Sunday, February 28, 2010

Losing My Religion

The College of Wooster requires that every senior complete a year long senior thesis. I wrote mine on the dichotmy of religion in a marriage. Always having been interested in the strains that are related to an unsuccessful marriage, this was an interesting topic to me.

Having found a copy of my thesis last month, I began reading it. I haven't read it in a while. In a nutshell, I discovered that although you and your spouse may have been raised with the same religion, your faith in your marriage can still be problematic. This is based simply on the fact that one may have had been more conservative than the other.

What happens when religion is forced upon you? I am an easy sample of this. You turn against it. And it was never really "forced." I just remember my first day of Sunday school. Too well. And begging my mom not to make me go. Dad wasn't in the picture in that memory. Dad never made me do anything when it came to religion. And when the folks split up and Dad said to us, "You know, I don't care who you marry. If he isn't the same religion, that doesn't matter to me." I always knew that.

I was in someone's house last week and observed their "funny Jesus" paintings in a couple of spots around the house. In one, he is playing soccer. They mocked it, leading me to believe that they thought it was goofy. "Did you both go to Catholic school?" I asked them. "No. But we were raised Catholic and have decided not to have any organized religion."

So what happens when you have to go to religious school against your will? You don't want it. You resist it.

I have two theories on people who become more religious as young adults:

1) They never had a sense of strong identity so this is it for them.
2) They have addictive personalities.

Too much of anything is not good. We all know that.

I was turned off from religion at sixteen. My sister told me I would outgrow it. By eighteen, when asked what religion I was, I would simply say, "nothing." I haven't practiced anything. I make christmas cookies. I have been to Easter brunch. I have been to a Chanukah dinner. I have been invited to Baptisms. I have never been to a Jewish Bris and I never will. There is something so incredibly wrong with inviting people over to watch a baby have his you-know-what chopped and then eating a spread of bagels and cream cheese. It is archaic, barbaric and wrong in so many ways.

My parents were both raised Jewish. Obviously, one more than the other. I learned as an adult that my dad's maternal grandfather went on to convert to Catholicism and had three children with his Catholic wife - all who never knew their father was born a Jew.

The Jewish population is very small. So small, in fact, that I have often times met people throughout my life who will tell me that they have "never met a Jewish person before." I am lucky I was always aware of this. And I thank my parents for exposing me to all walks of life. Because if you grow up in say, Beachwood, Ohio, where probably 90% of your classmates are Jewish, it may not be until college when you hear someone ask you that. I had someone ask me about the horns. I was prepared. my parents raised me well. My whole life, I have always been conscious that we are a minority.

More sophisticated people seem to be familiar with religion in general. They are aware of the facts of the Jewish people. Just like they seem to be aware that their Muslim co-worker may not be eating during the day because of Ramadan. (Something else I always knew about it - thanks to my Mom, who had a Muslim friend growing up).

Yes, the people who are sitting around here as I type, reading the Sunday "Times" know what a Bat Mitzvah is. They may have never been to one. But they know. Just like they may also be aware that a Hindu wedding may be partially in Sanskrit. But this is not the majority of Americans.

So, fourteen years later and I still do not associate with a religion. Or feel the need for one. And I refuse to marry someone who cannot support my anti-religion because that just won't work. Fortunately, most of the hipsters around here are all categorized as "agnostic" on facebook.


  1. I'm not very religious myself either.
    It just seems kinda ironic that your opinion of religion which is supposed to be all about " love and family values" labels religion as more likely to be a distraction or an obstacle to a happy marriage than anything that can strengthen relationship or commitment.

    Do I understand your point that someone elses beliefs in just how important religion is to THEM actually be a dealbreaking obstacle that limits who YOU "can" fall in love with and marry? If so, it seems also more about limits, exclusions and prejudice than about "openness" .
    Can someone "accept" your anti religion decision without "supporting" it?
    Naturally with a whole thesis on this, you have thought about this alot but I'm not sure I get where you're coming from.
    Do I have it right?
    I think religion is what you make of it, just like food, money, power, drugs.
    People can use it to justify a negative or as a positive.

  2. Have you ever seen Bill Maher's movie "Religulous"? It's an opinionated and funny film. The one thing that it re-affirmed for me was that lack of religion was nothing to be ashamed of.

    For me, lack of religion is part of my identity. I appreciate that there's no such thing as a higher power or destiny. It makes me appreciate the burden of life and all the crazy, chaotic stuff it brings.

    I understand that for a lot of people religion is a great emotional comfort, but to me it's nothing more than a punt, giving up in the face of adversity, throwing up your hands, and hoping a higher force will intervene and save you. I think people instinctively know that what they "believe" is not really there, but they continue hoping and pretending to convince themselves otherwise. It all sounds very hypocritical and false. Not for me.

  3. I agree with everything in this post! I have my own reasons for being agnostic, or aetheist-whatever you want to call it, but I also was forced into Sunday school and going through "confirmation" and I'm sure it has something to do with me pushing religion away pretty early on. Still, I mainly just don't buy into any of these ancient stories that just scientifically don't make sense! Your points on why people become very religious as young adults is very accurate. Particularly that they don't have a strong sense of self and think they need God to help them get through things or that "he" is the reason when things work out well. And your point that they haven't developed their own identity so being very religious is what defines them. Good post! PS I have nothing wrong with people that are religious to a point. Just think "born agains" or people with Jesus paintings and prayers all over their houses are lacking that sense of self and I also find it a bit "cult-like" -Liz

  4. In response to Bryan's question - maybe I am closed minded. I need to be on the same page as my spouse. Look - you have enough issues in a relationship. I don't need to add one more.