I never read Evelyn Waugh's book "Brideshead Revisited", but I did see the television production. And tonight I watched a recent programme about it.
What I remember most was Lord Marchmain's death scene. After having rejected Catholicism for most of his life, in his dying moments he accepted the last rites from the waiting priest. The scene seemed to go on forever. Would he or wouldn't he?
I was rooting for him to stick to his guns and remain true to his non-beliefs to the very end. I couldn't believe it when he relented. The fear of death and the unknown had won over reason. I was deflated and disappointed. What a weak-minded hypocrite! I watched the rest of the series without enthusiasm.
Up to that moment, I thought the author was questioning faith. Lord Marchmain's backflip left me confused. It was only later on that I discovered Evelyn Waugh was a Catholic convert.
Years later, something similar happened in my own life. My father, who had been a confirmed atheist all his life, towards the end asked my brother-in-law, an Anglican priest, to pray for him. I was disgusted. It was like having a bet each way. Religion shouldn't be about gambling.
I have been close to death myself but didn't call out to the god of my youth for help. Going back was impossible - I had seen the emperor was naked and I couldn't unsee it, no matter how desperate the situation became.
A life lived without authenticity is no life at all.