With one chocolate manufacturer reported to have considered removing the word ‘Easter’ from its chocolate eggs, the question arises once again: is Easter any longer a Christian festival? With recent surveys finding that about 52 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has no religious affiliation, and another 8 percent profess a non-Christian faith, Easter now has actual religious significance for only a minority. The major driving force behind the celebration of Easter, as well as Christmas and all other annual holidays, is the market economy, with commercial enterprises seeking ways to exploit every opportunity to boost sales. Whatever its name, it seems likely that the spring holiday will endure as long as there is profit to be made.
It could be Easter, as well as to a lesser extent Christmas, that has contributed to the decline in belief in Christianity. In the light of modern scientific knowledge, the events that are related in the scriptures exceed the bounds of credibility. There is no historical record of them outside of the New Testament. The contemporary historians, Josephus and Philo, who wrote about John the Baptist, Pontius Pilate and other biblical figures, made no mention of Jesus.
It is not hard to see why fewer and fewer people can base their belief on the biblical stories of Christmas and Easter, but the festivals are kept alive by commerce and people’s love of holidays. The calendar dates of these holidays are derived from pre-Christian festivals of great antiquity, and it is likely they are now established as permanent features of human life. Christianity would be more attractive to modern minds if both festivals were abandoned to secular interests.
The solid core of Christianity is the call to love our neighbours and even our enemies. No more elevating message can be imagined. If this were practised globally, there would be peace and happiness for all. Bereft of its superstitions, the religion of love could have universal appeal. Christianity may be in decline, but its central theme thrives ever more strongly in countries with post-Christian societies. The love of humanity is now expressed more than ever before, both collectively and individually. Its manifestations include free universal health care and welfare benefits for the disadvantaged, a plethora of voluntary and charitable activities, and overseas aid to poorer countries. As for Easter, only the name remains, and a chocolate egg by any other name would taste as sweet!