Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Belated Easter Thoughts of a Non-theist

What is a non-theist to do with Easter?

I thought about this a lot last weekend. I love to celebrate Christmas, but it is different. While undeniably a religious holiday, Christmas has also become a secular one. The closeness to the Winter Solstice makes the festivities go down even easier, but Easter is another matter.

Easter is not secularized or separate from the sacred enough for me to kid myself into thinking I am doing anything other than celebrating the resurrection of Christ. I would be quite happy to let the day go completely un-differentiated, but canceling the Easter egg hunt and Easter dinner with my family would not make me highly regarded in their eyes. It might be fair to say it would make me a jerk.

Easter is not close enough to a sabbat for me to get my pagan on about it. There is almost always still snow on the ground this far north, so celebrating the coming of spring is more ceremonial than anything else. So how'bout it? What do the rest of you do. Any of you non-Christian or post-Christian UU's have any suggestions? How do you frame Easter? To observe or not to observe, what do you do?


  1. Easter is all about spring for me. Plus I try never to pass up a chance to go to a party or to have fun with friends and family. That's part of my spiritual practice.

    (For what it's worth, I'm an atheist and a materialist.)

  2. My family of origin aren't religious so I haven't seen these holidays as religious for a long time. I just enjoy them as a cultural thing and don't really think about the religious aspect. But I guess it's hard not to, if they've always been religious occasions for you.

  3. I'm not sure about the region you are in, but in some places even though there is still snow the birds start to return and lay eggs because they are finally seeing more sunlight. Which is the origins of hunting for the brightly colored eggs. For us the holiday was very much about the metaphor of spring, new life, new possibilities, new beginnings, etc.

  4. In the particular sub-branch of Christian Fundamentalism in which I was raised, Easter (a word my parents would not use because of its pagan origin - they called it "Resurrection Anniversary") consisted only of a special service at church on Palm Sunday (without palm fronds or processions), a subdued sunrise service on Easter Sunday, and a special service at regular service time on Easter Sunday - all rather muted with the only accommodation to wider Protestant culture being the selection of hymns and the sudden appearance of Easter Lilies in the auditorium of the churchhouse. There were no special meals. Holy Week was thought of a Catholic perversion (as Lent also was). And the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs were ignored as a combination of pagan symbol and modern lies to be relegated to the same heap of evil refuse as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

    With all that was eschewed, there was plenty left for me to do my own thing with. But I don't. This year I went to an Episcopal mass on Palm Sunday. No baggage there, as the Episcopalians, including my mother's grandfather, were lumped in with the Catholics as non-Christians in my church heritage. I was in an intensive class through Holy Week. And Easter Sunday, when our church was celebrating Rachel Carson's heritage and nothing the least bit Christian, I was home working until nearly noon, when we went to my partner's son's non-religious family's to have an extremely informal Easter Dinner and watch the two youngest grandsons hunt Easter Eggs.

    And, to follow John's lead in religious full disclosure, I am a poetic pantheist, a gnostic atheist, a mystic humanist, and a religious naturalist.

  5. @UUpdater I am in Alaska so some birds are starting to come back, but no nests and eggs yet. Definitely enjoying the sunlight.

    Thanks to all of you for your suggestions. I may have to take a page from John and just enjoy the party and not worry about feeling disingenuous.

    @Paul Oakley - if I may ask, why an Episcopal Mass? Interesting choice for a gnostic atheist. No judgement, just curious.

  6. I live quite comfortably on the threshold between belief and unbelief. I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship and am glad you do not have to be a Christian to be a member. I participate in the Easter Sunday meal with extended family. I think the late Joseph Campbell had much to say for those who are struggling with the religious myths of the culture they find themselves in. Enjoy the stories and identify with them as you feel able to.

  7. You ask, "Why an Episcopal Mass?"

    LOL, why indeed! Two reasons:

    1) I am a lover of formal liturgy well done - something that was not part of my upbringing nor is part of UU, for the most part (never been to King's Chapel).

    2) When I am away from home, I go into religious-fieldtrip mode, visiting a wide range of churches, from visiting UU churches with an eye to what I can learn of how others do UU, at one end of the spectrum, to everything else, so long as it is not fundamentalist, at the other end of the spectrum.

    And, 3) Yes, three out of two, because it was just four blocks from my friend's apartment where I was visiting, and I had gotten up later than I had planned to.

    It turned out to be a very interesting fieldtrip in areas of some relevance to discussions of UU culture and growth issues that keep coming up.

  8. I responded, after a fashion, over at my blog. But I don't know if I count as non- or post-Christian exactly. And my choice was idiosyncratic to this year -- and also serendipitous...