When my mother decided to marry my father, she scandalized her entire family of Lutherans by secretly taking classes to convert to Roman Catholicism. They already didn't care for her choice of husband: he was older than her by four years, the son of immigrants, lived in Lorain, and had incited some pretty rebellious behavior from St. Patsy. When her wedding day came, she had already been informed that her father would not be there to escort her down the aisle of a Catholic church. She walked herself down the aisle.
Every time my mother tells that story, I have a hard time accepting it. I think of my grandpa, a gentle, taciturn man whose voice I had never in my life heard raised. He was an avid putterer, slow-moving, hands always busy, constantly mending, repairing, painting, trimming, fabricating doodads to make something work again like new. He liked to tease gently, wink a lot, and get Grandma's goat. The idea that he would purposely make anyone unhappy is alien to me.
And for what? Religion? My grandmother, who loved God and studied her Bible every single day, would be in attendance for her daughter. She was devout. She was the most religious person I knew. For her, it was all about God's Word. The interpreter was secondary. She lived The Word.
My mother sacrificed a great deal to marry my father, and she continued a life of sacrifice in many ways. As irony would have it, she became a far better Catholic than my father, whose church attendance was spotty at best and disinterested at worst. All four of us kids were raised Roman Catholic and received the sacraments, although I'm the only one who was married in the Catholic church.
All of which leads us to today's question:
Do you still practice the same religion you grew up with, or a different religion, or none at all?
The short answer is none. I became disillusioned with Catholicism a long, long time ago. And I became even more wary of and disillusioned by Organized Religion in general. And as the Christian churches became more and more of a political force, I got downright disgusted. The things people do in the name of their god and their dogma make me sick. It's nothing new, this war because of religion. It's as old as the Crusades and...never mind. You don't need a history lesson.
Instead of following a Religion, I follow a four-word rule. It's pretty much President Lincoln's quote, pictured above, but compressed. It is Kindness Is My Default. In every situation, I try to default to Kindness first. It doesn't cost me anything (like I used to think it did), and it often helps tremendously. Think what an average day would be like if everyone had this rule.
I do understand the value of Religion to a great many people. I do understand the Mystery Of Faith. No one has to prove the existence of his or her God to me. Religion is a deeply personal possession, a treasured comfort, a joy and satisfaction to its owner's soul. It is an essential part of his or her identity. I respect that.
But, by the same token, please respect my right to follow my own essence of Religion, a sort of self-rectitude, a kind of social benevolence by which I try, as Gandhi purportedly said, to be the change I wish to see in the world.