That old-time religion

By Leigh Greaney

Finding out there was no Easter bunny was more of a relief than a setback. The last prying anxiety a five-year-old needs is the threat of a giant rabbit breaking into their house at night to give out candy and eventual cavities. I never remember being entirely sold on it, but the threat was enough to stay up and keep a look out. Relief set in as I saw my mom shuffling through our pantry and filling baskets with candy eggs.

After that, Easter lost most the mask and became about different things – like quiche and overeating chocolate and someone in the family that drank too much wine. It became about togetherness. The bunny was mentioned for fun and for the kids who still let themselves stay suckered in. However, no one seemed to be mentioning the guy who brought on the quiche and overeating chocolate and someone in the family who drank too much wine.

Jesus should be an Easter buzz word, but it’s just not. It’s become more about the resurrection of the Cadbury bunny egg – not the resurrection of God. I thought this was just my family, but it seems like I’m not alone.

From 1990 to 2008, the percentage of Americans who claim “no religion” has doubled. Now at 15 percent, people who are swearing off God trump 1990’s 8 percent, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

This “no religion” religion comes in third place of what most believe. Catholics take first with 25.1 percent and Baptists take second with 15.8 percent. Atheism is more popular than Judaism, Protestantism, and Spiritualism (Wicca, other pagan traditions, etc).

This could mean many things. This could mean that people are going to start losing their moral ground. Without “consequences” that stretch into the afterlife, without guilt and without shame for doing what we want coming from above – does that mean without moral fiber? Will our compass break and spin us into different directions?

This could also mean that our standards of self have been lowered. Do we not need to be all we can if we’re not being judged by the only being whose opinion matters more than our own? Will there be chaos of self-expectation?

This could mean that we’ll stop acting as responsible members of society. Without consequence – without heaven and hell or wrath or reward – will we sink the ship? We could all become victims of ourselves and full of apathy. Without God to take care of Americans, who will?

This could also mean something quite opposite. It could mean the Bible Belt and Rust Belt dissolve. It could open up a new blueprint for the basis of moral judgment. It could rewrite motivational standards. It could make people start to believe in people – instead of God. We could stop being victims of fate and start to act in order to create fate.

The bitter truth is that it’s happening. Churches are closing down nationwide. Here in New England, the once Catholic monopoly has been added to the melting pot.

The good news is, although the religious belief has begun to fade within people, religious customs stay embedded into culture. Even those who mock religious beliefs still find themselves with a plate of Christmas ham in front of them when that day rolls around.

God has become a sort of hobby. It can be played out or put down whenever it’s convenient. “Losing my religion” isn’t just an R.E.M. song anymore for a lot of people. It’s a reality.

With this 15 percent of America’s population calling themselves atheist, there doesn’t seem to be a loss of moral identity. Moral philosophy can be taught through religion, but it can be learned otherwise. Being a responsible, functioning part of society has not deemed it necessary to require religious belief.

Just because someone had a civil wedding, didn’t get baptized or didn’t get their baby baptized doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute to society – or even contribute to religion. It’s just not traditional. Spirituality and belief come in many forms. If being true to yourself is being untrue to a religious custom, it’s very easy to claim “no religion.”

It seems society is missing something. The important part of life needs to be seen in the spot life – and this important part of life needs to be agreed upon my religious followers and atheists and semi-atheists alike.

Christmas and Easter, for example, may be about big dinners and presents for some people, making them not as religious as those celebrating it in the name of God.  However, whatever motives a family or friend group has to get together on those days, the end result is the same.

There is still togetherness.

Isn’t that what it’s really about? If it isn’t – shouldn’t it be? God may or may not be out there. That can be debated. Having friends and family get together to share each other’s company is just as important. That can be also be debated, depending on how much you enjoy your family. But, they are tangible. They’re only here for so long. Why not use that time to make the best of the memory making? Why not celebrate the love you feel for those who you care about?

Religion may be dying, but love and moral fiber doesn’t have to. We just need to get our priorities straight.

Leigh Greaney is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]