My father, a grumpy rationalist, never bought into religion. But my mother did, to my great distress, and so she raised me as a Episcopalian. I was unenthused, reluctant. I know I should have just relaxed and rolled with it. The Episcopal church, after all, was thought to be a kind of mild-mannered, middle-class path to God. Not as stringent or demanding as Catholicism. Its parishioners were less passionate than the Methodists. It was thought that even Presbyterians were a little more Catholic-y than Episcopalians.
Episcopalian ministers weren’t that dogmatic; they were liberal guys who drank wine and smoked pipes and led discreet hetero lifestyles. They weren’t into guilt-tripping or rapping anyone’s knuckles. I think of them now as middle-aged, easy-going guys who tended to look like Hugh Hefner or Richard Attenborough.
But none of these distinctions mattered to me back then. All religions were prison, I felt. In my view the Episcopalian faith wasn’t about spirit or salvation as much as socializing and singing in church and wearing suits. I despised the whole charade — going to catechism classes, taking part in religious pageants, Holy Communion, etc. But some kind of receptivity to the idea or observance of religion sunk in over the years. Getting drilled for years with Episcopalian teachings and rituals has a way of softening you up, I suppose.
What happened is that out of the blue I suddenly got into Hinduism when I turned 20. Hinduism, that is, by way of LSD and readings of the Bhagavad Gita. I found serious satori. I walked around all the time with a blissed-out expression. I became the kind of guy you would never, ever invite to parties because all I would do was sit on the floor in the lotus position and talk about enlightenment. I never became a practicing Hindu, and in fact gradually blew the whole thing off as I got a bit older. I nonetheless feel much more aligned today with Hinduism — the white middle-class LSD kind — than I’ve ever felt for any of the approved suburban white-people faiths.
All to say that I vaguely relate to Julia Roberts‘ recent declaration that she’s become a practicing Hindu (i.e., “going to temple to chant and pray and celebrate” with her three children and husband-cameraman Daniel Moder, etc.) She got into Hinduism, she says, during the making of movie Eat Pray Love in India.