Lack of religious identity prevents cultural literacy

Megan Daly

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Ask me any question regarding religious history or religion in general, and I will most likely answer incorrectly.
I’ve never had any sort of religious education in my life.
Other than the rare occurance I went to temple for friends’ bnei mitzvahs, and a few times to get out of going to school, I’ve never spent significant time in a Jewish synagogue or a Christian church for my own personal reasons.
It’s always been to support or please others.
Recently, I watched my Jewish friends miss school to go to services for the High Holy Days.  While many said they only attended because their families made them, it seemed like at least one teaching from the service would stick with them.
Even if their religion had most likely been chosen for them, they could at least identify themselves as belonging to one.
On the other hand, when people ask me what religion I associate myself with, I never know how to answer.
Am I Jewish?
I never had a Bat Mitzvah, but my mother is Jewish, which according to some, means I am Jewish too.
Am I Christian?
I was never baptized, nor have I ever been to church, but my father was raised Catholic, which some say that means I am Catholic too.
In my family, we celebrate holiday dinners with a lit menorah on the table next to the Christmas tree.
My parents never chose between one religion over the other for themselves and their family, so my brother and I never did either.
The respect and tolerance that my parents have demonstrated for other religions is something that I greatly admire and strive to emulate in my own life.
But even though my parents raised me to be tolerant and accepting of other religions, I never received the education I needed to choose to identify with one.
If I don’t know what makes each religion different, how can I know what I believe in and what religion corresponds with those beliefs?
I feel like I am missing out on a huge part of culture.
Often, I  am reminded of how I am unable to contribute and participate in discussions alluding to religion because of my lack of understanding.
For example, something different occurred a few weeks ago, during English class.
We were discussing biblical references in passages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and how the story of Adam and Eve was reflected into the novel.
I thought to myself, Adam and Eve—isn’t that the passage about someone eating an apple?
I had no idea what the story was about, and no idea what the lesson or moral was.  And this wasn’t the first time something like this had occurred.
Genesis? What is that?  Moses parting the Red Sea?  How did that work?  When people bring up these essential topics in religious history, I feel like I am the only one who doesn’t know the story.
My lack of religious knowledge, no matter what religion it may be, is also keeping me from being a well-versed person.
In order to be an active member of society, I need to learn more about different religions.
If we were all truly informed about other religions, we would gain tolerance and respect for others and we would be more well-rounded members of society.
The only issue is, how do I start?

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