This is a new one on me. Are these people re-enactors, like the Society for Creative Anachronism, or do they actually say they believe in the ancient Egyptian gods? If the former, the article really needs to explain that up front, it seems to me. If the latter, then there is one aspect of the topic that absolutely 100% has to be included, namely, how and why on Earth do modern people go back to believing in ancient Egyptian gods?
Moreover, there has to be historical and demographic data here, too. Are the believers mostly goth teenagers from the U.S., Egyptologists, Egyptians--or what? And how did the "neo" part get started? Who up and decided to start believing in the ancient Egyptian gods again? --Larry Sanger 10:55, 24 July 2007 (CDT)
I have been studying these "subcultures" so long that I forget they are rather marginal.
In recent years, various neopagan groups have been created centering around the "pre-Christian" pantheons. Members are not "re-enactors--they are seriously devoted to the "old gods."
Here are two "wikis" devoted to the subject. I write for both and I am an administrator for the first. Indeed, I wrote the Egyptian neopagan article initially for the first site.
--Mark Mirabello 20:17, 24 July 2007 (CDT)
Well, you can be "seriously devoted to the 'old gods'," without actually believing in them, can't you? I can be seriously devoted to making swords and shields and then bashing other re-enactors with them on a Saturday, without believing I'm a knight.
Perhaps my interest is purely philosophical. I don't mean this as a criticism of you or the article, I have to doubt that these people really are, as you say, devoted to the "old gods." They might say they are, they might act as if they believe they are, but for them, whether they admit it or not, it is a hobby like the SCA. It's like the SCA electing a king or queen of a place. They walk around for a day with crowns on, but they understand, of course, that they aren't kings or queens. It's like me playing Irish traditional music. I learn by ear, I play in a similar style (maybe), I play a lot of the same tunes they play, but I know I'm not Irish and I'm not really part of the tradition there. When I go there, I'm "Larry from Alaska," that's what a few people were calling me. (This case is actually a little different, because I'm not pretending or re-enacting at all, I'm just playing music I like.)
So what I'm asking is what on earth is going in the heads of these people who claim to worship Ra. I mean, is it even psychologically possible for modern people to do so? When they finish some weird ceremony and go out to a pizza place, do they "go meta" and discuss their alleged beliefs and ceremonies in ways that makes it clear that they do not actually believe, but are only pretending? Or are they so sincere that they are "always in character," as it were, thinking that Ra really is looking over them and behaving and speaking accordingly?
It's similar to Satanism, in a certain way, isn't it? I mean, I doubt that any Satanist who isn't a very confused teenager actually believes in Satan. They just get involved because it's shocking (and they badly want to be shocking), kind of cool and exciting, because they want to tweak their parents and conservatives, etc.--but not because they actually believe in Satan. They might go through various silly rites and rituals that might make it look to an outsider as if they believe, but in their heart of hearts they know they're just pretending, no matter how seriously they are pretending.
That's not how it is with Egyptian Neopagans? --Larry Sanger 22:05, 24 July 2007 (CDT)
Yes, They Believe the Gods are Real
Sorry, Dr Sanger, that I did not follow up on your question. I had forgotten to check the talk page here!
The brief answer is "yes." The neopagans--in all traditions--believe the gods and goddesses are real. Humans who honor them are not play-acting to myths. The gods are literal beings
My main research focus has been the Odinists (people devoted to Odin, Thor, Tyr and other Viking gods), and I should note that the idea that Odin is real is--in a sense--the belief of a billion people. Since both the Vedic pantheons and the Viking pantheons share a common ("Indo-European") heritage, we know that Odin is really Rudra/Shiva of the Hindus. So when an Englishman says Odin is real he is simply sharing in a world-view with a billion Hindus.
The Egyptian pagans are from a different line--and they have many ideas about the gods--but they take their religion and their gods seriously....
For information on the topic, here are nineteen titles listed by amazon.com 
--Mark Mirabello 15:44, 24 September 2007 (CDT)
This book is a little dated, but it has a section on the Egyptian neopagans: -MM
OK, I didn't know!
And...there aren't any researchers who have the theory that neopagans are, essentially, play-acting (in some useful sense) in a way that, for example, Christians or Muslims are not? Is there no sophisticated discussion of the nature or possibility of belief in pagan gods in contemporary society? If not, that's amazing to me. Seems like a whole, very interesting, subject of research. --Larry Sanger 17:30, 18 October 2007 (CDT)
- I've had a neo-pagan friend of mine explain her beliefs in various dieties as personifying forces whichshe can sense, and to some extent work with - the labelling of those forces as dieties provides a useful structure for thinking about and working with those forces. While the ritual and the specific dieties may be, in some real sense, play-acting, the belief in some sort of supernatural forces which do not correspond to Christian belief is quite real for many neo-pagans. I've also seen someone transition fairly rapidly from fairly sincere neo-paganism to very sincere Christianity - in that particular case, she was feeling experiencing something supernatural, but it was fairly easy for her to make the change of labels from neo-pagan to Christian.
- I think it would be hard to do good, neutral research on this, as a researcher who isn't openly sympathetic is unlikely to get people to admit their true feelings on the matter, while one who is sympathetic may miss (or suppress) things which reflect badly on the subjects. Anthony Argyriou 20:18, 18 October 2007 (CDT)
- It is pretty hard, but any good ethnographer quickly realizes that you have to accept such beliefs as valid before you can expect to understand them. You don't have to actually buy into a belief system, but you need to at least be receptive to an alternative way of conceptualizing the world.
- This is really important to writing well about such topics too. Take a look the article on El Tío. There is one instance of the phrase "in the belief that..." but the word "believe" is never used as a verb. Notice especially the first paragraph. The reader is drawn into the subject rather than being kept at a distance by phraseology like, "Bolivian people believe that...," which implies that their beliefs aren't really true. The reader must first, if only momentarily, accept that the spirit owner of the mountain exists before s/he can learn anything about him. --Joe Quick 22:09, 18 October 2007 (CDT)
What I am asking is ultimately what the nature of belief in Odin and Thor and Isis and Ra really amounts to. This isn't that different from asking what the nature of belief in God, the God of Christianity, amounts to. (That puzzles me too.) It's not a question you answer primarily by asking for people's explanations of what they believe, it's a question you answer mainly through philosophical speculation. For someone who like myself is never going to be able to take such beliefs seriously, and who has a hard time understanding how other people can avow such utterly bizarre beliefs, the real puzzle is what they mean when they say "I believe that Ra exists."
For example, look at this. "Gary" from West Virginia says, "I have been a somewhat practicer for the last few years. I truly believe that I am among my true gods in Odinism. Any info would be awesome as I am just starting to figure things out. Ceramony or ritual wise I have no real clue. Right now I just try to abide by the codes in the Eddas." It sounds to me like Gary's choosing which gods to believe in. Sorry, but I find it very hard to believe that Gary possesses the ability to "choose gods to believe in." One pretends and acts as if one believes in those gods. One likes the idea that they exist. But Gary doesn't actually believe they exist, surely. He is in some interesting mental state, something like belief, but it isn't belief.
Anyway, no more discussion is necessary--we're really not helping to improve the article. :-) --Larry Sanger 22:50, 18 October 2007 (CDT)