When I discovered the sheer amount of time devoted to studying religion during our business-oriented study abroad in Barcelona, the atheist in me audibly sighed, but the architect in me high-fived the storyteller. Turns out, many Catalans feel exactly the same way I do. Alex, our trusty professor turned tour guide, delivered us to the doorstep of the Catedral de Barcelona, which has the longer epithet of Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia. Alex launched into a grand monologue, telling us about how Santa Eulalia had been a thirteen year-old girl who refused to bow down to Roman thugs and recant her Christianity. Of course, the only rational thing to do to a girl like that was to roll her down a street in a barrel full of knives and glass.
I was born a Muslim, and apparently you can’t really back out of something like that. Apostasy has been debated about by Muslim scholars for years, with some more rigid scholars declaring that such a religious crime is punishable by death. I live in America, and I’m happy to say that the justice system there is secularized. But during the Francoist regime that subjugated the entire region of Catalunya and took away a lot of its autonomy, many Catalans denounced the Catholic church, claiming it had sided with Franco in a very non-secular way. This may have something to do with their indifference regarding religion nowadays.
Approximately 30% of Catalans are atheist or agnostic currently, which leads me to wonder how they feel about their most famous sites being the Sagrada Familia, the Catedral de Barcelona, and the famed Monastery of Montserrat, all of which are fantastic and illuminating sites that awoke in me a desire to genuflect. Many of the people we happened upon at these sites were elderly and fastidiously dressed. One disgruntled vieja even shooed us out of the Catedral, claiming that we were interrupting mass on a Friday afternoon.
Millenials in Barcelona are more likely to be found perusing the racks of Zara than at church on a Sunday morning, and I must say I prefer these capitalistic, free-spirited tendencies that the Spanish have displayed. However, a boy no more than six pawed at my friend Ana’s rear yesterday, so it must be noted that some of these children need a little Jesús in their lives.