Adopting a new religion isn’t an easy decision or a quick process. Or that’s what I assumed at least. But celebrity marriages have made it so easy to investigate via gossip blogs and magazines (not that I frequent either of those), so I will do my best to stay accurate in this post given some of the sources I have to work with.
Perhaps the most high-profile conversion of our generation has been that of then-Catholic Katie Holmes when she married Tom Cruise, a scientologist. The couple has recently separated, and most speculate that this has something to do with Scientology. It has been an alien religion (quite literally;
Scientologists believe in an ancient intergalactic civilization that was long ago destroyed, and the spirits of its former inhabitants latch on and cause us problems today) to many Americans since it began as a New Religious Movement in the 1953. It isn’t at all related to Christianity, and focuses on one’s internal spiritual well-being, not a higher being. Followers are constantly working to eliminate the trauma from past events that clouds their analytic mind, keeping them from experiencing reality. Auditors use a device called an E-meter that detects electric flow in the body as followers are asked questions relating to the trauma in their lives. It sounds a bit like an experimental psychotherapy session, though Scientologists generally rebuke the effects of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. For a more detailed introduction to Scientology, I’d recommend checking out their website here.
The reasons for religious conversion vary, but it usually comes from the prohibition or scorn of an interfaith marriage amongst their community. And the trend that I’ve noticed in religious converts that I know is that their families care a whole lot more about their new daughter or son-in-law’s faith than the newlyweds do. In Sikhism, interfaith marriages are completely forbidden. Islamic interfaith marriages are only permitted between a Muslim man and a non-Muslim woman, and any children resulting in the marriage must be brought up Muslim. Catholicism historically has had very strict rules about interfaith marriage too.
Do they work? There are plenty of pessimistic and more optimistic arguments. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much data collected, and the data that’s there has been questioned. But for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, their interfaith marriage didn’t seem to last very long. TomKat have rightly kept their divorce proceedings private. They recently issued a brief statement regarding the split: “We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other’s commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other’s roles as parents.” Most newsgroups are in agreement that the split is a result of differing ideas on how their 6 year-old daughter Suri should be raised in the ways of Scientology. Katie has recently enrolled Suri in a prestigious Catholic School in New York, which doesn’t mesh well with Scientology. It seems that Katie once “changed” her beliefs in the name of love, but is now looking out for her daughter’s beliefs in the name of love.