Editor’s Note: A new author to Rational Creatures, Jan Blixt, joins us today with some reflections from her Easter.
My children dyed their eggs last night and just finished finding them all this morning. They opened their Easter baskets (lovingly created each year by their grandmother, Poppy) and had their brunch, and now they are watching Sherlock Holmes with their father and grandfather.
You may note that church is not a factor in our Easter morning. Because god is not a factor in our Easter morning.
I was raised in a very Catholic family with a devout mother and a seemingly devout father – I learned in my late teens that he was an agnostic who’d been raised Episcopalian and loved my mother and was willing to go along with the trappings because they were important to her. I have a brother whose lovely family is devout in their Evangelical Christianity. I also have a brother who’s become rather militant in his atheism and whose family has no patience with religion. And I don’t believe in god. I just don’t. I don’t know if I ever did and I don’t lose sleep over it.
And now I have two children, ages 6 and 8, who are being raised without religion and without the concept of capital-G god.
This shocks some people.
“How can they know right from wrong if they don’t have religion in their lives?” Because we teach them. We talk about how important being part of a society is to our species and to be good people. “What do you do about holidays?” We recognize all of them and try to learn what we can about them. “What foundation to do they have in our culture?” We talk about all religions equally (or as equally as we can being that what I know most, of course, is Catholic Christianity and the rest is found through remembered comparative religion classes from college and by the magic of the Google) and try to discuss their similarities as well as their differences.
A friend once asked, concerned about my disbelief in god, “Don’t you think there’s another out there bigger than yourself?” That seemed like a strange question to me. Of course I do. Weather is larger, tides are larger, gravity is larger. George Carlin has a great bit about worshiping the sun, because it’s always been there for him. There are many forces in the universe much more powerful than my little old self – and many more to be discovered, I’m sure. Someday, I imagine, science will have discovered how all the forces work together and are able to basically blueprint this amazing universe we live in, but I’ll be long gone by then. I don’t claim to know everything. I also don’t claim that because I can’t explain everything there must be a single entity controlling it.
I have been accused of hypocrisy for celebrating Christmas. There are people who have told me that because I don’t believe Jesus is the son of God, I shouldn’t celebrate his birth. That’s crazy. I think Jesus was a great guy. A truly wonderful teacher. He tried to get people to love one another, to accept one another, to treat other people with dignity and respect, to not hold money and personal wealth above basic humanity. What’s not to like? I have taught my children about Jesus—about his life and his teachings. And we celebrate his birth. We get together with family and are generous with gifts, we sing about peace on earth and good will towards men. And that baby, born in a stable (a story borrowed from Moses, Osiris, and Mithras, maybe—I really don’t care) has a terrific lesson to teach about the power of love. We also light our Hanukkah candles, and we light our candles for Kwanzaa (Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work, Responsibility—again, what’s not to like?). Throughout the year, we try to stay in touch with Ramadan, Diwali, Lammas, Samhain, and Imbolc. There’s something to be learned and taught about each one. Besides, celebrations of life are wonderful things.
A little over a month after Christmas, both of my kids were studying the US Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dash and I had a long conversation about how his message of love and respect was an inspiration during his time and will be an inspiration, through his speeches and his actions, for generations to come. Dash said “like Jesus.” Well—yeah. And it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a religion around Dr. King in a few hundred years. By the end of the conversation, both of my kids were connecting the idea that both of these men of love and human dignity were murdered—had their lives cut short by external forces that really wanted to silence them. And we discussed how scary a concept love can really be: that respect and tolerance can be difficult for people and that both men were truly revolutionary.
Which brings me to Easter.
My family celebrates Easter: the wonderful pagan spring-joy of it with bunnies and flowers. And we celebrate it by coming together. This morning, I told them about how Christians believe that Easter is the day that Jesus rose from the dead thereby saving all of mankind. I presented it, as I present all religious myths, as a story that needs to be respected and should be learned as part of being a well rounded individual and considerate member of our society. And we discussed why it’s important to people. An
Just as I can celebrate Christmas as the day a great man was born who taught about peace and respect to all mankind—I can celebrate Easter as the day a wonderful message outlived its messenger. Jesus of Nazareth died, but 2000 years later, his convictions are still a part of our world. The teacher doesn’t have to be a god or a mythical being, he or she doesn’t have to be worshiped to be venerated. Words can survive—the message need not be lost.
Happy Easter, everyone.