Here’s to an Awkward Thanksgiving

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has a wonderful suggestion for what you can do during Thanksgiving dinner:

The fact is, while you’re scarfing down mashed potatoes and staying silent while everyone else at the table is freely speaking their minds, you’re missing a golden opportunity to make real, honest progress by talking about your life, and the things you care about. It’s okay if Aunt Betty feels a little awkward at first, it’s important for her to know that someone she loves cares deeply about LGBT equality. And the more we all talk about what’s important to us, the less awkward those conversations will become.

Speaking openly and honestly about your life with your loved ones is one of the best ways for all of us to move forward together.

Obviously, they’re talking to people in the LGBT community (and their allies). But I don’t see why we can’t have the same discussion when it comes to religion.

This Thursday, let your relatives know that you don’t believe in god. Let them get used to the idea that they love someone who doesn’t subscribe to the family faith.

Thanksgiving dinner is awkward, anyway. Might as well make the most of it, right? :)

(via Joe. My. God.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • M Vanroy

    When someone sneezes and expects me to say “God bless you.” I always take the opportunity to have an intense theological discussion before he sneezes again.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    Holiday family gatherings are supposed to be about everyone. I’d think by insisting on drawing attention to one’s lack of belief by bringing it up when not specifically asked about it, you would make the event about YOU. I simply refuse to bow my head and mutter incantations when the rest of the family prays. They get it. If someone asks me about my lack of belief, I discuss it with them. I don’t need to make this once a year gathering about me or atheism.

  • A Portlander

    No way.  We have professional agitators to bring this stuff up over the holidays.  Pulling a stunt like this turns a plea for understanding and acceptance into a perpetual fight over “that time you ruined Thanksgiving”.

  • Anonymous

    Thanksgiving this year is going to be at one of the few decent American style joints in Madrid with my dad. I think I’ll go for the ribs.

    My entire family is atheist, so saying I don’t believe in god would only produce variations on “Uh huh, so what else is new?”. Now, if I were to let drop that I’d converted to some form of theism, it certainly would cause an awkward silence. However I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t cause an uproar or argument, and I sure as hell would never be accused of “ruining Thanksgiving”.

    And that’s the difference. Atheist family learns of theist member –> confusion and maybe badly concealed amusement. Religious family learns of atheist member –> uproar, argument and atheist is accused of “ruining Thanksgiving” by virtue of merely being open about their worldview. The double standard is richer than the gravy.

    Edit: I forgot to mention that the picture in the banner looks to me an awful lot like Greta Christina, save the lipstick and judgemental expression.

  • Peggin

    I don’t think you should necessarily bring up the topic out of the blue, but when Uncle Joe starts making noise about how he doesn’t think atheists should have the right to vote, I definitely think taking a stand and speaking out is a much better choice than keeping quiet because you don’t want awkwardness at the family dinner.

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      I agree. If attacked, you have a right to defend yourself. 
      As far as the awkwardness, it’s already present once “Uncle Joe” begins to spout off…

    • Mrschili

      This is more my style.  Of course, my family knows that I’m an atheist, that I actively support GLBTQ rights, and that I’m a crazy liberal-progressive.  I try not to make too big a deal out of it, but I don’t shut up if someone opens a conversation that brings those qualities in me to bear.

  • Bryce

    I think I’ve gotten over most of the awkwardness with my family. After arguing with my mother for a few years, when she tried to say I couldn’t be Atheist after being baptized, she finally acknowledged my beliefs a few months ago in a phone conversation, like it was nothing. I just about dropped the phone from shock.

  • Trace

    And risk the peacan pie? nuhh uhh

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      Timing is everything!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    You don’t have to bring it up.  Just don’t bow your head or clasp your hands when grace is said.  Then you wait to see if anyone will ask you why you didn’t participate.  You can formulate your own answer.  Mine would be along the lines of  “Well, I don’t believe the supernatural played any part in the good things that have happened to us this year.  We all worked hard for what we have.  Instead of thanking an imaginary being, I wish I could thank the farmers and the people who picked the crops, the factory workers, the truck drivers, and the stockers who put the stuff on the grocery shelves at 4 a.m.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rik-Nash-Shannon/100001732022091 Rik Nash-Shannon

    I disowned my mother and her entire side of the family for being born again zealots 25 yrs. ago. Even a few of my step siblings fall into that category. So by simply being members of an absolutist zealot based religion they are in fact responsible for the end of the relationship and the ruining of Thanksgiving. The purposeful anti-intellectualism of what ever passes for their ability at dialogue would make the event a waste of time. They are violent people who now believe in a violent way of life.
    I now have Thanksgiving with my own family and sleep soundly at night knowing I was able to shed the christian zealot infection…

  • cipher

    Eat first.

  • Stephanie

    Well, Thanksgiving’s always at my house. So there’s never an issue. When we have had known religious people I always kindly explain that we don’t believe in gods in our house so we don’t pray at our table, but we’re happy to wait for them if they feel the need. Once or twice people have taken me up on it, but usually I just get a shrug before people start passing the platters. That, more than anything, has led me to think that most people are just religious as a learned response.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    you keep off the soapbox BUT you don’t back down.  As a gay agnostic I don’t squeal “I’m gay” (or agnostic), I do talk about my partner in a straightforward way as appropriate.

    Of course, 37 years after coming out as gay, it comes much more naturally, and one loses the urge to accommodate foolishness

  • http://churchofthecasualchristian.blogspot.com Pryopizm

    I couldn’t tell my mom I’m Atheist.  There’s no point in depressing her.  She thinks I am anyway, but she knows I’m a good person and she’d never accept it anyway.  Poor woman is 71 years old tomorrow and I have no desire to upset her.  I love my mom and the hardest part about deconversion was letting go of the idea that I’d see her after she dies.  That took quite some time, and if she’s perfectly happy in ignorance, then I see no reason to upset that. 

    Perhaps it’s dishonest, but I don’t care.  It simply isn’t worth the heartache.  If I’d deconverted 20 years ago, when I was in my teens, that would’ve been a different story.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a strong believer that there’s no point in discussing these things unless someone else is expressing an opinion you disagree with. Especially if your family already knows you’re a gay or an atheist or a dirty liberal they’re probably not bringing up these topics in a strained effort to get along with you for the sake of the holidays. Like others have said here, don’t preach but don’t buckle to abuse either.

    “Pass the gravy, by the way I have sex with men” or “Yes I’ll have more cranberry sauce, and Jesus probably never existed” probably isn’t going to go over well but it would make for a memorable Thanksgiving.

  • Karen Locke

    We tend to avoid difficult topics over Thanksgiving, and we probably will this year as well; the atheists will outnumber the Christians four to two, but nobody wants to go out of their way to upset my in-laws; we love them.  Alas, this year it may well be a bit of a wake, since a distantly-located uncle passed away two days ago. Still, in my husband’s family, we tend to celebrate the dead by telling their stories, and new stories are always interesting.

    The thing is, it’s my religious in-laws, now in their 80s, who are adept at saying things out of the blue that make my jaw drop, rather than the other way around, and it often happens at holidays.  Mind you, these two come across as pleasant, sensible people, and usually they are.  But then out come things like “Well, I suppose ALL gay people aren’t pedophiles” and “there are Sikhs in town, and they’re building a TEMPLE!”  (This in the San Francisco Bay Area, not Isolated Small Town.)

    Whatever else they may be, our holidays are full of surprises…

  • Christine Mitchell

    From a Christian perspective, at my table it wouldn’t make a difference. Love is love and it doesn’t matter what your belief is. If there is a God, and I think there is, it’s His/Her responsibility to convert you, not mine. By the way, I found this blog searching for “what do atheists give thanks for.” I’m thankful for seeing another point of view.


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