October 4th, 2012 | Published in People & Events
Why Did This Sikh, Jew, Christian And Buddhist Become More Observant Than Their Parents?
A survey published this week found more young people turning away from religion, believing that the definition of being "moral" meant looking after your family rather than taking part in religion.
More than half of the 16 to 24-year-olds questioned in the poll said their peers were less concerned about morals than their parents’ generation.
Public perceptions often suggest that younger generations in Britain are less religious than their parents, but what happens to those who buck the trend?
The Huffington Post UK spoke to people from five different faiths who have taken on much more stringent religious practice than their parents, from a city banker who now lives in a Buddhist commune, to a Sikh who worried his family with his faith.
Read their stories and tell us your experiences about faith and religion, and whether you think they still hold relevance for today’s youth, in the comments section below.
Su Yen Tan: I grew up in Malaysia in a Buddhist family, following a Chinese tradition, interwoven with Taoism. My family had a shrine at home, we would burn incense but we certainly were not vegetarian.
That was pretty much it, although I do think the ethics of Buddhism filtered through to me. I went to a Catholic school, but I didn’t convert, in fact, it made me more determined to be a Buddhist. I decided to buy my own figure for my own shrine when i was 17. It’s one I still have.
I dropped away from practicing when I moved to London and I was working in the city as an investment banker. I did attend the Buddhist temple on Oxford Street once or twice a year, but I don’t speak very good Chinese, so I found it hard to connect.
I made the decision on the spur of the moment to go on a spiritual Buddhist retreat, which I convinced myself was a yoga retreat. It wasn’t, and I think I knew that deep down. It was really inspiring.
I began with devotional practice and meditation. I quit my job in 2010, definitely a decision based on Buddhism, to live a more spiritual life.
I am a vegetarian, and I live in a women’s Buddhist community attached to the London Buddhist Centre.
My siblings are very happy for me. It’s certainly been very hard for my parents, I think they saw it as a rejection of their values.
They are disappointed I am not married, living in the suburbs with two children. But they can see how much happier I am.
Harmeet Singh has become more confident since he became religious.
I certainly don’t come from the most religious family, we are traditional Punjabis, used to go to the Sikh temple on a Sunday, and we were taught to believe in God but not much beyond that.
There was a lack of the spiritual side. It seemed ritualist, what we were doing, and my parents and elders couldn’t really explain why were doing what we were doing. I started to think, why am I doing this?
I was about 19 when I started asking deeper questions, looking back on it now, I was probably looking to make a change in my life, heading off for university on a very uncertain path.
There are a lot of pressures to do with the opposite sex, drinking culture. It was a way for me to control myself, in a way.
I started researching Sikhism on the internet, looking at the teachings and the history. I was amazed about how much I didn’t know. So much was different to what I had been taught, it’s like the teachings were Chinese whispers that had got distorted.
I used to spend my time watching TV or on the XBox, but now I’m reading, spending time with new people, playing classical Indian instruments. I have become so much more confident.
A younger Harmeet, before he became religious My parents came to this country for a better life, worked so hard to give us shelter and put food on the table. They don’t use a computer, they can’t research this themselves and they don’t have time.
I think they were worried about me becoming religious, I don’t eat meat, I have grown a beard and wear a turban.
They were worried about me fitting in, whether i’d be able to get a job – and it’s understandable.
But as time has gone on, they have become less resistant to it. You do get extremists in any religion and I know they were worried about that. But I want to show them how balanced I am, in fact, it has made me more tolerant of all colours, types and faiths, as well as my own.
Avrohom, 25, Property Manager amd Rochel Jason, 24, Nursey Teacher, Hedon, North London
Avrohom: We both came from traditional families, we had strong Jewish identities but we were not particularly observant. I did go to a Jewish school, but my wife, who grew up in America, didn’t. But we were certainly proud to be Jewish.
We both went to the University of Sussex, and we started attending Friday night dinners and festivals organised by a Jewish charity called Chabad, run by Rabbi Lewis in Brighton.
The process was very gradual. Jewish law is very complex, like dietary laws and laws for the observance of Shabbat.
I think most of all I was inspired by the learning and the texts and allowed them to permeate. Now we have completely changed our lives in every single respect, it has been a truly amazing thing.
Rochel: We were actually exploring more and more about Judaism independently of each other, not because of meeting one another.
I don’t think we could go from doing nothing to doing everything. You learn about a certain law you should observe and then you think, ‘OK, well, I’m going to try and do this myself.’
Some boys I know who became religious wanted to start putting on tefillin [a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers] straight away, others want to start by not driving on Shabbat.
If there ever was a barrier between us and our families before, it has gone now we have had our baby, our parents are just so desperate to see their grandson! He has given everyone a new focus, when you look at a child, he loves all of his family, no matter who they are.
It has given us so much happiness, there is something really beautiful about being true to a tradition and a way of life that has been followed for thousands of years.
James Hellem attends church twice every Sunday.
My parents don’t really go to church, I used to go with them very occasionally growing up, I went to a CofE school and a Christian youth club from age 11 to 15.
I was young when I started going to church more, around 13. But it was when I went to university in 2006 that I really started to take it seriously. Now, I attend church twice every Sunday, every week.
I did physics at university, and I’m sure that was about trying to understand the world better, how things work. I realised that physics can’t explain everything. Now I try to follow what it says in the Bible about how to live, it has made me much more confident about what I can and can’t achieve with my life.
Neither of my brothers have any interest but my parents have actually been positive about it. Sometimes they think it is silly giving money to a church, I think that’s the only part they have any concern about.
When I first began going to church regularly, I wanted to talk about it all the time and tell everyone about it. I have become really conscious of not sounding preachy, it really gets people’s backs up, it can upset and annoy them.