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Atheism on the Camino

sax

New Member
#1
I have heard a lot of people saying that 99% of the time the walk is done for religious reasons. I guess that makes me one in a hundred - I am planning on doing the camino because I love Spain, long-distance walking, and cheap accomodation.

I don't want to be drawn into a debate or offend anyone. If someone asks me what religion I am, should I just say Anglican? Or are people more accepting of those with no faith?
 

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ivar

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Not sure that 99% of pilgrims do it for religious reasons. Have a look at some statistics from last year here:
viewtopic.php?t=332

JUNE 2005,

Pilgrims who declared purely religious motives: 5,068;
religious and cultural purposes , 6,660;
non-religious reasons, 884.

JULY 2005

Pilgrims with purely religious motives, 7,518;
religious and cultural purposes, 9,527;
non-religious reasons, 1,750.

AUGUST 2005.

Pilgrims with purely religious motives, 9,410;
religious and cultural purposes, 12,929;
non-religious reasons, 2,466.

I should like to remind you that these numbers represent ONLY those
pilgrims who sought, and obtained the Compostela; those receiving the
Certificate are not included.
As far as I know you should have no problem with reporting that you are walking for a non-religious reason.

Un saludo,
Ivar
 
#3
there has been a thread on this in the past, but I can't find it.

The Camino is a very broad church. You will find a wide variety of beliefs and non-beliefs. Most of those who go to the pilgrim office to claim a compostela say they have a 'spiritual' motivation, but nobody defines what that means or conducts any tests to find out whether you meet some predefined standard of spirituality. The bulk of pilgrims are from countries like Spain that are nominally Roman Catholic, but the Camino bears no relation to the standard Roman-Catholic pilgrimage to places like Lourdes, nor much resemblance to medieval times when a major motivation was the plenary indulgence granted to pilgrims in holy years. In medieval times, people would have accepted without question that Santiago housed the remains of the apostle James; in our more sceptical times, even devout RCs have doubts about that. And if by 'religious' you mean going to mass every day, then I doubt if even 1% of those on the Camino is 'religious'.

The original pilgrim hostels were set up by the Church primarily for those with a religious motivation, often in monasteries and other church buildings, but since then far more have been created by local governments and funded from the tourism budget. You have to produce a credencial to use them, but again there is no test to ensure you have the 'correct' beliefs before you are given one. On the other hand, there are many cases of people who started off as sceptics or lapsed Catholics finding or renewing their faith through the pilgrimage. This is to me one of the most fascinating aspects of the Camino.
 
#4
Atheism after the Camino?

sax said:
I have heard a lot of people saying that 99% of the time the walk is done for religious reasons. I guess that makes me one in a hundred - I am planning on doing the camino because I love Spain, long-distance walking, and cheap accomodation.

I don't want to be drawn into a debate or offend anyone. If someone asks me what religion I am, should I just say Anglican? Or are people more accepting of those with no faith?
I'd be very interested, when you will be back from your camino, what you will say then.
Many set out proclaiming they are 'atheists'.

K.
 
#5
Kerryman,

No worries. Though the Camino is particularly enhanced for Catholics because of it's historical and spiritual depth, I rarely even had a "religious" conversation on the "road". You'll find different faiths along side of those looking for a cheap vacation. And unless you maintain your nickname, you'll rarely - if at all have a political discussion. The camino can be what you want it to be, though you may find that what you get out of it may be something different than you expected. Getting away from the busy static of our lives certainly opens us to different thoughts and currents.

Best of luck,

John P.

PS: If you're honest at the end in Santiago, you'll recieve a certificate instead of a "Compostela"
 

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Paulus

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (May 2005), Norte (May 2006), Vezelay (2007).
#6
Hi Sax,

As already stated above: no problem at all!
I do still think that everybody who is walking a Camino has an open mind and if you don't.........you'll learn it at the camino!

But I don't see that open mind at the end of our Camino..... as John P. already said: you "only" receive a certificate and not the original compostella. I did not bother that but it confirmed me (right words?) in my believe (IMHO!) that there must be someone/something/somewhere above (and among) us that I think I believe in , but that institutions as a church, a believe, a society makes its rules where there must be a difference between religious and non-religious.

Note: not meaning to offend someone, just a thought which is not easy to express correctly in English.

Paul
 
#8
John P. said:
OOPS! - Sorry Sax - my comment about talking "politics" & the "nickname" had to do with "Kerryman" - not Sax :)

John P.
John:
What have I -or what has my nickname- got to do with politics or religion, pray?
Kerryman C.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#9
Spiritual Pilgrims

The book - Pilgrimage, Adventures of the Spirit, tells us that
"Pilgrimage comes in all forms: traditional and unconventional, religious and secular, intended and unintended. It includes trips to world-famous sites, as well as visits to places sacred, perhaps, only to the individual. Yet, solemn or playful, to somewhere far or near, or simply within, pilgrimage entails mindfulness-a soulful presence that summons meaning to the surface."
The book Pilgrimage showcases an exquisite, diverse array of such spirit-renewing journeys, as told by pilgrims of all kinds. From Egypt's Mount Sinai to Tibet's Mount Kailash, from the birthplace of the Virgin Mary to the site one's brother "fell to the earth," from the Sacred Ganges to sacred New Mexico soil.

You don't have to be Christian to have a meaningful pilgrimage to Santiago just as you don't have to be sa Bhuddhist to have a meaningful pilgrimage on Shikoku - or a Hindu if you followthe 5 000 year old pilgrim trail to Nepal.
 
#10
Sorry Kerryman, it was a bad joke about the name meaning that you were an advertising John Kerry supporter - I saw that particular alias, and other variations of it during the last election - I should have assumed that no one would know what the heck I was talking about ~ :oops:

John P.
 
#11
athiesm on the camino

It's interesting that the subject got so many replies so quickly.
Like you Sax, I started the camino thinking that my beliefs (or lack of them) would make life difficult on a pilgrim's route. I quickly discovered that what you thought mattered not at all to other pilgrims. I met jews, buddists, protestants, atheists and devout catholics on the way, and they all contributed to my enjoyment of the walk. Going around Burgos Cathedral confirmed my prejudices about 'organised' religion - all that gold leaf and over the top architecture were alien to my low church, almost puritan upbringing. However, I stayed at the refugio in Granon, which is situated in the bell tower of the local church. The priest joined us for the evening meal, which we all helped make, and then asked us if we would like to join him at mass. It would have been churlish to refuse after their warm hospitality, but I did ask him if he minded a non-believer attending. With a great grin he assured me that anyone, of whatever beliefs is welcome in his church, and then asked if I would mind reading the english part of the service (it was in French, Spanish and English and was the prayer of St. James), something I would have never dreamt of doing normally. As one of life's ultra cynics, I found it strangely moving. And, the cost of this of this wonderful evening's stay? an open box of money with a handwritten note saying 'Pilgrim, pay what you can, take what you need'
So Sax, don't worry about your personal beliefs, just enjoy and get the most out of the experience.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#12
Religion

That is a wonderful story to share with us Peter - thank you. As a secular humanist I believe in the basic goodness of people and the need for love and kindness that we all share. Experiences on the camino often reflect that.
 
#13
In Sept05 there were 12 of us sitting around a table in a bar in Arzua, contemplating the last days push on into Santiago. The question was asked about the reasons for having done the Camino and the answers were varied.

One person was a priest from the UK so I suppose he was doing it for the religious reason, or so he said. 3 others were Catholic and were doing the Camino as their pilgrimage and felt deeply about what they had done.

The rest of us were doing it because it was there, because it was a considerable personal cjhallenge and mostly because it was something which had caught the imagination through hearing about it from books or TV or talking to those who had done the Camino.

Most people had hiked for a day or two, but to set yourself the goal of a 600+km 30/35 day trek through a foriegn land is a challenge.

It also gives you a chance to do something very different from normal life, cut off from the normal routines of work and home. You have to pit yourself against the elements without deciding after 30 minutes rain to call it a day, jump in the car and go home.

The comradeship along the way is fantastic. You can be alone if you want, but are never really alone along the trail. There are always willing hands to help a fellow pilgrim if they need help, and the camino seems to bring out the best in people.

This spirit of comradeship and compassion and the chance to think about what is important in life is my abiding impression of the Camino. I am not a religious person, but when I look back, so much of what I experienced was what religion should be about.

Covey
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#14
catholic pilgrimage

I intentionally used a lower case "c" for the word 'catholic' as I think the camino is catholic in it's truest sense ie: universal (as are most pilgrimage trails around the world).
 
#15
I'm also walking as someone who's non-religious, but as far as I see it, it's almost a complement rather then an insult, we're there to appreciate the achievements of the religion over the centuries
 
#16
Wow

The several stories from the Camino that others have posted here have served to increase my excitement even more. Although we are biking, which is probably a lot easier than walking, I am still looking forward to the Camino as an essential experience. Our reasons are certainly not religious, although I am a christened Catholic. Our reasons are surely cultural and spiritual. All the things I read here increase my anticipation! We are leaving in exactly 6 weeks. I am reading up a lot, but mostly on the practical matters, just to be ready in case anything should go slightly wrong (adventure is fun too!). Oh, I can't wait!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#17
sax, the pilgrims I've met, a humble servant included, do the Caminos for various and sometimes unknown reasons, including "love (of) Spain, long-distance walking, and cheap accomodation." In my case I would add spirituality as being the most important component, and zero religion, although I do like and get into religious ceremonies and rituals, sounds like a contradiction in terms...As far as asking about which religion one practices, I've found it to be a common topic in "real life" as well as on the Caminos. Indiscreet question. You should answer as u please. I believe it's more a question of respect than anything else. Many people at Santiago's Pilgrim Office say that they walked the Caminos for religious reasons in order to get a hassle-free Compostela, which is their business, don't like to get judgemental about this issue. They can be kinda nasty at this Office. Nonetheless and that being the situation, I've always questioned "religious" as being the motive in present times, by the Office. Most pilgrims I've met have told me that was not their reason. Times have changed, I respect everyone's motives, no harm done. Or is there? Best, xm 8)
 
#18
xm said:
Many people at Santiago's Pilgrim Office say that they walked the Caminos for religious reasons in order to get a hassle-free Compostela, which is their business
If my memory serves me correct, there's the choice of "spiritual reasons" (vs. "religious reasons") which is also "hassle-free". In my view, "spiritual" and "religious" are far apart.
 

Minkey

Active Member
#19
The main difference at the moment is the Compostela at the end.

I've no problem with people doing the Camino, even if they're not religious. You can still learn a great deal about yourself along the way, anyway. :arrow:
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#20
"spiritual" and "religious" are far apart.
I believe that most people these days agree, I unquestionably do. Add compassion and kindness. Hmm...these should be added to the Oficina del Peregrino's interview process.

Best,

xm 8)
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#21
I tell u, once u get a couple of Compostelas, in my experience, the Credenciales take their place as far as importance, and, very important, reminders of the experience. But then, pics more so 8) Best, xm 8)
 

Ulysse

Active Member
#22
compassion and kindness. Hmm...these should be added to the Oficina del Peregrino's interview process
I must say that when my cousin and I arrived at the second floor office we were greeted like kings. Our "wet weather beaten looks" must have softened the clerck's heart. It was all smiles and kind words during our interviews.
 
#23
Minkey said:
The main difference at the moment is the Compostela at the end.
Are you referring to the difference between "spiritual" and "religious"? I got a Compostela in 2005, stating "spiritual", not "religious" motives.
 

Minkey

Active Member
#26
My point is that everyone who does the Camino does it for their own reasons. Non-believers don't get the same certificate. Not really saying anything apart from that, really.
 
#27
Atheism on the Camno

I find this a difficult topic on which to comment. I have walked many different routes and served as hospitaliera. I have met many pilgrims with different reasons for their journey. I remember one who said to me, "I began a long walk but it became a pilgrimage." This I understood and it changed my attitude to those companions who seemed to me to be taking advantage of the cheap accommodation on the Camino to follow a waymarked path. However this is a Christian pilgrim route and many of us who serve as volunteers to aid pilgrims on it, at our own expense, do so because we wish to aid pilgrims on this Christian pilgrim way. We do not exclude those who do not share our beliefs indeed we welcome them. However I, for one, do so out of Christian fellowship. I think the Camino has so much to offer for the benefit of so many that it is worth my contribution, small though it may be, to people of whatever attitude or belief, or indeed of no belief at all. Perhaps they too will find that the long walk becomes a real "pilgrimage".
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#28
Lucky u, mika. The best experience I've had at the Pilgrims' Office was once, in the winter time, when there were no pilgrims around. Best, xm 8)
 

Minkey

Active Member
#30
Maricristina, I really do understand what you're saying and I think what you've said is essentially what I'm trying to say. There isn't really a way for pilgrims to be ear marked as "pilgrims" and "trekkers" or whatever you want to call them. I'd prefer to see things as they are, rather than see a list of what's acceptable and what isn't. That'd be policing the route which I for one, don't see as necessary. I'm more frustrated by the groups touring the Camino by bus. One of my fellow pilgrims was asked a couple of years ago whether he could lend his rucksack to a "busser" so that they could pose in a photo as "a real pilgrim" much to his distain. I guess I see a lot of people doing it for "spiritual" reasons for which I have an understanding of... For example the former alcholic I met along the way, although not particularly religious did the Camino for spiritual reasons. They guy had lost his family and was using the way to try and figure what he was about... What he was on this planet to do... I can't see this as a negative reason as to why he did the Camino as albeit rather naive, I'd like to think that everyone went home having learnt something about themselves which might make them a better person.

Forgive me if this doesn't make much sense... I'm typing and thinking at the same time, so "typing out loud"... Sometimes it only seems to make sense to me! I know what I mean!!!
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#31
Pilgrimage

It is an age old topic and if you put all the 20th c discussions together you would have a modern version of the Canterbury Tales!

(Did you know that the origin of the word 'to canter' originated in 1745–55 and is short for Canterbury - to ride at a pace like that of Canterbury pilgrims)
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#33
Interesting comment, Silvia. Along those lines my view is that times have changed, so have the reasons, should there have to be any, for pilgrimages. For example, there are fewer cases of pilgrims being ordered by a court of law to go on pilgrimage to Compostela, though I read an article last year about it re: a Spanish criminal. Don't know of any pilgrims paying others to do it for them, though some time ago I remember reading a post here re: a newspaper article about such a case. I believe the sum was close to $2,000. BTW friends, if anyone wants to pay me to do what am doing anyway, in their name, am game :lol: :!: In all, I have a problem with being judgemental about most anything, in this case impossing one's criterium re: what is/should be, a pilgrimage, as well as who is a pilgrim. I believe that, in the end, whatever reasons one may do the Road, u r affected by the experience in one way or another, in the long run. I've seen it. Can't be denied that albergues may represent cheap accomodations. Though, frankly, I wouldn't want to wake up to disagreable noises at 4-5-6 am, walk an untold number of km, and experience the hard things that go along with it just bec. it's cheap. I'd rather go to the beach, it is free where I live. But then again I wouldn't doubt that there r pilgrims that may do it for that, among other reasons. But, once more, who r we to pass judgement on it. "Let him who is free of sin..." Best, xm 8)
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#34
(The Camino) ... a modern version of the Canterbury Tales!
How true, Sil. U have no idea how many times when walking along/alone somewhere on the Caminos what I remembered of studying the following lines in HS came to mind:


Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
Best,

xm 8)
 

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