A kindly old man
I heard from several correspondents that they thought my attitude to religion (Christmas vs Holidays) was unusual.
One had been brought up in a religious environment and now rejects the whole shebang – she can’t understand why I am interested in Christian mythology at all. She wouldn’t even let me buy a children’s bible for our daughter because she still has bad memories of the nuns who ran her school. Another reported that their family, having walked away from their childhood beliefs wanted to get as far from them as possible. Still another suggested that I had fabricated my whole attitude just to be controversial.
For me growing up, the Church of England was like the kindly but eccentric old man who lived down the road. He had a whole bunch of fascinating stories and some of them may even have been true. Everyone knew him and liked him but no one took him very seriously. I have nothing but fond memories of him.
Perhaps, for people who were brought up with a more strict form of religion, a part of their identity is tied up in their religious beliefs. Maybe religion is like a strict aunt who tried to control their lives. When they finally break free from her controlling ways in adulthood, they have to let go completely and discard everything that might remind them of her.
I have often thought that these differences in attitude towards religion between Americans and Europeans (Malta doesn’t count as it’s pretty much a theocracy) can be attributed to the lack of religious education in schools in America. My son will never play the innkeeper in the school nativity play. My daughter will never sing Little Donkey in the Christmas pageant. They will never get to tease the RE teacher about some of the more way-out stories from the bible.
The only way my kids will get a religious education is if we sign them up for the whole package and that requires actually believing that the stories in the bible are true. That can’t be right.