When you are a member of a minority religion there is a tendency to be hesitant about sharing your religious beliefs to what could potentially be hostile strangers. As such it is tempting to keep the gods hidden away from view, and when speaking of one’s gods to excessively explain your reason for worshipping the gods. Both reactions are understandable from the perspective of valuing the autonomy, privacy and peaceful cohabiting of your family in your local community. Fear of the majority is the most motivating for this reaction, but as long as we cower hiding it changes nothing. Being apologetic and hiding away our religion reinforces ideas among the majority that to worship the gods is shameful, ignorant, backwards, etc. It gives no respect to us as we ourselves do not demand respect of ourselves in our relationship with our gods in our activities in the world.
When it comes to religious public displays we will tell ourselves, it is no one’s business who I worship or what I believe. It is a comforting mantra to condition ourselves in being happy with worshiping in secret. In some circles the theme of worshiping in secret has almost a cult status in and of itself. It is part of an honored tradition for them dating to periods of extreme persecution. Of course the idea that it is no one’s business how I worship is certainly true, but if one really felt that quite sincerely then why hide away the gods? If it is no one’s business, which it is not, why do you care what they may think of symbols and icons of your religion, for devout shows of faith and adoration for the gods. If you prayed publically for the blessings of your gods when entering into new situations or beginning a meal. Or freely address the gods in any part of your home without fear of reprisal from neighbors or family members. If you choose to represent your gods by icons and worship at an altar, why do so by squirreling the gods away in some dark unseen corner where no one will notice that they are there. How do we honor the gods when they have the least honored and least beautiful place in the house? Rejoice in their presence as honored members of your family regardless of who is present. Observe religious sanctions and taboos without being apologetic for it.
The immediate kneejerk reaction to be apologetic towards one’s preference to worship the gods is by far more damaging than any public displays. Not only is it damaging to the way we are portraying the authenticity and beauty of our religions, but also to our own moral and feeling towards our gods and religions. Perhaps not in a way that is in your face apparent, but in small subversive ways that eat at us. How many people have said “I worship x deity of y culture, because….” Any situation where you feel you must justify your worship as being valid to someone else in any fashion is being apologetic for your religion. This is not the same as explaining your practice to an interested party. This explanation to solely for the purpose of backing up your statement or action of religiosity as being justifiable and correct through explanation. I recently caught myself from doing that. I recently pierced my nose as a religious action, as something devotional not only to Siv-Apollon, and as something I have wanted to do as a godspouse for a few years….and was a way of honoring the Hindu religious beliefs and culture I hold simultaneously in value with my Hellenic ones. And yet when a coworker said something that a manager may not let me wear it, I replied that it was done for religious purposes. Instead of being direct as to the devotional purpose I found myself making lame arguments for wearing it as being important to my religious beliefs and “that is what is done.” I was very uncomfortable, and on reflection of that conversation afterwards I was infuriated with myself. What do I care of what my coworker may think of my religious persuasion? All I needed to say was that I pierced myself as a manner of honoring my gods.” It didn’t need to go any further than that, yet all the ramblings I made not once did I actually mention the gods. In fact I went out of my way to not mention them. This is part of what it means to be apologetic. Christians and Muslims wear their religion with pride and reverence. Our devotion and reverence and pride in our gods is no less so why do we, unlike them, inferior ourselves to their opinion? They are not for what our opinion is of their beliefs. And by laws of this country they cannot legally do anything against us for holding such beliefs.
I have been so much involved with making the gods a visible part of my life it was dismaying to see how easy it is to fall into that subservient mentality for their approval and validation before them of my beliefs. I who have displays to the gods outside my home and massive areas of worship taking up much of my living room viewable from the windows and from the front door itself. I do not hesitate to wear devotional jewelry to honor them. I do not hesitate to pray to them and give them honor. It horrifies me to have found myself choking like that, but then it occurred to me too that it is an impulse that we all may struggle with some degree…..and one which needs to be dug out and exterminated. The polytheistic religions of the world are of such rich tradition, beauty, knowledge and relevancy that there is nothing for any of us to be embarrassed or uncomfortable about.
And hey if you really feel like you don’t want to discuss the gods because of personal taboos or because it is no one’s business, then just tell them that instead of trying to dance around it and downplay your beliefs.