“I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
― John Lennon
Religion is as much a hot topic as politics, and yet people continue to get offended (sometimes even surprised) when their opinions are met with question or disagreement.
Often when I tell people we are a home school family, the first assumption is that we made that decision for religious reasons. There was a long list of pro’s and con’s to this drastic educational dynamic, however, religion never made either list. Yet, ironically, The Hare and I have been talking a lot about religion lately.
Currently we are studying about immigration. The Hare has learned that immigrants, much like the Pilgrims, poured into America to escape tyranny & persecution. They were seeking religious freedom and educational opportunities. The Hare was quite amazed how religion and culture lived side by side in tenement housing. People had to learn to live together in order to survive. I am not naive enough to think that this wasn’t problematic for some, but as a whole, people’s focus didn’t seem to be about who was right, but about how to feed their families and educate their children. Somewhere along the way, as the waves of immigrants found a foothold in the American dream, we forgot why we embraced each others diversity. Our lessons have pointed out that it is a mix of beliefs that has shaped and molded who we are today. Many of the holidays or traditions I celebrate with my family are rooted in religion or culture brought by these immigrants.
I like the third definition of religion as described by Dictionary.com : the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices. One of the things The Hare’s lesson asked of her, was to research some traditions that are unique to our family’s history. The history of my family, both my mother and father, is quite extraordinary actually. My mother’s father was a Jew. His mother and two of his aunts escaped religious persecution by immigrating here between 1912 and 1913. Another of the aunts escaped to South America, and sadly, neither parent or brothers were able to escape at all. My father’s parents immigrated here in 1949 after spending years in camps, first in concentration camps and then in displacement camps in Austria. By the time they found a sponsor to bring them to America, my dad’s oldest brother was a toddler and my dad was soon to be born. That side of my family is Russian and immigrated here to find religious and political freedom. So, as you can imagine, religion and a desire to find religious freedom is very important to my family.
The Hare has taken it quite personally too, so much so, that she has a desire to integrate some new traditions into our holidays this year to honor our family’s history and diversity, things like Hanukkah or recognizing the Russian Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. She wants to embrace the things that make us both unique and connected to a “body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices“. She does not want their stories and beliefs to disappear as our generations unfold.
“Mom,” asked The Hare, “If America is a melting pot of culture and religion, do you think heaven is too?”
“Yes,” I answered, “Yes I do.”