While it is common to see such devotional displays in Catholic countries, particularly Ireland it is not as common here. If you happen to see one you can be almost certain the homeowner has strong ethnic ties to a Catholic homeland.
I wondered at first why the Boston Globe would publish a story like this. They are a paper widely known for their hostility to anything Catholic because being Catholic means being anti-semitic in their anti-intellectual minds. But the end of the article makes it clear how this story made it past the editor's desk.
The reporter asks the Michtom if this "Madonna Mission" has affected his spirituality:
Q Has doing this project affected your spirituality? Are you going to put up a Mary in your yard in West Hartford?
A No, I'm not. I wasn't religious when I started, and I'm not religious now. In my more cantankerous moments, I have quarrels with organized religions. But I like seeing the ways that people practice religion. It tells you something about them. For a lot of people, religion is an important part of their lives. It's their beliefs, the rhythms of their weeks or months or years. So I like hearing church choirs. I like seeing people walking to temple on Saturday as a family. I feel like it gives me a passing insight into what those people are about.
So religion tells this guy something about the people who practice religion, presumably something positive but he is not religious. You wonder sometimes if people really hear what they are saying?
Thrown in for good measure in the collection of photos which can be seen here is a statue of a Buddha. I think the Boston Globe has covered all their bases on this one- Catholicism for the unreligious, families walking to Temple and Buddhism. I guess John Lennon would be proud, the Boston Globe comes as close to "Imagining there is no religion" as you possibly can. Each religion they mention is presented as a symbol of absolutely nothing.