There is a difference between faith and religion. Your faith is what you believe, your personal code of conduct, your morals. Your religion is how you practice your faith, how you please your god. Something like that.
My personal faith is fairly solid, but I'm not going into that. I've been thinking about religion.
I am Jewish, I belong to a synagogue, and I have been bat-mitzvah-ed. My synagogue is conservative with reconstructionist leanings. However, I've been raised fairly secular. The Hewbrew school I attended to prepare for my bat mitzvah was held at a Jewish Community Center (JCC), the class for all the Jewish kids who didn't actually belong to any synagogue (we didn't at the time). It was quite relaxed, and I was one of about two kids who managed to leave knowing the entire Hebrew alphabet. We were accomplished by comparison.
This year I decided to attend confirmation classes at my synagogue. Jewish confirmation exists (who knew?), and is called prozdor (I have no idea...). I am going to be confirmed on June 8th. Surprisingly, I am one of the more religious students in my class. I keep strictly kosher for Passover, and fast on Yom Kippur. I am quite lacking in my knowledge of prayers and Jewish values, however. But that's not what I want to talk about either.
In July, my second-cousin (as in the daughter of my father's cousin) is getting married. She's twenty. She's Orthodox. That whole branch of the family is. I made a friend not too long ago who is extremely Conservative, but not quite Orthodox. I had dinner a couple nights ago at an Orthodox family's house. I rather like the Orthodox traditions.
I think that as I get older, I will become more religious. I don't predict my faith changing much, but religious practices. Right now, I'm contemplating starting to keep kosher/kashrut. This would entail not eating pork or shellfish, and separating meat and dairy, waiting a certain amount of time before eating one after the other. Traditionally, separate dishes and utensils and cookware are used as well, one set for meat, another for dairy. I think that is overkill. Washing is enough. Soap and water can take care of the "meat" label after eating some cow on that plate. Wash it, and arrange some cheese and crackers. Fine by me.
I'm not sure how I feel about the preparation. Do I feel the need to get my meat from a kosher butcher, or will any beef do? I'm not really sure. Will everything I eat need to be certified? I'm not sure how picky I want to get. I do feel like since I'm not worrying about kashering (making kosher) dishes, I should be more strict with the food itself.
I am a huge fan of self-discipline. That's the reason that I already fast on Yom Kippur and such. I like to prove to myself that I can. However, there are reasons beyond that for why I am doing this.
Judaism is all about community. We pray together, singing out in unison. We schmooze at Oneg Shabbat. We celebrate holidays with extended families and friends. Following Jewish traditions makes me feel more a part of the community. It is something shared. I know that when I long for some challah at Passover instead of horrible dry matzo, someone else is thinking the exact same thing. It's a nice feeling.