Sweden isn’t a very religious country — while a majority of people may belong to the Church of Sweden, that says little about how many people have actual “faith.” It works that way in a number of European countries.
Reader Patrik lives in Sweden and he emailed me about what life is like for an atheist in that country. One particular bit stood out:
Whether your family is Christian or not, it’s customary to have your kid baptized… Baptism is kind of like a party the parents throw to celebrate having babies. In Sweden, these Christian rituals, which seem so frowned upon in the skeptic community worldwide, have very little to do with Christianity. Or rather, only as much to do with Christianity as you choose.
Of course, the priest speaks of Jesus in church and blesses the child, but the baptism isn’t about that. It’s about bringing people together. Confirmation (at 14-15 years age) is no longer about confirming you’re part of the church (even though that comes with it). It’s about having fun with classmates and other kids the same age as you. And getting some presents from your relatives while you’re at it. Awesome!
I think this holds true for a lot of things in the Swedish society. We still have all these Christian traditions and rituals, but they are not about Christ anymore. Easter isn’t about mourning Jesus’ death. It’s about painting eggs and hiding them so the kids can look for them. We don’t celebrate Jesus being born at Christmas — we celebrate Santa coming over with gifts! We get together to make something a little extra for the kids and to bring people together.
So, in essence, more people there treat all Christian celebrations like many atheists in America treat the main ones.
What do you think about the baptisms/Confirmations? I know a lot of atheists are opposed to that sort of religious ritual, but would it make it any better if you knew participants didn’t really treat it as a religious event, but as just a fun celebration?
Would you still not want to celebrate those things if they were devoid of religious meaning?