I’ve seen people get accused of being disrespectful towards the gods, and they always seem to get very defensive about it. On one hand, I completely understand that reaction. Being told that you’re disrespecting the gods would feel very judgemental, and it might feel like being told your personal practice is crap. That would make me rather angry and defensive, too. I can also understand that reaction because what if you think you are being respectful? What if you have a kind of lighthearted jokey relationship with the gods? It might seem disrespectful to someone else, but the gods haven’t told you to stop, so why should you? These are completely valid reactions.
That said, I can also understand the other side of the matter. I love my gods. They are amazing, and I want everyone else to love them, too. Watching someone say nasty things about them evokes the same sort of protective instinct that someone attacking a family member or close friend would. And sometimes people think they’re just having fun and being casual when they’re actually being really rude. So I get this side, too.
But what’s the truth of the matter? What level of respect is appropriate in kemeticism?
I think any healthy relationship, whether it’s between humans, gods, spirits, animals, or whatever you like, any healthy relationship is based on mutual respect. If one or both parties don’t respect the other, it’s not a healthy relationship and it’s probably going to end badly. I also think that different people have different definitions for what constitutes respect. A good and simple example would be small talk. In the U.S., it’s considered polite to engage in small talk. How are you, I’m fine, this weather, I know, right? But in other countries, like India, small talk is not okay because it’s viewed as wasting the other person’s time–it’s disrespectful. So, immigrants to the U.S. may come off rude when they’re actually being polite according to their own customs. This concept is really important when we talk about respecting the gods, because I think it does affect how some people relate to them.
That said, how much respect should one show the gods? Personally, I think it’s better to err on the side of caution. I’m not one to piss off and antagonize powerful spiritual entities. It seems imprudent. I think the best template to follow for determining how to respect the gods would be to compare a human relationship with a large power gap, such as that between a parent and child or a worker and their boss. Again, we also want to compare a healthy relationship where both parties respect one another. You may have the kind of relationship with your boss where you can joke around, even go out for beers together after work. It’s okay to have a relationship with the gods like that. But if you’re going to ask your boss for a favor, you’re generally not going to walk up to him and say, “Hey asshole, I need this.” (you might, I’ve seen people that worked with, but it’s generally a horrible idea, even if they’re okay with it). You’re certainly not going to go around telling all your coworkers that your boss is an asshole and then ask him for a favor. That’s probably going to really piss them off, and they probably won’t give you what you want. Same thing with the gods. Ask politely, don’t badmouth them. Would you help someone who always said nasty things about you? I know I wouldn’t. This is why sometimes it’s better to maintain a slightly more formal relationship with the gods (or your boss). It makes it easier to find that fine line. That’s not to say you can’t be casual and joke around with the gods–I think we’ve all seen that the Kemetic pantheon in particular has a wicked sense of humor–but there is a fine line between humor and disrespect.
Additionally, respecting the gods can also involve respecting their followers (which is really going to lead into another post, but I still want to touch on it here). A lot of us don’t always choose our gods–sometimes they choose us. And when you disrespect someone a god has picked, you’re basically saying the god has terrible taste, which is not the most respectful thing to say (plus, if the human in question is a favorite, you could potentially bring some wrath down upon yourself). On a more general note, disrespecting the gods can also be interpreted as disrespecting the religion surrounding them, which is an incredibly rude thing to do (and again, I’m getting into a topic I plan to address in another post, so I’ll stop).
So yeah, those are just some general thoughts on the matter. I think we lose nothing by showing the gods respect, and that doing so could actually serve us well.