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Thread: What do atheists do at dinner prayer?

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    New Member Benji's Avatar
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    What do atheists do at dinner prayer?

    I saw this on a friend's page and my question is for both sides. What do you do during grace if you are an atheist? If you are a Christian, what do you expect of the atheist during prayer?

    Question for my Christian (although I welcome responses about other religions as well) friends.Say I am at your house for dinner, you know I am an Atheist, and you gather to pray before your meal. Whether it is just bowing heads and saying your prayer, or holding hands, bowing your heads and praying, whatever it is you do.

    If I, as an Atheist, opt out of participating, would you consider that a sign of disrespect if I am doing so quietly and not disrupting your prayer?

    What if I held hands in the group but didn't bow my head with you? Would you consider that disrespectful?

    I am looking for complete honesty here. Am I obligated, in terms of politeness and manners, to participate in your prayer?

    This was inspired by a conversation elsewhere, just wanted to see what my Christian friends think.

    Would it make a difference if it were in your home as opposed to mine, or a public place?
    As a Christian in my home, I would expect them to at least do whatever we are doing, whether it be bowing head and closing eyes, holding hands, whatever. Of course, with my eyes closed, how would I know what they are doing?

    If I were in an atheist's home I would honor their just digging in, but in my mind I would still say grace. No eyes closed or head bowed, this is between God and I.



  2. #2
    Veteran Member TNVolunteer73's Avatar
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    Same here
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    Veteran Member Dr Sampson Simpson's Avatar
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    I would just sit there. Just like if I'm at a church for a wedding and people are bowing their heads in prayer. Or when I went to a church service for a friends kid's baptism type of thing, had to sit through some prayers before they got to it (and a few music songs that were good)

    I do have to say, never ate dinner with anybody that said grace

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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    As an atheist, I've been in this position. In grad school, I was a guest in my apartmentmate's parents' home, and we had just sat down to dinner. I was starting to ... probably compliment the food or something, when I noticed that everyone had their heads down in prayer, and my friend was silently urging me to shut up quickly. Once I realized what was happening, I shut up, lowered my head, and waited in silence. I don't think I quite closed my eyes, because I wanted to see when people were done - but I tried to be subtle.

    There's really nothing more to it... if I'm a guest in someone's home, I follow their rules. In this case, I botched it a bit, because I wasn't forewarned of the rules, and had to work it out on the fly, but if my hosts are saying grace, I will remain silent and respectful. If I was asked to lead the prayer, I would thank them, and politely defer the honor to someone at the table with more experience.
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    Established Member NeoVsMatrix's Avatar
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    I would not expect a religious person to not pray in my house before dinner, if that's what they want to do.
    Neither do I feel the obligation to pretend to pray because others are doing it.

    If you know I am an atheist, and I'm at your house for dinner, why would you expect me to "pretend" I am praying?

    I would at all times wait starting to eat until everyone is ready to do so, no question.

    The premise in your quote, to ask a host if politeness and manners are an "obligation", is a weird premise to start from anyway.
    Either the manners I was taught, and me being polite, makes me do what I feel is the right thing to do, or it doesn't. I don't need someone else to tell me what to do in order to be respectful and polite.

    I do not go into churches, even on vacations, when on cultural exhibitions, out of "respect" for those who go in there for prayer and for their faith and belief.
    I think that's the right and respectful thing to do, and I would do so even if a fellow traveler with me would be offended by it.
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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeoVsMatrix View Post
    ... I do not go into churches, even on vacations, when on cultural exhibitions, out of "respect" for those who go in there for prayer and for their faith and belief.
    I think that's the right and respectful thing to do, and I would do so even if a fellow traveler with me would be offended by it.
    Really? I go to churches, cathedrals, temples, synagogues, etc. all the time while travelling. Never during services, of course. And when people are praying during off-hours, I steer clear of those people while admiring the architecture and artwork. You're doing yourself a disservice if you go to Paris, and skip Sacré-Coeur. The Wikipedia photo (in the link) doesn't begin to do it justice.
    Last edited by Djinn; 9th May 2017 at 12:31 PM.
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    New Member Benji's Avatar
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    Unless an atheist had an absolute fit over the fact that a prayer was even happening, I see no reason anyone would or should find fault with how they handle grace being said.

    I wish I knew what other conversation my friend was referring to, that one was probably more interesting than this one.

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    Established Member NeoVsMatrix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Sampson Simpson View Post
    I would just sit there. Just like if I'm at a church for a wedding and people are bowing their heads in prayer. Or when I went to a church service for a friends kid's baptism type of thing, had to sit through some prayers before they got to it (and a few music songs that were good)

    I do have to say, never ate dinner with anybody that said grace
    Ok, yes. Forgot about those occasions, weddings / baptism (haven't been in a long time).
    In those cases i'd make an exception, from my previous statement to not go into a church. And of course i'd sit through their prayers and songs quite and respectfully.

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    New Member Benji's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn View Post
    Really? I go to churches, cathedrals, temples, synagogues, etc. all the time while travelling. Never during services, of course. And when people are praying during off-hours, I steer clear of those people while admiring the architecture and artwork. You're doing yourself a disservice if you go to Paris, and skip Sacré-Coeur.
    Have you been to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York? It is absolutely breathtaking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Benji View Post
    I saw this on a friend's page and my question is for both sides. What do you do during grace if you are an atheist? If you are a Christian, what do you expect of the atheist during prayer?



    As a Christian in my home, I would expect them to at least do whatever we are doing, whether it be bowing head and closing eyes, holding hands, whatever. Of course, with my eyes closed, how would I know what they are doing?

    If I were in an atheist's home I would honor their just digging in, but in my mind I would still say grace. No eyes closed or head bowed, this is between God and I.


    Ms. Benji,

    Interesting question. Just like, when you invite a vegetarian or vegan to your house for dinner, you're expected to provide vegetarian or vegan options, but strange, they likely wouldn't provide meat options if they invite you to their house for dinner.
    Thanks from Benji

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