John Harris

Journalist & Author

How do faithless people like me make sense of this past year of Covid? | John Harris

Many of us yearn for meaning. But in our individualistic, secular society we lack even the flimsiest of narratives to guide us

When my partner and I filled in our census form, we got to the section about faith, both ticked the “no religion” box, and seemed to think nothing of it. But for an hour or two afterwards, I felt a pang of envy that has occasionally surfaced in the past – this time to do with a year of lockdown, the sudden fear of serious illness and death, and the sense of all of it being wholly random and senseless. Was this, I wondered, how religious believers were feeling? Or were they able to give their recent experiences at least a semblance of coherence and meaning?

Like millions of other faithless people, I have not even the flimsiest of narratives to project on to what has happened, nor any real vocabulary with which to talk about the profundities of life and death. Beyond a handful of close friends and colleagues and my immediate family, there has been no community of like minds with whom I have talked about how I am feeling or ritualistically marked the passing of all these grinding weeks and months.

Related: Don’t be fooled: Covid won’t be cured by a panacea | Philip Ball

Related: It’s been a year of bearing witness to trauma. Call me a fool, but now I sense hope | Rachel Clarke

John Harris is a Guardian columnist.

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