I was born an atheist. Then, when I was four weeks old, my parents offered me up into the arms of a man wearing a frock who proceeded to try and drown me. I survived the ordeal, and after that I was a Christian.
Or rather, it was assumed that I was a Christian. When I was a few years older I even assumed this myself. After all, why shouldn’t I? When you are a child and adults tell you something, you have no reason to disbelieve them. And so when I was very young I believed in God, in the same way that I believed in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy.
I rather liked believing in God. At certain times of the year there was a positive advantage to it. People would give me presents and chocolate eggs. At midwinter all the children at my school would march up the road to the parish church where we would sing a few carols then be allowed home early. Several times I was recruited as a stage hand at the school nativity play, which got me nicely out of lessons. I accepted God and Christianity in the same way that I accepted everything else. My parents told me it was true, my uncles and aunts told me it was true and my teachers told me it was true. Therefore, it was true.
Then, one teatime when I was about seven, when we were all gathered round the dining table, my mother said to my father that she had struck up a friendship with two very nice young American men, and she would like to invite them to our house to meet my father, my brother and me.
And that was when the trouble started.