During the past week Mrs SG and I have attended two carol-singing events organised by local councils. People of all ages brought folding chairs and picnics and sang along with some very talented choirs and bands. Santa Claus found time to drop in on both occasions.
I am an atheist, but brought up in a Christian cultural environment. I don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, any more than I believe in the existence of God, but I was moved nonetheless by The Christmas Story and even felt my eyes moisten during Good King Wenceslas.
The same moistening happened when I read the last chapter of Watership Down, when the Black Rabbit of Inlé came for Hazel. I was on a Liverpool-bound train to visit my mother for the first time since my father died. And I was shedding tears for a dead fictional rabbit.
It also happened every time I read the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner to our elder son – the chapter where Christopher Robin tries to explain to Pooh that he’s going off to school and things won’t be the same. It’s the end of childhood, the end of innocence.
So I sort of understand people who have been brought up in other religious and literary traditions for whom the stories they heard when they were very young resonate deep within throughout their lives. Sometimes that resonance cause them to do irrational and even – in my eyes – wicked things.