Every so often I am obliged to go to a Catholic Mass ceremony. This is something I try strenuously to avoid, but sometimes I have little choice. Such are the complex demands of middle parenthood.

Little has changed in the ceremony in the quarter century since I forsook the weekly ritual. What has changed are the congregations. On this occasion, the pews were full, but populated in the main by parents like me – uncertain about what they should be doing and registering a timid protest by not attending communion with their children. If it were not for the nature of the ceremony, the attendance would have been a great deal smaller and greyer.

The priest, a young curate from a part of the country where “th’s” are banned, didn’t bother to alter his style in the midst of this gathering of heathens. Instead, his sermon was all about the nihilism of secularism and a call for us to return to the religion of our youth lest we fall prey to decadence. He blamed atheism for hardship, a diagnosis equivalent to not flossing or washing between one’s toes – satisfactory to some, but ultimately irrelevant.

As I said, not much has changed. If anything, some priests are getting more hardline as the collection plates dry up. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, they still believe they hold the monopoly on ethical behaviour and are fearful of the loss of pomp and privilege. There is still an unwillingness to engage into a dialogue with the real world. It’s all a bit sad, and while I believe that ethics is as important now as it ever was, it seems the Catholic Church is getting less qualified each year to inform us on ethical behaviour.

In the meantime, here is a delightful video from Stephen Fry on humanism and happiness. Judge for yourself what is a better role to live by.