After being raised as a churchgoer my faith was just a matter of fact. Until I hit my teens. Then I started to think for myself and the cracks began to show. Over the next decade, struggling with my instincts, I tried a dozen churches, read piles of books, and eventually came to realise that I don't believe in God after all. Risking a heavenly thunderbolt, I even said it out loud. Nothing happened. If there is a God I reckon he's pretty liberal minded. Like most people these days, I am respectful of everyone's right to believe in whatever they like and worship however they see fit. But most of all, I'm grateful for the astonishing diversity of art and architecture that the world's great religions have inspired.
As any traveller will attest, many of the worlUd's most inspiring sights are there to glorify the Gods: The Parthenon, Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, Kyoto's Golden Temple, Rio's Christ The Redeemer, Barcelona's La Sagrada Família, St Petersburg's Church of the Spilled Blood, The Vatican and it's treasures, The Big Buddha at Lantau Island, Canterbury Cathedral and The Temple of Horus.
Best of all, you don't have to be a believer to enjoy them.
Then there's the paintings, sculptures and music. Can there be anything more soothing than a prayer chant? More moving than the Memorial to Princess Charlotte in Windsor's St George's Chapel? Or more thrilling than Sandi Patty belting out “How Great Thou Art”?
Just before leaving for Brazil I visited the home of the Anglian faith and the first cathedral to be built after the English Reformation, St Paul's. It's not just one of England's most impressive religious buildings it's an integral part of the nation's history.
After wading my way through the Occupy London protest camp, I entered just as Choral Evensong was about to start. I've never attended an Anglican service but this was the only way to get close to admire the magnificent altar and great dome. What a treat to listen to the choir, marvel at the art works and overwhelming grandeur of the place. I didn't sing the hymns or say the prayers but felt pleased to be a part of it all and touched that even an atheist like me was allowed to be there.
You hear a lot of people blame religion for wars and conflict, but let's not forget the remarkable ways our lives has been enriched by its glorification. Now there's something every one can believe in.