Published December 3, 2004
I was lucky enough to not to be baptised in infancy.
My parents felt that this was a decision I had to make myself later in life. Perhaps it was inevitable then that questions of religion would weigh heavily on me. From time to time, at least. The best way to make your child believe in God (although this was certainly not their intention, they being convinced atheists at the time) is to let it come to its own conclusion regarding faith. If you´re baptised as a baby, you never need to ask yourself the question. Hence, you never really need to believe. If Christianity were to take its inspiration from the Bible, for a change, this should be obvious. Jesus himself wasn´t baptised until he was in his early 30´s. None of the disciples were babies when they were baptised.
I took the decision seriously. Although I wanted a new stereo as much as the next guy, and I needed to be baptised in order to get my confirmation, I did not feel I could promise myself to an all powerful deity for purely financial reasons. And so I took to reading the Bible. I was living in Norway and Bibles were widely available. If they wanted you to believe, at least they wanted you to know what you believed in. And I liked much of what I read. Jesus appealed to me. The rebel with a cause who stood up to his elders, believing in his own code rather than the rules of society.
This was my kinda guy. And so, at the age of 13, I asked to be baptised.
Thirteen is not a good age to find God. You’re just discovering sex (or trying to) and the rest of it. It´s not the best time to make up our mind about eternity, there being more pressing concerns. You should do like Jesus did, and wait a while. But 13 is still preferable to three months. At least you have some conception as to what is going on.
I’ve had my crisis of faith several times since. As I learnt more about the world, it increasingly seemed to me that all was not as God had intended. Then why did he not do anything about it? I still haven’t found a satisfactory answer to that question. In this issues´ feature, you can find better minds than mine attempt to, but I´m increasingly beginning to suspect it´s up to you and me to do something about things.
Although I still haven´t renounced faith entirely, I´m still uncomfortable around people who claim to be Believers. This usually displays a lack of tolerance and a narrow mindedness I find very unappealing. Conversely, if someone proclaims himself an atheist, I usually find that person to be both open minded and compassionate.
I don´t know why religion always strays so far away from the love of your fellow man which is at least an aspect of all religions. But I do know that God should be firmly separated from politics. If you seek faith you should try to establish some sort of personal relationship with your deity of choice. But people should refrain from speaking publicly in the name of God which can at best be nonsensical, and at worst genocidal.
In any case, I do feel that people should spend more time during Christmas thinking about God and less time shopping. While winter might be even longer and darker without it, as the pagans who first came up with the idea of having a celebration at this time realised, I have long been uncomfortable with the idea of merging Jesus, who renounced material possessions, for the gross consumerism that are the Christmas celebrations today.
And Icelanders are more hardcore in their consumerism than most. Whereas in most countries the major studios premiere their Christmas blockbusters in mid-November or early December, here, rightly realising that at that point people will be busy spree shopping, distributors wait until the 26th of December, when the shopping mania has subsided.
Everyone, from Skífan’s latest manufactured bubbleband to some sailor up north who’s saved all his money to record an album about his daughter which will at most be listened to by his wife to the latest from the underground who would be media darlings were it not for everyone else from the underground vying for attention at exactly the same time, everyone is out with a new album.
While it is true that more albums are sold in December than the rest of the year put together, you still wonder whether this is indeed the best time of year for new bands to release their albums. The fact is that people don’t buy albums for themselves before Christmas. They buy albums as presents. And for presents, you don’t buy something that looks interesting, you buy something you know. And that goes double for the grannies and the aunties that make up a substantial amount of the Christmas buyers.
So why do grassroots band keep on releasing albums before Christmas? Unless you have a large following already, or have the backing of a major label, it’s almost certain that will be drowned in the flood, as everyone frantically books their release concerts on the same night as everyone else and those otherwise interested in underground music are out buying something bland for the relatives. Events such as Culture Night, as much as they support the arts, are starting to do the same thing to the visual arts. All manner of aspiring artists and art students plan months in advance events for culture night, which then drown each other out as drunken out of towners aimlessly wonder from one crowd to another. Iceland Airwaves still serves its purpose, but before too long everyone will start focusing all their creative energies on that one event, only for everyone to then fall in the shadow of Mugison. Please, people, start thinking about other times of year. Combat the Christmas tide. We’re here to help.
Grapevine will be back on the streets on January 14th.