Reader Question #1: Is it morally wrong to break with my parents’ religion?

As previously announced, I’ve decided to take interesting comments, questions, and topics posted to Helleneste kai Grammateus and answer them in longer articles. You can take advantage of my offer after reading the Site Policy and completing the Ask a Question form. As always, this is a free service, but if you wish to help support this blog, you can make a donation.

Below is the first question that set me off doing this. It was a comment in reply to article on How to Find Your Patron Goddess or God, and it’s a really important one.

I’m a Catholic and I have been drawn too this religion, I’m not sure what it is but I love the gods but I will feel terrible for leaving my religion, I’m barely a teenager but like I said its like I’m being drawn too this, and I have been searching this stuff all day and it just feels right somehow I’m confused, would it be bad for me too leave my religion behind and start again??

Deanna

Khaire Deanna,
I am so sorry you are going through this. Religion, especially organized religion, is often paired with community and culture in many families, and there’s a sense of unity impressed upon us, and push to be like-minded, from a very young age. And yet, we have a natural and independent drive, especially when coming into adulthood, to figure out what we believe and what is right for us. That is part of becoming an adult. No wonder you are feeling torn!

Though you would no doubt feel push-back from others, and internal guilt for breaking with that aspect of community and culture, I do not think it is morally wrong for you to ask yourself these questions, or to leave the religion you were raised in, if you feel that is right for you. Nor do I think it morally wrong for you to go through the motions of your parents’ religion while you are dependent on them. Many, many young people (including my 17-year-old self) have had to pay lip service to their parents’ religion on their way out of the house and into independent living.

As one of my favorite advice bloggers, Captain Awkward, observes,

However we all feel about religion, can we agree that it is almost always a total accident of birth? You were born where you were born to these particular parents, so your religion is X, but if you had been born in a different place to different parents your religion would have been Y. People who are willing to coerce you – emotionally, economically – around matters of the eternal soul (or, er, whatever) are asking to be lied to because they don’t offer you any safe alternatives.

For more on her thoughts on this, and practical suggestions, check this link: Spiritual Crisis.*

That said, I think going through these motions for a time is an act of respect for your parents. As I understand it, Christianity makes a great to do about orthodoxy, that is “correct thought”, which spills over into the idea that certain thoughts are immoral. Yet Hellenism is much more concerned with orthopraxy, that is “correct practice”, than any particular orthodoxy.

And one of our Delphic Maxims is: “Respect Your Parents (Γονεις αιδου)”, which Judaism, and later Christianity, happen to share in common: “Honor Your Mother and Father”.

The word translated as “honor” in most English translations is the Hebrew word kabbed, which literally means “to make heavy or to treat as heavy or weighty.” It means to treat someone with respect and dignity, not “think like they do”, but to demonstrate respect. You can go through the motions of your parents’ religion, while you are dependent on them, and still be on ethically firm ground in both religions.

All the better if you can, privately, simultaneously, in small ways, address the Hellenic gods and make small sacrifices. You don’t need anything permanent, like an altar, for this. It could be as simple as addressing the image of a god (even a temporary one on your computer screen) and promising to make a small sacrifice later that day, and when the opportunity is right, spilling the first sip of your drink or leaving the first bite of your food on your plate for that god. That is how you begin to form a relationship with that god, and through this orthopraxy, you’ll gain both the spiritual experience of small rituals and personal gnosis (knowledge).

religious-tolerance-tutu-dalai-llama

And when you are independently supporting yourself, you can then openly put your own spirituality into practice while voicing your difference in belief and practice in a respectful, tolerant, way.

*Captain Awkward, and the Awkward Team, are utterly awesome with advice for all situations awkward, and yours is certainly is one of those situations. I recommend reading more of her articles and the comments section.

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