Most atheists have religious relatives and most of them will, at some point probably have to deal with relatives who want to engage in communal prayer during some event, whether it's a holiday celebration or just a regular meal. There's a lot of pressure on atheists to be quiet and even to participate, regardless of how they personally feel. How do you deal with such situations?
Thanksgiving Dinner Prayer
On the one hand, a person should allow themselves to become a doormat who just goes along with everything that others demand. That's not psychologically healthy for the individual and it doesn't do atheists any favors in the long run. You don't get respect for yourself or for atheists generally by never standing up for yourself.
On the other hand, objecting to religion in the middle of traditional family practices is probably the wrong way to go about things. Just because you shouldn't let yourself become a doormat doesn't mean that you shouldn't find the best way to deal with the issue. Thus the question: what is the best way? Or is there one?
The setting is at the home of my in-laws, who are religious and raised my husband as a Christian (he even attended a Pentecostal church for a while), but they don't know that we aren't Christian because the subject has simply never come up in 10 years.
My question is, how does an atheist/agnostic/non-Christian respond to the command to hold hands for a pre-dinner prayer? I have no problems with a prayer itself...
I just find an interesting spot on the wall to study until it's over. But I do not want to participate in the weird ritual of forcing everyone in the room to come into physical contact with everyone else, including strangers.
Right now I'm waffling between just doing the hand-holding thing without bowing my head or closing my eyes... or, politely saying, "No, thanks" to the person who tries to hold my hand. I'm curious to know how some of you would handle or have handled this situation in the past.
There will certainly be different approaches depending on whether you're with acquaintances or family. If it's acquaintances or even strangers, you should be more willing to object when suddenly forced into a religious ritual that's not of your choosing. They shouldn't simply assume that everyone agrees with, accepts, and follows their religious beliefs.
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