because she was my link, my connection to the crazy bastard, and when she went, there was nothing in me any more to believe in him. Maybe I stopped believing in him a long time ago.

So where do I stand? Agnostic? Pagan? Spiritual? Where do you go after living 22 years as an Atholic-Catheist, only to lose the Catheist?

I think the worse problem is that there’s no answer to these questions which isn’t religious, and apparently I’m thoroughly allergic to those. It’s no good telling me that she’s with God, because I won’t believe you and it’ll just be uncomfortable, and it’s no good telling me that she lives on inside of me and my recollections of her, because that’s not good enough.

At the end of the day, I keep my religious belief to myself because I am un-swayed. I live in perpetual flux. I am a rambler of religions, a tourist of spirituality, and if anyone tries to – however kindly – impose any one ‘right’ answer onto me, I will run a mile, screaming the other way.

“But then Madeleine, what do we say when you’re upset? What do we do to comfort you when you come to us, desperate for answers?” they ask.

I don’t know. How about shut up, and give me a hug?

Before I’m Twenty-Five

Time, when you’re young, tends to give you the impression of being endless. At five years old, an hour feels close to a day, and a year is practically a century. Being asked ‘what did you do over your holiday’ is the adult equivalent of ‘where were you at 5:45 pm on the 12th of February 1996?’

My point is that even when you’re ten years old, life doesn’t seem to go that quick, and it feels like you’ve got all the time in the world to figure everything out.
In my case, ten year old me had some very exact ideas about what I was going to have achieved by the time I was twenty-five. Twenty-five, to me, was the pinnacle of adulthood. By twenty-five, I was going to be famous, be married, have children, a house of my own, and adoring fans, and then I’d have plenty of time afterwards to enjoy it all in luxury.

Well, I’m twenty-three now, and my ten year old self is still tapping her foot, waiting on a lot of things. Apparently, in order to fulfil myself, I have one hell of a busy schedule to catch up on in the next two years.

It may seem silly to some readers, especially anyone older than me, but you have to understand that from my perspective twenty-three is the oldest I’ve ever been, and that the ten year old inside of me is incredibly demanding. Call me idealistic or foolish, but the self-expectancy I placed on myself from a young age has never really gone away, and even though a lot of my goals have changed, I still have that internal list of ‘Things to do before I’m twenty-five.’

A part of me wishes that I could go back in time, and talk to my little self, and explain how things are going to work out. Talk to her about fighting with depression, and bereavement, and the hours spent struggling not to let my dyslexia rule what I could or couldn’t do. I wish I could go back and say, ‘You’re going to make some really stupid mistakes’ and then assure little me that these weren’t a ‘waste of time’ but rather a lesson in how to use it better.

Mostly, if I could go back in time and talk to anybody about my ‘list’ it would be my mother. Because, let’s be honest, little me would nod at everything I told her and take none of it in, because little me is a ten-year old with no perspective of time, and high expectations of herself.

For a majority of my life I was under the impression that my mother wasn’t a great achiever. I don’t mean this in a rude way: she built and cared for our family, and I thought she was invincible, and amazing, and strong. But she wasn’t a movie star, or a big business woman, or any of the other qualities that we place so much importance on in our society. She was just my Mum.

It was only in the last few years of her life, that I really got to talking to her about what she did do with her life. And it was only after her death a year ago that I started bubbling with even more questions about the adventures she went though, and what she achieved.
This was a woman who could speak several languages, was highly educated, with a degree and masters-equivilant from a very prestigious French University. Even the fact she could speak English so fluently should have flabbergasted me, seeing as there wasn’t a drop of English blood in her body. These things never occurred me growing up.

My mother was a woman who had a long line of qualifications under her belt. She went through a number of different jobs, had skills in writing, admin, language, geography and teaching. She could sing, and dance, and my God, but could she throw a great party!
By the time she was my age, she had only just met my Dad. She was studying in the Lake District, taking a year out from France. She ended up marrying the strange Englishman she met at the fancy dress party, and then spent several years on an adventure, travelling and seeing the world.

If we regard achievements as the amount of stories you have to tell at the end of the day, than my mother had one hell of a life.

I wish I could talk to her about it, I wish she could talk me through this transitional period as I try to be both the person I wanted when I was ten, and try to be more realistic with myself. If she was around, my mother would probably scoff at me for my feelings of disappointment and self-doubt. I think the first thing she’d do was remind me of all the things I have achieved.

You see, the list of things to do before you’re twenty-five is always growing. As my life takes me down new and unexpected routes, there are going to be some things on the list that no longer stand for who I am, and others that need to be added.

Ten year old me would have never dreamed that I’d earn a black belt in Karate by the time I was eighteen. Or that I’d get a music scholarship to my University, and start directing my own choir, and writing original music. She wouldn’t have guessed that I would be accepted for a PhD, or that I would start lecturing the year after.

I guess the point I’m trying to make, is that alot of us have a screaming ten-year old in our head that tells us what we should have done by the time we hit a certain marker, but when that voices gets too loud its good to remind yourself of the things you have done. Because at the end of the day, that ten year old has no perspective of the trails and tribulations you’re going to go through, and whilst they can be a good motivator, they have no right to bully you.

Life is not a checklist of things you need to tick in order. Life is a bunch of stories and experiences, some of which come at the worst possible time, and from the least likely places.

So with that in mind, here’s my list of things to do before I’m twenty-five:
1)      Do the best I damn well can
2)      Write a new list for ‘30’

**~KINDLE RELEASE: THE SONS OF THESTIAN! ~**

Front Cover, High Res

The Prince Jionathan is plagued by visions of death. With the King on his death-bed, and the tyrannical Queen in power, the Kingdom of Harmatia lies in peril. Fleeing the city in fear of his life, Jionathan is shadowed by Rufus Merle, a young, secretive magi tasked with bringing him home. Now, with the help of a fearsome sidhe warrior named Fae, they must traverse a dangerous faerie-wood together. Against bandits, faeries and cursed priestesses, these unlikely friends travel a path fraught with danger, not least from the blood-thirsty Night Patrol and the dark conspiracy that shrouds them.

Oh, Kindly Rose
Composed by Madeleine Vaughan & Hannah Curtain
Lyrics by Madeleine Vaughan

Performed and recorded by the University of Winchester’s King Alfred Singers, at Chester Cathedral for the 2015 Choir Festival.
Soloists: Madeleine Vaughan & Charlotte Lambert

Oh, Kindly Rose
Written in loving memory of my mother Dominique Casalta-Vaughan, (1957-2014)

The Rose stands tall, with spindled spine,
And marks of love, enamelled vine,
Oh pretty rose, your beauty bright,
the summer’s grace, Eden’s delight
A butterfly, pressed to your heart,
nourished and born, by song of lark
May dance and prattle, til autumn come,
and lips turn brown, and summer’s done.
Oh kindly rose, you wilt too soon,
rise up again, the lilting tune
Is not yet done, mais dormez bien,
Maman, cheri, Ma rose a moi.
Alas, no more, the earth is dry,
the stem is cracked, and the petals die.
Too soon, too soon, I pray you stay,
my heart it aches, belay the day.
But rose is earth, the garden bare,
the memory fades of flower fair.
Live on, live on, the echo plays,
the song you sing, may still remain.
And yet so soon, at winter’s draw,
With wings of paper, will butterflies fall.

***WORLD PREMIERE*** Sons of Thestian by M.E. Vaughan – BOOK COVER

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Art by the amazing Peter Brockhammer.

BACK COPY – Prince Jionathan is plagued by visions of death. With the king on his deathbed, and the tyrannical queen in power, the Kingdom of Harmatia lies in peril. Fleeing the city in fear of his life, Jionathan is shadowed by Rufus Merle, a young, secretive magi tasked with bringing him home.

Now, with the help of a fearsome sidhe warrior named Fae, they traverse a dangerous faerie-wood together. Against bandits, faeries and cursed priestesses, these unlikely friends travel a path fraught with danger and a dark conspiracy that shrouds them.

For more on The Harmatia Cycle Books, check out the website at: www.harmatiacycle.com
Like the facebook page at – https://www.facebook.com/Madeleine.E.Vaughan 

Character Introduction – The Night Patrol

The Mighty Night Patrol -  Marcel, Zachary and Emeric

In my upcoming book ‘The Sons of Thestian’  the Night Patrol present as one of three offensive enemies the main characters must face. The Night Patrol is a sector of the Magi with the unique ability to transform into creatures of nightmare, and is lead by Arlen Zachary, Rufus’ brothering apprentice.

At Zachary’s side, his closest friend Marcel Hathely, acts as his second in command. Marcel brings with him too an apprentice, Emeric Fold. Together, these three are the most skilled and ferocious in the Night Patrol. Despite this reputation however, they do not always present as the powerful warriors they are. Emeric and Marcel tend to shadow Zachary in his day-to-day business.

Above: (Left) Marcel Hathely, (Bottom, lounged) Arlen Zachary, (Back, Right) Emeric Fold.

To find out more about the world at its characters, check out my book website at www.harmatiacycle.com