I could never get married in Church.
Yeah, yeah, I know – it’s lovely, traditional, very auspicious: but I couldn’t do it – not even if I was marrying the Bishop of East Anglia.
Admittedly if I were marrying the Bishop we probably wouldn’t be allowed to get married in a church, as I think (if the role actually exists) it’s currently filled by a man – but that’s not my reason.
My reason is that I don’t believe in God…or at least not any God sponsored by religion, and to me it would be wrong to stand in the house of God and make a promise before one of God’s earthly representatives to love someone for all time, interspersed with a bunch of songs about God.
As far as I’m concerned making this promise to a God I don’t believe in would a) be an insult to anyone with firm religious beliefs and b) be starting the marriage with a lie.
I tried to explain this to my Dad the other day and his response was say that this in itself was a kind of belief system. Yes Dad, it’s called a Moral Belief.
But the thing is that I feel the same way, in many ways, about Christmas. In fact a few years back I told a friend that the reason I didn’t particularly celebrate Christmas was due to my lack of religious fire.
They asked me what religion had got to do with Christmas and do you know, I had to ask myself the same question. I mean yes, Christ-mas: birth of Jesus and all that – but how many people do you know that will be going to church on Christmas Day? And how many of those go every Sunday? I suspect the figure to be quite low.
These days Christmas is about turning your street into the Las Vegas Strip, getting drunk and having to be carried back to your room at the Office Party, buying your kids the latest Yu-Gi-Oh, Ben 10 or Spongebob Squarepants DVD and over indulgence of sprouts. If you look at the Christmas Day TV schedule you’ll be lucky to find more than one or two programmes that even mention religion. In fact things have got so politically correct here now that many schools have eschewed tradional Nativity plays and Carols for fear of agonising the multi-cultural Britain (when it's a fact that most other religions have no particular problem with this)
And it’s especially odd for me, because I work in an environment that employs a large percentage of Muslims (about 60-75% of our workforce, maybe higher). They have two different versions of Eid – one around October/November and one around January. Every single Muslim employee observes the fast to the letter, every single one of them can tell you exactly why they observe it and why it is important. Every single one of them goes to the Mosque on a daily basis during that time, unlike Christmas and Lent – which people only have a vague idea what it means.
John Lennon was vilified by the press for saying that The Beatles were bigger than God, but in a way he was entirely right – God doesn’t put out hit records or advertise on prime time TV (which is why the average nine year old can recognise a picture of Ronald McDonald, but not Jesus) – so religion is fighting hard for our attention, even at a time when it should be central
And I wonder how long the recognition from the Muslim society will last – I wonder if they will be tarnished by the decadent West and find a few generations down the line that they are merely paying lip service to the old beliefs. I think the signs are already there – as the next generation of Muslims grow up with the freedoms and the benefits of the world and turn to their Wii’s instead of their prayer mats, in much the same way that we turned from our pulpits to our TVs less than a century ago.