Here’s this month’s discussion at the Kemetic Round Table:
Underground Kemeticism: How public are you about your beliefs and practices? How has it (or not) impacted your work life, your familial and friendly ties? What advice would you give to uncertain Kemetics about how to approach either telling or not telling others about their beliefs?
I don’t exactly shove my religion into people’s faces, but I refuse to hide my faith from anyone. This attitude has been known to get me in trouble in certain places I’ve lived, but luckily it isn’t really too much of a problem where I live now. Some people don’t understand what my beliefs are all about – and unless they ask me to explain, I don’t really go out of my way to do so – but everyone who knows me is at least aware that I’m not a Christian or an atheist and that I’m really into ancient Egypt. Most of them are aware of Seth’s role in my life, too, though many of them don’t really know who He is. I’m more than happy to answer any questions anyone might have about this, but I try to walk a fine line between not hiding my faith (like I’m some kind of criminal) and not launching off into annoying lectures at every possible moment.
My faith has no impact on my work life, or at least not in any public capacity. I don’t talk about religion with anyone at work, as I consider this inappropriate; but I do have a few things at my desk to represent my faith. I have an image of Seth battling
Apophis and defending Ra’s solar barque on the wall. It’s nothing fancy; I just printed it out from a website and pinned it to the wall above my computer monitor. It helps me to feel better when something makes me anxious or upset at work. No one even notices that it’s there, and if they do, they just think I’m into Egyptology (which is certainly true). They don’t realize it’s actually one of the world’s cheapest apotropaic charms. If someone were to ask me what it was, I’d be honest and tell them; but I have yet to be asked that question, and I’ve been working there for quite a while now. I don’t feel it’s the least bit inappropriate, either, because other people at the office have little things about Jesus on their walls – and if Jesus is allowed at my office, then so is Big Red!
When I came out to my parents about being a son of Seth, my mother actually understood (sort of) and even encouraged me to keep following my path. But my father freaked out about it and we had a lot of trouble getting along throughout the remainder of my teenage years (and even throughout my twenties). In retrospect, this wasn’t entirely my Dad’s fault; I really didn’t do a very good job of explaining to him just what I was on about. It didn’t help that I was a big fan of Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey at the time, which must have made my spiritual choices seem pretty nefarious. Plus, my Dad had some friends who got brainwashed into becoming Scientologists back in the 1970s, so he tends to be understandably skeptical about new religious movements in general. But I think we finally came to terms about all of this stuff when I got married. Once my Dad got to see what a modern Egyptian/Babylonian polytheist wedding ceremony was actually like, he came around to accepting my faith as “normal.”
Things are a bit different on my wife’s side of the family. Her father and his family are perfectly accepting of us; they even ask us questions and discuss it with us openly in a very respectful (and interested) manner. Her mother’s family, however, is a traditional Catholic family. Many of them don’t understand anything outside of Catholicism, and my aunt-in-law is particularly incensed about the fact that we didn’t have a Catholic wedding. The interesting thing here is that she doesn’t seem to give a damn about what might happen to our souls after we die; her primary complaint against our Paganism is that she thinks it reflects “badly” on the rest of the family. Oh well, you can’t be liked by everyone. To their credit, my wife’s mother and uncles make a good effort to at least be respectful toward us and our faith (even though it’s clear they don’t really understand it, and they don’t seem to want to). The thing that bugs me is that some of them seem to think that I somehow “brainwashed” my wife into becoming a Pagan and that she was just a good little Catholic girl before we met. (The truth is that we’d never have met in the first place if we hadn’t both already been practicing polytheists, since that’s the first thing we ever bonded over. It’s just that my wife preferred to conceal her religious identity from her family up to that point, while I’ve always been pretty blunt about my faith to everyone I know.)
Whether or not you should tell anyone else about your faith is a decision that’s entirely up to you. In making this decision, you must take all the variables of your own situation into account. Do you live in an area where people can get lynched or shot for not being Christian or Muslim? Do you have children who might be treated differently by other kids at their school for having “weird” parents? Would you rather stand up to your family and have a wedding ceremony that explicitly honors your own God(s), or would you prefer to just go along with whatever keeps your family happy? I know how I would answer each of these questions, but my answers are mine alone. It’s not my place to tell anyone else how they “should” answer these questions.
There are potential risks to be considered no matter what you do. If you decide to be open about your faith, some people will argue with you and try to dissuade you from it. Some might even try to make life harder for you and get you fired from your job or something like that (which can be especially bad if you have several mouths to feed at home). On the other hand, keeping silent about your faith also causes potential problems. You could be sending a message to your kids that people like us just aren’t free to share our opinions and that they should live in terror of anyone who’s Christian, Muslim, etc. But perhaps the worst thing about silence is that our situation as a community can only be changed if more of us become more outspoken. We can’t really blame the world for not noticing or caring about us when we never speak up.
There’s no simple answer to any of this. I can only say that I generally choose to be outspoken about my faith wherever and whenever it seems appropriate (e.g., not at work) and that I simply WILL NOT tolerate being mistreated for doing so BY ANYONE. I’m entitled to all the same freedoms and liberties that Christians enjoy, and I will exercise them (within reason). Mind you, there are situations in which it seems best not to talk or be open about my faith. If it’s just going to make things harder for my wife if I challenge someone’s claim that “Nobody’s cooler than Jesus!” at her maternal cousin’s Catholic wedding, I do my very best to keep my trap shut and mouth off about it later. But my way of dealing with all of this isn’t the best way for everyone.