THIS I BELIEVE
I believe in the religion of the self. My parents sent me to a Presbyterian Sunday school until I was twelve years old, when I was given a choice to continue or not—I chose not. On Sunday I wanted to be outside riding my bike, climbing trees, playing with my army men or building blocks.
My family’s history with religion is sketchy at best. My mother’s side (the Leveys) are Jewish by heritage, but for some reason that was never adequately explained to me, converted to Christian Science. My mother followed this religion for awhile, but became disenchanted when her beloved sister-in-law died of diagnosed breast cancer, unable to seek medical assistance due to her religion. Neither of these religions appealed to me.
My father’s side of the family were Protestants, possibly Methodists, but none of them were wrapped up in attending Church regularly. When I went to our Presbyterian Church’s Sunday school, our teacher read us stories from the Reader’s Digest and generally failed to inspire me or anyone else in the class to a “higher calling.”
When I joined the Big People in Church, I was struck by the fact that, even at an early age, I could tell that some people attending every Sunday were not particularly nice people during the week.
That was it for me with organized religion and, although I have read a lot of religion and philosophy, I never returned to any Church. I feel, however, that I am a religious person. I call my religion the “Religion of the Self,” because I believe I have an inner moral compass that compels me to be kind to others, to help my fellow person, and to be true to my beliefs in equality and the rule of law.
This “religion” has manifested itself in my career choice as a legal services attorney. For the past thirty years I have represented the poor and the overlooked with their civil legal problems in housing, consumer law, family law, benefits (unemployment compensation, social security, and welfare), and elder law. At times, I get down on myself for not earning more money for my family and making our lives that much easier. This religion of mine, however, dictates to me that I must assist those most in need of my services, with less regard for greater remuneration. The reward is not inconsequential—it makes me feel good.
As I approach retirement, my wife and I are talking about joining the Peace Corps (if they will have us) and doing good deeds in far away places. No, we don’t have to do this. No church is sending us on a mission. We do this because this religion, the religion of the self, compels us to do this, not only for those we may help, but because it is the right thing to do.
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