A promise I’ve made my self is to never get married to someone from a different religion and race. Let me explain why, before you label me a conservative racist. My parents had different beliefs which at times caused uneasiness in our family. Even today, I decorate the Christmas tree in December, even though we don’t celebrate Christmas. And I know, the tree has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, but for me Christmas doesn’t mean church or carols, it means gift giving, a tree and Christmas songs. Of course there is more enthusiasm during Vesak, pasting the tissue paper on the bamboo frames, lighting candles and going to the temple. We were brought up as Buddhists and I would choose no other religion or faith. And so when my father wanted to celebrate Christmas or Easter, I would hesitate. I used my lack of belief as an excuse to avoid Easter and Christmas lunch. And while my mother could take us to any temple she wished, my father couldn’t take us to church with him.
I have been to churches, and in fact went to a Christian school. Before our O/L and A/L exams we were all blessed in the school chapel. I’d like to think that being brought up by parents of different faiths made me more tolerant of beliefs different from my own. At home, we have two prayer books. No one reads them, and yet, they receive the same respect books on the Dhamma are shown. Just because we don’t believe in the god the prayers are meant for, doesn’t mean we should throw the books away.
So we grew up Buddhists, with hints of Christianity here and there. Yet, the clash between the two cultures was quite obvious. My father didn’t believe in worshipping people. Thus he would tell us not to worship him and this caused some uneasiness, especially during avurudu.
However, the differences or conflicts go beyond such simple things. We were small then, and didn’t understand why beliefs varied. We didn’t question why Thathee went to church and we went to the temple. Today, I understand the differences between beliefs and cultures. Growing up, I found my self looking at other beliefs in a skeptical manner. I respect other beliefs, however, I would never be able to change my beliefs.
And a lack of similar beliefs makes it more difficult to understand people. Many people have told me they would love to get them selves tattooed, yet can’t due to their religions. As unfair it is, I can’t help but ask them if a religion should put down such rules. As kids we accepted that people just didn’t share the same beliefs. Now we question them. And we either understand why there are so many varying beliefs or we protest against them.
However, even if we understand other beliefs, we can’t embrace them. I avoid going to churches and kovils because I feel it isn’t right with my lack of belief and skepticism. Going to the house of God, while not believing in the existence of a higher power, is not something I like to do. So a marriage between people with different beliefs will be a constant battles of trying to accommodate each others beliefs. Things will definitely turn more sour once there are kids involved. What religion should they be brought up believing?
When it comes to ethnic differences, even the smallest comment could spark things off. It could be uneasy silence that follows after someone says he’s an atheist. A clash of beliefs makes friendship, love, relationships difficult to maintain. Our behavior and attitudes are shaped by our beliefs. While my beliefs do not stop me from wearing even knee length clothes, there are sme beliefs that scorn such clothing. Thus no matter what we tell our selves, mixed marriages or even relationships need extra effort put into them. Of course, lack of beliefs make things simpler. If no beliefs tie you down, it is easier to live with people.
Sadly, religion, race, culture, they all play a huge role in our lives. While we must tolerate and accept beliefs that vary from or own, we must also be careful when trying to mix two beliefs. Simply put, our backgrounds say a lot about us. Religion, race, culture have a lot to do with who we are. This is why I think mixed marriages are more difficult to maintain. And this is why I have promised my self to get married to someone who shares the same beliefs as I do.