Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Christmas Essays #2: Losing My Religion

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.


Lydia said...

A VERY honest and thoughtful post. It's interesting to compare your observations of the lack of religious observation there in the U.K., as my observations are that Christmas in the U.S. is a confusing mix of religious celebration and what you wrote about. I'm fascinated now thinking about whether in a few generations ahead Muslims will have diluted their faith in similar fashion to Christians. I think that both these religions will always have fundamentalists, but here's hoping they are a weakening faction.

My first wedding was inside the Atmospherium-Planetarium on the Univ. of Nevada campus in Reno. The planetarium curator did a great night sky and then a sunrise for us, at which time we said those vows you mentioned. It was a great show. Horrid marriage, but a wow show.
Mike and I got married at New York City Municipal Bldg. in a civil ceremony and it was much more meaningful than all the religious crap (at least for me).

Buddha said...

Well, you already read my post so you know I feel exactly the same.
I love God and Jesus but I can't stand religion and church.
Worst of all, I can't stand religious fanatics and we have a lot of them in US!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi Lydia - thanks and i agree: i've heard good things about a book called The Year Of Living Biblically - a chap who tried to live by every single rule in the Bible, even the contradicting ones!

Sounds like it was a good ceremony - shame the same can't be said of the marriage. I think the important thing is that the ceremony says something about who you are, not who you're pretending to be - so i'm glad the civil ceremony was meaningful for you.

Bhudda - i visited your post just after writing this and was amused to find us both thinking such similar thoughts!

You're not my long lost brother, are you?

As someone who can barely decide what to spread on his sandwich from one minute to the next its hard for me to understand total commitment to any belief!

pohanginapete said...

...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 think that sums it up beautifully, and the same principle can be applied to far more than just marriage.

That's an interesting idea about what might happen — the triumph of materialism over religion. I guess eternal bliss just can't compete with the latest i-pod.

raccoonlover1963 said...

Hi Pixie. Good for you for admitting your feelings on "religion" and marriage. I go to church, but only on rare occasions. I just have trouble believing a lot of what is preached. Especially when there is physical evidence to the contrary.
I, myself, have been married 3 times. The first was in a church and what a mistake that marriage was. I think I just liked the idea of being married and away from home. The second marriage was at the courthouse in Florida, also another disastrous marriage, again, afraid of being on my own. The current marriage was held in Chuck's mother's front yard and our neighbor, who was a notary public, performed the ceremony. By far, the best yet, not to mention the last! LOL
Hope you got your candy recipe transated to the appropriate measurements.
Take care and have a great rest of the week.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Pete - yes, and i say again that i think it's already happening. We're hearing a lot about the latest generation of asian women refusing to accept arranged marriages (and good on em, i say) - which shows that they are enjoying the freedoms that the western world enjoys...and a lot of the staff here talk about the latest games/programmes - which they probably shouldn't be watching.

Lisa - so glad that you and Chuck had a lovely ceremony. You got there in the end!

Gattina said...

For me religion and church have nothing to do with faith. Everybody has interpreted the bible as it pleased. I know muslims, buddhist, hindus who put up a tree and decorate it because it's Christmas time (although the word Christ) doesn't mean anything and they celebrate it like all the others because they live in a country where the majority of the people do, christians or not ! Look in all the shops ! there are Christmas decoration all over and the streets and houses too. You can't ignore it !
More and more couples don't get married in church here in Waterloo. Our city hall has a wonderful wedding room and the couple is dressed like for a "traditional" wedding, white dress and all the tralala !

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Gattina - thanks, and i think you've hit on another point about Christmas. One of the reasons we put up the tree/turn our street into one of the more extravagant light shows that Pink Floyd used to do is through the desire to fit in. If we don't have a tree, paper hat, fairy lights et al we are deemed "scrooges" and not "getting into the spirit"

So the result is that people "celebrate" Christmas without understanding what they are celebrating

Anonymous said...

Dear Brother-Blogger-from Britain,

You know I have to disagree with you on this one. I wouldn't be me if I didn't. Actually that's not true, I wouldn't be me if I didn't say how I felt.

I actually know mounds of people, including my stepmother and little brother, who attend church every Christmas. And I can't speak for all of them, but my stepmother is very aware of what Christmas means in Christianity.

Now, your logic is absolutely correct. It doesn't make sense for you to make vows in a systematic institution that you don't believe, not even to the Bishop of East Anglia. But there are indeed churches that allow gay marriages and gays pastors (you did say "probably"). But I digress, saying this is a moral belief is a valid argument but.......isn't the institution of marriage itself a Christian creation? I'm probably terribly wrong.

You know I am a liberal Christian (we've been commenting on each other's blogs for some time now), and so, I believe in focusing more on the spiritual and theological aspects of Christianity as the ways of ascendance into walking with Christ and having him in my heart. Although, in contrast to Buddha, I cannot say that I hate religion and the church.

The problem is, conservatives have, for a while, controlled the meaning and message of Christianity in mass media and have given people the impression that Church is the physical building into which you step in order to be closer to God. That religion is a set of rigid dogmas that must be followed or you die. Of course this is not true. The church is the community that comes together, unified in spirit, to worship and praise. This could be done in a cardboard box on the street that has a sloppy cross drawn on it by a three-year-old if the people want it to. Religion is not rigid dogmas, but that rather underlying, basic principles (and the history/context of) which are to guide you through life and you strive to attain. You will NOT die or go to Hell immediately if you don't follow them all the time. Christ always forgives, but Christ loves those who strive to be.

That's, of course, just my two cents. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm heading up to see what's happening with Templar and the gang after that guy with the shotgun found them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and while I don't plan on getting married at all, if I do, I'd want a goth marriage. Not the gritty, urban metal goth kind, but the clean, prudent, classic Dracula/Phantom of the Opera kind.

Anne-Marie said...

Ohhhh, Hungry Pixies, you're bad. You're just inviting me to rant at you with all your heathen talk about Christmas and religion.

I couldn't agree with you more.

Happy Midwinter to you and yours. Will that do?

Honour said...

Oh, I so enjoy the discussion on this topic.

And, I'd love to attend the church that Clanestine describes, that's set up by a three year old with a sloppy cross drawn on it, made of cardboard boxes. Oh, if only all churches were like that :)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Samurai - i agree and would say that your response typifies what i believe as a True Christian - IE one who understands that faith is a lot more than just going to a church.

And yes - i think marriage probably mainly comes from the religious idea that it sanctifies sex...so on that grounds i shouldn't do it unless i want to make a personal non-religious commitment to another person

I've heard people quoting the bible for reasons of hate (I'm pretty sure that Leviticus?? had some pretty stern views on homosexuality)

Anne Marie - wishing you a festive winter solstace!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

honour - if you ever find that churh let me know!