Tradition, Faith, And Identity

Tradition is the transition of experiences, customs, and beliefs. Faith falls under the category of beliefs in which identity is surfaced through. Identity, faith, and tradition all in some ways contradict each other in others go hand in hand. In The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri the main character Gogol also known as Nikhil had always struggled with his identity, unlike other indian children his age he was given a german name, when he asked his father as to why he was not given a traditional indian name his father instead explained that he was the happy outcome of a terrible event, he later went on saying that he was in a terrible train accident in which he was reading one of his favorite authors that went by the name of Nikolai Gogol.

Hence explaining the reason behind the name Gogol and the emotional attachment to the name. Gogol’s perception of his traditions as an indian american conflict with his identity and morality.

Because gogol was an indian male growing up with western culture many of his traditions contradicted the westernized traditions going all throughout america. An example of his traditions contradicting one another is organized marriage, in indian culture it is common for planned marriages to occur in which the parents decide who gets to marry who as an agreement with another family. In America religion is more of a spiritual obligation rather than a need. In New Religions in Global Perspective : Religious Change In The Modern World Peter Clarke, the author, describes in his research how religion rather than fading away is learning to adapt to current times with new ways to attract youth and its impact on generations to come.

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Clarke explains, “While unchurched spirituality is gaining ground this is not always at the expense of every form of Church-based religion. It is not a unilateral development that is structurally and ideologically independent of what Bainbridge.” here he is explaining how religion does not go hand in hand with faith, he is saying that although spirituality is the ground support for our faith it is more of a mental bridge we create with our brains that ties us so strongly to out religion.

Also, in the scholarly article Clarke talks about experience rather than faith and how it is responsible for the unattached relationship between religion and faith. Through some of the perspectives of various religions faith and religion are hand in hand but clarke argues the opposite. Clarke in detail explains, “ but, before examining the core ideas and practices, and the orientation of the new movements and the changes occurring in old religions… their spirituality is holistic, mostly self-focused and based not and faith but experience.” here, Clarke is explaining how in old religions faith is based on experience through holy interactions and involvements.

Most of the time traditions are based on morality and basic moral values. This is why people decide to follow a religion because it becomes an example of how we should behave and how we should perceive life itself. These basic morals and traditions become philosophy. Philosophy meaning the understanding of knowledge, reality, and existence. Because philosophy is interpreted in many ways the idea of a life after death is introduced through culture and religion. This entices religious followers to follow religion and live a life based on the teachings of said religion. In Japan, Sport and Society : Tradition and change in the Globalizing World Joseph Maguire and Masayoshi Nakayama both authors of the research article explain how tradition and religion both go hand in hand when teaching morals and philosophy, Maguire explains, “ It was one of the core values of the warrior class which was the ruling class before modernization. The warriors’ values, and the social system represented by the warrior philosophy (bushido), were the foundation of traditional Japanese culture.” here Maguire is explaining how a whole culture can become influenced through tradition just as the warrior class in japanese culture impacted all levels of the social class strictly based on their moral codes.

Also, in Maguire’s and Nakayama’s scholarly article they explain the re-introduction of martial arts in education. The authors explain, “ Japanese martial arts were also advocated as an educational for the cultivation of morals and strength of character…” here the authors explain how how deeply intertwined the tradition of martial arts was in maintaining morals through the ancient tradition of martial arts. In America religious intolerance has been a great problem since the beginning of the thirteen colonies. Religious intolerance meaning the shunning or disagreement of religion in a certain country or region. In Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History by Lynn S. Neal and John Corrigan the authors go through the years in American history in which the nation as a whole becomes intolerant to a surplus of religion. At some point in history America has shunned every type of religion. Some more than others. For example, in the early 2000’s America was very prejudice towards the Islamic religion.

Because of the incident that occured on september eleventh two-thousand and one airport protocols and procedure where changed not only in America but throughout the whole world. In the scholarly article the authors explain how Muslim men and women were somewhat forced to hide who they were and adapt a new identity that seemed more westernized in order to avoid detection which would then lead onto conflict. Neal explains, “ The idea of toleration, however as historian Perez Zagorin has observed, had not yet coalesced in the west. The pioneering efforts of the dutch humanist Erasmus, particularly his imaging of jesus as a loving, generous, and appealing simple manifestation of God, were lost in the theologically and politically driven preoccupation with heretic hunting and the persecution of minority religions…” here Neal is explaining how at some point in time American citizens had driven christianity as the sole religion in western colonization that the participants who followed the religion seemed to prosecute any other religion and deemed it wrong.

Another reason religious intolerance was such a big deal in America was the fact that early colonizers had seen no purpose of keeping church and state intertwined as the early victorian era had due to the control and manifestation of religion forced upon their citizens. In Religious intolerance in America: A documentary History Neal and Corrigan also explain how the separation of church and state deals directly into culture. In the early 1600’s the introduction of separating church and state had begun. The topic had become controversial as to whether or not separating church and state would be a great success or fail. The debate started because early victorian era countries had intertwined church and state in which the church would then influence the state by reason of will. Because of this, church and state were separated and instead replaced with logic and reasoning. Corrigan explains, “ Castellio criticized the calvinist for playing God and ignoring the conscience of individuals, and he challenged Calvin directly by maintaining that reason and religion worked together in bringing good out the society. Here the authors are explaining how the argument of religion and logic were intertwined and spread as an idea throughout society.

This can be tied to Gogol as he struggles with religion and his logic as a western indian. In The Namesake gogol struggles with his logic as a first generation indian and his religion as an indian. His religion and his logic both contradict one another many times throughout the story. A perfect example is the planned marriages his parents had planned for him. There is then internal conflict with his identity. On one hand he is a westerner in which for the most part follows and practices western customs and in the other he is an indian who must adhere to religion in order to be considered even an adequate son. All throughout the story gogol is in constant conflict with himself, his religion, and his relationships. At the age of 14 gogol smokes weed. In America it is seen as a normal thing many teenagers do. It is not legal but it is socially acceptable for the most part.

However, in india smoking marijuana is not seen as a social norm therefore contradicting himself as an indian american boy. Gogol seems to have a two faced identity in which he struggles to maintain. On one side he must be an adequate son and student in which he must follow as tradition. This side of Gogol is very much intertwined with the indian culture as a whole. The other side of Gogol is an American-Indian boy. And just as any other American men Gogol treats himself and those around him as American. He shows his American dominance by breaking indian cultural norms such as smoking Marijuana and sleeping around. An example of this contradiction is vivid in The Namesake. On this page Gogol is having a conversation with moushumi, and in the conversation they go on to discuss how America never felt like home to either of them. Lahiri explains, “ occasionally one of the children ask Moushumi to say something, anything, n her english accent. Sonia asks if shes ever seen Princess Diana on the street. ‘I detest American television’ Moushumi’s eventually declared everyone’s delight. Then wanders into the hallway to continue reading.”

Lahiri is explaining how Moushumi’s slight comment on American television had hinted to the fact that Moushumi never felt at home in America and prefered English customs rather than those practiced in America. Because Gogol struggled so much with his religion and faith he also struggled with the ethics behind his tradition. In William James on Ethics and Faith the author Michael R. Slater explains in his scholarly article the ethics behind religion. He seems to give it a purpose and gives credit to religion as the main reason behind the structure of morality. He also goes on to explain how without a purpose after life or a higher being that justifies the way we humans interact with each other and do the things we do life becomes meaningless. He replaces passion with obligation. This meaning we do not choose our passions because it is in our better interest, we choose passion because we feel spiritually or religiously obligated to take on task outside of our normal routines.

In this scholarly article religion is not seen as a passion rather a commitment. This could be related to The Namesake as Gogol also struggles with his religion. Just as Slater explained in his article that religion is a commitment Gogol may also feel a duty and responsibility to his religion. Slater in detail explains, “ To put off making a decision about whether or not god exists or whether there is an objective for moral order, for example, is practically to decide in favor of unbelieve- that is, it involves a choice to live one’s life as if God did not exist or there were no such order.” here the author is explaining how the thought of a higher being simply keeps the majority of a society compliant through morals and ethics. Slater details the idea that God is not a decision but an objective that we as a society must reach and the only way we can reach it is by following order through moral codes given to us through religion and tradition. Gogol seems to also notice that his religion is more an obligation rather than an actual belief.

He does not agree with planned marriage as he sleeps around during his years as a young adult. In conclusion, tradition, faith, and identity are all things seen in The Namesake. Gogol the main character struggles with identity his whole life, he is given two names but does not know which one he truly pertains too. He struggled with traditions growing up as a young American-Indian in which its customs were seen as taboo in western culture. He very much contradicted his tradition as well as his faith. Through faith Gogol was able to decide whether or not his traditions and religion truly meant a great deal to himself as a person and seeker of his identity.

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Tradition, Faith, And Identity. (2022, Mar 08). Retrieved from

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