Among the sad remnants of life remembered in the cemetery of the former West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum and detailed in a book called Voices of the Asylum, is the name of one John Wright. Admitted in November 1888, he was described as “…vacant and wondering, always suffering from melancholia…” and once tried to kill his brothers and himself. He also believed himself to be God as well as the son of God. He also talked to God, who he called ‘Billy Pudding’.
Sadly for John Wright, he was born about 127 years too early. Aged 47 today and needing psychiatric help, he might have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. With treatment and someone to take him seriously, he may well have avoided trying to kill himself or his brothers. Some drugs and counselling might have meant that he could have continued to live in his own home. I mean so what if your god is called Billy Pudding?
Religion makes people believe some daft things. People persuading themselves that they can speak in tongues is, let’s just say, a bit odd, especially when someone has to teach you to do it and still “No, you won’t understand what you are saying. Let’s just be clear here. You have to learn to speak a language that you yourself won’t understand, but the Lord wants you to speak it, but he doesn’t teach you it or just fill you with it. You have to learn it, but not understand it. It’s magic, or something. Got that?
I have to admit ignorance on the state of evangelism in 1888, but just suppose that John Wright had come out with this stuff back then, instead of calling his god Billy Pudding. He may have avoided admission to the West Riding Lunatic Asylum because he belonged to a church, the bible of which told him that it was literally the word of God, so it must be possible or true. Billy pudding on the other hand, only belonged in recipe books, so therefore Mr Wright was mad. You can believe that seventy-two virgins await you if you fly a plane into a skyscraper if religion so moves you, but unfortunately, it was John Wright that got locked up. Maybe the god Billy Pudding fed the five thousand with cheesecake, and went to a wedding in Cana, making himself popular by turning water into chocolate shakes. It is no less plausible and remember, even the Archbishop of Canterbury is wavering about that God – the one everyone goes on about usually.
Had he been able to fill in a census form in 2011, John Wright could have put ‘Billy Pudding’ in the space next to the “Religion?” question, where others put ‘Jedi’. Religion moves us even if your god is just the God of the human mind, so as long as it’s benign and doesn’t ruin anyone’s weekend, let’s hear it for anyone of faith, and you never know, the Puddingites may rise again.