I often herald the importance of finding one’s true identity before committing to any relationship, which helps explain why I think marriage in your 20s for most couples is premature and why goals should be clearly defined before taking the plunge. It can’t be denied that for most, spirituality and religion plays a large part in one’s personal makeup. As for myself, I was brought up in a nonreligious household and proudly tout my heathen-like characteristics to this day. Call me naïve, but it never once crossed my mind that my belief system might play an integral role in the failure or success of a relationship.
According to my kooky Grandmother Jean, my parents were a mixed couple — my mother was raised Catholic, while my father was raised Protestant. In the late 1960s, this was a big deal to much of the older generations, but to my parents and a good part of their contemporaries, they were pretty much disenfranchised with the whole idea of religion. Those crazy hippies seemed more interested in casually accepting all deities, with the aid of natural narcotics their “God” had put on the earth for a reason. Or, like my mother, were stone-cold sober and agnostic. She agreed to marry my father in a small Protestant church right outside of Pittsburgh at his old summer camp, but not for any reason other than that she thought the church was cute. For all she cared, she could’ve been married by Marshall “Doe” Applewhite, on the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet in front of the entire Heaven’s Gate congregation. She was young, in love, and her idea of God was everywhere.
Though my mom remains a golden rule agnostic and my father has bounced everywhere from atheism to new age theories to a casual spiritual center and back, they’ve never once grilled me on my own faith, nor cared. I feel lucky that I was given the freedom to make my own decisions concerning my beliefs. But part of me feels left behind — and I’m not making a play on words about that apocalyptic book series. I do sometimes feel like an important part of my identity is lost, but it also doesn’t mean that I would gladly convert to someone’s religion just to be with them.
A girlfriend of mine had a similar religious upbringing, or rather, lack thereof. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, came from a very Jewish household, though he himself will nosh on the bacon from time to time. However, during his last visit with his parents, they implored him that if they have a child, to please raise it in the Jewish tradition, which means she would have to convert as well. My girlfriend didn’t even hesitate — her answer was no. Her values are just as good as his family’s, but when it comes to religion, it seems like it’s all or nothing. Their child deserves the best of both worlds, whether a synagogue is involved or not. He agreed, and though his parents said they would support him no matter what, I’m sure they wonder why their Bubala had to fall for a blonde, opinionated shiksa.
So my lack of religion isn’t a hindrance on my identity, but part of it. I have values and beliefs that might not fit into any textbook religion, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. Would I ever consider converting for the man I love? Well, he’d have to make a pretty strong argument — especially if he was a Scientologist.