As a survivor of 12 years in a Catholic school and the proud winner of a catechetical contest, I know more about the beliefs of that religion than I do of others. However, through my years of relocating to several parts of the U.S. and Asia and my extensive travels, I’ve learned about other denominations and talked to their members about their beliefs. I found that most people my age were born into a religion and due to a strong belief in its doctrine or family pressure stay affiliated with it even if their attendance is spotty.
Most single Baby Boomers were raised in a family church and were married there in a religious ceremony, even if their spouse was of a different faith. If they had children, they raised them in the religion of their youth. Later they remained with the same religious affiliation, adopted their partner’s or explored other religions. They had a variety of reasons for their decision. Sometimes they had deep spiritual connections with the religion of their birth and went along with the changes all faiths have gone through over the years. There were also those who weren’t happy with the new direction taken or scandals related to their religion and looked for one that was a better fit. Some became what the dating sites call “spiritual” which means anything from believing in a higher power to being an agnostic or atheist. It can cover a lot of ground.
Single Baby Boomers remain with their inherited or new found religion for a variety of reasons. Some churches have singles groups that offer events where single can meet in a safe atmosphere and perhaps even find a mate. Most churches offer the single person fellowship with all of its members and a place where they can get help in times of need. If you get sick, your church group brings you meals and makes sure you get to appointments. Some even offer you financial help and other means of assistance. Emotional support and friendship are often reasons that singles join a church.
There are as many variations on the beliefs espoused by different religions as there are interpretations of the Bible, Koran, Book or Mormon, I Ching, Tripitaka or the other Sacred Texts. In Catholicism people who pick and choose what they want to believe are sins and dogmas are called Cafeteria Catholics. The LBGTQ community has often been excluded from churches and for generations, people of color have started their own places of worship. A well-educated man, who once studied for the priesthood and later worked for the federal government in the U.S. and abroad, once told me that more wars have been started in the name of religion than for any other reason. If you look back in history, you’ll find that from the beginning of time to the Crusades and through the continuing war in the Middle East, this has been true. People have endured persecution for centuries for the right to practice their faith according to their beliefs. It’s why immigrants came and still continue to relocate to other countries that offer this freedom.
Although we aren’t physically persecuted, singles are often seen as outsiders by many religions even though canon law in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches’, don’t allow marriage for their clergy unless they were married before their ordination. This law, which also applies to most religious orders in these religions and the personal decision of Buddhist monks to remain single, gives churches a large number of single Baby Boomers. Yet these individuals are esteemed in their community while other singles are treated like lonely nonconformist, divorced sinners or sad widows or widowers who need to find the right person to complete their lives. Some denominations make it difficult to leave a bad marriage and if a person does leave they have to jump through lengthy, expensive hoops, like annulment, to remarry. It’s a catch-22 where you’re damned to hell if you remarry or condemned to a miserable life on earth if you stay married. Sometimes if you stay single, you become a nonentity to be pitied by the congregation you thought accepted you.
This may be why the 2014 Pew Research Center study published in the article, “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow” found that both married and single Baby Boomers are less likely to be affiliated with a religion. Although the percentages seem small, when you consider the size of the sample and the short period of time studied, it’s significant. Go to http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/chapter-4-the-shifting-religious-identity-of-demographic-groups/ for in-depth information on this subject.
You may not agree with the information I’ve presented here due to your deep belief that your faith is the only true religion and what some people consider discrimination toward singles is the correct way to interpret your religion’s teaching. Since we have freedom of religion in most countries, everyone is allowed to have their own beliefs. We’re lucky that we have that option. Although we may feel that we’re made to suffer by the edicts of our religion, our problems pale when compared to the atrocities perpetrated for centuries on single women in third-world countries in the name of religion.
If you have anything thoughts about how your own religion supports you or if you feel that you are being stigmatized, please let my readers know. I always appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Continue the adventure.