My Religion

What’s my religion? First I’ll need to provide some background.

My father was raised Orthodox Jewish. In college he rebelled and converted to Christianity. He chose a particular blend of Jewish-Christian called Messianic. My mother is Jewish by heritage but she was raised by Christian parents. My parents met for the brief moment in time when their religious beliefs overlapped. They had three kids and meanwhile the marriage was going sour (to put it lightly). They divorced and several years later my Mom decided to abandon Christianity and follow a very liberal version of Judaism called Reconstructionism. My Dad continued with evangelical Christianity (that means tries to convince everyone to agree with him).

I tried being Christian: said the prayer where you accept Jesus Christ as your savior. I was baptized. But it wasn’t working for me. I tried Hebrew school but I wasn’t motivated and couldn’t concentrate. Neither of my parents tried very hard to push me. I was never bar mitzvahed.

I became obsessed with reggae music in high school – particularly Bob Marley. I learned about Rastafarianism. I grew my hair into dreadlocks and traveled to Jamaica. I became a vegetarian. I tried to live a more natural life. But I couldn’t pray to Haile Selassie.

In college I was terrified of death. My mom gave me a book on Buddhism. I liked their ideas about karma and suffering. I liked their approach toward death and rebirth. But I couldn’t find solace in reciting mantras.

Even if I wanted to I don’t think I could pick a religion. I’d have to draw a separation between myself and my mom or my dad or my relatives. So I went and married a Hindu. We had a priest and a rabbi co-officiate at our wedding. We picked and chose customs from both religions and attached our own meanings as necessary. Among our 400 guests we had Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. Now that we’re married we celebrate Passover, Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sarswati Puja, Diwali, Durga Puja, Eid, Ramadan, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If I don’t tell you my religion does it mean I don’t have one? Do I have to say the word “Jesus” or “G-d” or “Buddha” or “Allah” to mean the same thing? Isn’t language a man-made construct that artificially limits a meaning to make it more digestible? Does the word “love” fully encompass its infinite variations? If I don’t say the word “love” does it mean I don’t love you? If I can’t put it into words does it mean I don’t feel it? Does it make it less real?

I don’t need a religious text to tell me it feels right to be good to other people. I don’t need a person in a robe to tell me when I’ve done something wrong. I don’t need to choose sides when people kill each other because they use different words to describe the indescribable.

No one wants to make the wrong choice especially if it means burning in a fiery pit for eternity. If you still want to know which religion I am: it’s the right one.