We're Not Religious, But We're Faithful

For From Left to Write Book Club we read I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits, an amazing book that introduced me to the world of the Hasidic faith and made me consider my own. This post is inspired by the book.

I'm not really the religious type. My parents attempted to raise me Catholic, but everything in my being always seem to revolt against it. We weren't an especially religious family and rarely actually attended church when it wasn't a holiday or due to a streak of guilt. Matt was baptized Catholic, but that was the extent of his involvement with a church. We're both what I've heard called "recovering Catholics."

We didn't get married in a church. We hired an officiant, who was an Unitarian minister, and included very little mention of God in our ceremony. W was not baptized. At the age of three he has yet to even enter a church. I don't question these decisions. But, when B was born, I started to question my beliefs... Is this it? We live, we create people we love dearly, and then we die? Is that what I really believe? Because, maaaaan, that is super depressing, right?

I was dealing with my own mortality, yes. (It's not lost on me that I had a son named Beckett and then suddenly seemed to have my own "Waiting for Godot" experience...) It's not faith that I'm looking for, because we're faithful people. We believe in doing good. We believe in being truthful. We believe in treating others well. We live with a strong moral compass and are raising our children to do the same. We don't cheat, we don't lie, we don't steal, or do any of the other things that most religions command you not to do. But, are we religious? No. Do we have a general sense of faith that I can't describe? Yes.

So, I asked myself some questions that I haven't before:

Are we looking for a church? Not right now.

Might we in the future? Possibly.

Do I feel like my childhood religion experience added anything to my life? Not really.

Do I feel like my children could gain something from being involved in a religion? Possibly.

I'm not opposed to religion, but as a friend so eloquently said to me recently: "Churches have very little to do with faith or religion these days." And he's right. If we choose a religion, it has to be a place that would feel like home, that would include teachings I would be pleased to share with my children, that was built on core beliefs that I share. We don't need a church or religion to raise good people, but it might be nice to meet people who share our views. I see the opportunity that churches give to volunteer, participate in family activities, and meet like-minded people, but I also see plenty of not-very-good people hiding behind church and religion. So, for now, we'll continue to raise good people who may not step into a church for a few more years. And I'm ok with that.

This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. Though not sisters by blood but through their Hasidic faith, Mila and Atara views the rules and structure of their culture differently. Mila seeks comfort in the Torah while Atara searches for answers in secular literature she is forbidden to read. Ultimately each must make an irrevocable decision that will change their lives forever. Join From Left to Write on May 8 as we discuss I AM FORBIDDEN. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.


Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

I'll join you in raising good people who might not ever step foot in a church.

Some Suburban Mom said...

That's how I knew I had found the right church or religion or faith (however you want to refer to it) for myself....I felt like I was home.

Cindy Fey said...

Yes, maybe it is depressing that we live and love and then everything dies, The End, but accepting this hard truth can also be very liberating. And a way to renew your sense of how precious our lives are. I'm an ex-Catholic atheist, but I still love the sense of community and service that I found in some religious-based organizations. The Unitarians are good at accepting everybody, no matter where they are in their journey of spirituality/faith/self-discovery, what have you.

Anonymous said...

This post? Yes. Exactly.

Brenda Bartella Peterson said...

I came through the rigid Southern Baptist Church as a child and I'm still recovering from what I called spiritual abuse. However, I have come to draw a line between morality/ rule-keeping and having a true faith in something that transcends this mortal life. I commend your raising moral, good children and I also commend the transcendent for you and for them. Some folks find it in nature, some in art--just two suggestions. Ok, I'm finished preaching. :-)

Jennifer Bush said...

I'm with you, except for one thing. When I ask myself if my childhood religious experience added anything to my life, I have to say yes. But it didn't have much to do with God. I met great friends in Hebrew school. I loved Jewish camp, and celebrating holidays, and even the rituals of going to temple and having a bat mitzvah. I like the values in Judaism. But God? I'm not really a believer, and now that I have my own kids, I struggle with how I want to introduce religion to them.

But you certainly can raise wonderful kids without ever going to church. Absolutley.

Pam Margolis said...

its a shame that so many churches have failed in providing positive childhood memories. i'm sure they would rectify it if they could.

Melissa said...

I agree that a house of worship would need to feel like a home--or at least like a community to me with whom I shared values. Unfortunately, there's a lot of conspicuous consumption and materialism associated with some of the faith communities in my area that I find very hard to relate to.