An Atheist Dinner Benediction

Back in April, the post “Out of Respect” inspired a discussion about what an atheist host could say at a meal as substitute for a prayer. This is, I think, an important question, and one worthy of an answer. I have written before about the importance of spirituality, even to a nonbeliever. Just because we are atheists does not mean that we cannot find symbolic significance and meaning in the small rituals that we all undertake every day. Indeed, I would argue that human life in a sense needs rituals; however, these need not be specifically religious. It is not supernatural belief that we require, but rather the comforting rhythm of the familiar which calms us and gives order and structure to our lives.

However, although there are some invocations by famous atheists that might be suitable for the purpose, I know of no secular benedictions specifically written to be said at mealtime. Perhaps I can supply one. As always, I make no claims to speak for atheists, and the following piece certainly should not be viewed as authoritative or graven in stone. I would encourage anyone who desired to use this one to adapt it to fit their own purposes and needs. However, it can, perhaps, provide a framework for the general kind of thing an atheist might say at mealtime, whether a formal or celebratory dinner with friends and colleagues or simply a quiet meal with family and loved ones. I encourage my readers to suggest modifications and improvements in whatever ways seem best to them.

As we come together to share this meal, let us first remember how it came to us and be thankful to the people who made it possible.

This food was born from the bounty of the Earth, in warm sunlight, rich earth, and cool rain.
May it nourish us, in body and mind, and provide us with the things that are good for living.
We are grateful to those who cultivated it, those who harvested it, those who brought it to us, and those who prepared it.
May its consumption bring about the pleasures of friendship, love, and good company.

And as we partake of this food in each other’s company,
as what was once separate from all of us becomes part of each of us,
may we also remember what we have in common and what brings us all together.

May this sharing of food foster peace and understanding among us,
may it bring us to the recognition that we depend on each other for all the good we can ever hope to receive,
and that all the good we can hope to accomplish rests in helping others in turn.

May it remind us that as we reach out to others to brighten their lives,
so are our lives brightened in turn.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • SteveC

    Perhaps for ex-christians, or others who are used to saying a prayer at each meal, not doing so seems weird, and some substitute may fill some need.

    I can say this though, as a person raised without religion (though not generally anti-religiously), the before-meal prayer which I occasionally encountered while growing up at friend’s houses, etc struck me as *exceedingly weird*. Now, as an adult, those sorts of things still seem pretty weird. I almost feel like it would be (comedically) appropriate at a table at which the host says a prayer to say, “Oh, is it the custom to do weird things before the meal? Ok. I shall do a somersault before my meal then.” It makes as much sense.

    I guess what I’m saying is that “structure” you indicate some “require” for such rituals is, to those who have not been habituated to such rituals, not just superfluous, but downright weird, and some require *the absence* of such rituals, because that is what we are accustomed to, and rituals seem fake and weird to us.

    Maybe it’s just that people tend to like that which they are used to.

  • http://onlycrook.wordpress.com Jude

    The prayer at meal ritual always seemed silly to me, probably because my family only prayed at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This reminds me of my brother, who once told me, “I’m not one of those obnoxious vegetarians who don’t eat meat when they’re invited to someone’s house.” I told him that I *am* one of those obnoxious vegetarians because I hate meat, so I wouldn’t eat meat to make my host feel happy. I’m not a situational vegetarian; I’m also not a situational atheist.

  • Alex Weaver

    Heh. The only times my family ever said grace that I can recall was when extended family were visiting. During my teens, as my atheism solidified, I began to find this exceedingly amusing, since I happened to have a dog named Gracie. “Say Grace? Sure mom. Grace! C’mere girl!” These days I remain silent during prayers said by other people in attendance, but neither bow nor close my eyes.

  • Mikidu

    Crikey Adam! By the time I got through all that my meal would be cold! Good try though.

  • http://www.dougpaulsen.com/ Doug

    I think just stick with the first paragraph, cut out some of the excessive adjectives like ‘rich earth and cool rain’, and emphasize that the food came from people, and not from Jesus.

  • http://corsair.blogspot.com corsair the rational pirate

    How about:

    “Thanks for coming. I hope you all enjoy the meal. Let’s eat.”

    What is all this wishy-washy poetry sounding stuff? And if I invite you to eat at my house, I hope I have already fostered peace and understanding betwixt us. I am not inviting radical Islamonazis to turkey day after all.

    I think rituals are fine, like Superbowl weekend and 4th of July fireworks and high school football games on Friday night. I just don’t think we need to make more of them than they are and dress them up into some sort of community circle jerk.

  • http://secularplanet.blogspot.com Secular Planet

    This is too long for everyday use, but it might be appropriate on Thanksgiving. I grew up saying a very short blessing before every dinner, and then I personally extended it to every meal during my years as a serious Catholic, so it doesn’t seem weird to me. Meals are often social gatherings, so rituals seem appropriate. Shaking someone’s hand is a ritual, too, but I don’t think people think that’s weird if you grew up in a culture where this happens.

  • Christpher

    I propose a little toast instead of a blessing:

    Head of household: “Let us eat, drink and be merry! For tommarow, we may all perish.”

    Guests: “To today and all the pleasures in it!”

    I think this captures the festive spirit of the meal, rather than introduce soberness to the situation (like a benediction does).

  • Jack

    The comment by Mikidu brings to mind a couple of short variations on the
    atheistic (or antitheistic) mealtime prayer:

    Good bread, good meat, goddam let’s eat! Amen.

    or even shorter:

    God’s neat. Let’s eat! Amen.

    Not exactly reverent or spiritual, but good for a little chuckle.

  • Brendan

    I like it. I think it’s superb for use in special occasions, and could easily be abbreviated for daily use, particularly if you are used to saying a prayer before a meal.

  • Carol

    I don’t get it. Why does anyone feel a need to make a speech before any meal? I think that if I were eating at someone’s house and they gave such a speech, it’d be hard to not laugh. Also, I don’t understand the use of the word “benediction,” which implies theistic beliefs. I guess “to each his (or her) own.”

  • Andreas

    Maybe some non-religious people feel a need of having a some kind of ritual before dinner, and then I guess your proposed speech would work just fine. But for me, who’s not at all used to rituals or prayers of any kind anytime, hearing something like this at the dinner table would feel extremely weird. Just eat, dammit!

  • Josh C.

    What’s the point in thanking people that you don’t know? Will your niceness somehow come back to you by some psychic force of the cosmos? If you’re looking for a “higher meaning” in life absent God, then you should quit now. There really is no higher purpose than maximizing pleasure, reproduce (though that could be argued), die…and if you’re wrong about God, go to Hell. Really, to a Christian it seems quite silly that you are trying to fill a hole that you say doesn’t exist. It doesn’t really reflect well on your atheist witness.

  • stillwaters

    Don’t people have manners any more? I think that Adam meant this benediction (an expression of good wishes, not necessarily religious) as something to say at a special occasion, not every meal, every day. There are occasions that come along that require more than just sitting down and gobbling up anything within reach. When the meal is a special occasion, then it is good and polite to speak a few words in honor of the meal, and the people that have joined you for the meal.

    And you don’t need a god to appreciate food, or to appreciate the people that made the meal possible, including those that grew the food. In modern times, we are so far removed from where our meals actually originate, that we can easily overlook this.

    When a special occasion comes along, and it is proper and polite to say a few words, Adam gives us a brief, but well-written speech to start from. It makes the meal that much more special when you acknowledge the people who made it possible, as well as the people that are sharing in the celebration. And it’s possible to do it in a secular way. No god is needed to acknowledge that food and the people sharing in the food are special to us. Meaning does not come from god, but from what each of us finds special and meaningful in our lives. And meals, during special occasions, are an excellent time to proclaim such feelings, and foster a better relationship with those people in our lives.

  • Alex Weaver

    What’s the point in thanking people that you don’t know? Will your niceness somehow come back to you by some psychic force of the cosmos?

    Is that the only reason you thank god for anything?

    If you’re looking for a “higher meaning” in life absent God, then you should quit now. There really is no higher purpose than maximizing pleasure, reproduce (though that could be argued), die…and if you’re wrong about God, go to Hell.

    Strange that the only people I’ve ever encountered who see atheism this way are non-atheists. Can’t imagine why that would be…

    Really, to a Christian it seems quite silly that you are trying to fill a hole that you say doesn’t exist. It doesn’t really reflect well on your atheist witness.

    We don’t deny that ritual and spirituality add something to our lives, but we (or I, at least) don’t see them as a “hole” that needs to be filled for us to be whole or functional, and none of us see it as a “God-shaped hole” as that one Youth Group minister put it years ago.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Hello all,

    I’m back from vacation – tanned, rested and ready, as the saying goes. :) I’m happy to see that a constructive discussion’s been going on in my absence. Allow me to offer some thoughts.

    First of all, I do understand the viewpoint that a pre-meal invocation would be strange or silly for everyday use. I feel very much the same way myself. Then again, I grew up in a non-religious household, so I’ve never been exposed to such ritual and that makes it easy for me to find it strange. But there are a great many people from religious upbringings who are used to it, and I dare say the idea wouldn’t sound so strange to them. It might even be helpful to such people in making the transition from belief to atheism, as it would allow them to keep some of the structure of ritual they’ve grown to find familiar and comforting. And I don’t think such an invocation would be terribly out of place or inappropriate on a holiday or some other special event. There’s nothing wrong, at times, with wanting to set the mood for a special occasion by marking it off and making it clear that this is an event of particular significance. As I said, I don’t regard this speech as definitive and would have no objection to an alternative that’s different or shorter. (Although, truthfully, if I had left it too short it wouldn’t have been enough to justify its own post!)

    I note for Carol that my dictionary defines “benediction” as “something that promotes goodness or well-being” or “an expression of good wishes”. I see no reason why an atheist couldn’t give such a speech. As with “spirituality”, I think there are many words whose core definitions are perfectly suitable for atheists despite superficial encrustations of religious connotation.

    I especially appreciate stillwaters’ comment, which I think sums up extremely well what I was getting at. I do think there are occasions that are appropriate to imbue with special significance and to use as the occasion for fostering closeness and human interaction. And what better time than at a meal, the most common social occasion and the one we all share? Just because something is common or familiar doesn’t mean it can’t also carry significance.

    Also, a response to the Christian who’s stumbled in here:

    What’s the point in thanking people that you don’t know? Will your niceness somehow come back to you by some psychic force of the cosmos?

    No. The reason to thank people you don’t know is not for their sake, but because it tends to make you a better person, in that it calls to attention the work and sacrifices which others have made on your behalf and encourages you not to take them for granted.

    If you’re looking for a “higher meaning” in life absent God, then you should quit now.

    Too late; I’ve already found one. I find my life quite enriched with meaning and purpose, thank you very much, and I’m sure most of the regular commenters here would agree. Whether you like it or not, it is possible to live a meaningful and happy life without religious beliefs, and many people do; and for you to come here and try to deny that, frankly, is just going to make you look silly. It reminds me of the apocryphal tale of a scientist claiming he’s proven mathematically that it’s impossible for bumblebees to fly, while all the while they’re buzzing away in the garden behind him.

  • Josh C.

    Point taken, I should not have made the assumption you have no purpose absent God. Thank you for not berating me too badly for my mistake. I’ll try to read the rest of your musings, so I can better assert the meaning of your terms. Thanks.

  • Haymoon

    In Irish “Don méid atá romhainn, táimíd buíoch”

    In English

    For what is before us, we are thankful

  • rev Marvin E Purser Jr

    This is a beautiful prayer to each other in whom is God’s Spirit.
    There was nothing in the prayer that was offensive to my faith.

    What it lacks is acknowledgment of the Creator of the food, the people
    who eat it, and the people who pray with each other in appreciation of
    it.

    While God does not need anything, including the thanks and the acknowledgment
    of His existence or His unselfish gift to us of life with free will, your prayer shows
    that mankind needs it and atheists lose their religion should they acknowledge it.

  • tenebrous

    rev Marvin E Purser Jr

    Actually what the prayer shows is that we can think of others and be grateful for what we have without referring to fictional patriarchal authority figures. So God is irrelevent to an atheistic benediction. As for acknowledging the people who eat it, did you miss the 2nd half of the benediction? It does more than just acknowledge them but expresses beautifiul sentiments of good will and community. The prayer lacks nothing, adding a diety would only serve to make the prayer palatable to the adherents of that God.

    And Atheism is as much a religion as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • rev marvin e purser jr

    To Tenebrous:
    Touche’! I loved the stamp collecting analogy!
    A person who does not believe in God and “evangelizes” his belief ( angel means messenger) has his Religion because he believes about his unbelief enough to feel threatened by those who believe, hence his own personal need to debate it.

    You don’t believe in a knife, fork or spoon, so you don’t debate whether it exists or not. You know it exists and there is no one to debate that fact near you. There is someone to debate whether God had anything to do with its existence and so you choose to debate that person. If you were comfortable that God had nothing to do with a knife, fork or spoon, as you are with the existence of the three of them, you would not bother to debate it. You would let the fundamentalist keep his religion to himself. When you debate him, you try to keep him from doing that. What is your concern? Your conscience is bothering you. Or someone outside your conscience is bothering you. Maybe, you can see the knife fork and spoon, but can’t see its creator is why you try to prove that He does not exists because you can’t see Him.
    It is just as valid an argument for me to insist that you find the creator of a knife fork and spoon and then the creator of that person as it is for you to insist that i show you the creator of a knife fork and spoon and then the Creator of that person.
    This makes us even, leaving you the free will to have no faith in God as creator of all and leaving me the free will to have faith in God as creator of all. I believe God gives you that free will. Most of those in the Bible did not believe in free will, but instead punishment by God if one chose what he felt was right for him.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Rev,

    The reason I feel compelled to argue against religion is manyfold:
    First, it’s a wasteful superstitution responsible for causing untold amounts of mental as well as physical harm, even in this day and again.
    It fights against sexual education.
    It tries to teach creationism as an alternative to evolution, much the same way the stork bringing a family a baby should be taught as an alternative to sexual reproduction.
    It takes it billions of dollars, tax free, and does not return that money to the public that needs it.
    It treatens to rip the world apart in the middleast, not to mention the rest of the world.
    Causes hatred amoung groups who have no other reason to hate each other.
    Denys human rights.
    And although the list isn’t complete, I’d like to point out that little spoon analogy. You claim that a god is the creator of people, then I would ask you who created god? The only two responses I’ve ever heard to the question are either 1) God has always existed (but if you’re going to assume that an all-powerful creator god just popped into existance, you might as well just assume that life always existed) or 2) That god was created by an ever more powerful and complex god, which of course raises the question of where that one came from.

    Hate to be rude about this but the bible contains self-contradicting stories, all of which lacking in any kind of historical reference outside the bible (i.e. they are only recorded there, and not anywhere else in history), not to mention even the stories in the bible have no evidence to support them.

    If you’re going to make a positive claim (God Exists), then you need to support it. If you don’t understand why, I’d point you to the church of the flying spaghetti monster and russel’s teapot (you can wikipedia both).

  • tenebrous

    Ah rev Marvin E Purser Jr

    I second Mrnaglfar’s response.

    I would say that I have enough confidence in my position to be open to debate about it. It’s my experience that the only people who try to avoid debate are the ones who really aren’t that sure or are even afraid that their beliefs aren’t justifiable. But if my debate forces someone to rethink their position and wonder if it really is justified then isn’t that a good thing? Sure we can agree to disagree so long as you don’t make claims that are invalidated by the facts. I won’t ever agree that the age of the Earth is 6000 or so years because the hard evidence rules that out. Just as I won’t ever agree to disagree over the roundness of the Earth or that the sun is the center of the solar system.

    The whole basis of atheism is that the positive statement “God exists” lacks evidence and thus is rejected by the atheist. We don’t try to disprove gods but the claims made by theists are put to the test and have so far we find them deficient.

  • marvin purser

    tenebrous: You have assumed that I am a fundamentalist, one who avoids debate, so unsure of my position, probably make claims not validated by facts, assume that I may think the earth is 6,000 or so years old,etc.

    Atheism survives on the dabate with fundamentalism. Bahaism, which I am not associated with in any way pushes the opposite, that the Bible or any information or facts if you will, is the progressive revelation of God, given to man as he chooses to pursue it at
    any level, and discovers that what is is eternal an all of is, is God.

    God does not push, has no ego trip so that we work for him, gives man existence and the desire to pursue Him, with or without awareness that i is God man is pursuing.

    God’s existence, however to be proven with facts, is none of my business. I choose
    Him by just needing a creator who is did all of this and who gave the responsibility
    for it all to mankind. If it works fine, we did his Ultimate Will. If we screw up,
    we provided progressive circumstances so that His Intentional Will was circumvented
    temporarily. His ultimate will wins out. Good eventually overcomes evil.

    In the meantime, I do not have answers for those who suffer and die in earthquakes and tornadoes, with cancer, children who didn’t do a damn thing and die hurting.

    That bothers me. Fixing it does not and is our mission. We are doing an incredible job compared to 100 years ago, most of which would be called by them then miracles of God. They are, because that seems to be the way God works, with no hands but ours to do His will. The only difference today is that we don’t give God credit for the miracles. How dare we think that we did it all. And if we did not, then who did?

    It just happened? Then let’s all quit. It’s going to happen anyway.

  • marvin purser

    Tenebrous:

    If “Atheism is as much a religion as stamp collecting is a hobby,” then why don’t stamp collectors pray as they collect stamps as atheists pray as they pursue atheism? Wow! With that logic, we should have every hobbiest praying and every atheist collecting stamps! You are playing, not praying with your “not a religion” religion and my not an atheistic religion. The reason Atheists want to thank people is because
    that is the way God wants to be thank! As Christ said: “Feed them, you feed me.”

    I would like to see Atheists in their minds, just let all the religions go to hell, forget about them, and then replace it with something better to make this world a better place. When you can come up with that, I will change my religion to Atheism

    But, I assure you, that when your have completed this assignment, there had better not be any one in your religion who kills or maims, causes anyone in the world to suffer, all the complaints you have against present day religions.

    You cannot do it because we are all human and we progress from what was less before
    in any endeavor we pursue. Creation is built on that premise.

  • Eric

    No marvin, many of us do not engage in debate with apologists or theists in regards to “Does god exist?” because the question itself is beyond answer. The Japanese have a word called “Mu.” (and no, it is not moot as in English, just because they sound similar does not make them similar) and “Mu” essentially means that the question cannot be answered becasue it operates on factual inconsistencies.

    For us to engage in debate on a question like that is silly and wastes time. And also, from my point of view, it simply is not worth my time to engage in debate with religious followers and god buffs because in my experience I have NEVER met one who will see and admit the factual inconsitencies of their god, their religious books of myth and fable, and the wholesale cruelty caused by these beliefs. I have yet to meet one who is intellectually honest. So to use an old cliche, arguing/debating with this population is akin to trying to teach the proverbial pig how to ride a bike. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

    Eric

  • Pi Guy

    I realize that i’m rather late to the game but I saw that there was some new activity on this post…

    In Irish “Don méid atá romhainn, táimíd buíoch”
    In English: For what is before us, we are thankful

    In our atheist home, just before we eat, my wife or I say “So what is everyone thankful for?” and we each (me, wife, two daughters – 14 and 10) say “I’m thankful for…” Sometimes it’s something silly, especially when first began the practice ~6 years ago. It’s refreshing to be reminded of what a 5 year old is thankful for on a daily basis. But often it’s something serious, a pivotal event in our lives – “I’m thankful that I got the job.” or “I’m thankful that the we’re able to bring our whole family together to share our love…” at Turkey Day or other big family-gathering holidays.

    In fact, my sister and mother, born again Xians, have participated in this ritual on quite a number of occasions and are not offended or upset in any way that I can see. My brother and his girlfriend, my brother-in-law, step-father, and other assorted family members – all born-fine-the-first-time Xians at the very least – join in without hesitation. On one Easter gathering at Casa Pi, as we went around the circle my sister said “I’m thankful that Christ died for our sins.” and, while my girls have never been formally exposed to Christianity (We celebrate Labor Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and the Fourth of July. We don’t discriminate.) but they both knew the story to which had she alluded. OTOH, when Mandy was 4 of 5 (now 10), we somehow ended up on the subject of Jesus as we drove home one after a visit to the in-laws. My wife (not formally declared but decidedly un-religious) summarized the Jesus story replete with the alignment of the cosmos, the “No room at the inn”, a few miracles, the Apostles, the betrayal of Judas, and, of course, the crucifixion. It was a good, concise, one-minute blurb well-tailored to the audience. Mandy was quiet for a few moments and then suddenly declared “So Jesus is the son of God just like Zeus is the son of Hercules!” (thank you Walt Disney) and I replied “Exactly.”

    BTW: I’ve never had a “coming out” party or anything like that. Except for my bro and his gf, I’ve never acknowledged being un-Christian. Of course, I’ve never had to admit to being un-Shinto, or un-polytheist-shamanist-animist, or un-Muslim, or un-Baalian. So I suppose that it’s also possible they think that I worship the gods of Valhlla since I’ve never denied that either.

  • Pi Guy

    “…just like Zeus is the son of Hercules!”

    should read “…just like Hercules is the son of Zeus!”

    A thousand pardons.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Marvin,

    If “Atheism is as much a religion as stamp collecting is a hobby,” then why don’t stamp collectors pray as they collect stamps as atheists pray as they pursue atheism?

    Atheists don’t pray, and there’s nothing in that little passage that constitutes praying. Being grateful for things and appreciating what you have is not the same, by far, as praying. If you fail to see the difference, that doesn’t change that there is a rather large difference.

    The reason Atheists want to thank people is because
    that is the way God wants to be thank! As Christ said: “Feed them, you feed me.”

    Christ also said “anyone who doesn’t hate his family cannot be my disciple” (roughly paraphrasing). God is also quoted as saying “kill anyone working on the sabbath” (which I can assume includes you), “kill every homosexual”, “Kill disobident children”, “kill all those who don’t believe in [god]“, and back to Jesus for a moment “Sell everything you own (yes everything) if you want to get into heaven”. Likewise, under that logic, people murder because god wants them to, and are gay because god wants them to be, and god has planned every abortion that has ever, and will ever happen. God also wants me to think you’re beliefs are stupid, harmful, and wasteful. Argue your way out of that one.

    I would like to see Atheists in their minds, just let all the religions go to hell, forget about them, and then replace it with something better to make this world a better place. When you can come up with that, I will change my religion to Atheism

    Again, atheism is not a religion, it’s a lack of belief in any god(s). Yes, the same way NOT collecting stamps is a hobby. Matter of fact though, you’re almost an atheist yourself; you don’t believe in all, many, or even a handful of the gods mankind has thought up over our existance, you only, presumably, believe in one. You are an atheist is regard to every other religion outside your own, I only take that one step further. What reason do you have for believing in your religion over any other alternative one? Do you feel yours is the best option, and if you do, why?

    But, I assure you, that when your have completed this assignment, there had better not be any one in your religion who kills or maims, causes anyone in the world to suffer, all the complaints you have against present day religions.

    People will do that regardless of religion, just as they do it today. Only difference is that by removing religion, you remove just one more irration justifaction people have to kill each other. While people are inherently aggressive, religion is an outlet that makes them feel justifed in hurting and hating others. Take the middle east for instance; Jewish/Islamic hatred. That could be solved simply if people weren’t killing each other over ‘sacred’ pieces of the earth that hold no value outside of a religious context. Disputes can be settled when it’s just an argument over land, but when both sides feel that god has entitled them to that land and armaggedon is coming soon, it puts everyone else is a bad place.

    You cannot do it because we are all human and we progress from what was less before in any endeavor we pursue. Creation is built on that premise.

    I think you actually mixed up your terms. Evolution is a progression from simple to complex, though not a progression towards an end goal.

    We are doing an incredible job compared to 100 years ago, most of which would be called by them then miracles of God. They are, because that seems to be the way God works, with no hands but ours to do His will. The only difference today is that we don’t give God credit for the miracles. How dare we think that we did it all. And if we did not, then who did?

    Our progress has come from science, questioning, and experiments, much of which was, and is, opposed by religion. Also, one quick question, or rather an observation; god’s will certainly seems at least to match up with your views pretty often. Likewise, when they aren’t your views, it’s only because god’s will has been circumvented somehow. A bit odd don’t you think?

  • Angie

    A person who does not believe in God and “evangelizes” his belief ( angel means messenger) has his Religion because he believes about his unbelief enough to feel threatened by those who believe, hence his own personal need to debate it.

    Question: Why are you posting on an atheist web site. For debate? No one else here is debating god’s existence. We’re atheists. Get it? Are you here debating because you feel threatened by those who don’t believe, hence your own personal need to debate it?

    Observation: “Feel threatened by those who believe…” Pal, we’re threatened all the time by people who believe. We’re going to hell. We’re evil and will be punished for all eternity. Oh, the torture that awaits us. God will smite us, etc. I repeat, we’re threatened all the time.

    Comment: I think most people here enjoy a good debate. One must have a strong position that they believe in to have a good debate. And for the record, one of the oldest and most irritating things a Christian can put forth is the old “you really do believe in god, you just can’t admit it. See, you’re doing things god wants you to do all the time.” Please.

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Let us take a moment to remember these truly excellent premeal benedictions from “The Simpsons”:

    “Dear God, before we peel the foil back from your bounty, let us give thanks.”

    – Marge, serving TV dinners

    “Good rice, good curry, good Gandhi, let’s hurry.”

    –Apu

    and of course:

    “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”

    –Bart

  • tenebrous

    Marvin

    You seem to have taken my generalisations personally. It was not my intention to accuse you of anything, you asked why I speak out and I told you.

    I also set out the limits of what I could beleive based on what the evidence has shown to be impossible. Again you have taken my declaration as an accusation levelled against you. I don’t know what you believe beyond what you have said.

    “Sure we can agree to disagree so long as you don’t make claims that are invalidated by the facts.” this statement perhaps should have been elaborated on but I was merely setting a condition on how far my tolerance to agree to disagree would go. I was letting you know that I can’t tolerate beliefs that defy reality. It is just not in my nature.

    Indeed am I to assume from your “Good eventually overcomes evil” comment that you think me evil?

    “It just happened? Then let’s all quit. It’s going to happen anyway.”

    NO, not at all. This kind of petulance really pisses me off. There is a lot we can do. You can plan ahead, you can set up emergency shelters, disaster relief etc. You can assess the dangers and work out how to minimise or even negate them. All of that can be done without your mythical sky man.

    Who says Atheists pray? Surely you can tell the difference between a prayer and a benediction? And you seem to have got my statement wrong. I said “Atheism is as much a religion as not colelcting stamps is a hobby”. So you ojection seems doubly absurd.

    Atheism isn’t about replacing one religion with another. It is about accepting what is evidently real and not believing in stuff that lacks evidence or worse, defies available evidence. It is not a moral code and never will be a moral code. My morality comes from my life and the lessons I’ve learned from my parents, family and friends etc.

    “But, I assure you, that when your have completed this assignment, there had better not be any one in your religion who kills or maims, causes anyone in the world to suffer, all the complaints you have against present day religions.”

    Very funny, like religions don’t already blame atheism for a whole host of problems real and imagined going back to the dark ages. Usually this is done by first misrepresenting atheism as being a moral code or a rejection of all morality.

    You seem to assume that I blame religion for the failings of certain individuals which given your previous complaint (addressed above) about possible assumptions of your fundamentalism, seems a bit hypocritical. But since you brought it up I would say that religion is no magic charm against such atrocities. I agree bad people will be bad period, so what is the point of religion again?

  • rev marvin e purser jr

    to all: We acknowledge the existence of things with our five senses. We see, hear, feel, touch and smell them. Yet, all of you must claim that you have brains, yet none of you have ever seen, heard, felt, touched or smelled your brain or mine. Yet you believe that they all exists because you have faith in their existence.
    Are you ahead of me?

    The Bible, just as all knowledge is progressive, in that we improve on what we observe in the place where we live. We improve because we seek what we cannot yet see, hear, feel, touch or smell. As we do, our perspective changes. This is the progressive revelation of the Creator. Jesus, when asked about asking God for whatever, said: “Seek ye first the Kingdom and all of these things will be revealed to you.”
    So we look and we find. Tom Edison looked in the Kingdom of God for a way to light it up and after 8,000 tries he found it. He tried 8,000 times because he had faith that what he could not see was there if he continued to look for it. All our answers to prayer are already here. We want them now, but that is not the way life is set up by the creator. It is a “seek and you will find” program, a progression in revelation. That is why “necessity is the mother of invention.” That is why Jesus said to “Ask and you will receive.”
    And it would behoove all atheists to stop defending our points of view by running back into biblical history for backwoodsy beliefs about their existence as though those beliefs were cut and dried, concrete, dyed in the wool, beliefs. They are beliefs that constantly get an overhaul down through the centuries as mankind learns more about what is going on in the Kingdom of God.
    Example: “If Cain is avenged 7 times, truly Lamech 77 times” changed to “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” changed to “forgive your fellowman 70 x 7.” It is a progression.
    People who pray to Jesus as though he were God because of the screwed up theology of the Trinity, have real problems when they see how many times Jesus prayed in the year and a half he was in his ministry, and everytime he prayed, he prayed to God, and he was not looking in a mirror! This drives the fundamentalist Jesus boys nuts and so they simply rationalize the trinity to fit it anyway. That does not make religion, or a belief in God bad because people are learning more and more how God really operates in His universe. Atheism exists because it only denies belief. If it did not have that opportunity, it would not continue with only a positive outlook on one’s existence. Take God away, and Atheism has nothing to debate. With nothing to debate, Atheism has no motive to continue to exist. It is only designed to bad mouth
    anyone else’s religious point of view. It is like proving that there is a peanut in a peanut shell or that you have a brain because you have seen one in a dead corpse. Odds are that you are correct, but you cannot really prove it. I accept that you have a brain on faith. Without that faith, I could spend my life debating you with the assumption that you do not have one at all and you could not prove it otherwise.

  • rev marvin e purser jr

    eric: You are projecting your own prejudices.
    How easy is it to convince you, Sir? Same problem you have convincing me. What kind of an argument is that and relate it to a pig? The pigs are twins! You and me! So what!

    Second: Since The existence or non existence of God cannot be proven, the only thing left in the debate is whether you wish to accept God on faith or not. I do, based on
    the existence of all there is in my world. Some way this all got created by a creator.
    You tell me how this all came about. If you say, “Well, it just always has been.” then I am reminded of Saturday Night Live and the Church lady who said: “How conveeenient!”

  • Mrnaglfar

    Rev Marvin E Purser Jr ( can I just call you Rev?),

    We acknowledge the existence of things with our five senses. We see, hear, feel, touch and smell them. Yet, all of you must claim that you have brains, yet none of you have ever seen, heard, felt, touched or smelled your brain or mine. Yet you believe that they all exists because you have faith in their existence.
    Are you ahead of me?

    EEGs and CAT scans can show you your brain activity and pictures of it while it’s still in your head. We can operate on brains while still alive, and when dead, we can remove and examine them. So yes, we are ahead of you because brains can be verified and examined, and don’t have to be taken on faith that they exist, unlike some things you happen to believe in.

    The Bible, just as all knowledge is progressive

    The bible is progressive? When was the last time someone updated the bible to confirm new discoveries like the world being round and going around the sun? When was that part about stoning for working on the sabbath or killing those who don’t believe in god removed because they were unethical?

    Tom Edison looked in the Kingdom of God for a way to light it up and after 8,000 tries he found it. He tried 8,000 times because he had faith that what he could not see was there if he continued to look for it.

    No, he was experiementing with electricity, which had been discovered well before his time. He used science, not faith. There’s a huge difference.

    And it would behoove all atheists to stop defending our points of view by running back into biblical history for backwoodsy beliefs about their existence as though those beliefs were cut and dried, concrete, dyed in the wool, beliefs. They are beliefs that constantly get an overhaul down through the centuries as mankind learns more about what is going on in the Kingdom of God.

    I assume by “backwoodsy” you mean “what the bible actually says”. I think you forget the part where the bible doesn’t make any predictions about the world as we understand it today, not about evolution, or curing diseases, or creating the lightbulb, or traveling to the moon, or cell phones, or computers, and that those achievements have come through science and testing, and retesting, and long drawn out process of trial and error and questioning and revision; not faith.

    That does not make religion, or a belief in God bad because people are learning more and more how God really operates in His universe

    No, it makes it incorrect; It’s bad for a completely different set of reasons.

    Take God away, and Atheism has nothing to debate. With nothing to debate, Atheism has no motive to continue to exist. It is only designed to bad mouth

    You’re right about the first part; with no belief in god we wouldn’t debate it anymore. Now, by bad-mouth, I can assume you mean point out inconsistencies, fallacies, bad moral teachings, and poor reasoning. It’s hardly my problem that your faith can’t stand up to questioning or prove itself, and resorting to emotional tactics of “don’t be so mean to my ideas just because they’re wrong” isn’t going to work.

    Odds are that you are correct, but you cannot really prove it. I accept that you have a brain on faith. Without that faith, I could spend my life debating you with the assumption that you do not have one at all and you could not prove it otherwise.

    Except, as mentioned above, you don’t have to take it on faith; there is an uncontrovertable amount of evidence. So yes, we could prove otherwise; whether or not you accept the evidence is a totally different matter.

    Since The existence or non existence of God cannot be proven, the only thing left in the debate is whether you wish to accept God on faith or not. I do, based on the existence of all there is in my world

    At least you admit you have absolutely no reason to believe what you do. Might be hard to debate anyone on that logically basis though.

    You tell me how this all came about. If you say, “Well, it just always has been.” then I am reminded of Saturday Night Live and the Church lady who said: “How conveeenient!”

    And how do you feel god came to exist? Assuming something even bigger, living, and intelligent pre-existed is to assume more than you try to explain. I think I know the answer to that one, so let me give you the same response back; “how conveeenient”

  • Alexandra Ford

    Hi,

    I do not believe in God and either does my soon to be husband, but we both have very religious families. My mother is a crazy born again (I swear she is using it to fill a void in her life for right now, this is her 4th attempted religion) and his family are Mennonite. I know, I am screwed. With my wedding in under two weeks, my mother has requested to do a Benediction. So far the ceremony has no mention of God but has some spiritual aspects (mostly for effect, I must admit, to make a romantic mood) and same goes for all the speeches. However, I want to respect my mother because whilst a space God seems ridiculous to me, it means something to her and it means something for her to make this “prayer” before our meal. I have said no so far, because I can’t trust her to not mention the word God and if she gets rolling, she will turn it into a full blown liturgy. Does anyone have an idea of a speech she could make in lieu of a benediction. The one that inspired this blog is a little too granola for me. It just needs to sounds nice and simple and not talk too much of blessings and prayers. Thanks!

  • Andrew

    If I may say so, the idea of an athiest ‘dinner benediction’ doesnt really seem necessary. Maybe people who grew up in a Christian household and are used to it might like the idea. But I think somebody who never did it growing up will find a use for it.

    I actually was raised in an athiest/agnostic household, we never said anything really before dinner, and even now as a Christian it feels weird, so I dont do it.

  • Andrew

    I think you forget the part where the bible doesn’t make any predictions about the world as we understand it today, not about evolution, or curing diseases, or creating the lightbulb, or traveling to the moon, or cell phones, or computers,

    So why exactly should the Bible mention these things? The Bible is not(and never was) intented to be a scientific textbook. And I doubt ancient Jews(or really ANYBODY up until quite recently) would have much interest in these subjects, or even to understand them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I have said no so far, because I can’t trust her to not mention the word God and if she gets rolling, she will turn it into a full blown liturgy. Does anyone have an idea of a speech she could make in lieu of a benediction.

    Hi Alexandra,

    I’m not certain I understand. If you write your mother a speech, do you think she’ll be willing to read it as written? Particularly if it doesn’t mention God? If she’s as religious as you say, she might take it on herself to go off the script and say what she wants anyway. How likely do you think that is to happen?

  • rev marvin e purser, jr

    for the requested wedding benediction: Dear non-existent creator of the universe. If you were around, we would want you to bless this wedding. May the couple who, to you, must obviously not exist, find happiness without you and progress in the knowledge of who you are not, so that you may eventually enter their hearts as they find the peace that passes all understanding and to them is not there at all. Amen!

  • http://gadfly-gazette.blogspot.com/ Anne

    Inspired, or irritated by an ostentatious display of pre-meal prayer in a restaurant, a dear friend and I will sometimes hold hands and sing Janice Joplin’s “O Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz.” We do all three verses. This has earned us some laughs and a lot of bewildered stares, but so far we have not been kicked out.

  • Peter

    That is a beautiful benediction, thank you.