Friday, March 14, 2008

God - Opt In Or Opt Out?

Well, let me start this post by telling you how childishly pleased I am with the alliterative "Opt in or opt out" bit in that title. It wasn't deliberate, I just typed in something that came to me and there it was. If I could figure out a way to chuck in the words "out of order" to the title I'd be really happy and would probably not write anything else.

No Sir, I'd sit back with a cheshire cat type of grin on my face. I'd stare at my monitor and feel pleased with my wit and humour, probably have my hands clasped together in a superior body language pose. I'd be looking at my post. It would be called something like

"Out of Order, Oh God, Opt In Or Opt Out"

It would make no sense, but it's the sort of thing that these proper writers do; you know they come up with a strange sounding title and then write a book based around it.

But I shan't do that because I do have a vague point to make or to ask. And it is about God, or rather it's about religion in general and the differences between the Eastern and Western approaches and attitudes to it. Here's my thing.

I was born to a Christian mother and a Muslim father. Neither of them is particularly devout, though the female parent is more so than the conga playing male version. My brothers and myself were brought up with the attitude and beliefs that religion is something we should be made aware of and then we would be free to make any choices, if we wanted to.

As children we went to churches, we went to Mosques and we also went to temples and Star Wars films. We were given total freedom to choose any faith, not confined to Islam or Christianity. We ended up more or less choosing nothing as so many people in the UK seem to do. It's fair to say that neither me nor either of my brothers follows a faith.

We're all quite happy like that. Academic brother continually struggles with his insecurities about my vast intellect and music biz bro has always had trouble coming to terms with my good looks but none of that is to do with religion. I've just added it in for the sake of accuracy. The fact is that we're all content on the God front.

In contrast to the UK, or the West, what I've seen so frequently in Sri Lanka, or the East, is that so many people are born into a religion. It's also something I've seen among Eastern folks in these parts, the way that children are born a Muslim or a Hindu, or a Jedi of course. Maybe it's more apparent to me because my parents are mixed, but I suspect it's not the case. I reckon I would have been given that right of choice whatever the religious make up of my parents, that it's because of being brought up in the UK more than anything else.

As I've pondered on this situation I've come to the conclusion that the Asian way is to be of the faith of your parents, then as kids grow up and become older they either opt out or maintain the status quo. That is, they either make a conscious decision to follow a different faith or they continue to follow the faith of their parents. In the western world the more common approach is for a child to opt in, to choose to follow a faith as they move into adulthood.

Of course there are many other differences between the Asian and the European worlds, like the way white people rarely cook rice properly and the way Sri Lankans have much larger gaps between the toes, but these things can be left for another more serious post.

But regarding my religion thing, what do you think?


Dinidu de Alwis said...

True. Asians are born into the religion, and they follow it.

My parents are Buddhists. Not the most faithful observant ones out there, but they go to temple now and then.

I kinda didn't see a point, and from around 16-17 started "growing out" of the whole religion thing. So I don't have a "faith" anymore.

BTW, I'm not PBG anymore. Got my own site now! :)

themissingsandwich said...

My parents never gave me a choice when it came to religion. So I went ahead & chose anyway. I've ranged from radical to aethist.

Now I'm a Wiccan. And through it I have dicovered new faith in God that gives me a sense of peace that I didn't seem to find before. Strange girl I am. Go figure.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

TMS - Does that mean you're a witch? (I'm being serious)

Darwin said...

I was born into Buddhism which thankfully allows quite a lot of flexibility - after all, Buddhists are encouraged to question everything and never accept things simply on the value of faith.

themissingsandwich said...

Yes RD, in a way you could say that I am. But most certainly not in the conventional sort of way (if a witch could ever be conventional that is). The most "normal" thing I do as a witch is read tarot cards.
Have I shocked you? ;-)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

TMS - you've surprised me but not shocked me. I'd love to find out more.

Bea said...

Most of my friends (and I) were brought up christian (either protestant or catholic) and went to church as kids. As we've grown up we've either opted out or maintained the status I really can't agree with you. I don't know a single person who has opted into religion from a non-religious childhood.