Happy Secular Easter Bunny!

For the past thirteen years, I've been returning to Spain. Although I've lived many other places for extended periods, Spain is one of my favorite places to reside. So much so that I lease an apartment in the Andalucian, seaside village of Torre De Mar every February, March and April. The timing isn't intentional, but usually I'm here for Semana Santa (Holy Week). No other country does Semana Santa any better than Spain in spite of the fact that it is one of the most secular countries in Europe these days. The grand processions that wind their way through the ancient streets for a week of festivities are impressive and the tradition is not going away any time soon. Semana Santa makes too much money for Spain. So what's the moral of the story according to this atheist who finds herself living everywhere but nowhere?

Spain has a history of living under the crushing rule of Catholicism. Today, however, attendance in church is way down and Spanish people are very reluctant to become nuns and priests. People live together, divorce and remarry and in many cases have a very secular view of life. The progress made has been impressive. Fewer and fewer children are being indoctrinated by their elders and the church is no longer the overwhelming central focus of family life.

Spain legalized divorce in 1981 and joined the movement to ban the spanking of children in in 2007. Those two things alone are massive changes. The brutalization of children has often been encouraged, even perpetrated by the Catholic Church. There are now 54 countries that have banned the hitting of children. That's something to celebrate!

In Spain, nuns and priests are being imported from the Philippines and elsewhere to fill the empty positions in the church. The situation in Spain is similar to other countries. Only fifty years ago, the United States had one priest for roughly every 772 parishioners but now struggle to provide one for triple that number. In 1970, there were 8,000 students in US seminaries. That number has seriously dwindled. Ireland, another traditionally, staunch Catholic country is dealing with the average age of a priest being over sixty. Young people simply aren't interested in giving up their lives. Furthermore, families aren't pushing their children to consider going into that kind of sacrificial service any longer.

This Easter morning, as I scrolled through Facebook, I couldn’t help but notice those who had posted religious memes in honor of our Easter holiday. It occurred to me that many Americans who claim to be religious rarely if ever attend church. They, too, have adopted secular practices like divorce and live together before getting married. This is significant. They’ve raised a whole generation of kids who have been much less influenced by religious dogma than previous generations.

American churches are also suffering when it comes to attendance. Little by little, they are losing the the immense power they once had over many of our lives. There is no turning back either. Secularism is slowly but surely freeing people from the iron grip of traditional churches. Religion is either being ignored completely as an irrelevant artifact or has morphed into a kind of New Age mysticism where god is love and the universe is there to provide an answer to our wildest yearnings with almost no rules except to be kind to one another.

We haven't come nearly far enough, in my humble opinion. Sadly, there are huge parts of the world  where religious fervor of one kind or another prevails. Still, that doesn't stop me from rooting for the next step in evolution where humans develop secular societies built on humanist principles for no other reason than it makes sense to take care of one another if we want to provide a place where our children thrive. Yep! That's where hope springs eternal for me. We can keep the Easter bunny around, but let's get rid of the death, torture and sacrifice bit. Shall we?

Teresa Roberts is an author, world traveler and dedicated myth buster. Her recent book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.