21 February 2012

A (Pointless?) Formality, Being a Post Concerning Apostasy

It's been a while since I've written here about about any spiritual topics, mostly because I don't want to bore people with my meanderings which are, frankly, quite personal. However, I thought a quick post might be in order to commemorate an event, which in the grand scheme is, more or less, utterly insignificant.

First of all, I'd like to emphasise that nothing below is intended as a criticism of Christianity or Christians. I believe strongly in the concept of freedom of religion and in the potential all religions have for being a positive force in people's lives (as long as people stop taking scripture too literally and accept other viewpoints as equally valid).

Like the majority of Finns, I was baptised as a baby by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. As churches go, this is (mostly) a fairly moderate, modern, tolerant institution.

Today, though, I finally received a letter from the local magistrate's office confirming my resignation from the Church.

This was a mere formality. It has been a long time since I've considered myself a Christian. Now (despite some rotten apples that seem to do their darnedest to spoil the reputation of religions worldwide), I do respect the faith, as I respect any faith that can be used as a positive force in the lives of individuals. However, the reality is it simply holds no personal appeal for me. And that's the gist of it.

The only reason I hadn't quit years ago was simply not getting around to it. Which speaks volumes about how significant Church membership really is in the hearts of many Finns. Or, rather, isn't. Church membership is a tradition, a mere formality. Christenings, weddings and funerals are about the extent of religion for many these days. Few of us go to Sunday services any more or in other ways actively participate in worship. Regardless of the fact that we have a so-called national Church that the vast majority of the population nominally belongs to, Finland is a modern, western, and increasingly secular society (which, in my mind, is as it should be; religion is for individuals, not societies).

And there's the rub, of course. Religion should have nothing to do with formalities. It is not something that happens on paper. It should come from the heart. And while I don't hold any kind of grudge against society or my family for my baptism, in general I do find the practise of baptising children somewhat questionable. (Even confirmation at 15, as it is practised here, is too early in my mind. How much can a teenager truly understand about religion?) Religion ought to be a personal choice, not just a matter of tradition.

I should also perhaps state that, unlike many people in recent years, I didn't quit the Church as any kind of protest. Quite the contrary, I'd say it was more about respect for religions in general. I am not a Christian, ergo I should not be a member of a Christian church in name only. (What exactly I am, is a much more difficult question, that I myself am rarely quite clear on, and not really a matter for this blog post. But as I've written before, I tend to lean towards neopaganism.)

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