Love Is My Religion: This I Believe
I believe in love. Not Hallmark greeting card love or, “Oh my God, I love you SOOOOO much” love, or Hollywood romantic love. The love that I believe in is the tumultuous sort; it breaks you down, piece by piece, but also gives you the strength to rebuild yourself. It endures time and space, it heals, but it also hurts. I believe in true love, long lasting love, ending love and tragic love. I believe that love is the bond that holds us together as human beings.
Growing up my family didn’t go to church. Neither of my parents were raised with religious beliefs, so to say that I grew up without religion is not an understatement. I didn’t attend a church service until I was fifteen years old. I went with a friend on Sunday mornings to a Catholic church for about a year; it was the only way we could have sleepovers on Saturday nights. That was the closest I ever came to partaking in religion in a concrete way. I was always very educated on religion. In the seventh grade I read “Genesis” and “Exodus” from the Bible, and I partook in a religious seminar of the major world religions my junior year in high school. I have always been fascinated by the theology of various religions, but my fascination has never morphed into something greater than pure interest.
This lack of religious conviction on my part has often led people to ask me if I feel empty, or alone, or even scared of the possibilities of life after death, or life without God. This is my answer:
Ten years ago my brother was killed in a work accident. He was eight years my senior, and my parents oldest child and only son. He had a son himself, who was eight at the time. When he died our family and friends came together. We didn’t turn to God because we didn’t know him or her. We didn’t seek solace in the idea of Heaven, we turned to one another. We were our religion. We enjoyed ourselves, we bonded. We made great dinners, drank good wine, went for walks, shared newspaper stories, swam at the local beach, did crossword puzzles and picked on one another. During a period of time that we all agree was the worst in our lives we found enjoyment, we found calm and peace. This was a source of the deep love we had for one another and my brother. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to sustain ourselves, we would have collapsed. Instead, we did the opposite, we endured, and we all came out stronger. There is an emptiness that fills us all to this day, a feeling that something isn’t quite right. Yet, the love we shared with my brother remains. There is no replacing the physicality of the individual lost, but there is no taking away the love; it is constant. It stands the test of time and lasts lifetimes, being passed down through generations.
I am raising my daughter, who is seven years old now, to believe in whatever she wants. I don’t think that my beliefs are any more valid than another’s. However, I am raising her to rely on, and believe in, love. No matter what choices she makes in life she can always have faith in the love that she has for herself and the mutual love of friends and family.
It wasn’t until I after my brother’s death when people kept asking me how my family and I got through that awful time in our lives that I realized the answer. Instead of religious beliefs, my parents and other role models in my life instilled in me a profound belief and dependence in love. I was taught, without words, that in place of God there is friends, family and self. The collective love that we share as human beings is a far greater force than anything else I can imagine.