We Don’t Do God – do we?

June 3rd, 2013

“The family has asked for the Lord’s Prayer. Will that be all right?”

There can’t be many of us who have not had to deal with that question. My own response is usually that as long as one of the mourners is prepared to lead it, I’m happy to stand back and let them. Same with hymns: I won’t sing, but I don’t mind if they do, within reason.

It comes down to understanding the difference between religion and culture. I know plenty of Jews who are not religious but stick more or less to the dietary prescriptions for the sense of connectedness that observance gives them: it’s a cultural thing. Similarly, if All Things Bright and Beautiful is part of somebody’s life story, it would be ridiculous and unfair to exclude it.  Some prelate or other recently accused the secular movement of wanting to tear up the Christian roots of our culture. Some within the movement responded by denying that such roots exist.

Come off it: humanism itself stands in direct line of descent from enlightened Christianity. The quest for human knowledge is a space capsule that owes its trajectory to earlier attempts to understand the big questions, from the crudest animism to the most convoluted attempts to reconcile theology with science. What we are trying to do is not to tear up roots but use them to grow something bigger and more magnificent.

So to nit-pick about the odd few lines of traditional mumbo jumbo seems to me to miss the point both of humanism and our job as celebrants to create and conduct ceremonies that respect both the subject and our own integrity.

After all, unlike superstitious/religious people, we don’t believe in spells. Do we?

Jim Trimmer

There has been lively discussion of this on the celebrants’ forum, so to see celebrant views on the topic, please visit the discussion thread by clicking here (you’ll need to be logged in to the website first to view this).