The Material Expression of Atheism / Reinaldo Escobar

B) Determine if religious objects exist, such as images, altars etc. (Describe here).

Benedict XVI’s visit to our country brought to mind the days when hard and pure atheism was imposed as official policy. In a great deal of paperwork the question of religious faith frequently appeared with the purpose — should the answer be affirmative — to make decisions with that in mind. In job applications or to apply to a university, for a promotion, a trip abroad or to enter the militia.

“Do you have any religion? Which? Do you practice it?” were more or less the questions. The most honest believers (or the most naive) affirmed their faith, often without anticipating the consequences. Others, imbued with the idea that religion is carried within and there is no need to display it, said no or left the response blank.

I recall the days when we finished the construction of the “microbrigade” building where I still live. I was chosen by the workers to form a committee that would analyze who had the greatest right to occupy the housing. If I remember rightly, I was the only committee who was not a member of the Communist Party. They gave us a form where we had to carefully note the data for every one of the people aspiring to live in the new building: names and surnames, sex, age, workplace or school, level of education, membership in Revolutionary organizations, if any member of the family had left the country or been convicted by any court.

We also had to know if they owned any domestic appliances, the furniture they had, and other details about the state in which we found their housing at the moment of the inspection. Indeed, because we members of the committee had to inspect and in the end put our ratings in writing.

On the last page of the form, in Subsection B of Section II, an open space was left to mention and describe the religious objects that were visible in the inspected house. In the hundreds of homes we visited not a single Heart of Jesus appeared, not a single little card of the Virgin, not one corner to Elegguá, no pot of Oschún.

Since then 26 years have passed since those evaluations and now, in our building’s lobby there is a sign inviting believers or non-believers to the Mass that Benedict XVI will hold on Wednesday in Havana. Luckily none of those who then believed committed the naiveté (the honesty) of leaving in sight those “religious objects” that we were supposed to ferret out. They hid them, I kept the checklist.

28 March 2012