Saturday 18 November 2017

When love means having to change your religion

Actress Isla Fisher converted to Judaism in order to wed her Borat. Many Irish couples know exactly what she's gone through. By Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

Love may move mountains, but could it make you go to Mass? When Aussie actress Isla Fisher fell for British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, she could have been expected to move country or swap surnames for her more famous other half.

But the Confessions of a Shopaholic star went one step further to show her devotion by changing religion.

After a six-year engagement, the stunning redhead has just wed Borat actor Baron Cohen in Paris. But rather than basking in the spotlight of a big white wedding, she said 'I do' in a traditional Jewish ceremony in front of just six guests.

While pregnant with daughter Olive in 2007, loved-up Isla (34) abandoned her Methodist upbringing and converted to Judaism so she could marry her Orthodox fiancé.

"I fell in love with Judaism," she said. "It's all about family, which I believe to be the secret to happiness. I never saw it as a losing or gaining situation, just an embracing situation. I think if one wanted to be buried next to one's beloved and they were Jewish, then one would have to be Jewish too."

Fisher -- who even took the Hebrew name Ayla -- isn't the first celebrity to find faith after finding love.

Christian Elizabeth Taylor also converted to Judaism before marrying her second husband Eddie Fisher. However, her religious leanings are as changeable as her husbands. Cleopatra star Taylor has since switched to Kabbalah, made famous by Madonna.

Raised a Catholic, Katie Holmes became a Scientologist after shacking up with the cult's most famous follower, Tom Cruise, in 2005. Couch-jumping Cruise has been a staunch advocate of the church since being introduced to it by first wife Mimi Rogers 20 years ago.

But religion has always been a bone of contention between TomKat -- with Katie winning the latest round in the battle for daughter Suri's belief system after enrolling the four-year-old in a Catholic pre-school.

Former No 10 resident Tony Blair came out of the closet as a Catholic when he converted from Anglicanism in 2007.

So should you jump spiritual ships for a partner?

Only if you're as committed to the creed as you are to them, says Anna-Marie Taylor, a psychologist specialising in spiritual counselling.

"Some women feel they'll only be able to marry the man they love by converting to his religion," she says. "Faith conversion is often a lengthy and complicated process, and many people don't take it seriously.

"It's a big deal not being able to partake in the traditions you were brought up with [like Christmas] -- and can result in a very difficult grieving process.

"It's important you consider what it would be like to bring up children without acknowledging the traditions that punctuated your own childhood."

With 86pc of people living here declaring themselves Catholic, the odds of discovering that your soul mate is a Buddhist, Muslim, Jew or Jedi seemed slim in the past.

But that's all changing, according to Rachel Sandall, editor of

"There's been a huge increase in interfaith marriages here in recent years," she says. "Even if a partner doesn't convert, these couples usually honour both cultures and religions -- for instance, by having a traditional Catholic ceremony followed by a Hindu reception."

And far from causing friction, religious diversity can make your relationship better, says psychologist Anna-Marie Taylor.

"It forces you to communicate your beliefs, accept other people's values and work out some common ground."

Irish Independent

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