Can She Leave Her Religion Behind?

Q: I'm engaged to a most wonderful man. We connected in a profound way and want to spend the rest of our lives together. Our values, interests, education, and temperaments coincide. What I love most about us is that we come from two different religions and cultures and fell in love. Neither of us is into organized religion, yet we see ourselves as spiritual. Once we have children, we plan to expose them to both religions without what we feel was the brainwashing we had.

But the closer the wedding is, I'm feeling something new. I know my parents don't blame me for the total assimilation of our people. And yet, that's the thought I'm struggling with. Sometimes I think this is how the world is working, that we all meld. The other part of me has a nagging thought that I'm a statistic in the eradication of my parents' and grandparents' religion. I want to marry this man and I know we will have a rich life together but I don't know how to come to terms with this. I wonder if this will be in my marriage forever. — Melanie, 31

Dr. Susan: It's good that you're thinking this through now, before the wedding. You can expect that at certain points in your life, this connection you feel to your original culture and religion will tug at you more than at others. When I got married, my Jewish parents (especially my mother) were very distressed that I married "out." The connection I once felt to anyone who shared my native religion nearly disappeared over time.

But you see, as I don't believe in any supernatural force, I find my sense of belonging among those whose beliefs are more like mine. Many Jews and other minorities fear, as you do, that they are contributing to the end of their ancient culture. My own belief is that one needn't make decisions based on what others gave their lives for (wrenching as such a thought may be) when other things (a less tribal way of being) make more sense now. Can you deal with an occasional sense of aloneness that you may feel if you leave your ancestral social group behind? I recommend a book that I once reviewed, called 'Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America.

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