Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Atheist Easter

"So how does a chocolate loving atheist approach Easter?"

It's a decent question to ask somebody who's thoroughly opposed to organised religion.

My initial response was that 'chocolate eggs are hardly the most religious thing in the world,' and then there's my stock response to such questions, whether they centre around Easter, Christmas, or any other such nationally-accepted holidays that started off from a religious base: I see no harm in having one more excuse to be nice to people for a day and exchange gifts.

They way I see it, Easter is a national holiday in the UK, and there are a few ways of dealing with it:

  1. Embrace the religiousness, try to convince myself that some dude died for my sins and then came back to life to prove a point before ascending into heaven on his terms rather than those of damned unbelieving heathens. - No chance.
  2. Grumble and moan and complain and hide away at home until it's all over. - What's the point? No one would notice any difference from me anyway.
  3. Actively take steps to ban it. - Why bother? It does no real harm in and of itself (that's not to say that others can/do not use it for such practises as attempting to stifle free thought and indoctrinate children, but show me an occasion- secular or religious- when this is not the case).
  4. Take the opportunity to be nice to people and gratefully accept chocolate based gifts*, understanding that some people like to talk to sky fairies on days like these.
I have known followers of various branches of the faith system that can be loosely bundled together as "Christianity" who have taken great offence at my casual use of their religious festivals to take time out, have some fun and be nice to people. I find it difficult not to label such people raving, rampant hypocrites: at the very least, they have evidently put little time into learning about the origins of the faith that they have claimed as their own! If you are the type of person who takes offence when people of no religion (or, indeed, alternative religions) use what you see as 'your' religious festival as an excuse to watch telly, have friends over, do something special, exchange gifts or just kick back, please, please do some serious investigation into the roots of your own religion. You will find that many of these occasions were 'borrowed' from other faiths or hijacked from the secular community in one of history's most successful** advertising campaigns.

If, on the other hand, you're the kind of person who sees value in people who do not share your faith nevertheless taking the opportunity to have some kind of secular celebration without feeling the need to get all righteous on my ass, then I thank you, and suggest that we should play MarioKart together sometime.

Change happens; the zeitgeist evolves. Religion is no longer necessary for living a whole and fulfilling life, or even for answering the difficult questions, but what's wrong with using the friendlier parts of their legacy as ready-made bases for secular interaction, holidays and partying?

* Though please, for future reference, it works out a lot cheaper, penny for penny, if you just buy me a bar rather than a ludicrously expensive egg. It all ends up in the same place eventually.
** And lengthy. And bloody.