Oh absolutely a religion, and as you say a good opportunity for that bonding. My reference to the cultural bit was that, albeit a religion, I think the author is mainly using it to highlight the cultural gap between Geary's and everyone else's approach to it.
Also I must confess with some embarassment that Orson Scott Card is an author I've not yet read, he has been in my TBR for far too long.
I have since gone on to read Ender's Game which I enjoyed but had some issues with. I went on to Speaker For the Dead, which I also enjoyed but had probably more issues with. With the general view that I have seen around on the following books I think it unlikely that I will continue with them. I certainly feel no burning need to know what happens next.Don't fret. I could only read Ender's Game. I don't know why but O.S.Card doesn't suit me. Heh.
Edit: I forgot quote from Vertigo. Below.