Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 7: Faith: Religious beliefs and practices


A contributor’s example of Layer 7:

I am an Armenian-American and, as such, Armenian Orthodox Christianity is the historical religious context that I grew up in, attending church and participating in religious rituals and ceremonies.



From a very young age, the fact that Armenia was the first nation in the world to adopt Christianity as its religion was ingrained in me as a source of pride. From that decision to adopt Christianity in 301, to the present, the Armenian Church as an institution has been a significant factor in our survival in the face of centuries of religious and socio-economic persecution by less-than-friendly neighboring countries and adversaries.

My parents, both Armenian, raised me as an atheist consistent with their own beliefs. Though both were raised Christian, and though my father was once a deacon in an Armenian Church, their own self-reflection and beliefs as hippies during the 1960s led to an absence of religion in my upbringing. For much of my childhood and into adolescence, I was an atheist and shared that proudly with anyone who would inquire. More inclined to scientific pursuits and possessing an analytical mind, I simply could not have faith in a god without tangible proof. However, I did try. In college, I read the Bible cover to cover – twice. I prayed! I explored other religions and belief systems such as Taoism and Buddhism.



As much as I tried to find a sign or “proof” to believe, there was none. There is no doubt in my mind that one’s upbringing plays the single most critical role in whether one will “have faith” in a higher power or not.

Currently, I would label myself as agnostic. I think it would be presumptuous to assume that there is no higher power in the absence of proof, especially since there is so much of the world and the greater universe that is undiscovered, unknown and misunderstood. More sentimentally, I have been married to the love of my life for almost 13 years. While she is not actively religious, she does have faith in a higher power and believes there is something after death. Her father (my father-in-law) passed away about five years ago unexpectedly and much too young. He was someone who had presence. He had impact and charisma and was a larger-than-life personality with a warm and amazing heart and ability to reflect and imagine.



At my father-in-law’s funeral, I simply could not bring myself to believe someone like him is just gone. How can such a force just disappear?



From that day on, I was no longer an atheist. I am now an agnostic who is open to possibilities. My wife and I have two young children, and we are raising them in a way that opens their eyes to possibilities rather than strongly steers them to a particular way of thinking. We do raise them in the Armenian Christian faith and, as they grow older, we look forward to sharing their journey of exploration regarding their own religious beliefs.