A Family Affair

The past couple of weeks have brought with them the usual summer collection of family gatherings. This time it has been my cousin’s daughter’s christening (apparently that’s a first cousin once removed) and today there will be another christening/birthday celebration for two other cousins.

What always amuses me is that they are, naturally, religious affairs. And yet my family is probably the biggest bunch of heathens going. They don’t go to church, ever. Several of them don’t even consider themselves religious. And yet, they are quite happy to use the Church for their own devices, especially if it means getting them into “a good school”.

So, today we have to go through the rigmarole again. I make no attempt to hide my atheism to my family. Some of them are quite offended by my choice of not believing in all that religious nonsense. But the problem for me is that if I don’t attend the service it will be noted and used against me. I can’t do that. So I have to go to the church and watch.

Then there is a new dilemma. Last time I was in the church, two weeks ago, there were a couple of old duffers sitting behind me. Throughout the christening service they made several attempts to wind me and others up by pointing out that they “hadn’t seen us here before”, and then complaining that no one was joining in with the prayers or singing during the songs because we didn’t know the words.

Now, I know what they’re getting at… because I agree with them, they are sponging off the Church. But at the same time, it would be nice if they had something to say that they either said it to the faces of the people they were insulting or kept it to themselves. I was very close to saying that to them last week as I found it quite offensive.

So I am then caught. Because, I could help avert some of this. I generally know all the words to church services. And as for hymns, I don’t exactly know them all, but they are largely very formulaic pieces of music that it’s very easy to join in with once you get the key and the rhythm. And since I don’t mind singing, I am quite happy to join in. And I know most of the prayers anyway from my time in school.

That means that I find myself having to pretend I’m all holy and religious during the service so that our family look like they’re making some sort of effort to hide what is an unashamed and embarrassing abuse of the Church which they have no intent of repaying.

Because to me, hypocrisy is one of the worst traits in people.

And yet – am I being a hypocrite for actually joining in? Surely it would be more honest of me not to go?

Allegedly, we are all secular now. But it’s still far from easy for those of us who are a little more determined in our secularism. We have to make compromises in life, but these are the ones I always feel very uneasy making.

Anything to keep the family happy…

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