With Easter Sunday almost upon us, Britain gets ready to shut down for the day. The shops will be closed, the roads deserted, and everyone will be in church remembering the crucifixion of Jesus that gave us this very festival. Or at least that’s what might have been the case some decades ago.
Religious holidays have turned into little more than a commercial extravaganza for businesses, seemingly eradicating every last vestige of faith in the process. Who is really thinking of Pontius Pilate’s actions when they tuck into their fourth Easter egg? Very few people, I should imagine. Greeting card and chocolate manufacturers have not simply seized a golden opportunity in making gifts to commemorate each festival, but have distorted their meaning altogether.
Of course, it is not only the big conglomerates that are to blame for this dilution of faith. A survey completed in 2005 shows that atheism in the UK stands at 20% – that is to say one in five of us believes that there is not, and never has been, a life force, spirit or God in existence. This is surely heavily influenced by our modern culture: we move quickly with the times, and a book written over 2000 years ago doesn’t particularly appeal to the masses in Britain anymore.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with a lack of faith, but perhaps it is then hypocritical to ‘celebrate’ such festivals when they have no religious meaning for the participant. I am as guilty of this as most – I enjoy Christmas hugely, and not because it reminds me of the birth of Jesus. No: I relish the sense of joviality it brings and all of the cheesy things one can get away with purely because it is December.
A certain guilty impulse tends to creep up on me over these holidays, however, when I face the fact that all I want is the fun of the festivals and none of the responsibility. I don’t want worship, I just want turkey. Is that wrong?
I know that my attitude towards both Easter and Christmas is not particularly uncommon in this day and age, so why do I feel so bad about my beliefs when the holidays come around? I have been brought up in a family that celebrates these festivals with no religious intent, and this has certainly shaped my outlook on the matter.
Whilst I believe in God, religion remains a subject that both fascinates and stupefies me. Perhaps my theological interests are a result of my inherent inability to ascribe to any one particular faith. Rather like my political leanings, I have cut and pasted the bits that appeal to form my views, and find it impossible to follow one particular path.
This makes holiday seasons somewhat difficult from a moral perspective, as I feel like some kind of Christian impostor when I see what Cadbury is offering to soothe the upset of Jesus’ torment. I can almost guarantee that the majority of the British population would associate the word ‘egg’ with Easter more so than any other, and this is a very telling sign of the times for religion in today’s society. It also forces me to ask whether or not these occasions are reserved for believers only, or whether they are open to all.
It seems as though the role of religion in faith festivals is continuing to take a back-seat as the giants of all things chocolatey and egg-shaped storm the wheel. People undeniably still believe in the messages that they promote, but ultimately the gospel of praline has become just that little bit more tempting.