During Easter of 2011 I wrote a blog called The Way of the Cross. I was very much a believer. Then a major crises of faith hit even larger than before, and a few months later I wrote of being Stripped Bare. God and Jesus no longer held any meaning to me.
I recently decided to start re-reading Thank God for Evolution to see what my inclinations would now be towards the message that the epic of evolution could be framed in religious language. I considered that it might be a quality follow-on from reading Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists. I was mistaken. My brief love affair with Christianity after a break and the subsequent falling-out has left me unalterably jaded. The journey of faith in something unreal no longer holds any merit for me.
I realized that my lack of relatedness to Michael Dowd’s message in TGFE could be a function of culture. As an Australian I live in a very secular society that has little room for religious meaning. The most we get is the media outlets speaking of the Easter messages of key church figures, recycled old religious films depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, and imagery of church services filled to capacity for this one time of the year. Yet even this is a function of our secularity; going to church once or twice a year is not seen as making one religious; it is merely a tradition, like the giving of Easter eggs is a tradition. In most places in our secular society, it seems that the church exists so that it can serve these seasons; in between it remains afloat by the few religious remaining behind.
In adapting myself to secular culture, I needed to take the step of accepting and acknowledging that supernatural faith and language holds no place in my day-to-day life. My language in The Way of the Cross spoke of the cry of desperation I felt in my psychological distress. Religion, God, Jesus, Church did nothing to aid me in my doubts and insecurities. It was scientifically validated methods of therapy and change that lead to greater wellbeing and fulfilment, and continue to do so. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, as third-wave behavioural therapies, do far more for health and wellbeing than the church ever will; and in fact ministers of religion are now borrowing much from them!
Easter is simply a tradition that has crossed multiple boundaries. Initially a pagan festival, then a religious season, and now a secular season. Easter bunny and eggs, symbolizing fertility, hold far more sway than the death and resurrection of Jesus, no matter how full the churches might become, or how loud the voices of some religious figures might become. Australia has an atheist prime minister; the religion of our politicians is irrelevant. We lament the fact that we cannot buy beer on Good Friday, so we need to stock up on Thursday and do all our drinking at home. And this four-day weekend is renowned for being a time to be drunk and merry.
We may no longer need God, Jesus, or any of the other deities; but we still require tradition, myth, stories, meaning, purpose. It is almost written in our genes. In this awkward time of transition, I hope that our secularism can expand upon the past and give us a break from consumerism, to celebrate and enjoy both life and death.