I wrote this post a while ago but didn’t publish it. What do they say about not discussing religion or politics? The same probably goes for parenting too, but what the hey.
I recently had a experience where one of the parents at my son’s Krippe (nursery/daycare) spoke to me. In English. This is enough of a rare occurrence that I was perhaps overly receptive, or perhaps not. Anyway, the conversation rapidly devolved into her asking me about which religion I followed and when I said none, she persisted in pushing the “But how can you not believe in god?” thing, which made me rather uncomfortable. As you will see from the below, my beliefs are “in progress” and so far rather hazy. It’s not something I think about all that much, to be honest. Although, a few times recently I have found myself craving a bit more spirituality and wondering about how to introduce some sort of religious-type structure or ceremony to my life. Whether this stems from having children or getting older or whatever, who knows? Anyway, here goes.
This year we celebrated Easter with a short hop to the French part of Switzerland (who needs passports when you can drive three hours and be in a different-language region?!) It was great. An ideal little holiday with mountain scenery, Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva) and a day spent wandering around the medieval Chateau de Chillon.
However, when I say “celebrate” Easter, what’s to celebrate? As we were driving home, I started feeling a bit spiritually hollow as I pondered how or indeed why, without being religious and with no family around, do we “celebrate” Easter? If I don’t believe in god or the Easter bunny, what is there to differentiate this holiday from any others? Are we celebrating time off work? I’m not even employed! There’s no break from motherhood, of course, especially without family around to help out. In our affluent lifestyle there’s no need for feasting and non-religious fasting seems a little pointless. We can, and do, eat chocolate all the time. We can, and do, have “special meals” all the time. What is the point of it all?
Essentially, I like the idea of tradition and history. Sort of. Hey, I just spent a day wandering around a medieval castle! But without an underlying spiritual faith and, in fact, with more of a leftwing attitude that religion seems to be involved with more evil than good in the world, it seems a bit, well, silly to try to incorporate somewhat gristly stories of a man dying and being reborn into my children’s lives or my own. Plenty of time for them to hear about it in school (I guess?) I feel like I know the stories pretty well. I actually did a lot of Sunday Scholarship in my time. Would it be too weird if my children grew up not really hearing The Easter Story or other religious tales?
Of course, there’s Spring and the other seasons. And after all, Easter is essentially a pagan springtime ritual dressed up in Christ’s clothing. But all that pagan stuff – well, I like it but I I feel a bit too… uncomfortable? unsure? ignorant? embarrassed? to become especially worked up about it. And without the full commitment, is it worth it?
My modern malaise means I’m also lazy when it comes to spiritual matters. I don’t really want to study just to become spiritual. Although, saying that, I suppose contemplation and bettering yourself, trying to attain a higher sense of being IS a big tenet of most spiritual belief systems.
I want to say it doesn’t feel like I should have to work at it, but hard work and experiencing discomfort is kind of the essence of much religion. It’s not meant to be easy is it? It’s something you are supposed to put time and effort in to. It could even be argued that religions were invented to give reason (and/or reward) for people enduring crap stuff. But our society is all so easy-street and secular. It seems crazy to put up with hardship for the sake of a system of beliefs you haven’t chosen. In the first world, where there’s not grinding poverty or backbreaking work and the food and chocolate flows easily, it’s no wonder religiousness is dying out.
But I was left feeling as though I’d like to do something. I mean, without some sort of framework for the years and the holidays and my life, it’s all bit desolate. Can I put an ad in the Classifieds? Wanted: Non-Religious, non-ridiculous form of spirituality to practise with my husband and kids. Must not require too much serious effort or devotion, however some ceremony appreciated, as is dressing up. Suggestions on the back of an envelope…
Oh, and as for the English-speaking god-botherer mum – I did come up with the perfect answer, about three hours later: Your lack of tolerance for my lack of religion is precisely what puts me off being part of one.
I also like this quote:
For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
― Charles Bukowski
If it helps I consider myself culturally Christian — I recognize the stories and holidays as a part of my cultural framework — but I don’t actually see myself as a spiritual person in anyway, too much scientist in me I think!
When my girls started school a few years ago, I let them do religious education (here in Vic at the time it was an opt-out system, they’ve recently switched to opt-in and seen the number of kids doing it going down by about 75%!). I lasted about 2 years before (a) they both got bored with the format and (b) I got worried about the messages that some of the volunteer teachers were espousing eg God only listens to you if you pray to Him, and stuff like that (of course, there was the teacher, fortunately not my daughter’s, who told a whole class of grade 1s that Santa was a lie and a conspiracy against God, you can imagine the reaction to that!).
Anyway, I keep meaning to buy a children’s bible so that my kids at least know what it is all about but I never get around to it. In the meantime I might think about what to write on the back of that envelope.
“Wanted: Non-Religious, non-ridiculous form of spirituality to practise with my husband and kids. Must not require too much serious effort or devotion, however some ceremony appreciated, as is dressing up.” Surely the answer is Goth. Ceremony? Kitchen dancing to 80s music. You’ve got it baby.
Yes, I was also going to mention that any form of Christianity that says Motley Crue and Alice Cooper = bad is not for me. But Goth solves that problem as well! heh
Yes indeed. But finding it tricky to tap into the church of goth (as opposed to gothic church!) in Switzerland. How to find the other ageing dye-hards?