Why I reckon that religion’s just like an exercise class

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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If you want to make God laugh, make a plan. This saying sprang to mind when my youngest developed palpitations and spent her scheduled christening in a paediatric high dependency unit.

Every time she rallied and we discussed the possibility of getting her to the church in time, her vital signs went haywire.

‘Do you think she’s been reading Richard Dawkins?’ I asked my husband, gloomily.

‘Perhaps she subscribes to the moral relativism of the 1970s,’ he replied.

Beep beep went the monitor in agreement.

Whatever was happening in her little head, it’s true that christenings take little account of babies’ wishes. Perhaps this explains the dramatically dwindling numbers at the font.

Agnostic parents feel that if they cannot agree with every single thing church stands for, they should stay away. But where would our friendships and marriages be if we applied the same logic?

We seek to preserve endless choice for our children, but too much can be a burden. My husband and I are, at best, ‘unsure’ on the religious front, but we reckon it is better to have a religious tradition to reject than none at all.

We mild-mannered Brits fear the undue influence of religion on our children. We forget that every time they log on or step outside they are manipulated by advertising. Isn’t it worth equipping them with the counter argument of self-restraint?

In fact, new research by social psychologist Roy Baumeister suggests that self-control, rather than self-confidence, is the reliable indicator of later-life success.

As the looters discovered, grabbing what is at hand can mean you forfeit something better later on. If this is true, what is all the life-after-death stuff other than a lesson in patience?

But I’m not advocating Christianity over any other faith. Religion is like an exercise class. If you want to keep it up and feel the benefits, you need to choose something that is on your doorstep.

My youngest, it turns out, will be discharged with nothing worse than gastroenteritis. But I will re-schedule that christening.