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Author Topic: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?  (Read 2615 times)

Grey&Golden

How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« on: May 11, 2013, 11:42:00 am »
I'm sure there's been many topics about this but I really wanted some advice on how to explain my beliefs to my mother (the only person I live with). I'm very secretive about it, and she has no idea that I'm a hard polytheist. She knows that I'm "spiritual", because I've bought candles and incense and doing meditation/prayers. But I never elaborated on what I believe to her.

She thinks that I'm an agnostic/atheist. Because I tend to criticize Christianity a lot just in conversation, bringing up conversations about critical thinking and being frustrated with the way Christians act and believe. She's under the impression that I don't believe in any god, which obviously, isn't true, I just disagree with the Abrahamic religions. Recently, I told her that I held many beliefs that are animistic in nature and that I "relate" to the old polytheistic beliefs. She gave me a quick queer look but seemed to accept it and agreed with me a bit on animism.

Normally - I'd just keep quiet like I am. I have no desire whatsoever to have to go into depth about it. But, I've been really wanting to make a small shrine for my patron deity, so I can have a specific place to pray and there's a lovely statue I'd like to get. But, how would I tell my mother about the statue? How do I tell her that I believe in the greek gods? It just seems like it would be a very awkward conversation. It's like someone you thought was an atheist that criticizes religion, saying they wanted to build a shrine to the magical purple unicorn. I hate to compare to that, but nowadays, people see the greek gods as being just myths, so I fear that's how she'd see it. So, how do I do this? Has anyone else done this in a similar situation?

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Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2013, 01:47:19 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108398
I'm sure there's been many topics about this but I really wanted some advice on how to explain my beliefs to my mother (the only person I live with). I'm very secretive about it, and she has no idea that I'm a hard polytheist. She knows that I'm "spiritual", because I've bought candles and incense and doing meditation/prayers. But I never elaborated on what I believe to her.

She thinks that I'm an agnostic/atheist. Because I tend to criticize Christianity a lot just in conversation, bringing up conversations about critical thinking and being frustrated with the way Christians act and believe. She's under the impression that I don't believe in any god, which obviously, isn't true, I just disagree with the Abrahamic religions. Recently, I told her that I held many beliefs that are animistic in nature and that I "relate" to the old polytheistic beliefs. She gave me a quick queer look but seemed to accept it and agreed with me a bit on animism.

Normally - I'd just keep quiet like I am. I have no desire whatsoever to have to go into depth about it. But, I've been really wanting to make a small shrine for my patron deity, so I can have a specific place to pray and there's a lovely statue I'd like to get. But, how would I tell my mother about the statue? How do I tell her that I believe in the greek gods? It just seems like it would be a very awkward conversation. It's like someone you thought was an atheist that criticizes religion, saying they wanted to build a shrine to the magical purple unicorn. I hate to compare to that, but nowadays, people see the greek gods as being just myths, so I fear that's how she'd see it. So, how do I do this? Has anyone else done this in a similar situation?


Non-christian=atheist; an old stereotype. I don't like stereotypes, so I would be one to tell her that religion is much more complex than that. Believing that no one worships the old gods anymore can also be a stereotype; if you put your shrine up and she says something like "no one does that anymore" you can show her reconstructionist websites and books on the subject.

About having a sit down with her and explaining everything...personally, I'm an extremely private person, and unless I was asked a direct question about what I was doing, I don't think I would discuss my religion otherwise, because it's no one else's business. That's just me, though. Your mother may be more noisy than mine.

Grey&Golden

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2013, 02:20:24 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;108410
Non-christian=atheist; an old stereotype. I don't like stereotypes, so I would be one to tell her that religion is much more complex than that. Believing that no one worships the old gods anymore can also be a stereotype; if you put your shrine up and she says something like "no one does that anymore" you can show her reconstructionist websites and books on the subject.

About having a sit down with her and explaining everything...personally, I'm an extremely private person, and unless I was asked a direct question about what I was doing, I don't think I would discuss my religion otherwise, because it's no one else's business. That's just me, though. Your mother may be more noisy than mine.

My mother is quite open-minded, and she'd never openly make-fun of it, nor say that no one does it anymore. She's seen a book in my room about Hellenismos, so she's aware that I'm interested in old religions. I've hinted at such. It's just, hinting at such and showing interest in reconstruction is one thing - having a statue shipped to our house and displayed is quite another, it's a much more "in your face" admission of belief. She would never deny it for me, she supports me in everything I do. I just have no idea what her response is truly going to be. Open worship is most likely going to be a shock.
 
I wouldn't describe her as nosy, per se. I know that once I explain it initially, she won't bother me about it anymore and will just accept it as a part of my spirituality (which she already knows I have to some extent). It's that initial conversation that I'm, honestly, terrified of having. I'm trying to recite in my head what I could possibly say as an explanation - a brief, short, undetailed explanation. I'm extremely private, so this is very hard for me. I know the concept of hard polytheism is too much for her to understand, so I have to think of some other way... Perhaps I could say that ever since I was young I connected to Artemis (my patron, and the statue I'm getting)(she knows I've been obsessed with Greek mythology forever, so that wouldn't be a surprise), and that I express my spirituality through connecting to her? That perhaps what She represents gives me strength? So it's for that reason, that I connect to her for my spiritual prayers? Does that sound good? It's vague, and could make sense to someone that isn't familiar..

Just to clarify, my mother isn't a Christian, nor is she religious in any way. She's connected to nature very much though, and I'd say she probably believes in some sort of higher power, but she doesn't talk much about the subject nor bother herself about it (as far as I know). So she won't be offended or anything. Like I said, she's accepting, I just fear the awkward conversation. It's just the way I talk about Christianity, probably gave a certain impression. I may have to explain how polytheism/paganism differs, and why I accept paganism and not Christianity.. I have talked of the difference before with her, but just from a conversational standpoint, not as a "I actually am a polytheist" standpoint.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2013, 02:26:01 pm by Grey&Golden »

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Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2013, 04:27:49 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108398
Normally - I'd just keep quiet like I am. I have no desire whatsoever to have to go into depth about it. But, I've been really wanting to make a small shrine for my patron deity, so I can have a specific place to pray and there's a lovely statue I'd like to get. But, how would I tell my mother about the statue? How do I tell her that I believe in the greek gods? It just seems like it would be a very awkward conversation. It's like someone you thought was an atheist that criticizes religion, saying they wanted to build a shrine to the magical purple unicorn. I hate to compare to that, but nowadays, people see the greek gods as being just myths, so I fear that's how she'd see it. So, how do I do this? Has anyone else done this in a similar situation?

 
If you want to talk to her, perhaps start by explaining why the Greek gods make sense to you when the Christian one doesn't.  I'm assuming there's something you find more sensible about Hellenismos, so I think that would be a good starting point.  My mom's rather similar to how you describe yours, and my experience has been that talking in a calm way about why this appeals to you and what you see in it is a good approach.  Perhaps if you want to talk about gods specifically, you could say something like, "I follow Artemis and I want to worship Her because I really admire [whatever characteristics draw you to Her]."  I explained the Morrigan to my mom in a similar way, basically by saying, "As a goddess of war, death, and fertility, I feel like She teaches lessons about meeting your fate with honor, and about understanding your place in the world."

Grey&Golden

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2013, 07:19:02 pm »
Quote from: Snowdrop;108421
If you want to talk to her, perhaps start by explaining why the Greek gods make sense to you when the Christian one doesn't.  I'm assuming there's something you find more sensible about Hellenismos, so I think that would be a good starting point.  My mom's rather similar to how you describe yours, and my experience has been that talking in a calm way about why this appeals to you and what you see in it is a good approach.  Perhaps if you want to talk about gods specifically, you could say something like, "I follow Artemis and I want to worship Her because I really admire [whatever characteristics draw you to Her]."  I explained the Morrigan to my mom in a similar way, basically by saying, "As a goddess of war, death, and fertility, I feel like She teaches lessons about meeting your fate with honor, and about understanding your place in the world."

 
Thanks for your advice. It'd be hard to explain why I believe in Hellenismos, honestly. I have two halves of my brain, I have the science-side, and then I have the side where I feel and know things I can't explain, which is this. When I learned of the gods, it just "clicked" for me, and I felt the presence of the gods. I relate to Artemis in particular because of what she stands for, so in that sense, I could explain why I worship her, just as you did with the Morrigan, as it's similar for me.

I just feel so nervous about it.. I know I'm probably blowing this out of proportion and it won't be a big thing, but it's the unknowing that's killing me. I'm not sure why I'm so scared. I've talked of polytheism to her before, so she probably already has an inkling that I believe in the gods myself. I know she'll be fine with it even if it takes her off-guard. I think I'm just so nervous because I've never told anyone in person about my beliefs.. ever. And I've believed in the gods for 10 years. So, finally breaking the silence is incredibly scary for me.

I'll probably order the statue on Monday if I can get my money in order.. *deep breath*

Emma Eldritch

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2013, 09:42:18 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108414
My mother is quite open-minded, and she'd never openly make-fun of it, nor say that no one does it anymore. She's seen a book in my room about Hellenismos, so she's aware that I'm interested in old religions. I've hinted at such. It's just, hinting at such and showing interest in reconstruction is one thing - having a statue shipped to our house and displayed is quite another, it's a much more "in your face" admission of belief. She would never deny it for me, she supports me in everything I do. I just have no idea what her response is truly going to be. Open worship is most likely going to be a shock.

 
Do you think she might benefit from reading one of your books? Sometimes it's easier to give a brief overview and then hand something over that has the information more clearly laid out - it can be really hard to do in conversation. You could give her a book and then say, "ask me questions after reading this." That way she's a bit more informed and you don't have to try and explain everything in one sitting.

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Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2013, 10:13:34 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108435
I just feel so nervous about it.. I know I'm probably blowing this out of proportion and it won't be a big thing, but it's the unknowing that's killing me. I'm not sure why I'm so scared. I've talked of polytheism to her before, so she probably already has an inkling that I believe in the gods myself. I know she'll be fine with it even if it takes her off-guard. I think I'm just so nervous because I've never told anyone in person about my beliefs.. ever. And I've believed in the gods for 10 years. So, finally breaking the silence is incredibly scary for me.


Nervousness is perfectly understandable, I think especially so if you've never fully shared your spirituality with anyone before.  But if you're not comfortable, you're not comfortable, and the way I'm reading your comments it's as if you feel compelled to share with her right here and right now.  Why do you think you need to have this conversation with your mom at this point?
Profanity is a social construct.

Grey&Golden

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2013, 11:09:47 am »
Quote from: Mama Fortuna;108446
Do you think she might benefit from reading one of your books?


It might benefit, maybe. But I think I'm leaning towards trying to keep it as private as I can, since I know polytheism is a bit over her head. I was thinking just explaining it in terms of the relation of the gods with nature might be sufficient, since that is something she could grasp. Hard polytheism, and what is described in the Hellenismos book, might be a bit much? I'm not sure.
 
Quote from: MadZealot;108450
Nervousness is perfectly understandable, I think especially so if you've never fully shared your spirituality with anyone before.  But if you're not comfortable, you're not comfortable, and the way I'm reading your comments it's as if you feel compelled to share with her right here and right now.  Why do you think you need to have this conversation with your mom at this point?

 
Well, I want to build a shrine and purchase this statue, it's important for me, since I've wanted to do so for a long time and never have. A conversation would be necessary for her to understand what it is and why I bought it. If I say I want to buy a statue of a greek goddess (which isn't that tiny, it's a nice medium sized one), her response is going to be "why" and I can't bring myself to lie about it because I'm a horrible liar and get anxious and start looking suspicious. :ashamed: It's been ten years of hiding, it's pretty apparent by now that I'm never going to be comfortable sharing. But if I want to build a small shrine, I need to open up just a little bit to explain what it is.

Emma Eldritch

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2013, 12:36:48 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108469
It might benefit, maybe. But I think I'm leaning towards trying to keep it as private as I can, since I know polytheism is a bit over her head. I was thinking just explaining it in terms of the relation of the gods with nature might be sufficient, since that is something she could grasp. Hard polytheism, and what is described in the Hellenismos book, might be a bit much? I'm not sure.


Maybe it's the lack of coffee, but my first response is "how is polytheism complicated?" I obviously don't know your mom, or you, but it does strike me as a bit confusing that you assume she can't understand the idea of "I believe in more than one god." Maybe that's an oversimplification, but I'm thinking of my own mother - she gets those sort of concepts, but has a difficult time explaining them and remains devoid of all interest in looking at the whys and hows of religion and magic. But that doesn't mean she doesn't understand the basic idea.

You know your mom better than any of us, so in the end it's up to you, but you do sound like... REALLY nervous, to the point you may not be giving her enough credit. You've stated several times that she's very accepting, so really what's the worst that could happen? She says, "I don't get it"?

Grey&Golden

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2013, 12:57:11 pm »
Quote from: Mama Fortuna;108480

You know your mom better than any of us, so in the end it's up to you, but you do sound like... REALLY nervous, to the point you may not be giving her enough credit. You've stated several times that she's very accepting, so really what's the worst that could happen? She says, "I don't get it"?

 
Ah, I know, you're right. I think it's my nerves and anxiety just making me feel as though she wouldn't get it. She'll know what polytheism means, I guess I meant more like, she won't get why I believe in many gods versus just believing in one. And I don't have any truly satisfactory answers as to why other than personal intuition, which for some reason, I feel uncomfortable saying. Probably because I'm so vocal about my support of science.

I apologize for talking round in circles here. I'll just speak up at the right time about the statue, see how it goes and try not to feel nervous about it.

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Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2013, 12:59:07 pm »
Quote from: Mama Fortuna;108480
You know your mom better than any of us, so in the end it's up to you, but you do sound like... REALLY nervous, to the point you may not be giving her enough credit. You've stated several times that she's very accepting, so really what's the worst that could happen? She says, "I don't get it"?


I think when you're new to a religion and people ask you questions you don't feel you're equipped to answer yet, it can make you nervous.  I think the most important thing to remember is that you're not required to have all the answers in order to start the conversation.

"I don't know" is often a perfectly acceptable answer to a question.  Follow it up with an "I'll find out" or "I'll look into it and get back to you" and you're golden.

Brina

DashesAgainst

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2013, 05:31:29 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108469
Well, I want to build a shrine and purchase this statue, it's important for me, since I've wanted to do so for a long time and never have. A conversation would be necessary for her to understand what it is and why I bought it. If I say I want to buy a statue of a greek goddess (which isn't that tiny, it's a nice medium sized one), her response is going to be "why" and I can't bring myself to lie about it because I'm a horrible liar and get anxious and start looking suspicious. :ashamed: It's been ten years of hiding, it's pretty apparent by now that I'm never going to be comfortable sharing. But if I want to build a small shrine, I need to open up just a little bit to explain what it is.

You could just bring your statue out when the shrine is being used for worship, and maybe have less obvious, deity inspired pieces in place during the off times.   That's what I do!

If my family knew I believed in the Greek gods, they'd think I was nuts (heck, they'd probably drive me to a mental hospital!)  So a lot of my religious paraphernalia is of the "stealth" variety.   My shrine to Apollo, for example, consists of a 3-tiered corner shelf in my bedroom.  It has a gold-tinted,  glass votive holder on the top, a teacup decorated with Apollo and Artemis and the muses on the middle shelf, which serves as an incense holder, and two brass swans on the bottom.   It just looks like a pretty decoration.  During worship, I add a statuette to the bottom shelf, or a miniature vase with flowers - other times I just leave it as is.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2013, 05:36:10 pm by DashesAgainst »
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Emma Eldritch

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2013, 06:09:02 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108483
Ah, I know, you're right. I think it's my nerves and anxiety just making me feel as though she wouldn't get it. She'll know what polytheism means, I guess I meant more like, she won't get why I believe in many gods versus just believing in one. And I don't have any truly satisfactory answers as to why other than personal intuition, which for some reason, I feel uncomfortable saying. Probably because I'm so vocal about my support of science.

I apologize for talking round in circles here. I'll just speak up at the right time about the statue, see how it goes and try not to feel nervous about it.

 
There's no reason to apologise, and I do understand why this would be nerve wracking. I mean... religion is a deeply personal thing, and it's very hard to explain without sounding dumb. I just think you have to remember that nerves can make things seem a lot scarier than they are.

If you think it would help you feel a bit more confident, you could always draft up the most likely questions your mum would ask, and answer them on paper.

Evening Star

Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2013, 04:52:41 pm »
Quote from: yewberry;108484
I think when you're new to a religion and people ask you questions you don't feel you're equipped to answer yet, it can make you nervous.  I think the most important thing to remember is that you're not required to have all the answers in order to start the conversation.

"I don't know" is often a perfectly acceptable answer to a question.  Follow it up with an "I'll find out" or "I'll look into it and get back to you" and you're golden.

 
I totally agree with this.

Breathe and take your time. Also, we are never obligated to explain ourselves to others. Definitely not where personal beliefs are concerned. :)
"Paint the flying spirit of the bird rather than its feathers" - Robert Henri

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Re: How to Explain Beliefs to Family?
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2013, 05:18:13 pm »
Quote from: Grey&Golden;108483
Ah, I know, you're right. I think it's my nerves and anxiety just making me feel as though she wouldn't get it. She'll know what polytheism means, I guess I meant more like, she won't get why I believe in many gods versus just believing in one. And I don't have any truly satisfactory answers as to why other than personal intuition, which for some reason, I feel uncomfortable saying. Probably because I'm so vocal about my support of science.

I apologize for talking round in circles here. I'll just speak up at the right time about the statue, see how it goes and try not to feel nervous about it.

 
You're not talking around in circles. You're absolutely fine, in fact.
Honestly, I think that you've got a good sense of what you need to do and whatever you choose, it'll work out just fine. :)
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