My guess is that this has been covered in another forum but I wanted to throw it out there;
So who among us has been the following situation: You are sitting at a friends or even a family's dinner table and everyone gets ready to say grace. Everyone bows their heads and or closes their eyes. What do you do? Do you close your eyes and or bow your head out of respect and think to yourself "omg this is such bs", or do you hold your atheist head up high with a kind of "suck-it" mentality I am not going to coddle you just because you expect me to, I'm an atheist dammit and proud of it!!!
Would love to hear your thoughts and stories!!
The only religious background my family has is Mormonism on my mother's side, and only one of my maternal grandmother's children (not my mother) has continued with their faith, so I haven't had much exposure to grace-sayings at dining gatherings. It is because of this that even though my personal beliefs have steadfastly maintained in agnosticism, I have always found religious practices fascinating, and, in a way, meditative.
A good friend of mine from elementary school was Catholic. He and his family went to church every Sunday morning, prayed before meals, the whole shebang. I spent countless Saturday nights at their house playing wrestling games on the NES and enacting frenetic shootouts with Nerf guns with Lance and his sister, and learned little things about farming, outdoorsy-type stuff, et cetera, from his parents. They were extraordinarily kind people, and never pressed their religious beliefs on me any further than redirecting my scarce profanities (but my dad, whose secularism had been passed down four or five generations, made the same redirections at home, so this was never linked to religion for me in the first place).
And so, out of respect, I closed my eyes with them while they prayed. Lance's mother even told me the first time that I was at their house for dinner that I was not beholden to any participation whatsoever. I never joined them in saying, 'amen,' I never made a prayer quietly to myself. But something about hearing their prayers for generosity and peace from an outside vantage was soothing to me as a child. Since I spent Saturday nights there, I went to church with them on one or two occasions, and simply listened. I never converted, I never took any of it as truth or faith -- even as an impressionable nine-year-old -- and I treated the whole business with respect.
Then, when I was 18, I rented a room from my best friend's family. Not only are they a Jewish family, but his father is the rabbi in the city where we lived. Every Friday night, I accepted their invitation to don the yarmulke and listen to Rabbi Jay's half-sung Hebrew prayers. They were beautiful. I didn't have to believe in a god or belong to their religion to observe that. Even when he would switch over to English, he often spoke of nothing but the same 'prayers' that I as an agnostic might make for mankind: peace, love for family, friends, and enemies alike, understanding, tolerance.
My apologies for the length of this post, but I find it incumbent upon myself to write that even though I do not believe in a god or some grand mysticism to which we are all subjects, I can feel comfortable closing my eyes and holding hands with my neighbors at the table -- who are all aware of my beliefs, in most circumstances -- and celebrate not God or Jesus or Yahweh or what have you, but life, love, and the joyous possibilities of life. They seek that through their faith, I seek that through my own secular path, but just as my Catholic friend from grade school did when we rode bikes and played basketball and foursquare, and just as my Jewish friend does when we talk about the ways the world could improve and play music together and converse on the topics of relationships and politics and what have you, I can occasionally join hands, close my eyes, and take part in their rituals.
Jesus, that's a long post.
Er, for all you silly proclaimers of 'tl;dr,' here's the short version: I close my eyes and objectively listen to the words of the scarce rituals I ever happen to attend because in other venues, the same people partake in my own secular 'rituals' of understanding life and our fellow humans.
Hope that makes sense.
(hoo boy, first two posts on this site and I'm already ranting)
I get what you're saying. I do the same thing. Last summer when my best friend was dying everyone in the room joined hands to pray. My hand was grabbed too. I let them take my hand ,but I did not bow my head & pray. I looked at my friend of 40 years & to myself said goodbye. I wondered if the others, who know I'm an atheist, thought that they might be converting me. I always wonder that in these kind of situations.
My parents are fairly secular people, so growing up I was rarely exposed to prayer. The only time we would pray was before Thanksgiving and Easter dinners. My dad was raised catholic, and I think it just rubbed him the wrong way to not say grace before an important occasion. He now openly admits that he does not believe in organized religion (neither does my mother), but neither of them will go so far as to reject god altogether.
More recently I have been very exposed to prayer, as my boyfriend's family is super roman catholic. When I first started going to family functions I would bow my head, close my eyes, and even do the cross or whatever they call it (father, son, holy ghost bit). However, I recently had a breakthrough and I don't think I will pretend anymore (except maybe when nonna is around).
Unfortunately I recently had two deaths in the family within the span of 7 days. It was a shitty situation, though both party's were older, and their deaths did not come unexpectedly. Both funerals were Catholic, which are really the worst kinds of services, stand up, sit down, kneel, repent, blahblah. For the first funeral I did bow my head, though refused the close my eyes, however, during the second one I stared directly at the priest while he led the prayer, and he certainly made eye contact with me more than once.
The reason that this post is so long, and that I am sharing all of this, is because I wouldn't have had the balls to stare straight at a priest while he led a prayer, without discovering this site. I have become more brave, and more open since connecting with this many people that are similar. So thank you all for being you.