My father grew up with lots of religion and very few questions. During his teenage years he spent weekends on his uncle’s farm shooting at birds. He and his younger brother took turns with a pellet gun and sometimes they killed so many birds that they ran out of ammunition. At the time my father saw nothing wrong in this—boys were made in God’s image and birds were birds.
“That’s the sort of thing you’ll see when you’re blind,” he told me many years later.
When he met my mother, he lost the faith his childhood had instilled. On Sundays my father said grace, a habit we maintained for its form more than its content, but on Sundays it was different. Instead of repeating a mumbled prayer passed down from my grandfather, he paid our respects to the chicken we were about to eat. He asked its forgiveness and promised that we would honour its life in how we lived ours past that day.
My father once tried to explain to me what it felt like to have faith and then to have none. It was a transition I would never know, and so I’d asked him about it.
“Without faith,” he said, “all things are sacred.”
“And to an orphan,” he added after a moment of reflection, “everything is a blessing.”