Are you there God? It's me, Miriama

My parents were Catholic prison chaplains.  My mother was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for her work. 

We were raised to believe in God and we went to church every Sunday.  So, why is my mum a fan of Sir Lloyd Geering - a former Presbyterian minister who has often shocked with his claims that God does not exist, that there is no afterlife, and that Jesus was not resurrected from the dead?

Sir Lloyd Geering, 99-year old distinguished professor and former Presbyterian minister, talked to Miriama Kamo about his radical opinions which caused a stir in the 1960s. Source: Sunday

They're among claims that saw Sir Lloyd stand trial in 1967 for heresy.  That was 50 years ago, almost to the day.

His influence has been enormous.  Sir Lloyd's written books, heaps of them.  He's spoken all around the country. 

He's delighted us with his kindness, his warmth, and he's challenged and offended some of us with, as religious historian Peter Lineham says, "his acute brain, his extraordinarily sharp perceptions."

He's taken us along on his journey from senior Presbyterian minister who taught the word of God, to a man who wrestles with Him and now rejects the central tenets of Christianity: the immaculate conception, the resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. 

Sir Lloyd has helped define our religious consciousness; and, arguably, he's helped push NZ further into secularism. 

His life's work has seen him made a knight grand companion, a distinguished professor, and he's in the Order of NZ – awarded to just 20 living New Zealanders at any time.

And, he's 99.  For someone who doesn't believe in God the way orthodox Christians do, Lloyd Geering has been blessed. 

He's had a long and full life.  He's fit, walks up to an hour everyday with his glamorous 91 year old wife Shirley, and he's still writing. 

But this year, Sir Lloyd has decided to retire from public life.  So I wanted to sit down with him before he did that, because I've been thinking a lot about faith lately.  

I still call myself a Catholic, but the truth is, I haven't gone to church regularly for over 20 years. 

But does that disqualify me in any spiritual sense?  Is there room for me to believe in God, not go to church, respect the deities of my Māori heritage, and back the big bang theory?  God only knows. 

Or maybe, He doesn't. Perhaps we're ascribing too much authority to someone we know only by faith, not by introduction. 

Someone who claims to be there, but is never seen. Someone who says he has a son, but has bucked the biological imperative that the rest of us must follow.

Frankly, it feels a bit heretical to even say all that. But that's my religious upbringing. My intellect says, we must ask questions. It's what my mum says too. She raised us to believe in God, but also in our own common sense. So, where does that leave me? Will let you know on Sunday night.

But, more importantly, where does the notion of a god-less society leave all of us? 

At a time of extraordinary global uncertainty, surely a bit of divine intervention would be a good thing right now? 

But, if God doesn't exist.. what's left, who do we turn to, where do we find comfort?

And, as long as we're asking questions, how about the big one – what's the meaning of life?

Sir Lloyd Geering challenges us to believe, not in God – but something else.  Tune in this Sunday night, 7.30pm, TVNZ1