Edit:Problem is solved, but feel free to reply with any opinions.***
On christmas I told my mom that I wasn't going to pray when it was time for dinner. She respectfully said "That's fine", and went on with her day. When it was time to eat she made everyone hold hands, I said "I'm not praying" she said "You don't have to, but hold hands". I refused and everyone at the table started to glare at me, then start yelling at me till I caved in.
I know it's not technically praying if I hold hands, but it still feels like I'm partaking in an activity that I don't want to be apart of. I don't have a problem with them praying, let them do what they want, but don't make me do join you. And I know this is going to sound completely trivial to a lot of people, but it's still the fucking concept. I mean christians wouldn't hold hands with Muslims to pray, so why should they expect me to do the same? I know my sister just goes along with it (She's an atheist as well), and some of you might. But for what reasons should I HAVE to?
When I approached my mother afterwards I merely said "Why did you make me do that, why did you make me pray?". She got hostile towards me, even though my tone was normal. She responded with "You weren't praying, and if you don't want to take part in this family then you can go sit in the corner". I just stopped talking about it after that, I feel like I've just been pressured into something that makes me feel uncomfortable (even if it is a very small issue).
So should I show resistance and go sit in a corner next time this happens, or should I follow the way of the sheep?
I am glad no one in my family is into that hand holding and praying stuff. Both make me uncomfortable, especially the hand holding but I guess that's because that is not a custom in my family or extended family, even though some are Christian.
One Christmas, we invited a neighbor to our family Christmas dinner. I would say the majority of the people at the dinner were agnostic (and a few atheist) but this neighbor is very religious.
When we started to eat, she objected and said "Are we not going to pray"? So we all guiltily followed suit and held hands, as she gestured this also, and bowed our heads but it was uncomfortable and you could view it as extremely rude on her part but she is a little "eccentric" if you get my drift. So I guess she gets a pass.
These days, I go out of my way to avoid this neighbor but it is more because of the "eccentric" thing she has going on than because of her being religious lol. Maybe there is a tie between the two, no?
I would have refused to pray or hold hands too. I think you did the right thing in pre-warning your mom and she did the worng thing by trying to make you do something you were uncomfortable with. In your situation I probably would have got up and calmly left when everyone started berating me for not participating. Came back later apologized for contributing in making a scene and politely restated that I will be abstaining in the future from all the traditions surrounding praying. I'd say that to avoid confrontation I'll sit quietly on the sidelines until everyone is finished, I'd say that I want to be part of the family but I am not comfortable with participating in that particular tradition. If they couldn't accept that I'd start making it a habit to make my appearance at family functions early in the day and leave before dinner or after dinner is over.
My family also does the hand-holding ritual during prayer. It's a relatively new development, I certainly don't recall it from when I was a child, only within the last decade or so. On the surface, I can see that just holding hands can be seen not as an accessory to prayer, but rather as a linking of the group as a family. And on this level, I'm fine with it. They are my family and I love them. However, the fact that this little ritual only occurs during prayer is evidence that it is definitely linked in the minds of those performing it, and at that level I'm uncomfortable with it.
If this comes up with your mother again, you might want to ask her if the holding of hands is just about family and not about prayer, why is it never done outside of prayer? Would she be comfortable in just having a moment where the family all held hands without anyone leading them in prayer or invoking religion at all, instead just perhaps mentioning how lucky they all are to have one another as a family.
Heck, next time there is a big dinner, offer to do just that yourself. Everyone holds hands, you give a little speech about how important family is and how wonderful it is for everyone to be there together, with no references to religion or prayer at all.
I read an article recently that was written by a researcher who was doing behavior modificatioon on pigeons. (I can't remember where I read it.) The research involved having a pigeon perform a test then they were rewarded with a pellet of food.
The researcher noticed that some of the pigeons performed a very complicated "dance" while they were waiting for the food pellet. He was curious why the pigeons did the dance and how the dances evolved.
He finally concluded that a pigeon might spontaneously do a behavior (head bob, turn in a circle, shift from foot to foot, walk forward, etc.) while he was waiting for the food pellet. Then the pigeon would associate that behavior with getting food. The next time that the pigeon was waiting he would do his dance in order to receive the food pellet. If the pigeon finished his dance before the pellet arrived, he might add another behavior to his dance. After a while the dance evolved into a very complicated ritual.
There was no correlation between the pigeon's dance and receiving the food pellet. But as far as the pigeon was concerned, he had to do the dance before he was fed.
The same can be said for religious rituals. I've noticed in the last few years, more mainstream theists will pray with their arms extended and their palms up. Some will rock from side to side. Recently, my family and close friends have started holding hands when they pray before meals.
None of these rituals have any affect on the outcome of the prayers. But theists have become conditioned to think that their prayers will be more effective or be answered quicker if they do them.
I think this have been B.F. Skinner's work on superstition in the pigeon.
Sounds like you made much ado about nothing. They were understanding enough to not have an issue with you not praying. Yet you still made a scene about holding hands. I can see your point somewhat, but holding hands is not praying, so you're not really compromising yourself. My family never holds hands for grace, so I haven't had that part come up. But I think you should have just sat there, head erect and eyes open, held hands and waited quietly. And then accusing your mom of making you pray afterward was pretty bad. It sounds like they are accepting, but if you carry on with things like this you may find their attitude shifting to be less accepting. My suggestion would be to just sit quietly next time without making a scene, or to volunteer to give a secular thanks before or after their prayer. That way you can be part of the family, be true to yourself and show that you too can be thankful without a deity.