The next issue of Being Editors will be about C.S.Lewis and Phillip Pullman. As a sneak preview, and to give contributors an idea of what my own religious (or more to the point, non-religious) background is, here is the article I wrote which leads in to another about why That Hideous Strength is a guilty pleasure
That Hideous Strength has always been a weird guilty pleasure. I’m not a Christian, never have been, and didn’t grow up in a religious environment. People enjoy the Narnia books because they’re good children’s books and written with charm and wit, and they don’t Jesus you too hard (except for the last one). That Hideous Strength is nothing like that, the plot is weirdly cobbled together, and it’s full of railing against every single one of C.S.Lewis’ personal bugbears as a sexist old Christian university don of the 1950s, and he doesn’t bother to hide it. The relentless sexism, homophobia and evangelising makes me want to throw the book against the wall as the godless hell-bound pinko lefty I am, but it’s just so gleefully bizarre that I actually quite enjoy it and have re-read it countless times.
I didn’t grow up with what you could really call any form of religion at all. There was none in my family, and it didn’t play much meaningful part in my surroundings. Although England, the country I grew up in, has an official state religion in the form of the Church of England, most people aren’t very religious (I’m sticking to England here because Northern Ireland is a very different proposition, and Wales and Scotland have their own local factors). The CofE is a pretty wishy-washy, non-committal form of sort of Catholicish Protestantism that’s just there as a sort of backup default option if you want it and don’t have another religion. There were plenty of Catholics, Sikhs, Muslims and a couple of Mormons at school, but none of them were particularly devout either. There was one girl whose family belonged to some obscure extreme Christian sect whose name I can’t remember, and she seemed to be banned from joining in anything fun, which made people feel sorry for her. The overt religiosity of a lot of American culture seems pretty alien to us. If you are very religious, it’s seen as pushy, creepy and over-sharing to talk about it in great detail to people who didn’t ask about it, and even worse to try to convert them.