I did not grow up in a religious household. My mom was raised Catholic; my dad was raised Jewish. They were married by a priest and a rabbi, somewhat revolutionary for the early 1970s. We celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah, and that’s it. I had a passing acquaintance with CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) thanks to elementary-school pals who were shuttled there after school, and I was invited to a couple of bar mitzvahs as a gawky pre-teen in pegged neon jeans and braces.
I didn’t feel like I was missing out on religion, because it simply wasn’t part of my life throughout my teens and 20s. I was too busy! I had brunch plans on the weekends, for God’s sake!
As a parent, things are trickier. Life is trickier. I find myself longing for the built-in moral compass, and the steady sense of community, that a religious or spiritual community might provide. Does it? I dunno. I guess I’m asking you, as readers: What does a religious community do for you?
Because, as I’m getting older, and as a parent, I’m starting to think more deeply about how religion or spirituality might play a role in my life. Mortality, too. There are times that I crave guidance beyond friends, a therapist or Google. There are times that I long for a community built around shared values, shared methods of giving back to the world, and a shared background or mission, even a shared fate.
Maybe it’s just that I feel the need for extra protection as I get older and feel more vulnerable. I’m old enough now to know that life is hard, it can be unfair, and sometimes there aren’t easy answers. I think about my (Catholic) grandfather and how he didn’t seem afraid to die. He seemed to know where he was going afterward. I wish I had that peace of mind.
I also want to be able to share a sense of community with my son, something beyond his T-ball team, karate lessons, play dates or occasional get-togethers with his cousins.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m using religion as a cop-out. (Save me! Take me to heaven! Give me more friends! No more brunch, promise!) I think I’m just looking for one more layer of insulation in a crazy, sometimes draining world.
For those of you who weren’t raised religiously, did you opt to incorporate it into your adult life? How and why? I’d love to know.