For many years during my childhood, I was a fully committed Christian. Stop laughing, it’s absolutely true! I attended church very, well, religiously. I read large parts of the Bible, prayed at night and didn’t swear at all. Shit, I didn’t even say the word “sex” as I thought saying it would damn my soul. Yup, religion sure had its theocratic tentacles wrapped around me. Then I turned 14, looked out my window and thought. “This is all bollocks. I can’t do this anymore!” I went to my local church and told them I wouldn’t be coming back. And it hasn’t given me any problems. Well apart from issues with clowns and autoerotic asphyxiation.
Why all of this reminiscing about my religious past? Well Easter has just passed, where we celebrated the fact that Jesus apparently suffered a massive health and safety accident by getting himself nailed to a bit of wood. We’re also smack right in the Icelandic confirmation season.
Ah yes, that point in an Icelandic child’s life when he or she is sent to church-school to learn about Jesus for the winter, then attend a big service where they sing some tasty hymns and stand up to proclaim their never-ending devotion to the great bearded one in the sky.
But the fun doesn’t end there. Afterwards, a lavish party of Caligulean proportions is thrown by the kids’ families. Not only is the saintly sprog likely to receive bucketloads of money from friends and family members, but they’ll also receive hugely expensive gifts, such as golden motorbikes or a unicorn weaned on the tears of Björk. All in all, it is a glorious ceremony to celebrate a young person’s love for Jesus.
Except, as many people know but maybe don’t accept, that all of this is hypocritical bullshit. Most of the children involved neither are nor will be regular churchgoers, and most don’t believe in God either. I’m sure many Icelanders will say that this is a long held tradition that brings families together. But the real message I seem to garner from all of this is “lie about something you do not care about and get tons of free shit and money for it”. And people wonder how certain Icelanders can breezily make statements on one thing when they believe the exact opposite. It’s because they start when they’re young!
And that’s just something I can’t seem to get my head around. Like many other nations, Iceland is moving towards a post-religious society, where religion can be freely practiced but the majority of people, well, can’t be arsed, really. And yet so many people feel compelled or pressured to perform this ceremony without asking if it’s really needed in their lives.
“But Bob,” I hear you cry, “why the grouchiness? Surely if families are dumb enough to blow their savings on this, then surely that’s their prerogative?” Well, it doesn’t take a genius to point out that the gradual but never-ending squeeze of the Kreppa means many families are finding it harder to afford these up and coming confirmation parties and gifts. Ask yourself, fellow Icelander, if burying yourself under mountains of debt to entertain several family members you don’t even like while little Unnar gets to ride on a combination jet ski/laptop that YOU´VE bought is worth watching him take part in something that at the end of the day he doesn’t even really care about? Something tells me that many of you won’t even bother asking this question.
By all means have a confirmation if you and your children are people of faith. But personally, when I have children, I’m going to spend my money for something they believe in. Oh and clown self-defence lessons. Those bastards are sneaky….