I recall one Sunday morning in our house in Stockholm, Sweden hearing from the main floor to the third floor where I slept my mother’s howl, “How’s God going to bless this goddamn house if no one goes to church!” She evidently had just returned from church. When my father did go to church he customarily sat behind one of the large stone pillars. My sister and I had seemingly already abandoned any religious custom.
Today is Good Friday and I find myself dwelling upon the ceremonial habits which distinguish the Christian holiday. Though there was a time when I may have embraced the occasion for its magnificence, my heart is no longer in it for any reason except perhaps the music. While bicycling this morning I heard the faint sound of church bells ringing through the fierce northwest wind. I wondered what service could possibly transpire in this pandemic. Last summer the Baptists held an outdoor service. But today was too cold even though – as my mother always said of Easter – the sun is shining (or as she preferred, “dancing”).
For my part I have settled upon an expiation contrived of an early morning rising (before eight o’clock), an invigorating bicycle ride (there were the usual walkers about as well), a fulfilling breakfast of the customary ingredients and the diversion of an afternoon drive around the countryside on what is destined to be a brilliant day.
In the meantime I content myself as usual to reflect upon the glory of life and its stimulating advantages. The current chatter about the demise of religion generally is in my opinion nothing but a transition of one inexplicability to another. Certainly there are those who derive what they perceive to be intellectual strength from their atheistic view but I think they deceive themselves to imagine they have solved the mystery of life. Perhaps they separate their atheism from conjecture about the universe but that is a false logic. I agree there may not, as the Christian thesis demands, be one and only one god (“And no other gods before me“) but I think the argument fails to address the underlying theme of indescribable resplendence which every religion seeks to capture for its own retail purposes. And as mercenary as may be the goals of the religious community, it remains inescapably impossible to describe the inexpressible glory of life. The current expressions of that grandeur through music, architecture, costumes, ceremonies, foregatherings, sermons and ritual denial are not to be short-changed. Nor am I convinced that religion is the opiate of the masses. The hierarchy has its own rewards to retrieve from the institution and formality.