A divine Easter

Thirty percent of Americans are now calling themselves spiritual rather than religious.

My family never led a religious life, really. I remember my Catholic grandfatherâÄôs funeral when I eyed my mother slowly shaking her head, âÄúNo,âÄù as I moved the Eucharist closer and closer to my mouth. I popped it later as a joke, and the devil still has not damned my gastrointestinal system. Of course, this immaculate digestion would not be as true this Easter. We, along with many other families, eat at our buffets, and we eat until we are full. No crackers. No wine. My eyes slowly moved from the rice pilaf to the butter-soaked green beans, then, in a giant leap, I stepped to the breakfast foods. Was it really worth it to cleanse this bacon under the chocolate fountain? My mother laughed and nodded me on, and my aunts and uncles looked on with admiration. Most of them are not able to follow such dietary rites âÄî high blood pressure plagues our family. These rites have come to supersede the religious tradition with which many of our parents grew up. Christian America is not so Christian. I can hope there is no one who is morally superior anymore. This is neither bad nor good. Just another change. For Tom Altizer, featured in NewsweekâÄôs April 13 cover story, âÄúboth Christianity and religion itself are unshackled from their previous historical grounds.âÄù My grandmotherâÄôs cousin is a nun, and I think (possibly, maybe) we could trace our roots to a small church in Sweden. My fatherâÄôs religion is doubtless as an Irish southern Minnesotan (Catholic, cough-cough). However, theyâÄôve never really taken me to church, and I would conclude that I fall with the rising majority of Americans who call themselves âÄúspiritualâÄù rather than âÄúreligiousâÄù (at 30 percent, up from 24 percent in 2005, according to a Newsweek poll). American psychologist and philosopher William James defines religion as âÄúthe feelings, acts, and experiences of individualized men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they consider the divine.âÄù Our divinity is not found in the pews, casting ourselves in front of the eternally bleeding Son of God. No, there might not be one God, and there may be many gods instead. A recall to the pagan times is in order. Easter derives from Eostre , a Germanic goddess of fertility and hares and eggs. Easter itself comes from the Judaic lunisolar calendar , as opposed to our traditional solar calendar. There is no fixed dated for Easter, it moves through a continuum of weeks and days, and may fall on any one day (April 19 being the most common). Easter rests on âÄúmaysâÄù and âÄúmights;âÄù and so does the rest of what we consider divine. The divine may consist of driving for 40 minutes to a nice buffet-style brunch with family (at a sports bar & grill, yes). The divine may include getting the thickest slice of prime rib, and enjoying your baby cousinâÄôs chocolate-frosting goatee. Your grandma may fling mints at your uncle, and your aunt may tell coarse limericks (There once was a lady from Morass âĦ ). Yes, you can tell your family how to swear in Chinese, and yes, the waitress asks you not to steal the plastic eggs from the tableâÄôs centerpiece. âÄúYou donâÄôt have to worry about that with our family,âÄù my uncle says. We do not kneel and we do not steal. We pumped our fists as my momâÄôs cousin Jeanie came back with freshly drizzled bacon. We leaned forward as she took a bite. Our breathing ceased. Our eyes glowed. She leaned back. âÄúEh,âÄù she shook her head. No religion but that of the bacon. And even that isnâÄôt that great. Matt Grimley welcomes comments at [email protected]