Keeping a faith alive

My daughter's baptism is around the corner. She will be formally accepted into the Catholic Church this Saturday. I have mixed feelings about it. In some ways, I rationalize that I just want her to be a good human being, so it does not matter what faith she is. But then, I worry that she will learn little of the Hindu identity she inherits from me, especially given how glamorous Christmas and Santa Claus can be. I worry than my plain vanilla Gods will pale in front of all that dazzle.

I can already see the effects of being a minority in this country, as she speaks only English, and anglicizes all the Hindi words we teach her. (BTW, 'Hindi' is an official language in India, not to be confused with 'Hindu' - which means practitioner of Hinduism)

Yesterday, the New York Times had a great story about how practitioners of the Zoroastrian faith are trying to keep their alive.

According to the article, there are about 190,000 Parsis (the word derives from Persia, the old name for Iran) around the world. Their numbers are dwindling, mainly because the faith frowns upon conversion, and interreligious marriages and does not consider children born of such marriages to be Parsis. Relative affluence and higher levels of education also contributes to few children being born.

“Survival has become a community obsession,� said Dina McIntyre, an Indian-American lawyer in Chesapeake, Va., who has written and lectured widely on her religion.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the story of Rohena Ullal, a Parsi who married a Hindu.

...before they even became engaged, they talked about her desire to raise their children as Zoroastrians.

“It’s scary; we’re dipping down in numbers,� she said. “I don’t want to hurt his parents, but he doesn’t have the kind of responsibility, whereas I do.�

Maybe the Zoroastrian faith would do good to follow the example of Roman Catholicism. When I married my Catholic husband, I had to sign an affidavit stating that any children born into our marriage would be raised Catholic. It is a stricture I railed against at the time - I felt I was signing away my children's right to choose a religion or none at all. I still signed it, because it mattered to my husband's family.

I've heard that in Judaism, the child follows the faith of the mother. So a child is Jewish if the mother is Jewish. To me, it's a wonderful piece of common wisdom codified into religious law. Children did spend most of their formative years with their mothers and did what their mothers did. So it just makes sense that children will take on the religion of their mothers too. Or does it? I don't know.

Those of you who had mixed religious marriages, how do you cope? What kind of religious education do you give your kids? What identity do they tend towards?

Contributing editor Priya Ramachandran also blogs at Words on Water

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