In the past, at this time of year, I have got up on a Sunday morning, put on my best suit, crisp shirt, black tie, shiny shoes. I have pinned metal and ribbon to my chest and walked down to the war memorial in the village.
Most of the rest of the village inhabitants would be filtering out of the church where they’d spent the last hour on their devotions.
We would gather in a sizeable collective around the war memorial where prayers would be led, and words would be said, by the parish priest.
There would be the raising and lowering of flags, and the laying of wreaths.
There would be the bugling of the Last Post, followed by a final hymn, a blessing from the priest and then I’d walk back home.
This year I didn’t
I am becoming more anti-religious as I age.
And I am becoming angry at the religious invasion of what should not be a religious event.
The remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in London has no religious flavour.
That, in my eyes, is how it should be.
I don’t need any religious undercurrent to make a ceremony of remembrance into a significant event.
In fact, I find the Cenotaph’s ceremony more poignant without any religious trappings.
I do wonder why we allow the Church of England or the Roman Catholic faith to hijack Remembrance Sunday.
It seems dishonest to transform a very human act – remembering the fallen, paying tribute to absent friends (whether we knew them or not) – into a religious ceremony.
The ceremony of remembering should, in itself, be tribute enough.
I’m sure we have all been to crematoria to see off people we knew and loved?
I have – and too many times.
I don’t remember any of those people with less feeling because those ceremonies had no religious aspect.
I don’t need a priest I’m only going to see once a year, to lead me (and a hundred or so others) in The Lord’s Prayer to help me remember people I used to work with.
I don’t need any of these things to help me pay respect to people who have fallen in the service of their country, people who I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet.
If there’s a benefit to having a religious figure lead prayers and hymns, why isn’t this role extended to all religions?
And to humanists?
Why, if there is a benefit (and to whom – because I have no idea who might benefit from it) in having a vicar or a priest lead prayers and hymns, is there no religious leader doing the same thing at the Cenotaph?
I don’t have an answer to any of these questions.
The more I think about it, the more I repeatedly come back to how idiotic it is to turn a remembrance ceremony – a commemoration of fallen humans who were, without a doubt, drawn from all religions (and a number of whom would have been irreligious) into a single-religion event.
That kind of thinking is dysfunctional.
It should be changed.
Until it is I shall no longer take part. I shall do my own remembering, on my terms. I shall pay my own respects. And I shall think my own thoughts, without needing someone to stand near me and speak words in which I have no belief.