Catalonia, as usual, seems to take the pragmatic middle route of having more religious traditions than England and yet fewer than the south of Spain.
wEaster is upon us, which means the – to me at least – disturbing televised sight of people dragging crosses around and shouting guapa at the Virgin Mary: such are the images we receive each year from the south of Spain. In Catalonia, of course, the local celebrations are far more restrained, formally attired families strolling through the streets with Palms on their way to extended family gatherings. I've been pondering this curious Catalan balance somewhere between the religious fervour witnessed in many Latin countries and the less educated parts of the industrialized world and the near all out agnosticism of many northern countries, despite their public lip service to the contrary.
Did I really just write “the less educated parts of the industrialized world”? I did, but then that is how I feel about religion. Where there is religious fervour there is also a lack of education, and the more educated we get and the more transparent the world becomes, the less need there is to believe in old stories of heavens and hells and gods and angels and nirvanas and purgatories and so on. So where are we here in Catalonia and how does it compare to my native country? When I was growing up I saw England as a laic society which generally shunned the need to hold a belief in a higher being, even mocking such a concept. Of course, there are many English people from religious families who would object strongly to that, and in fact a recent survey of England (not the UK, very different story) put those with no religion or not giving a religion at only 30% of the population, with 59% Christian (5% Islam, 1.5% Hindu); but when you consider churchgoing and other religious practices and festivals, the truth is that England comes fairly low down in the fervour stakes.
Catalonia, as usual, seems to take the pragmatic middle route of having more religious traditions than England (and therefore more family-based holidays) and yet fewer than the south of Spain. This again places it at a comfortable mid-way point between two extremes: the agnosticism/atheism/apathy more common to northern Europe and the fully-blown religious piety of the South. I myself have no belief in a God or Gods as such, although that's not to say I don't have my spiritual side. The truth is that for a long time when it came to religion I stuck with what I learnt growing up: I made fun of it - what many English tend to do with pretty much any weighty issue to relieve the tension from it. Here, on the other hand, in the religious realm, as in so many other aspects of life, there is the comfortable situation of people living and letting live. My neighbour attends church each Sunday, and I respect that, but then she also respects my choice not to. We also choose not to make fun of each other, or rather I do - making fun of my atheism won't even have crossed her mind.