For me, the closest I have ever come to an elightening and life-altering religious experience is chanting with gusto ohmygod, ohmygod... oh.my.god as a cute American pinned me up against the wall outside an Italian coffee shop with his hand in my pants one time.
And as I wandered around the Basilica Di San Pietro yesterday (You know. The big church thing that marks the entrance to The Vatican) this is what I kept thinking to myself. Because like, God and shit... it's not real, is it?
And actually, not long after I had this inappropriately sexual thought for the two-two thousandth time (are there any sexual thoughts that are appropriate?) I knelt on the floor of the building to take a photograph of the light coming through the duomo and a security guard in a suit tapped me on the shoulder.
'You cannot be on your knees in the Basilica,' he told me.
'Figures,' I replied.
Although I bet that isn't what the bishop said to the priest.
Sometimes, stuff it so beautiful it is enough to make you believe.
(Sidenote: I work right beside the Vatican, in a building owned by the church. Not so long ago everyone in the building was subject to what was essentially a CRB check to check they weren't kiddie-fiddlers. To the Pope I say this: GET YOUR OWN HOUSE IN ORDER FIRST, MATE.)
But then, as I had trawled around Rome's more famous sites for free this weekend (thanks European Heritage Weekend, for making everything gratis!) it became increasingly hard to take these religious buildings seriously. Half of Rome was once dedicated to something else before the Christians claimed anything pretty for their own. That seems a bit mean, in a reductionist, I'm-not-sure-what-I-believe sort of a way.
Walking on the stars
But then, you see, I started to people watch. And not just the people in the funny outfits:
Behold! Marco, the Guard of the Portaloo!
Whatever she was saying in those ten minutes, and whoever she was saying it to, she meant it more than I did outside that cafe that one time. When she said ohmygod it was special.
That woman gave me a different kind of goosebump. It made me understand a little bit more, I think.
Obviously, all future mail will be sent from here. Probably with a Jesus stamp.
And then I got distracted, because another security man in a suit siddled up to me and said gently in my ear,
'You must move over there for a few minutes.'
I noticed all the other tourists had edged off to the sides, and then saw that the service at the front of the church was ending, so I did as I was told.
It was amazing to watch. Suddenly, all the cute men in suits- who, to be honest, I had presumed were genuinely there just to look pretty and stop people kneeling on the tied floor when occasion called- were practically talking into their sleeves and making army watch me, move forward, go! go! go! actions with their eyes.
Then, up the alter came some dude in long white robes, flanked by half a dozen other dudes in Irish green robes, finished with a final guy in a funny red hat, and these extras out of 24 started blocking everyone off from being near them, switching and changing positions as if in some sort of ballet, closing in on the procession OF A BUNCH OF GUYS WALKING SOMEPLACE by closing in on the them and bringing up the rear. All the while looking at each other, and at us, and at the building, just to check that...
That no crazy Jesus fan was going to rugby tackle Pious Jo to the ground to ask for his autograph in a sort of Bible Idol frenzy?
I didn't really get it.
The army of religion filed through a tiny wooden door that promptly got blocked off by two more suited cutie-patooties and then everything went back to normal again.
And then the sun set on Rome, and I went for beer.
Soon after that I got bored and left, with my friend declaring that he'd 'Had enough religious stuff for the day.' He then went out and brought a calender of all of the important monuments of Rome with cats sat on them, so generally it's hard to take somebody like that seriously, but I agreed.
On the way out, we saw signs for the toilets. I couldn't not take a leak in the Vatican, even though I didn't really need to go. Right after I bullied my bladder into relieving itself, I knew that the trip had been worthwhile.
I TOOK A PISS WHERE THE POPE PEES!