Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Living with non-believers

We live in a very diverse world, but the three big book religions still tend to dominate many areas.  While many of us have found our own tribes, and have access to others who believe like we do, it is still very common for us to live with people who don't share our beliefs, whether they have a religion of their own or are simply not religious.

For the purposes of this blog post, I'll be using the term 'non-believers' to indicate someone who does not follow a Pagan/witchy path.  I am not meaning this in any way to be derogatory, simply that it is someone who doesn't believe the same basic things that we do.  Having a difference of something that is, for many people, a deep core value, brings struggles, and the key to any good relationship, whether it is a romantic, familial or friendship (or simply a roommate) is a mix of communication, boundaries and compromise, and finding ways to live with people who are different from us brings struggles, but isn't insurmountable!

My husband (and my son...who is now mostly off in college, but comes home for holidays and the summer) is an Atheist.  My parent's are casual Christians, as are my in-laws.  I live in the bible belt, so a good chunk of the random people I meet on the street are strongly Christian. 

I often feel very blessed because I have good relationships with the non-believers in my life.  Hubby absolutely doesn't 'get' most of what I do...but he fully supports me irregardless.  He always makes sure that I can go to festivals or rituals if I want to (and we are at all able to get me there).  He buys me tarot decks, while good naturedly teasing me about why I need so many.  He buys me Pagan books (I keep a nice little Amazon wishlist so he knows which ones I'm looking for). 

He is also really good at giving me space when I need it around the house.  I meditate in the morning, out in the living room, and I expect interruptions there (it's actually part of my meditation practice, to be able to stay focused no matter what is going on around me), but if I want a deeper meditation, or to do a ritual, I can let him know I'm going to be doing stuff in the bedroom (where my main altar is), and he'll respect my privacy.

This isn't to say we didn't have our bumps along the way.  Hubby is pretty blunt about what the thinks and believes, and he finds a lot of religion (not just what I believe) to be sort of ridiculous.  It just doesn't compute in his head, why people believe the things they do.  Sometimes he'll say things, then realize that what he's saying could be applied to me, and he'll immediately apologize. 

But really, I don't take these things to heart.  I know what he thinks and believes, and I know he may not understand what I think and believe, and maybe sometimes he thinks I'm a little silly...but he still loves me and respects me as a person (and aren't we all allowed to be silly every now and then?) 

When I was younger, and I lived at home, I had to be more careful with what I did and what I left out in my room.  My parent's don't get what I believe either, though they never told me that I couldn't do or believe things, just that they 'highly recommended' that I think about things.  I think the dynamic is definitely different when you are a child living at home (even if you are an 'adult'...if you live at home and aren't paying your full share of the bills, you are still functionally a child in the power dynamic in the household).

I kept my practices more secret back then, not only to avoid the inevitable lectures, but also to avoid causing my parent's stress.  I didn't need to be loud about what I did.  I could do what I needed to do in the privacy of my room, and my parents definitely respected a closed door. 

Often though, younger people who are just starting out are struggling with figuring out what they believe, while at the same time perhaps breaking away from the religious beliefs and practices that they were raised with.  Many families go to church together, and kids are expected to attend.

Sometimes this leaves young people in the position of having to either keep quiet about their growing personal beliefs or outright defying their parents.  While my family didn't go to church regularly when I was little, when I was in high school and college, my dad wanted to go to church, so we started going.  I was a practicing Pagan at this point, but I didn't mind going to church.

For me, I was able to sit back and strip away the Christian terminology and listen for the good life lessons that were being taught at services.  I was lucky in that my dad preferred churches that taught how to be a good person and weren't focused on the shame and punishment aspect of things (we toured a lot of different churches before he found one he liked and we stuck with).

When you are in a situation where you are living with a roommate/housemate, that tends to be a completely different dynamic too.  It is more like a business partnership sometimes, while other times you are living with friends.  When you aren't close friends with the people you are living with, then it can be helpful to set distinct boundaries, to have solid house rules that everyone agrees with.  Especially if you are of different faiths, it can help to have rules about how the common areas will be treated. 

You may need to restrict your practice to your bedroom.  I shared a house with two other girls for a while, and while both knew about what I believed and practiced, I did keep my rituals and things in my own room.  This was partially an act of respect (not expecting them to not use the living room while I was doing a ritual), and partially out of privacy (I expected things in my room to be left alone, and if I had my door shut, I had the expectation of not being randomly bothered).

I also shared a room in college with a roommate.  This was even more tricky, because we literally had a tiny box that we were sharing, there was no real privacy.  My roommate was quiet, and I'm pretty sure she was Christian, but we mostly kept to ourselves.  I had some witchy pictures up on my corkboard (each of the beds had a corkboard on the wall beside them), and I actually set up my 'altar' that way (I had a picture for each of the four elements, with a God and Goddess picture in the it was like a virtual altar on my corkboard!)  I kept my witchy books in one of the drawers under my bed, and I tended to go do my rituals outside on campus somewhere (we had a fair amount of places that were pretty private on campus, where someone sitting and murmoring to themselves would go unnoticed)

I haven't personally lived with anyone who was devoutly something non-Pagan.  But I have had friends over the years who were very outspokenly Christian.  I would be fine living with someone who was strongly faith oriented, as long as they were willing to respect boundaries.  Which means if they wanted to have their faith stuff (crosses, statues, pictures) in the common areas, then they would have to be okay with me doing the same.  And they couldn't be constantly telling me I was going to Hell or trying to convert me.

And sometimes, people can't respect the boundaries you set up.  They aren't willing to allow other people space to believe what they believe or practice their own faith.  Every one of us needs to decide what we are willing to put up with, and where to draw the line.  And this may change based on what your situation is.  At some points in your life, you may have to adjust and submit to less than idea situations, because you have no other place to go.  But other times, you may need to put your foot down, even when it makes you uncomfortable, because allowing someone else to impact your living situation is even more unbearable.

At the end of the day, living with anyone is a compromise, and sharing space with someone who does things differently that you leads to conversations and give and take.  If all involved are willing to respect each other, to find ways to coexist and look for ways to be mindful of what the others believe, then you can have a harmonious home, even if you are living with non-believers.

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