My parents each had their own religion. My mom was a practicing Buddhist and my dad would profess to anyone who would listen that he was Catholic. As for attending church or temple, as a family we rarely did either. My dad made a few attempts when we were really young, but we never asked to go, and he never really pushed it. On the other hand, my mom made a yearly pilgrimage to the temple in Chinatown (a good 2-3 hour drive away), and took us with her, but even then, a yearly visit doesn’t instill much religious belief in a child.
Fast forward 35 plus years and I’ve got a child of my own. While I grew up with little religion in my life, I know it’s not something I want for my own daughter. As it happens, this week I was reading a surprising article in the Mercury News saying that more Americans say they have no religion. Another statistic from this same study also piqued my interest:
The number of adherents of Eastern Religions, which more than doubled in the 1990s, has declined slightly, from just over two million to just under. Asian Americans are substantially more likely to indicate no religious identity than other racial or ethnic groups.
If more Asian Americans are growing up in mixed religion households, I can understand the lack of religious identity among Asian Americans. For myself I wish I had a better religious self-identification. I also think it’s important that my daughter understands that there are different religions and learns to respect others views, but I want to make sure she isn’t trying to assimilate different religious views, and get left with no belief of her own; like I was as a child. As naive as it sounds, I want religion and faith to be there to comfort her in her difficult times.
The question then is how to balance those desires. With my mother’s passing this last year, we’ve been to Buddhist temple quite a bit, and we’ve also started going to a United Church of Christ. As a family I know we’ll continue to go to UCC for services, but how much do I expose her to Buddhism, without adversely affecting her developing faith in Christ? I certainly don’t want her to lose out on her culture and heritage, of which Buddhism plays an important part, yet I want to make sure religion is there for her when she needs it.