Should You Quit if Your Religion Don’t Fit? (How to find a suitable religion)

Lord, please shut down that man's blog.
Lord, shut down this blog. Then, please save this man's soul.

4 a.m.’s in the prayer room.

I’d be trying to stay awake while folded up in an uncomfortable lotus-style seating position  next to my devoted grandparents.

The smell of camphor and incense sticks either put me in a dreamy daze or might have made me high. I haven’t quite determined which – did the camphor and incense sticks set up the atmosphere necessary for hallucinations or spiritual awakenings?

As my grandparents arranged fresh garden flowers upon the statutes of Siva, Ganesh and the Goddess Lakshmi, I found myself in and out of consciousness. When they noticed, I’d pep up and chant a verse or two of their morning devotionals with them. When their eyes were closed in prayer, I would be in a deep slumber.

From the earliest days of childhood through growing up in Northern California, with daily home prayers and pujas, regular visits to temples that were no closer than a 6-hour drive away by car and two Sunday school classes (nope, not just on Sunday’s either) I grew up in a strong Hindu family with a strong faith.

You grow up with your family’s religion.

Similar to your favorite foods and political views, you most likely practice the religion of your family.

Your eating preferences, life-style, health habits, and ‘eccentric’ personality were probably all shaped by your immediate family or loved one.

Now, if you grew up soaking in the Talmud and spent all your after-school hours playing chess at the synagogue, you’re most like a practicing Jew.

If you grew up with rosary-chanting grandparents, daily Mass attendance and spent a good portion of the year sacrificing hard liquor, horse betting or Cappuccinos , you’re most likely a practicing Catholic today. Or at least,  go to Mass on Christmas eve 🙂 and call in your prayers when Notre Dame  takes on the Wolverines every year on the football field.

What if the religion you grew up with doesn’t fit you?

We grow up with the faith and religious traditions of our families but they may not necessarily be yours.

Once you start confronting your faith and resolving if it’s a right fit for you, like those high school jeans you still try to fit into but have clearly outgrown, you wonder if the religion of your parents is the one for you.

Does the God and tradition of your faith resonate with you? Are you going to find enlightenment here? Do the scriptures seem palatable to you?

Experiment your way to your faith.

While your parents and family may think this practice I’m about to suggest is bizarre or blasphemous and I’m anticipating bans of this blog by most major world religions – why not give other traditions and religious practices a fair shake?

1) Visit other houses of worship. If you’re not familiar with church-hopping, I highly recommend you give it a try. Not just a church, but maybe a temple, synagogue or gudwara. And of course this is only for those of you not practicing your faith, may not believe in or have lingering questions about your faith.

2) Take other friends with you who can explain their faiths and traditions to you. I started going to church with friends who were familiar with the traditions and the practices. That’s the main reason I didn’t take money out of the tithing plates or ask for a second glass of wine at Mass. You need to attend the new place of worship with someone who can lead the way.

3) Use opportunities you meet with leaders and practicing members of other faiths to question (cross-examine) them. If you see folks wearing robes of other religious traditions, like Buddhist monks or Jain priests, do not, I repeat do not, call Homeland Security. Instead, befriend them and ask about their faith, practice and beliefs. You can determine once and for all, if they’re in la la land or they’re sitting on ancient truths and wisdom you should look into yourself.

4) Start practicing and attending their regular worships. If you find a faith that interests you, start going regularly and try to find out if this is some kind of secret cult or your quickest path to salvation. If they ask you to stand upside your head, empty your wallets and money and hand out bottles of Ciroc Vodka, you’re likely in the wrong place.

5) Read their books and scriptures. No better way to get the lowdown on a religion than see what their prophets, devotees, or spiritual leaders had to say. If the book puts you to sleep, put the religion down and move ten feet back. If the good book transforms your life, you may have the found a religion that fits.

If you’re looking for salvation or just peace of mind and devotion, don’t give up. If the faith you grew up with doesn’t resonate with you, be open to learning about other faiths and beliefs.

Hindu philosophy says get with the God that makes you holler. Not exactly in those words but you get what I’m saying.

Christianity says let the holy spirit win over your soul. Again not exact words, but who’s keeping track here?

You may feel like you’re back-stabbing your family and abandoning your faith but are you really? Aren’t you finding the practice that suits you better? Unearthing the short-cut to the G.O.D?

While your parents may include scotch and liquerish chocolates in their regular diet, don’t you have your preferences in regards to wine, men and dairy-free organic chocolates?

Our mind often seeks what is familiar to us, my friend Tim Brownson regularly points out and even wrote a book about it, but your faith doesn’t have to operate by familiarity – it’s a choice.

Find the God, scripture and traditions which suit you.

Me

Jesus is making a big play for my heart and soul. The scripture, the poetic Psalms and His life sacrifice have brought me to the pews of the Church.

You

While I wait for the holy spirit to instruct me further, I ask you friends – are you ready for a conversion?

Ok, fine, are you willing to give another religion a shot? Are you happy in your faith? Was it because of your parents and traditions or did your faith grow out of your own choosing?

Let me know in the comments below.

31 Comments

  1. I did grow up a Christian, and I am happy in this faith. This is not to say that I didn’t have questions about it, but I found the questioning only strengthened my beliefs. Though I have grown up with my parents’ faith, it has become mine personally because of the experiential relationship I developed with God through Christianity.

    I am open to understanding other religions and learning about them because I want to know how others come to and see God. God is everywhere and who knows how God operates?

    I only know enough to understand that I don’t know everything. 🙂

    1. Hey Jammie, admitting that you don’t know everything is the first sign you’re a very wise person!

      I’m glad you’re practicing the faith of your parents and found that questioning your faith strengthened your beliefs.

      Keeping an open mind about how others practice their faith will likely strengthen your relationship even more with God.

  2. Vishnu, I think you already know that I’m extremely happy with my Christian faith, but I was not raised in a noticeably Christian home. In fact, I don’t even think we had a Bible in the house! So, I’m very different from my parents in that regard, though they have become much more faithful in their later years.
    Great post, my friend, and wonderful food for thought. Oh, and did I mention I love your sense of humor? 🙂
    Blessings!

    1. That is interesting Martha that you did not come from a very religious home but became a more faithful person in your own life. You led the way on faith and your parents followed?

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post – I use the humor to keep people awake. haha

  3. 🙂 I am happy with my faith. And I practice by doing what I can for other human beings – service to mankind = service to God. I was in a hostel for a year in my 6th grade and attended church regularly – every day for early morning mass. And loved that too. I like to think all religions are one. Love and kindness is what I like to practice.

    Powerful and thought provoking post, Vishnu. 🙂

    1. Vidya, thanks for your feedback on the post but your comment is what’s both powerful and thought-provoking:) What if we forgot all about religion and simply loved each other more and were kinder to each other. Would we even need religion?

  4. OK, so my favorite line was:
    “take money out of the tithing plates or ask for a second glass of wine at Mass”:) I think I may have told you (or posted somewhere) that my first sip of wine was when I was 14 and was visiting an Anglican church for a school project:) My mom made me pray to Jesus for forgiveness!!

    I really enjoyed this post because I am very definitely a religious tourist… I love to visit different faith communities. I feel like I have grown every time I spent time in a different community… a lot of the themes are extremely similar or identical. There is a lot of common ground.

    I have also found that, just as reading multiple books on your favorite topic strengthens your grasp of the material, visiting different faith communities can strengthen your own faith…

    1. Bjorn – I have read that story about you before. lol So wine led your journey to Jesus? I know it didn’t but what if it had. haha

      I know you’re a religious tourist and have been enjoying your and Jammie’s posts of visits to some of the more religious places in Thailand and other countries. There’s something we can all learn from other people’s faiths which can strengthen our own. And I know we’ve discussed in the past about those faiths/traditions/temples which feed you – those I really learn a lot from 🙂

  5. You had me with the caption to the photo. You are hilarious.

    I love learning about different faith traditions. When I was in Thailand, I studied Buddhism and went to temples. In Paris, I visited Catholic churches. In Cote d’Ivoire, my young son prayed to Mecca with the gardener. I belong to a Christian (protestant) church, but I have trained as a Shambhala warrior (Tibetan Buddhism). I prayed Jewish prayers of mourning when my mother died. The first thing you would see if you walked in my house (as I hope you will this summer!) is a statue of Kuan Yin. I count among my friends evangelical Christians, orthodox Jews, devout Muslims, loving Hindus, and committed Buddhists.

    The wisdom book that most resonates with me is the Tao Te Ching. I have read the Bible and continue to find much inspiration in it. I am leading a group studying A Course in Miracles. I am currently reading the Bhagavad-Gita. And then I plan to read a translation of the Quran.

    Steeping my spirit in faith seems much less dependent on the label and much more connected to what is essential and basic to all faith. Yes, I belong to a Christian church. But my faith is not limited by doctrine, and it is not threatened by the richness of the many faiths.

    I was just reading a description of various faiths as paths that all start from different points at the base of a mountain. As they all move straight up the mountain, they grow closer towards the top until they all merge at the summit. I love that image.

    So I support you in exploring the call of your spirit, wherever it leads. Blessings to you, my friend.

    1. Thanks Galen – I try:) 🙂

      You definitely had an opportunity and found ways to to explore many different faiths it sounds like.

      Got to put the Tao Te Ching on my reading list – I think I’ve read it in the past but found it a bit abstract. Maybe my mind is a bit abstract and the book is on point. haha

      I’ve heard the image you describe of many paths up the mountain. The addition to that image is merging at the top of the summit, which I’ve not heard.

      I think personally, Galen, I’m trying to determine which path, tradition is the shortcut up the mountain. Well, not so much the shortcut, but the truth.

      I’m looking forward to our faith summit this summer even more now!

      1. They are ALL the truth, my friend. Or rather, none of them are. As the Tao Te Ching says, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be names is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.” Or as Bruce Lee said, “You can’t organize truth. That’s like trying to put a pound of water onto wrapping paper and shaping it.”

        All faiths are among the ten thousand things. The truth is at the summit. That’s where we realize that there was never any mountain in the first place.

        My two cents worth on faith!

          1. Ok, I was following you for the first line. haha and then completely lost you.

            No, Galen, I know what you mean (I think) haha This is a profound statement about the truth being at the top of the summit and then realizing there was no mountain in the first place.

            Now, I have no idea if I’m on the summit, climbing the mountain or completely lost. (mostly joking – thanks for this insightful comment!!)

          2. Now that you’ve got me going, I just ran across this quote from the Rig Veda: “Truth is One, but the wise have given it different names.” Just sayin’….

  6. Great post, V. You know, growing up in a Catholic family and attending Catholic elementary and high schools, I came to know many people who appeared to follow Catholicism simply because it was all they’d ever known. They went through the motions – the Mass attendance, the sacrifices for Lent, the traditional practices – without any energy but with unwavering declarations that they’d never consider another facet of Christianity or other religion. When it came time to discuss why we all believed they we did or to consider other religions’ beliefs and practices in class, they expressed no interest. They never seemed to take the time to really understand their religion – even though we had religion classes! 🙂 From time to time, I think of them and hope that they deepened their beliefs by studying their religion, other religions and themselves.

    1. I know what you mean, Jody. I think there’s a lot of people like you describe – people who go through the routine of their faith without questioning it or asking if it’s the faith for them. I wonder if they completely forget about the faith when they’re no longer required to practice it.

      I hope they spent time reflecting on their faith too. I wonder if they come back to ask these questions of themselves when they are more mature, more realized or maybe when confronting challenging circumstances later in their life.

      Thanks for your comment J!

  7. I’m a firm believer in my faith and beliefs however I’m always interesting in learning about other people’s faith and beliefs. I have been thinking about going to different “houses of worship” to gain knowledge and learn other people’s faith. Though I’m strong/firm in my faith I’m open to learning about other people’s faith.

    Great post and tips.

    1. Thanks Dan. I’ve had some real spiritual awakenings by learning about other faiths.

      If you’re strong in your faith, I think learning how others practice their faith will only strengthen and help you appreciate your own even more.

  8. You raise an interesting question (as always !) for me and it’s not actually related to finding a faith/religion that works for me. As you know, I’m not religious and I’m not ….um … in the market for one either!

    I was raised Muslim and I don’t feel the need for anything else. If I DO decide to practice one day, or pass the knowledge onto my children, I don’t see myself putting themselves through what I went through – going to mosque 6 days a week for 5 years and basically learning to readt in Arabic without really learning a lot about the religion itself.

    I’ve since read a lot and spoken to a lot of people that are incredibly devoted to their faith, and I think it’s a pretty cool religion (if you remove the institution side of it).

    So I guess my point is that even though you were raised to practice your faith in a certain way, it doesn’t mean you have to continue to practice it in that way. Things can be done differently.

    – Razwana

    1. Too bad you’re not religion shopping:) I did have quite the faith to sell you on! (I don’t. haha)

      But point taken, you don’t have to practice the faith of your traditions, parents, family. Things can be done different and you’re one example of that.

      Thanks for your comment Razwana.

  9. Hi Vishnu,

    I was raised in the Catholic religion as well. I have tried other religions through the years to see what would fit a little better for me. I do feel that we all need to find a religion that works for us. I would say I’m spiritual now than connected to an established religion, but I do feel that they have a a lot to offer. Great pic and caption.

    1. Hi Cathy – Glad you tried out other religions to see if you’d find a better fit. A lot of times we give up on religions we’re brought up with when another one may be out there for us. One that speaks more to us.

      Good to you hear you liked the post and photo:)

  10. Hi Vishnu,

    I just loved this post and what you are asking us to consider! God willing, I really do hope you and I can meet in person one day. We share so many similarities when it comes to religion and spirituality.

    Although, I come from a Hindu family, I’m very fortunate to have parents who are very open to all religions and have instilled such values in me. I personally take so much strength from all the major religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism etc. I’m very interested in reading scriptures from all religions.

    In 2009, I was very fortunate. I got to go to Jerusalem on a trip for work. That week, I attended a synagogue, a church, and a Buddhist temple and our local Hindu temple when I came back to the UK.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Hiten – I think a personal meeting is inevitable! Looking forward to it when our paths cross.

      Lot to be learned from all religions. LIke my friend Galen pointed out above, each religion helps us understand the truth better.

      We do have to chat about your Jerusalem trip soon. I’m trying to get over to Israel so want to get the highlights from you. I’ve been wanting to take that trip for the last couple of years. What a multi-faith and multi-religious place, no?

  11. Hi Vishnu. I can completely identify with your article. One’s relationship with God SHOULD be a matter of personal choice and not something handed down over generations. I took this choice 25 years ago when I was given the simple truth of Jesus and His life. And there has been no looking back…

    1. Thanks for your comments Seema. Yes, we should be able to chose our own religion and faith but many of us just default to the faith our families and cultures have brought us up in. I’m glad you made such a personal, conscious and purposeful decision. I would imagine that your life has never been the same.

  12. That got me laughing! And I think I knew those nuns in the pic LOL 😀

    One thing that crossed my mind while reading this post was the book-turned-movie, “Life of Pi.” He experimented on different religions…but it was while in the midst of the vast ocean (and Richard Parker), that his faith was deepened by his true encounter with God.

    I think we should pray more for that God-experience more than which religion suits us. I was born in a Catholic family. I thank God for my mom’s deep faith. However, I grew up a wounded child and that made me question God at a young age.

    The ‘Spirit’ led me to live with the Muslims and non believers of God, I have Buddhist friends and I think it’s more of respect on the creed we believe in that kept that friendship going. It wasn’t mere ‘tolerance.’ As long as there’s peace and goodness within the person, God is there.

    *Couldn’t help it but I don’t agree with the church hopping part 😛

    1. haha you probably do know those nuns.

      loved life of pi – i have a post about that movie but finding my posts is not the easiest thing. here is it is for your reading convenience Melissa – Life of Pi review.

      I like the idea of praying for more God-experiences rather than a religion. And appreciate this line, M – as long as there’s peace and goodness within the person, God is there. That’s the truth and wisdom!

      And do completely understand if you’re not cool with the church hopping bit. I don’t think you’re the only one who would disagree with that 🙂

  13. hi Vishnu, I really enjoyed this post. I am on the Internet trying to find a place I fit in. I wasn’t raised in any religion. The closest I got was filling in my Catholic friends on things they should have learned in CCD. I just sort of learned a bit about everything. I always start to read Tao de Ching, or The Bible, or a book explaining The Bible. I think I resonate most with Unitarianism, but there isn’t a church near me. Well, there is a group that meets but the pastor they have actually said in a “book group” that President Lincoln NEVER lived in The White House. I just about fell out of my seat. (History major here, and a person with common sense) So, that’s out.

    The thing is, we went to church when I was little. I was baptized a Methodist. One day, while we were at church, my Nana killed herself in our garage and we came home and we all saw it. I was not yet five. So, my mother went for solace, or guidance…I don’t know, and asked a minister if my grandmother was in Heaven. He said (to quote my mother), “Oh, no. She’s in Hell. I’m positive of it.” yeah, we never went back to church. So now I’m lost. I tried to commit suicide in June. I’ve been looking for that sense of community and a place to feel loved and welcome (where I did not in my family). Can’t do Catholic. Can’t do Bible thumping. I just don’t understand the hype sometimes. Is all this Christ stuff true? I read, I like to learn. The FIRST thing I did after 9/11 is study up on Islam. In a half an hour I knew it’s a loving religion. Hell, the KKK think they’re Christian and so does that whacko that tried to protest funerals in Newtown, CT. The only way I have been able to justify acts like that, children dying of some horrid cancer that stole over half their time on earth, my brother dropping dead at 48; the only way I justify unjustifiable deaths are that we are born on a specific day at a specific time, and we will die on a predetermined date and time that we do not consciously know. There HAS to be a reason behind a 6-year-old getting massacred in his first grade classroom.

    So, now what?

Comments are closed.