The Swiss are big fans of silence. There are very strict rules about noise and when what types are allowed to be made. Many leases stipulate that activities such as vacuuming, laundry, and even showering may only occur during certain hours. (One thing I will never figure out is why this people with its noise aversion hasn’t yet embraced the concept of sound-proofing.)
Sunday is the day when noise is prohibited most of all. No laundry. No car-washing. No depositing your glass bottles in the recycling bins. No blowing your nose in public. (OK, I made that last one up.)
The big, glaring exception to this Sunday-noise-Verbot is churchbells. We must live within spitting distance of at least three churches I have never seen, because the bells come at us from all directions. Sometimes they all ring at once, and this sometimes for a solid 20 minutes or more. The Swiss churchbells ring more enthusiastically than I ever remember the ones in Italy to be, and this in a country where religion seems to play a rather minor role in people lives (at least compared to Italy and the US).
I actually love the sound of churchbells. They remind me of when I first moved to Italy, about 10 years ago. Every morning I would be woken up by the bells of the nearby monastery booming in my ears, and every time I would be overcome with giddy joy as I thought, “I live in Italy!”
But I digress. All this thinking about noise and churchbells has gotten me wondering… if the Christians are allowed to make all this extra noise on Sundays, shouldn’t other religions be able to as well? And how do they decide which religions get to make noise, and what kind? What if the Muslims wanted to set off firecrackers? The Jews wanted to play tubas? The Scientologists wanted to parade through the streets in alien costumes making alien noises?
I’m actually not even sure what the Swiss laws have to say about freedom of religion. All I know is that unless I adamantly and consistently insist that I do not belong to an organized religion, a big chunk of my earnings will be whisked away in the form of a church tax.
If you started a religion, how long would it take for the Swiss government to start helping you collect tax money from your followers or allow you to make noise on Sunday? What qualifications would there be? Membership counts? Is there a 100-point checklist somewhere to determine if you are a real religion?
But most importantly, once your newly-invented religion had official recognition from the government, what sort of noise would you insist you be allowed to make in order to honor your deity or deities of choice? I’m still thinking about this one.