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Author Topic: How do you describe your religious identity in public?  (Read 1700 times)

Eastling

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How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« on: December 31, 2017, 12:30:59 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?
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The words of Dionysos and Ariadne from the mouth of their beloved son: Rule with your heart; live with your conscience; love and be free.

Eastling

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2017, 12:34:22 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

As for myself, I've found that it's simplest and most accurate to say that I'm Jewish, I observe the Jewish sabbath, and I have a personal spirituality. It's not false--it omits the extent of my pagan leanings, but it's an accurate description for the most part. In more free-spirited social circles, I may indeed add that I also work with pagan gods and Powers, but that depends.

For the most part, people seem to find my explanation understandable--a lot of people who think of their faith as mainstream also would describe themselves as having "a personal spirituality" as well.
Utterly Pure, a virtual shrine in progress to Ariadne; Someday Comes Back, my general mysticism/pop culture blog.
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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2017, 02:14:05 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

I never had the sense enough to "tread lightly".  I try not to discuss religion in public - it's distasteful - but when I do I'm pretty up front and honest about it.  "Oh, I'm a witch."  For most people, I have enough of a creep factor on my own that they accept the answer and keep it moving.  For those who don't like that answer, wiggle your fingers, mumble your grocery shopping list and they'll keep it moving.  Everyone else is usually indifferent.  But then again, I find that it tends to keep annoying people at bay, which I'm perfectly happy with that.  And if THAT isn't enough, I'll show them the artificial hip I have that I collected after someone's cremation.  Or the random metal body parts junk bin.  That always gets a kick!
For he who has truly lived never truly dies.

Dynes Hysbys

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2017, 05:03:42 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

I don't find this an issue.

Anyone meeting me casually won't have any idea that I'm pagan. It isn't a topic that is much discussed in the UK amongst random acquaintances or even close friends.  To ask a stranger or even an acquaintance  what their religion is would be a very odd and rather rude question and I would feel under no obligation to give them an answer.

The very few who have asked have been on the way to becoming good friends (or were already) and had already picked up a few clues that my ways are different.  They get an honest answer - the amount of detail depends on their level of interest.  Those who don't want to know won't generally ask the question! I have a very good friend of 30 years standing who is a devout Christian - she knows ( she must do)  but she has never asked and never will. We don't discuss religion!

I have far more trouble in pagan space! People often want to know more detail than I'm happy to disclose so I hide behind pretty  labels (my user name here is one I use often). That usually suffices.

 

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2017, 09:10:38 am »
I try not to discuss religion in public - it's distasteful -

Exactly!

Quote
but when I do I'm pretty up front and honest about it.

Same here. On the rare occasion it comes up, I use the same description I use here at the Cauldron: I'm a "tree-hugging pagan." It has the benefit of being succinct, accurate (in placing me among the nature-centered pagan paths, like Wicca), and with just enough self-deprecating humor that it disarms most enquirers. If they need expansion, I explain that I draw my spirituality from the natural world.

But I have it easy here in a big, cosmopolitan city like New York. There is no presumed default religion here, as one might find in the U.S. Bible Belt; and New Yorkers see so much of everything, ethnically, culturally, and yes, religiously, that it all just rolls off our backs. If I had to live in a small town in the South, I suspect my response would be much more guarded.

Quote
"Oh, I'm a witch."  For most people, I have enough of a creep factor on my own that they accept the answer and keep it moving.  For those who don't like that answer, wiggle your fingers, mumble your grocery shopping list and they'll keep it moving.

The best shut-it-down response comes to me secondhand, from a gay guy who was being accosted by street proselytizers: "Can we talk to you for a moment?"
"Sorry, I'm busy."
"Too busy for Jesus?"
"I'm too busy sucking Satan's cock."
Cue dumbfounded expression. End of discussion.

Quote
And if THAT isn't enough, I'll show them the artificial hip I have that I collected after someone's cremation.  Or the random metal body parts junk bin.  That always gets a kick!

This past Thursday I got a "backstage" tour of the American Museum of Natural History (my favorite museum in the city; if you're ever in NYC, go!), and they took me to where they clean the flesh off the bones of newly collected specimens...using flesh-eating beetles. A bin of skeletal remains with beetles and their larva crawling on them! You would have loved it.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Oíche

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2017, 09:28:42 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

I usually just say pagan, or if pushed describe myself as a 'sort of druid'. Works pretty well!

I have had surprising incidents where people have just figured out that I was a witch but didn't make a big deal about it. A friend/work colleague casually mentioned it a few weeks ago and made me jump! I never discuss it in work settings, she must have figured it out from my pentacle I guess.  ;D
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EclecticWheel

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2017, 09:48:28 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

I do not disclose my religious path to people I am not close to, not even the more socially acceptable aspects of it.  Even here in the Bible belt I have not found people my age (thirty) or younger curious about religion in general, nor do they seem to assume that I adhere to one.  I can only hope this is a sign of impending secularization which I prefer to the fundamentalism and evangelicalism of these parts of the world.

As to proselytizers I deal with them based on my mood or who it is.  The Mormons always take special interest in me, and they're so friendly and have such an interesting religious history that I like to ask lots of questions or engage in conversation.  They take it well when I tell them I am not actually interested in conversion.

 The Jehovah's Witnesses tend to ignore me.  If they do give me reading materials I usually accept without comment and promptly throw it in the garbage once out of sight.  Depending how the person strikes me I may be more polite.  I still throw the material in the garbage.  It's just not interesting to me.

If I am dealing with a fundamentalist, especially a rude one, I usually completely ignore the person and move on or tell the person that I am an atheist and move on.  The atheist part shuts them up even though it's not how I typically describe myself, so I use it to my advantage.
Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Anisaer

Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2017, 10:09:54 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?


I live in a suburban approach rural part of Michigan, so, as Altair mentioned, the question and thus the answering is very different from more urban and progressive places.

It is pretty normal here to ask people you have recently met in casual conversation, “So where do you go to church?” The presumption is that you adhere to some form of Christianity and all that’s left is to sort people into their respective branches or denominations.

My response is usually, “I don’t” or “I haven’t found one I like in the area yet” (very true). Which usually leads to the questioner enthusiastically recommending their church while I nod politely and then change the subject.

I haven’t outright gotten the “What religion are you?” question. If I did, I’d probably say pantheist, witch, or “I practice nature-based spirituality.” All of those would probably get me a vacant smile and a new topic of conversation.


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Fier

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2017, 10:40:07 am »
What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

For me it's a non-issue. Never in casual conversation does the topic of religion come up. I've never even discussed religion with most people I've known for years.

It is pretty normal here to ask people you have recently met in casual conversation, “So where do you go to church?” The presumption is that you adhere to some form of Christianity and all that’s left is to sort people into their respective branches or denominations.

I used to live in rural Michigan (now I live in urban Michigan) and I do remember that question. My response was also, "I don't". Most people were too polite to press further.

Fier

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2017, 10:41:15 am »
For those who don't like that answer, wiggle your fingers, mumble your grocery shopping list and they'll keep it moving.
*snip*
And if THAT isn't enough, I'll show them the artificial hip I have that I collected after someone's cremation.  Or the random metal body parts junk bin.  That always gets a kick!

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2017, 10:43:31 am »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

This is one of those things I don't really have an answer to. I mean, I wear a big silver pentagram around my neck, but to be honest, most people either don't recognise it, or they don't care. Even at work, no one seems to mind. I've had a couple of questions about at my new work, but they were arguably either Wiccan themselves, or know about Wicca, so. And the one lady I chat to about it at work has a very open spirituality so it's not a huge issue with her, either. I helped her figure out she's a pantheist.

Most of the time, I just get on with the job I'm meant to be doing, and never bring it up unless someone else comments or asks. I'll usually play it by ear. Some people I might be open to saying pagan to, others I might say either that I'm spiritual, or I do my own thing. Usually, if I can sense it's not worth the conversation, I just leave it at that and don't go back to it. Politely, of course, as working in a thrift store you kind of can't just shut down chatting with customers, it's part of the job, but sometimes it's better to just let it slide. Most of the time, no one bothers me about it.
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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2017, 01:44:09 pm »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?


When it is brought up, I may describe my religion as a polytheistic version of Abrahamism... inspired by Babylonian and Sumerian mythology and all Abrahamic religion, drawing also from the strengths of any religion I Will.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2017, 01:47:16 pm by Goddess_Ashtara »
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Darkhawk

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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2017, 02:17:24 pm »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

Like Dynes Hysbys, I have more problems with this in pagan circles than outside of them, because in a lot of general use paganism what I actually do is invisible, not respected as a real pagan thing, or various other things. I can't just say what it is without getting a "What's that?" followup and it's just tiring.

For public consumption, I generally say either that I'm pagan or that I'm a UU depending on context and mood.
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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2017, 04:01:34 pm »
A lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

I avoid it at work, because I'm a librarian who interacts with a wide range of different people (and in particular, it's important to me that people from a wide range of perspectives feel reasonably comfortable approaching me for help.) I don't wear religious jewelry that's obviously a religious symbol, I talk about my practice only slowly and in a limited manner even with coworkers (the ones I don't see outside of work) and so on.

(It's much less of an issue in my current job, but there's always a chance I may want to go back to a more public service library role in the future, so I keep my online identities separate, including avoiding video/image stuff with me talking about Pagan stuff. Also related is that I talk about the chronic health stuff as Jenett, but not under my legal name, and of course that has implications for future employment options, even though in an ideal world, it really shouldn't.)

Why? Because whatever their reaction is (whether positive or negative or cautious, and I've had all three) it's a disruption to whatever information they wanted help finding. And since my job is to help them find that info or resource or get closer to finding it, that's not a good thing.

This year, I was more explicit that I take the week of winter solstice off because I celebrate solstice and stay up all night for it (or at least attempt to) and people made pleasant noises about it, and didn't ask more questions.

(I do think solstice is a little less obviously Pagan/witchy than Samhain, for example. In the past I've taken the day off work for it when I had major group ritual stuff going - it's just really hard to work a full day, ideally fast moderately, and then do a 3 hour ritual set up, a 3 hour ritual, and cleanup afterwards. But I took it as a personal day, not explicitly religious.)

I do talk about it with people I'm friends with outside of work, or people I meet socially, mostly as it becomes relevant. And I'll wear Pagan-relevant t-shirts, jewelry, etc. if I'm out socially and it's appropriate (though a lot of mine are still pretty obscure: the only piece of jewelry I have with a pentacle on it is my 1st degree pendant, which has it on one side, and which I don't wear anymore, because if I'm going to wear one of those, I wear the 3rd degree one, which is less obvious symbology.)

When I do describe it, I have mostly settled into "Religious witchcraft - similar to Wicca, if you're familiar with it, but that's not the label I use for reasons." and if they want to talk more about it, that's fine, and if not, that's fine too.

I also have lived in places where asking about religion (or what church one attends) are not common, and are considered moderately rude in a lot of circumstances, which means the topic usually only comes up when it's more 'friends getting to know each other' and I start talking about where I spend my time outside of work.
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Re: How do you describe your religious identity in public?
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2017, 07:27:53 pm »
I never had the sense enough to "tread lightly".  I try not to discuss religion in public - it's distasteful - but when I do I'm pretty up front and honest about it.

I think this is probably a sensible approach for a lot of people. It just doesn't need to come up in public.

But as others have noted in the thread, it also depends on where you're from. When I grew up in a very Irish-Italian New Jersey suburb, my classmates would talk freely about things they'd done in church or earlier experiences in Catholic school. Sometimes I did have to mention that, actually, I was going to have a bat mitzvah and not anything related to communion or church confirmation, for example. Since then, I've moved to the more urbanized parts of the Pacific Northwest, and here religion is quite prominent in a fairly relaxed way. In the suburbs, Mormon missionaries show up a lot but are usually polite, and I've had occasion to explain to them that I'm Jewish and use the opportunity to educate them a little about Jewish culture. With them, I don't bring up the pagan stuff at all. On the other hand, several of my friends in the city know quite a bit about my practice, and some are exploring pagan spiritualities themselves, so are essentially my co-mystics.

What sparked off this thread was an experience getting to know a coworker at my new workplace--a middle-aged Irish woman who wears a small tasteful Celtic cross pendant. I complimented her pendant; we discovered that we both loved the music of Bruce Springsteen and talked a bit about the Catholic imagery in his songs; she mentioned that she listens to a New Age-style metaphysics/spirituality/philosophy podcast of some kind. That kind of casual conversation about religious matters is fairly normal in the culture I currently live in, and as I've expanded the importance of my very personalized spirituality in my life, I've had to think about how to navigate it.
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The words of Dionysos and Ariadne from the mouth of their beloved son: Rule with your heart; live with your conscience; love and be free.

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