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Author Topic: Your Birth Religion and your Current Path  (Read 15760 times)
Nehet
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« Topic Start: March 27, 2011, 03:57:43 pm »

I'm still in Cleveland right now, spending time with my family after my brother's death.   There have been a lot of religious ceremonies and prayers. It's brought up a lot of issues for me.  I'm starting to think about my ancestral connections, and how they are inextricably linked to Catholicism. 

There are some contradictions right now that I am trying to resolve.  I don't know how to support my family and honor my ancestors without honoring the Christian God. 

The problem is that I don't know how to honor the Christian God as one God among many.  I'm not sure he'd be cool with that.  Giving up my relationships with other Gods is, of course, not an option. 

Also, I can't really comply with the demands Catholicism would put on me.  Weekly mass?  No.  Chastity before marriage?  Um, I'm essentially celibate but I'm not giving up the option to change that.  As for the Chruch's views on same-sex relationships, birth control, female clergy...well, those are the main reasons I left the Church to begin with. 

My parents want me to attend mass for my brother's sake, and I'm not sure I can make it work.  Technically, I'm in mortal sin and cannot take communion.  I'm not sure that merely observing mass is enough, but taking communion might insult their God.

I've been spending a lot of time writing and re-writing this post, and I'm not sure what I'm saying.   I know there have been a lot of threads on integrating Christianity and Paganism.  I'm not interested in rituals that combine the two traditions.  I'm just wondering what people think about developing a connection with their birth religion, for the sake of their ancestors.  Is this a valid reason?

Somehow a rosary on the Akh shrine doesn't seem like enough anymore...unless I actively pray that rosary. 

But, this could just be grief and guilt.  Again, I'm not sure what I'm saying.   Undecided
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« Reply #1: March 27, 2011, 04:42:15 pm »

I've been spending a lot of time writing and re-writing this post, and I'm not sure what I'm saying.   I know there have been a lot of threads on integrating Christianity and Paganism.  I'm not interested in rituals that combine the two traditions.  I'm just wondering what people think about developing a connection with their birth religion, for the sake of their ancestors.  Is this a valid reason?

My personal opinion is that, yes, it's valid. Although, I don't think you need to actively start practicing Catholicism to honour your ancestors in that way, but I guess it is up to you to see how much you feel comfortable with, and if you still feel this way when the grief is no longer so fresh.

Aspects of Catholicism can be integrated into pagan traditions, I think. I went to a Catholic high school, even though my father is basically an atheist and my mother is a lapsed Christian, so I had very little religious upbringing in my immediate family (it was just the best and most convenient school in the neighbourhood). I found it fairly easy to equate God and Mary with Aphrodite, and Jesus with Adonis/Dionysus, from the perspective of my own tradition. During masses and liturgies I just thought of my own gods rather than the Christian images, and to be honest it was hard to be in that kind of atmosphere sometimes, but there are ways to make it work.

I was weird in that I actually liked going to church, even as a child. My parents never wanted to go, but whenever I stayed with my grandparents for a weekend, I would ask to go to church with them. I just enjoyed the aesthetics of it, if not what was actually being said, like the stained glass windows, the architecture, the candles, and the statues. I also really enjoy choral music, and was even in my high school's choir singing the Jesus songs during class liturgies. That said, I don't incorporate Christianity into my practice now, although I still have a statue of Mother Mary in my bedroom.

This probably isn't that helpful for you since we're coming from different backgrounds, but I think you should only do what makes you comfortable and not practice a religion because your family wants you to. A big part of Kemeticism is honouring the dead, so you have plenty of room within your own tradition to do that without necessarily adopting the religion of your ancestors. If you want to attend mass regularly (or once in while), or associate Christian religious figures with Egyptian gods, I think that is perfectly acceptable. I don't think you have to practice Catholicism all the way to have a connection to it.
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« Reply #2: March 27, 2011, 06:00:40 pm »

There are some contradictions right now that I am trying to resolve.  I don't know how to support my family and honor my ancestors without honoring the Christian God. 

The problem is that I don't know how to honor the Christian God as one God among many.  I'm not sure he'd be cool with that.  Giving up my relationships with other Gods is, of course, not an option.

I think you should be able to honor the Christian God as the God of others you care about. Asking him to care for those who do follow him because you are truly concerned about them doesn't strike me as something any deity -- except perhaps the Fundie version of the Christian God -- could take great offense at.
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« Reply #3: March 27, 2011, 06:52:08 pm »



My parents want me to attend mass for my brother's sake, and I'm not sure I can make it work.  Technically, I'm in mortal sin and cannot take communion.  I'm not sure that merely observing mass is enough, but taking communion might insult their God.

I've been spending a lot of time writing and re-writing this post, and I'm not sure what I'm saying.   I know there have been a lot of threads on integrating Christianity and Paganism.  I'm not interested in rituals that combine the two traditions.  I'm just wondering what people think about developing a connection with their birth religion, for the sake of their ancestors.  Is this a valid reason?

Somehow a rosary on the Akh shrine doesn't seem like enough anymore...unless I actively pray that rosary. 

But, this could just be grief and guilt.  Again, I'm not sure what I'm saying.   Undecided

I have attended church before at the request of my family and I took it as a way to honor my family and the ancestors that were Christian.  I was polite and respectful.  I sat in my seat while Communion was being offered.  I did not partake in Communion because it would contradict my own vows to my Gods and it is an integral part of their religion to their God and I am not of their religion or oathed to their God. 

For polytheists, the Christian God is just one among many gods.  As I would not pray to Him while I am in front of my shrine, I would not pray to my Gods in His Church (unless it is an interfaith one).  If you feel uncomfortable praying, then perhaps, you could just sit quietly.  It's the process of going there that you are offering to your ancestors and to your grieving self.  Let the process happen as it needs to happen.  Let it unfold.  I'd also suggest praying to your ancestors before you go to church.  You could even ask them to watch over you there. 

Going to a church to honor your ancestors is a great idea and a good reason to go to church.  It sounds like this is something you need to do to help you with grieving.  I don't think the Christian God would mind and I don't think your Gods would either. 
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« Reply #4: March 27, 2011, 07:34:32 pm »


Thank you for starting this topic. I, too, had been wondering how I should reconcile the religion of my family/ancestors (Catholicism) with my own, because even though I want nothing to do with Catholicism or the Christian God, I don't want to be disrespectful to my family. More than anything, reading what's been posted so far made me realize that I should put in more effort to be polite and, say, attend Mass with them while I'm visiting.
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« Reply #5: March 27, 2011, 07:55:57 pm »

My parents want me to attend mass for my brother's sake, and I'm not sure I can make it work.  Technically, I'm in mortal sin and cannot take communion.  I'm not sure that merely observing mass is enough, but taking communion might insult their God.

I believe that religious community is about religion, but it's also about a particular community - especially things like weddings and funerals, that are about people who care for someone coming together to help ease that transition. (Most weddings have a little grief from change, and most funerals have a little joy from sharing stories.)

I have a friend who's becoming Catholic this Easter: I have absolutely no problems going to Easter Vigil service with her to celebrate this moment in her religious life. I will not take communion, and I will not say the Creed, and I may not say some other specific things that go against my own principles. But I will stand there, and respectfully bow my head when appropriate, and share my joy in her finding a community that matters to her. (Ok, it helps that the actual parish she's at is extremely progressive, too, and that I really love the Easter Vigil service as a religious service.)

I've done the same thing when visiting my brother or sister (currently attending Congregational services, and Lutheran ones, respectively): I go, and do the stuff I'm fine with, and quietly don't do the stuff I'm not without disrupting the experience of other people there. (If someone else gets peeved when I am quietly not taking communion, that's their thing to deal with, not mine.) In some circumstances, I might ask first what's appropriate (since some places view it as a "participation in the community of this service", and some as "participation in the community of this religion" and those are two different things.)

For a funeral, or a wedding, I'd do something similar: go, say the bits I can say in truth and honesty and in keeping with my other religious commitments, but recognise that there will be bits it's not appropriate for me to participate in (whether that's taking communion, saying specific prayers, or even singing specific bits of music.) That's okay.

Most larger religious communities are also used to this idea that not everyone in the community may be equally participating in the service. (Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this difference, because I've been in the more common Pagan model of 'ritual is fully participatory' for so long.)

The other option - though this tends to vary a lot with family dynamics - is that sometimes, there are tasks where if someone doesn't feel a strong need to be at [specific thing], they can free up someone else who want to be there. Having someone home to watch the house during the funeral, to avoid theft or other problems or prepare post-funeral food and get it set out, for example.
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« Reply #6: March 27, 2011, 08:33:31 pm »

I think you should be able to honor the Christian God as the God of others you care about. Asking him to care for those who do follow him because you are truly concerned about them doesn't strike me as something any deity -- except perhaps the Fundie version of the Christian God -- could take great offense at.

Thanks, everyone.  This is helping me sort out my thoughts.

One thing that's going on for me is I'm realizing how my parents' spirituality has influenced my current path.  For example, I was raised on high mass with all the trimmings.  I left the Church and missed that type of solemn ritual.  Most modern eclectic Pagan groups don't offer that.  One day I picked up Reidy's Eternal Egypt and said: "Ah-ha!  This is what I've been looking for!"  I don't think I'd have developed an appreciation for these beautiful rituals if I hadn't been raised with such formal Catholicism.  In a way, this is a gift my parents gave me. 

I also don't think I'd have opened myself up to certain mystical experiences if it weren't for my family.  My parents and both my grandmothers have a very close relationship with their God.  It wasn't uncommon for them to talk about their dreams of Him, or their experience of "hearing" his voice.  So, when that kind of stuff happened to me, I was pretty comfortable with it. 

Also, a lot of my moral principles came from my upbringing.  Yeah, I don't agree with everything I was taught, but I never gave up on the Golden Rule. 

I actually owe a lot to Catholicism.  I just struggle with worshipping that God. 

I was trying to pray the Rosary with my Mom.  At first it was comforting because those prayers were just so familiar.  Mary can certainly relate to grief.  It almost felt good to say "Pray for us sinners, now at the hour of our death."  I've definitely made my share of mistakes.  Then the repetition got to me.  I thought "I haven't made that many mistakes." Maybe I sin, but I'm not a sinner.  I do not want to identify with my mistakes. 

Then I thought, well, every God has their areas of expertise.  What are YHWH's areas of expertise?  What if forgiveness and attonement for sins are part of his domain?

This theology would make most of my ancestors roll over in their graves, but it makes some sense to me. 
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« Reply #7: March 27, 2011, 08:56:48 pm »

I'm still in Cleveland right now, spending time with my family after my brother's death.

First, Nehet, my deepest condolences.

Quote
There are some contradictions right now that I am trying to resolve.  I don't know how to support my family and honor my ancestors without honoring the Christian God.  


I can only offer my own experience, which may be of limited use. My grandmother was devoutly Catholic, and though we were very close--nobody in the family was closer to her--I didn't attend her funeral, because I won't participate in a Catholic ceremony. This has less to do with my paganism than with the active onslaught against gays by that church's leaders, which as a gay person I take quite personally. So it's not due to the conflict of religious systems.

This is a longstanding policy of mine, one of which my grandmother was all too aware when she was alive. The rest of the family knows it as well.

I think because of that, and because nobody else in my immediate family is Catholic, no one hassled me about this. I was worried about my own conscience--would I beat myself up for the rest of my life for standing on principle on this?--but now I'm sure I made the right decision. I would have hated myself, felt like a hypocrite, maybe have done something inappropriate in my frustration, and today definitely would be beating myself up for participating. Instead, while the ceremony was going on, I was setting up the reception that followed and joined everyone in sharing our grief there.

My grandmother, wherever she is, was NOT happy about this, I'm sure...but she also understood it. Just as she was unhappy about it but understood it in life.

Your situation sounds greatly different. It sounds like Catholicism runs deep in your family, and their expectations of you may be different. I would still suggest honoring your brother and your ancestors within your own religious framework, rather than importing practices from Catholicism for the purpose. As for honoring their god, I for one couldn't do it, because I don't believe he exists. If, however, you can feel comfortable participating in the Catholic ceremonies as well those of your own tradition, then do that. I couldn't.
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« Reply #8: March 27, 2011, 09:23:05 pm »


I've wondered on more than one occasion if I should include Jehovah and Jesus in my practices, as many of my Dead were devout Christians. My inclination is that it would be a good idea, and that my Beloved Dead would appreciate it, but I am then struck with the issue of how. Christianity was not my birth religion- I didn't have one, and had comparatively little exposure. Complicating things is that the limited exposure I have had has been largely Roman Catholic; the Beloved Dead I would be honoring in such a capacity were Methodist.

In any event, I don't think that one necessarily has to walk a dual path to adequately honor their Christian Dead.  And just because you might honor the Christian God during this period of grief does not mean you have to make a long term commitment to continue honoring him- people on this board have attested numerous times to honoring a particular deity for a particular reason, and then that's that. I don't think there's anything wrong with honoring him now, amongst your family, and asking him to watch over your family during this difficult time, observing his rituals as an offering of thanks, and then going back to something more like the way it has been in the past as your life finds a new normal.

(I hope this was understandable- I'm trying to reread it, as I generally try to before posting, and I am overwhelmed with tiredness. Feel free to kick me if coherency is lacking.)
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« Reply #9: March 27, 2011, 10:35:52 pm »

I'm still in Cleveland right now, spending time with my family after my brother's death. 

My condolences. 
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« Reply #10: March 27, 2011, 11:30:03 pm »

In any event, I don't think that one necessarily has to walk a dual path to adequately honor their Christian Dead.  And just because you might honor the Christian God during this period of grief does not mean you have to make a long term commitment to continue honoring him- people on this board have attested numerous times to honoring a particular deity for a particular reason, and then that's that.

You're right, Juni.

It's a real struggle.  My family has such a strong Catholic identity.  On some days it's literally all they talk about.  I know it would comfort my Mom if I made some kind of "long-term committment," and right now she's so in need of comfort.  It broke my parents' hearts when I left the Church.

But I can't give up who I am. 

To complicate things, my Dad has all these relics which he believes are from saints. He told me today that he wants me to take some of these back home when I leave.  He said "I have nobody else to give them to."

This just hurts like hell. 

If they're inauthentic, then I can take them to make him feel better.

If they are authentic, I'm not sure I should be the one to have them.  I have no connection with these saints.  Giving me these relics would be like a Kemetic sending an open statue to someone who had no connection with the God who inhabited that statue.

But, again, who else is he going to give them to?  My brother?

Have I mentioned this situation sucks?

Currently I'm researching to try and figure out if they're real.

http://saintrelics.org/#
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« Reply #11: March 27, 2011, 11:54:39 pm »

I've wondered on more than one occasion if I should include Jehovah and Jesus in my practices, as many of my Dead were devout Christians.

Something along these lines popped up on the ADF Dedicant mailing list recently.The ADF honor land spirits, deities, and ancestors in our rituals. For me this was a bit of a sticking point as my mother passed away in '06 and was a pretty solid Christian, much of my maternal line were Christian or at least worshiped that God. My Paternal grandmother's path was paganish from what I understand but afaik the rest are nominal CoE or atheist. After much discussion on the list - wherein I largely lurked - I concluded this:

I may invite my ancestors to my rituals and into my life but I understand if they do not respond or are hurt by my path but will not feel guilt  or fear over it. I leave the door open for them and let them know they are loved and missed but I do not 'force' them to the ritual.
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« Reply #12: March 28, 2011, 02:23:51 am »

You're right, Juni.

It's a real struggle.  My family has such a strong Catholic identity.  On some days it's literally all they talk about.  I know it would comfort my Mom if I made some kind of "long-term committment," and right now she's so in need of comfort.  It broke my parents' hearts when I left the Church.

But I can't give up who I am. 

To complicate things, my Dad has all these relics which he believes are from saints. He told me today that he wants me to take some of these back home when I leave.  He said "I have nobody else to give them to."

This just hurts like hell. 

If they're inauthentic, then I can take them to make him feel better.

If they are authentic, I'm not sure I should be the one to have them.  I have no connection with these saints.  Giving me these relics would be like a Kemetic sending an open statue to someone who had no connection with the God who inhabited that statue.

But, again, who else is he going to give them to?  My brother?

Have I mentioned this situation sucks?

Currently I'm researching to try and figure out if they're real.

http://saintrelics.org/#

If they are real and he insists that you take them, do it as a caretaker until you find someone worthy to pass them along to. It will happen in time. I've been given things in the past (a rosary, holy water and a Jerusalem Cross, all blessed in person by Pope John Paul II) but I don't consider them as mine. I will pass them on to someone who needs them as I find that person. I have no doubt at all that I will.
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« Reply #13: March 28, 2011, 07:12:07 am »

You're right, Juni.

It's a real struggle.  My family has such a strong Catholic identity.  On some days it's literally all they talk about.  I know it would comfort my Mom if I made some kind of "long-term committment," and right now she's so in need of comfort.  It broke my parents' hearts when I left the Church.

But I can't give up who I am. 

To complicate things, my Dad has all these relics which he believes are from saints. He told me today that he wants me to take some of these back home when I leave.  He said "I have nobody else to give them to."

This just hurts like hell. 

If they're inauthentic, then I can take them to make him feel better.

If they are authentic, I'm not sure I should be the one to have them.  I have no connection with these saints.  Giving me these relics would be like a Kemetic sending an open statue to someone who had no connection with the God who inhabited that statue.

But, again, who else is he going to give them to?  My brother?

Have I mentioned this situation sucks?

Currently I'm researching to try and figure out if they're real.

http://saintrelics.org/#

First off, (((Nehet and Loved Ones)))

Second, I would recommend donating the relics to a church where they can be properly cared for.
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« Reply #14: March 28, 2011, 09:17:28 am »

If they are real and he insists that you take them, do it as a caretaker until you find someone worthy to pass them along to. It will happen in time. I've been given things in the past (a rosary, holy water and a Jerusalem Cross, all blessed in person by Pope John Paul II) but I don't consider them as mine. I will pass them on to someone who needs them as I find that person. I have no doubt at all that I will.
This is what I was thinking, and all the more so after I looked at the Saint Relics site you linked, Nehet.  While it speak of "the faithful" being charged to be protective guardians, your lack of commitment to the Catholic faith also serves as a valuable link in that chain, because you are more willing than many faithful (such as your father) would be to question the authenticity of the relics.  That's important, because - as the very existence of that site testifies - there are false relics out there, and it's not right that there should be.  (Hmm... "not right"... I'm not Kemetic, but I see Ma'at in helping to preserve the authentic and weed out the false.)

I don't think it's exactly like open statues, since open statues require a level of daily care that relics don't; it's much more feasible for a non-believer to act as a caretaker.  Your dad is, it seems to me, passing these things to you not just in hopes of you returning to Catholicism, but because even if you don't return to that faith, you're someone he feels he can trust with them.

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