Post post post... I'm having problems with the internet at home (my suspicion involves too many other connections to the wireless hub, but it's not proving easy to diagnose), so I'm barely online outside of the office. Alas. Not doing much for my "let's post more often!" schemes.
I'm finding myself weirdly uncomfortable with public religion, lately. Not people being publicly religious as such, but public organised ceremonies which employ religion as a kind of... tool of social cohesion? Like, after the Scottish referendum, I saw something about a church service that was being held to "bring people together", but - even if it's ecumenical, and wide enough for, say, Muslim or Jewish or Hindu Scots, it still feels unfair to me, because it's necessarily exclusive of atheist and agnostic Scots. On the other hand, we held a prayer vigil at my church a while back for a parishioner who had been murdered (and for the mourners, really) and that felt right and OK - because it was about the community doing something for itself, not an ostensibly for-everyone event taken away inside a sectarian organisation.
I've maybe been thinking about it more because I've been reading so many old novels lately, stories set in time periods where the church was pretty straightforwardly an arm of civil society that could be treated as being as authoritative and general as the government. Children go to Sunday School to learn to read and write and repeat their catechism; religious knowledge and secular knowledge were entirely intertwined, and the occasional "Freethinker" or "dissenter" was fringe enough to be ignored.
In Charlotte Yonge's later books there's a real social shift from national schools
to board schools
, which is obviously the start of a rejection of that kind of thinking. It's hard to imagine, now - yes, we still have faith schools (which I'm pretty much OK with; I went to faith schools for my primary education, and I got both a decent secular education and the religious education relevant to my family tradition) but no one is compelled to follow the forms of religion in order to obtain a basic education.
The problem with overt religiosity in public spaces is that it either assumes everyone follows that religion, or it doesn't care that it's enforcing one religion on, or rejecting, people who don't follow it. I want to value the past history of religious institutions as social frameworks, social services, agents for social and political change, without acting like that erasure of modern reality is OK. How can one be publicly religious without that hurting other people? How can we make public spaces welcoming to everyone without driving religion underground or into being a purely personal thing? Common ground seems tricky.