Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Worldviews, Nationalists, and Anger

So lately around the ole internet I have, for whatever reason, been seeing a HUGE increase in the amount of Greek Nationalists co-opting the religion or people claiming that you *must* be Greek to be a True Hellenist™. This argument usually centers around the claim that they are a True Hellenist™ and everyone else isn't because (they claim) that they have reconstructed an 'authentic' Greek worldview, culture, and religion that has experienced the kathartic release from the Greek Christian and Modern Greek culture. Allow me to be blunt, I call bullshit, for a variety of reasons.

First lets look at this whole 'worldview' claim and that anyone else with a deviating worldview isn't a True Hellenist™. The claim usually centers around the statements "The Athenians had a particular worldview, we have it too. Anyone who disagrees with us and doesn't share our worldview isn't a real Hellenist" or something pretty dang close to that. First, there is no *way* that you have the same worldview as the Athenians or *any* other Greek City-State. Worldview is HUGELY shaped by culture and religion (which in turn shape each other) and is also heavily dependent on external factors such as is your group worried about getting enough to eat, are you under constant threat of war, is there a lot of good drinking water in your area, and what is the prevalence of disease in your region to name just a few things.  This means that likely each generation will have a *slightly* different worldview from the previous, and even if Hellenismos (though it wouldn't have that name I suppose) had survived into the modern age, the modern Hellenistai would have a different world view than their predecessors 2300-2500 years ago and this is assuming that a large portion of the worldview was preserved through societal reinforcements. The worldview from 2500 years ago is NOT going to be the same as it was today.

Now lets get onto the cultural bit which is really important. First let me tell you about a good friend of mine though. He is a 72 year old man, bright, intelligent, and Canadian. He has traveled all over the world, but has settled in America. He has LIVED in America for quite some time (40 or 50 years I think) and still does not have a good grasp on American culture, on our nuances and subtleties, as well as certain parts of our own worldview (If you think this is out of place, re-read the above paragraph). It simply doesn't make sense to him sometimes, it confuses him, and this guy is no idiot. I know, we've had conversations spanning a couple of hours that just make my head spin and I'm no moron. This isn't an isolated incident though, even when you move to a country that speaks your language, most folks never fully integrate or understand the native culture even if they are living in the country for decades. Baring this in mind, the fact that some folks have the audacity to say that they have reconstructed the Athenian culture, embraced it, and shed themselves of their old culture is the absolutely most ridiculous claim I have ever seen in my life. It doesn't matter how many books you read, how many things you try  to imitate, you aren't going to bring back that culture fully. You may augment your own cultural background with these things, generating a distinct hybrid of culture by discarding some of the nasty things but to say that you have a 'genuine' Athenian culture is disingenuous and quite frankly ludicrous. When you can't get it be living in a country for 50 years you sure as hell aren't going to get it by reading books for 30.

Moving onto the last point, the religious bit. Many of the folks making these claims are from YSEE I have noticed. Which is kind of funny since I have seen YSEE members in the various Yahoo! Groups come in and outright say that they aren't recons but following a tradition that can be traced back to the 1600s.

So what do we do?

There are some things to consider here. The first is that American Hellenismos will differ from Greek Hellenismos and Australian Hellenismos because we are from different countries and have different backgrounds. Shinto heavily varies from region to region, it does not make one person less of a Shintoist because they practice in an Osaka fashion instead of a Kyoto fashion. The same goes for Hinduism, different regions have different ways and viewpoints. This should be expected, it is just an effect of geography and distance. There is NO need to bring ourselves in line with our Greek brethren because we are not Greeks. We do not live in Greece and we were not born there. We do not need to defer to them on matters, we do not need to seek their opinions on everything, and we do not need to look at them as some kind of god damned chosen and 'special' people for our faith, because they aren't. And you know what, if we keep treating them like they are, we AMERICAN HELLENISTS are going to lose some good folks, we are going to miss out on some good people joining the faith and sticking to it because they don't want to defer to somebody simply because of where they were born geographically.

Our worldviews will be different but have commonalities for certain. That is perfectly okay and to be expected. It would be unnatural to expect the worldview of an American Hellenist and a Greek Hellenist to be the exact same. This does not make me or my coreligionist here any LESS of Hellenistai than those over in Greece. Because guess what? We don't have to defer to them.

We American Hellenists are Americans, we do not need to defer to the Greeks. We are our own branch, and things will develop as they will. 

I don't need a Greek to confirm or approve things for me.
You best believe that.

Zeus by takbggg on flickr


  1. I'd like this post, but I need to check with my nearest Greek Hellenist to see whether or not it's OK to like this.

    When we Kemetics start getting more ethnic Egyptian adherents (they exist, they just aren't many and don't seem that visible) I hope they don't fall for the excesses of nationalism, and that non-Egyptians don't start deferring to them because they are ethnically Egyptians.

    1. I can only hope that your faith never has to grapple too heavily with the issue. It is honestly wearying.

  2. fundy-hater!

  3. Ironically, the same "You Must Be Greek" attitude exists in the Greek Orthodox Christian church I grew up in. Converts were called "white people". That's a whole nother topic.


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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.