Someone I know was worried when I said I hadn’t bought Carol an Easter gift. I immediately felt guilty. Is that what one is supposed to do these days?
It turns out this is in fact a growing cultural trend. Religion News Service asked recently: “Is Easter the new Christmas?” They reported that there are now elaborate Easter gifts for children, along with Easter egg hunts for adults: “…at a time when fewer people are identifying as Christian and church attendance has been slow to recover from the pandemic, celebrations of the most sacred day on the Christian calendar are becoming bigger and more detached from their religious roots. In their place, events like the Adult Eggstravaganza Egg Hunt… the Boozy Bunny Egg Hunt, hiding plastic eggs containing candy and little bottles of alcoholic beverages for residents over the age of 21… [and] kiddie pools full of summery gifts….”
Gag me, as the Valley Girls used to say, with a spoon.
I’ve come up with a name for this growing movement: Consumer Capitalism As a New Religious Movement, or CCANRM (pronounced “kanrum”). No, this is not the Secular Age — this is the age when CCARM takes over from Christianity as the biggest baddest religion — when CCARM takes over from Buddhism as the most effective proselytizing religion among the Cultured Despisers of Religion.
I did not get Carol an Easter gift. She was happy that I did not. We did not have a special meal. We just had our usual cook-it-when-you-feel-like-eating meals. We went to the Sunday service at First Parish, we spent an hour at social hour talking with people, we took a long walk in Whitney-Thayer Woods. It was a good way to spend a nice spring day.
At the Religious Studies Project, Dick Houtman has written a blog post titled “After Secularization: Unbelief in Europe.” Houtman has done some small-scale studies of unbelief in Europe, and relates his findings to larger intellectual trends, including the rise of “spiritual but not religious.” Houtman concludes that while this new contemporary spirituality is not old-school Christianity (which is where we get the “not religious” piece of the label), it is nevertheless a religion:
“Despite the still popular notion that contemporary spirituality is too privatized and individualized to have much social significance, this has become increasingly difficult to maintain [that’s it’s not a religion]. Surely, spirituality’s very character stands in the way of loyalty to church-like organizations and religious doctrines, but it does boast loyalty to what Campbell (2002 ) has called ‘the cultic milieu’, a milieu to which the western mainstream has increasingly opened up. In the process, it has become clear that the public role of spirituality differs significantly from the ideological and political role that Christian religion used to play, and in many countries still plays. Guided by the spiritual motto, ‘One does not need to be sick to become better’, the public role of spirituality is more therapeutic than ideological and is played out in realms that range from work (Aupers & Houtman 2006, Zaidman 2009) to health care (Raaphorst & Houtman 2016, Zaidman 2017) and education (Brown 2019).”
It’s a short post, and worth reading for anyone trying to understand so-called secularization; I particularly like Houtman’s use of the word “unbelief” to name what is erroneously called “non-religiousness.”