What Should an Atheist Do If Asked to Say Grace During Thanksgiving Dinner?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: What should an atheist do if asked to say grace during Thanksgiving dinner?:

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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.

  • JenniferT

    Learn some Latin gibberish to get you through situations like this.

    • primenumbers
      • badgerchild

        I refuse to bring work to the table on family occasions. ;)

    • MariaO

      Latin is not “gibberish”. It is a beutifully complact, almost mathematical language and I wish I had made the effort to learn more of it while I had more time to study. But it is obviously “margeritas ante porcas” for you.

      • 3lemenope

        If I said “I need to memorize some English gibberish” you wouldn’t automatically assume I thought all of English was gibberish, would you?

  • dsmith

    Or you could take a page from the Griswold’s Christmas dinner.


    • Bering.and.Wells

      She didn’t include the “under god” in the pledge either, if I heard that correctly, though some oftthe others did. Sounds like grandma might be an atheist…

  • karl meyer

    I’m from the UK so thanksgiving isn’t an issue but occasionally saying grace is. My response is one of 2 (depending on the people around the table) either;

    a) “I’d prefer someone else to say something” or
    b) “I’m thankful to the people who worked hard to provide us food and want to pause for a moment to think of those who aren’t able to enjoy food and warmth and family”

    I tend to err towards b) simply to avoid the pious “grace” that some of our RC friends come up with that essentially translates to “look at us with our lots of food – “god” must love us more that those heathen people who don’t have it”

    • http://thecriticalatheist.com/ David Joseph Post

      Often times in the US a customary way of saying grace is for everyone to hold hands, one person starts off by saying some words, and then the person next to them says something, etc. until everyone has said something. This would do away with your a) solution and force you into b).

      • karl meyer

        Then I would probably refuse entirely to take part and if that offended the other people then that wouldn’t be a group of people I’d be comfortable spending time with.

      • Randay

        I don’t hold hands. But maybe I would quote Patti Smith, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.”

    • UWIR

      Why are you thanking the workers for providing you with food? You’ve already fully compensated them by paying them for the food. If anything, they should thank you for providing them with jobs

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    Decline. If they want to complain about it being awkward, they get to hear what it’s like from the an atheist’s perspective.

  • JLP3

    My family knows I’m an atheist, so they never ask me to lead the prayer. They are all liberal religious people, so I don’t really mind listening to them say a short prayer, as they respect my atheism. I just count in German in my head if the prayer gets too long and boring.

  • more compost

    At any Thanksgiving dinner I would attend, they would know better than to ask me. If, somehow, I were some place where I was asked to say grace, I would craft my answer to fit my surroundings.

    I might say something innocuous, or I might decline, or I might say something obnoxious. It all depends. The idea that there is one single answer is very simplistic. So is the idea that it would be any kind of problem.

    Really. If it were something that would be a problem, I would contrive to avoid the situation. I am not going to get railroaded into something that spoils the mood of the day.

  • WallofSleep

    I usually just say “Thanks for the food, amen”. I usually don’t get asked a second time.

  • Liz

    I think a good out is to ask everyone to go around the table and mention one thing they are thankful for in lieu of a prayer – a corporate act of thanksgiving. I would go last and say, “I am thankful for each of you and for this wonderful meal. Let’s eat.”

    • AxeGrrl

      I think a good out is to ask everyone to go around the table and mention one thing they are thankful for

      So simple, isn’t it? :)

      My mother was big on that very thing at Thanksgiving (the Canadian version, spaced much more prudently in relation to Christmas;) and she was as irreligious as they come :)

      • John Herling

        A better word than “thankful” is “appreciative”.

        • Ibis3


          • John Herling

            Because “thankful” connotes gratitude toward a deity.

            • Ibis3

              As opposed to appreciative toward one? I don’t see much difference. All those words (grateful, appreciative, thankful) can imply a person or persons (including supernatural ones) toward which the feeling is directed.

      • Rationalist1

        It was also set in October to be thankful for the start of hockey season. My wife’s American so we celebrate two Thanksgivings.

    • John Herling

      That raises the question: “thankful to whom or to what?”

      • Tobias 27772

        Why does my gratitude have to be directed anywhere. I am thankful for many things without giving credit to anyone or anything.

      • Keith Hill

        Really? Is it really that hard to figure out who to thank for the meal? How about the farmers that grew the food? How about the people that prepared/purchased the food?

        • John Herling

          And shipped it, stored it, packaged it, boxed it, unboxed it, stocked it, rang it up, (maybe) bagged it, etc.

    • duke_of_omnium

      I hate that with the white hot intensity of ten thousand suns. My gratitude is private.

    • allein

      Wouldn’t work with my family…our Thanksgiving dinner has at least 25 people. We’d be there forever!

      Also, what duke_of_omnium said. I am very uncomfortable being put on the spot like that.

    • Art_Vandelay

      We do this too and I always say something really sciency, like I’m thankful for the gravity that’s keeping us from hurling towards our deaths or I’m thankful that everyone of my ancestors going back billions of years all managed to reproduce at least once before they died. Needless to say…it gets a lot of eye rolls but hey…that’s what I’m thankful for.

  • Neko

    For atheists who are so clueless they depend on advice columnists for how to behave: Politely decline, or do whatever you think is appropriate.

    In the past I’ve refused to observe convention because of my atheism. Not sure it was always the right thing to do.

    • TheG

      Maybe you would have been more sure it was the right thing to do if you had read an advice columnist to provide your snobby ass with a little help…

      • Neko

        Ha! I doubt it. But you’re right: I am a snob.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          What did you expect from a cat?

  • John Herling

    Say: “Grace”.

    • allein

      I’ve done that when my mother asked who wanted to say it at Christmas breakfast. It’s not as big a deal when it’s just the 4 of us, though.

    • Ida Know

      In my family, we’d probably look puzzled and ask, “Who’s Grace?”

    • badgerchild

      My religious brother used to ask me to say grace when I visited and had dinner with them, and I used to say “Grace” and look about with a smile, whereupon he would shake his head and give the usual dinner-cooling exhortations. He kept asking me even after I gave a little secular sermon on gratitude to people for Thanksgiving dinner one year without even mentioning God, Jesus, the Pilgrims, or the church. I finally got him to stop when he asked me to say grace, and my teenage nephew insisted “it has to be a religious one this time”, so I prayed to Lord Shiva. I thought my sister-in-law was going to throw me out of the house, but it was soooo worth it.

      • badgerchild

        I accept the downvote and raise you an “om namah Shivaya.” ;) Yeah, it was childish. But it was hilarious to see them nodding along to “…you, Great Preserver, who guides all Creation, and Destroyer of all that is evil, who took the poison meant for the world into himself and through his power made it nothing…” until I got to the part about “whose relationship with your divine consort and your two sons mirrors the happy family of my brother and his wife and their two boys…” and I could see their faces going “…WTF…” :D

        • Kellie Jones

          I don’t see it as childish at all. Your brother knew what he was doing when he asked you to pray, and it had obviously been discussed with the family for your nephew to make his comment. You tried to go about it in a polite way, but they were trying to force your hand – like that was going to make you a Christian. You responded in a way that finally shut them down. Good for you.

          • badgerchild

            Nevvy thought it was cool, but my brother told him that the elements that other gods have in common with “God” happened because God gave them a “partial revelation”. Curse you, Clive Staples Lewis, and next time I go to Belfast I will sniff loudly at your memorial. :)

      • The Starship Maxima

        Besides the clever antics, did you actually ask your brother to stop asking you to say grace?

        • badgerchild

          What, the same brother who tells me I can’t really be an atheist because I was brought up in the same house he was? The one who calls me outside “to tell me something” on Sunday morning and locks the door behind me so I can’t get back into the house unless I go to church with them? That rational, tolerant one who actually listens when I ask him to respect me? Yeah, I asked him. I might as well have asked him for a moon rock and a pony.

          • Kellie Jones

            You might have gotten the pony. If you went to church ;)

            • badgerchild

              Thanks, if I want horsemeat I’ll shop at Tesco :D Is that heresy if I live in Texas? It is indeed. Mea culpa maxima. :p

          • The Starship Maxima

            Oh……….well………there goes that argument.

          • litesp33d

            Hmm! Well I don’t have a brother but if I did that brother that did that to me he would need to call either a locksmith or a glazier when he returned back from church.

  • Edward Sadzewicz

    I keep my eyes open, will hold hands, but won’t acknowledge any gods. Will give thanks for what comes into mind.

  • John Herling

    I might surprise everybody at the table by saying “Baruch atta Adonai, Elohenu melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz”.

    • badgerchild

      My mother was the first Christian in her Russian Jewish family, and my father’s family were crypto-Jews from Hungary. If I started up like that, my brother would think it was a massive step in the right direction from his backslidden sister. :)

  • Psygn

    Sacrifice the family pet on the diner table.
    They won’t ever ask you again.

    • Lando

      I just keep a dove in my pocket, in case I need to do some magic…or a blood sacrifice.

  • Msironen

    “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”

    (Note: takes a bit of practise to get it out convincingly)

    • James Stevenson

      Oh dear… now I almost want to be in a situation where I’m asked to say grace so I can do that. Not my proudest moment :(

  • Machintelligence

    Having actually been in that position, I recall that I said “I’ll pass; but thanks for asking.” No one seemed to mind.

  • imjustasteph

    I can’t imagine getting away with that. A prayer that didn’t invoke ‘Our dear Heavenly Father’ would get, at best, someone else asked to redo it correctly, and quite possibly a lecture and discussion- and my family knows I don’t believe. If they didn’t, I can’t even imagine the correction that would follow. Fortunately, my grandfather will do the praying, so it won’t even come into question. If the prayer part gets done without any pointed emphasis aimed at me (like “Dear Lord, we know we have ALL, EVERY ONE OF US, fallen short of your glory, and there is NOT ONE of us present today who DOESN’T NEED YOU….”) I will consider it a win.

  • Amber

    My parents are religious, but I have no memory of them ever saying grace during family meals. Thinking back, I’ve been to perhaps one dinner in my life where people said grace before they ate (and I live in the bible belt). I know that it’s something that still happens frequently, but I’ve never really had exposure to it. If my parents suddenly starting asking me to say grace at family get togethers, I would probably laugh.

    • allein

      My parents (my mom, really) have only started doing grace at Christmas breakfast relatively recently. My mom has gotten more involved in the church over the past several years, so I guess that’s where it comes from. The only other time we do it is at Thanksgiving but that’s at my uncle’s house.

    • Ida Know

      I too am in the bible belt yet no one I’m close to does the saying grace thing. My bio-family were lukewarm about religion, and the people I spend Thanksgiving with, who I call my chosen family, are not really god-y at all (we’ve got a Unitarian, two agnostics, a sort-of Buddhist, and a flat-out atheist, which would be me). So I’ve never been in the position of being asked to say grace, and probably never will.
      If I *were* surrounded by believing, praying, grace-saying people and was asked to say grace, I would probably go the “Thanks to all the actually existing folks who contributed to the meal’ route.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

        i live in the bible belt. my coworkers were mostly only marginally religious, if at all (and many of them are not). it has been eye opening to live here. a lot of them are very young, as well. this gives me hope for the future. no one professes faith or anything like that in the workplace.

  • babel_fish

    Well thats easy, I give thanks to the real creator of the universe, The Great Green Arkleseizure.
    Thanks for sneezing us into existence, then talk about how thankful we will all be when we are taken up by the great hankerchief in the sky…Achoo!

    Why hide out beliefs from family and friends?

  • Ed Selby

    My family know I’m atheist and have been out and open about it for decades, but that doesn’t stop my father from every now and then throwing the task of “grace” to me. I always do it – without the mention of any god.

    “I am so thankful and happy to be part of this family – a family that honors and respects each other – a family that overcomes differences – a family of creative cooks who turn humble ingredients into a feast. I am thankful that the distances between us are overcome and we are together this day. Let’s eat!”

    And someone will follow up with “in Jesus’s name. Amen”.

    I always have my eyes open. :)

    • rsmith

      It doesn’t really sound like a family of respect, if they ask you to say grace knowing that you are an atheist.

    • Roy Gamsgrø

      “Thank god the food is here; I’m starving!”

    • Randay

      No one in my family would ever dare to ask me to say grace. They are too afraid of what I might say. I also refuse to hold hands with those next to me.

      Good grub, let’s eat. That would be my best. Otherwise I would go on a tirade about agribiz and GMO’s and how what we are eating may not be good for us.

      • litesp33d

        I also refuse to hold hands with those next to me.

        Ever since I read a report that observed that a significant number of men and children do not wash their hands after using the toilet and I always make a point of washing my hands before I eat I would find holding hands just before tucking in quite disconcerting.

        • Aptheist

          Thanks for the heads up. My hosts know I’ve been sick recently, so even tho’ they wouldn’t do that, I could always throw in a quick and charming disclaimer that I’m holding their hands in my heart. Or whatever.

        • rhagsdfsdg

          Dude it’s your family..

    • Aptheist

      Lol, that’s awesome.

  • Rain

    I would tell them that I prefer if everyone all say grace together at the same time, each one their own special and unique prayer, with me being the conductor like I was conducting an orchestra, on video for youtube.

  • chicago: c.f.a.r.

    as the later Chicago newspaper writer Mike Royko utter at mealtime: “over the lips and through the gums, lookout stomach here it comes!

  • hoverFrog

    I thought that saying grace was something that only occurred on TV. Do people seriously do this in real life?

    If I were asked I’d probably laugh at the joke before realising that it wasn’t a joke. Then there would be shame and recriminations. It’s all too much to bear thinking about. I’m suddenly grateful that we don’t do thanksgiving over here in England.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Yes, they do. Some do it before every meal. Sometimes silently if they think they are the only one doing it. I’ve stopped a conversation midsentence until they were finished.

      Since I supplement my income as a church musician, I am sometimes (though not often) asked to pray. I politely decline and they never ask again. It’s not that hard to say no. No one has ever asked for an explanation (and I’m never the only one who refuses in any group).

    • baal

      a yup.
      I don’t now and haven’t for years but there was a standard grace we had for formalish sunday meals and big family meals like thanksgiving.

    • Pofarmer

      Yep, my wife family prays pretty much before every meal, and throws in a Hail Mary for good measure. Makes my teeth itch. I actually got a little tight in the chest this weekend at their thanksgiving, realizing that I was in the presence of 30 or so people that were completely Catholic brainwashed, and absolutely think nothing of it. Nice people, smart, brainwashed as hell. Oh, and to top it all off. I see most of these folks maybe 3 times a year. We went down about 1:00 on Saturday afternoon, had to leave to come home that night. At about 4:00 they decided that everybody should go to church, because, yeah, that’s what Catholics do. AAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH.

      • Mary O’Grady

        They were getting their tickets punched for the Sunday. Catholics have a deity who will fry you in hell forever if you do not show up to worship once a week. The Saturday afternoon/evening option reflects a slight loosening of the rule since Vatican II. Still no word on the poor schmucks burning for all eternity for a pre-Vatican-II hamburger on a Friday.

      • The Starship Maxima

        Do your teeth itch in the presence of people who root for a different sports team than you? Does your chest tighten when someone rails against capitalism, and yet lacks a basic understanding of economics? Do you suffer through gatherings of people who support a different political party than you?

        • Pofarmer

          Doesn’t particularly affect me, can at least give good natured jibes. Can at least be discussed intelligently. Yes, sometimes, although the subject is generally ignored.

          Do you have a point?

          • The Starship Maxima

            Two points. First, regardless of your opinion, these people you describe are entitled to their beliefs. If their choice of belief bothers you that much, perhaps you should reconsider seeing them. Or, maybe you can learn to accept their right to believe just you and many atheists make so great a deal of having your beliefs and viewpoints respected.

            Secondly, I don’t know these people as you do. But from what you posted, it isn’t them forcing their religion on you, it’s all your disgust at their religion. So while I may be wrong, they might be perfectly understanding if you say “Look guys, all this religious stuff makes me uncomfortable.”

            • Pofarmer

              To your second point, it’s not them forcing their religion on me, I’m an adult, I’m almost beside the point. It’s that they take it as their duty, their right, to force it on my children. That’s what pisses me off. The stated premise that people aren’t in any way shape of from supposed to think for themselves.

              As to your first point. Ya know what, I had a nice reasonable answer thought out, or at least the beginnings of one thought out. But, ya know what? Fuck that shit. Why in the bloody hell should people be entitled to believe that there is actual blood and actual human flesh going down their throat and that this is a good thing? Why the hell should people be free to believe, and push the belief, that the Virgin Mary is sitting in Heaven besides Jesus Relaying our prayers to him and then to the Heavenly father to be answered? Why the fuck should people be free to believe that they can pray to St. Anthony and he’ll help them find their lost keys? Why, if I mention that this shit is just a little strange, am IIIIIII the odd one? Why is it just assumed that the one who doesn’t believe this absurd bullshit, and doesn’t want his kids saturated with it, as well as the idea that we are all horrible horrible sinners deserving to be doomed to death. Why is it wrong if someone like me brings up the point that maybe their beliefs don’t have basis in actual like ya know, fact? We know longer believe that their is a solid dome over the earth. We no longer believe in the waters above and the waters below. We no longer believe that an ark carried all the animals then in the world. We no longer believe that birds come from trees. We no longer believe that worms and insects and crayfish come from the mud. We no longer believe that flies come from carrion, and a hundred thousand other fucking things that the church held were true right up till science finally proved their backwards superstitious asses wrong. And yet, yes, we should “just let these people have their beliefs.” Why the fuck should we? Why should they believe the theology of people that were wrong on very nearly every physical thing they believed? Why should we assume that they were correct on anything? Why should we continue to let beliefs fester that thwart progress and make it harder for humanity to progress? Why, indeed, should I respect these viewpoints even in the slightest?

              • litesp33d

                Depends. Do you want dessert or not?

              • The Starship Maxima

                If your children are being pressured, of course you have an
                obligation to put an end to it. But then
                that still goes back to the second point, maybe you should just say “Guys, I don’t buy this, and I’d like you to stop peddling this to my children. Thanks.”
                This passive-aggressive sniping seems more like something a brainwashed
                religious person might do, certainly not a got-it-together atheist like

                Now, you ask, “Why should we allow these people their beliefs??” Well, I too have a long response, but I’ll keep it short. For the same reason when biased atheists on a blog can spew outright bullshit and unsubstantiated statements and be allowed to keep posting, and even get upvoted for their bullshit. Someone with the authority decided that people can be wrong, within reason.

                If you think it shouldn’t be a right, then please, by all means, write Hemant and his folks at the Foundation Beyond Belief. Start a petition. Contact your local representatives and get the law changed so that whenever someone is wrong, we are legally able to force them to correct themselves. I would welcome such a law; as it would force several (not all, not a majority of) of atheists in this place to stop passing their opinions and memes off as facts.

                Until such a day as that law is passed, then, Pofarmer, your options are to either learn to tolerate (not respect. not endorse, not agree with) the views of others, especially if it is you who accepted their invitation to their home. Or else, don’t go, and spend the time instead on Friendly Atheist talking about how superior you are.

                Win-win if you ask me.

                • Pofarmer

                  Pompous ass it is, then.

                  And, you know what’s funny? The ONLY place here on Patheos that one can actually try to “correct others mistakes” is here on the Atheist blogs, and maybe some of the progressive Christian blogs. The Catholics will shut you down and ban you for making respectful aguments, same for the Evangelicals. So criticizing Atheists for spewing Bullshit seems somewhat self serving, when this is about the ONLY place on Patheos where both sides of an argument can be pretty much fully represented.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  Pompous? You mean like someone who reads his own conclusions into things and is so bigoted he can’t see how full of shit he is?? That kind of pompous?

                  Anyway, the sky is blue and water is wet in the place I come from. And as I said, if you’d bothered to read it instead of blowing smoke up your own ass, I’m FULLY aware being that direct is a risk.

                  I’m from one of the most liberal places on Earth. Besides that, because I’m what has been euphemistically called “a sane Christian right-winger”, I wind up more among hard left liberals and atheists than my fellow Christians. I’m constantly in the 5% or 1% relative to my surroundings.

                  News flash genius, I KNOW about disunity. I’ve also seen what happens when one tries to avoid disunity by not speaking up about what they believe. I’ve seen people stay in abusive relationships. I’ve seen workers not speak up to their boss about being bullied by another coworker. I’ve lied and not been upfront about who I was and what I believed and what I stood for.

                  The lie doesn’t work. It avoids problems in the short term, yes. In the long term, not only does the facade crumble, not only does it lead to a whole rift, but on top of that you have the shame of knowing you denied the truth of yourself for nothing.

                  You atheists love to say how you refuse to coddle religious people’s feelings. Fine. I’m not coddling anyone’s feelings either.

                  Love and respect based on lies isn’t worth it; indeed it’s neither love nor respect. Not to me. If it is to you, that’s your choice. I respect your right to make that choice. But I’ll not sugarcoat the truth of it to spare your feelings.

                  Further to the point, sometimes, people WILL respect your wishes if you’ll just SAY something.

                  Dear God, all you atheists complaining about how religious people plot to make you miserable, did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, there are people out there who love you and respect you the way you are and wouldn’t give a shit if you didn’t believe as they believe?

                  Do you think you could at least give them the opportunity to show themselves one way or the other, before you run to a blog and assume??

                • Pofarmer

                  “News flash genius, I KNOW about disunity. I’ve also seen what happens when one tries to avoid disunity by not speaking up about what they believe. I’ve seen people stay in abusive relationships. I’ve seen workers not speak up to their boss about being bullied by another coworker. I’ve lied and not been upfront about who I was and what I believed and what I stood for. ”

                  Soooooo, playing the persecution card now?

                • The Starship Maxima

                  Okay, I see now that I cannot even pretend you are capable of a reasonable discussion.

                  When you are, let me know and we’ll continue.

                • Pofarmer

                  You haven’t tried to have a discussion, all you’ve tried to do is preach. You said you live in a very liberal area. Unless you live in the bible belt, I don’t think you can really understand the situation.

                • Wildcard

                  Can both of you stop this? Your fighting is not interesting to see or conductive to a discussion/

                • baal

                  um, 10 days later? Me thinks you doth protest too much. It was already done.

                • https://www.facebook.com/naumadd Naumadd

                  Sure, there are millions who are great people in spite of their nonsensical religion and politics. My own mother happens to be one of them. Perhaps it doesn’t occur to you that not all atheists think alike either.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  I don’t think I suggested otherwise.

                • Pofarmer

                  “”Guys, I don’t buy this, and I’d like you to stop peddling this to my children. Thanks.” ”

                  What color is the sky in the world you live in, that this wouldn’t cause pretty serious disunity in a family? This attitude has to come from being part of the privileged 95% of the U.S. that professes to be religious. Being in the other 5% is not particularly a cakewalk. But, just maybe, it is getting better.

              • JoeScience

                Wow. I respect and admire you for this Pofarmer… I never have the courage to tell it like it is.

          • Itarion

            Yes, but your reasonable responses ruined it.

        • Kellie Jones

          The difference is that with sports fanatics you can jibe and discuss and still laugh. Political is worse, but with the religious nuts in my family and background, you can’t bring up anything contrary to their beliefs because you will be either treated as a demon or openly pitied. Neither one is pleasant to deal with over a table.

          • The Starship Maxima

            I’m sorry the folks in your family are like that. But I wonder, would it help to simply be upfront that you believe differently than them and ask them to respect that?

            Even the most hardcore seem to back down when you remind them you aren’t obligated to cater to them.

            • Pofarmer

              Do you have any experience dealing with someone from a different religion who believes very strongly about it?

              • The Starship Maxima

                Frequently. I even have experience dealing with irreligious people who ignore their own logic failures and prejudice. I’ve dealt with Christians who clearly have never read the Bible for themselves.

                There’s a wide range of people who have strong feelings on any subject and conflate their strong feelings with truth.

                The direct, yet polite approach seems to handle most, not all, but most, of them.

            • Kellie Jones

              You obviously haven’t met my family… :) That said, I have always tried to have very coherent and non abusive conversations with them about my beliefs and how they have changed. I was reared in the Pentecostal and Assemblies of God religion and went to college at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. I swallowed it all, hook line and sinker for many years and it wasn’t until my late 30s that I began to unravel that which I had always taken for granted and realized just how many holes, inconsistencies and untruths were involved. I did a lot of research and came to my personal conclusions very logically. My family acts as if I am a leper when it comes to religion. They respect me to the point that they don’t point and yell “DEMON” when I see them, but they make it very clear how they pity my lack of judgement in such matters.

              • The Starship Maxima

                Ouch. Sorry.

        • https://www.facebook.com/naumadd Naumadd

          No. No and no. I have a reasonable degree of control over my emotions. It’s called maturity.

          • The Starship Maxima

            Good for you.

      • paulalovescats

        So stay and say you’re not going to church. What would happen?

        • The Starship Maxima

          Yeah, what would happen?

        • Pofarmer

          Exactly what the boys and I did.

    • John

      My parents do it before every meal. I just wait in silence since it’s their house, at least they’re considerate enough to not ask me to do it.

    • Lando

      Yep, every family meal. I’m not ‘out,’ (my religious family would never let me hear the end of being a godless healthen – yeah, I know, contradiction in those two terms), so I’m grateful that my dad is the oldest son, and always gets the ‘will you say grace.’ I always prep a quick and generic ‘Bless this food and, thank you for the people who prepared it, and thanks for safe travels’ in my head, just in case.
      I’m a grown ass adult, but sometimes, just not bringing up religion around family is the easiest/least disruptive option.

      • Pofarmer

        Yep, it ain’t easy. Especially when you know others will discriminate against you because of it.

    • Blacksheep

      Really? I’ve been with families all over the world, and saying some form of grace is totally common. Even on my honeymoon in the Cook Islands our host (a local) said grace before our meal. You gotta get out more! (i hope you are well – you are one of the first people that I encountered on FA a few years back).

      • hoverFrog


        Yep, I’ve literally never encountered this kind of overt religiosity in real life. I’ve only seen it on US TV. I honestly thought it was fictional in the 21st century except in some rural backwater where they duel with banjos.

        • Blacksheep

          I play a ukulele…

        • Anna

          You probably would not feel too out of place in parts of the U.S. I’m lucky to live in the most liberal part of a liberal state, and it’s quite unusual to encounter overt religiosity here. People do have those sorts of beliefs, but they usually don’t start declaring them in public.

      • Anna

        I’m in the United States, and I’ve never seen it in any context other than Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with some (not all) of my extended family or friends. A lot depends on your geographical location and what sorts of beliefs the people you know have.

        By the way, I’ve never been to the Cook Islands, but I’ve certainly never seen people saying grace on vacation, and I’ve been all over Europe, plus Canada and Mexico, along with a bunch of cruises where I sat down to meals with complete strangers. I definitely would have noticed if there had been prayers!

    • onamission5

      My folks used to make us all stand, hold hands, and sway in place to ridiculously long and loud “Thank you jesus, praise you, jesus” sessions ala pentecostal church service, and if we looked around or dropped a sweaty hand, there were consequences. They did this at home as well as in restaurants. You think that’s bad, you should be a fly on the wall for TG dinner at Grandma’s house when my parents would hijack grace rather than cede the stage to one of the more nominally religious family members who might rush through and by doing so inadvertently piss off jesus.
      I say this a lot but there’s a reason that I live waaay over here and they are waaaay over there, not the least of which is I dislike publicly embarrassing children and prefer a warm dinner.

    • Randay

      Yes they do. My sister is more foresighted than me so she sees it coming and always manages to be in the kitchen, the bathroom, or somewhere else when it occurs. Anyway, I have never seen her at the table at that time.

    • SeekerLancer

      Visit the southern US. I’ve seen people say grace over everything from Burger King to candy bars.

    • paulalovescats

      My mother only said grace for Thanksgiving and Christmas. As soon as I was old enough, I thought it was hypocritical. I hated praying out loud and felt stupid praying in my head. Maybe I was an agnostic all my life. ?

  • Carla

    Every. Goddamn. Year.

    To be fair, I started the tradition of saying grace when I was a super religious 13-year-old, so I suppose it’s a sort of karmic justice.

  • Rene Avenant

    I feel comfortable enough with my atheism not to shove it down anyone’s throat. In the situation where I am asked to say a grace. It is rally easy to just say ” let us be thankful for what we are about to receive” and each to there own belief can add there there own closing such as Amen, in JC’s name, oh mighty Baal, whatever

  • purelyjason

    I always keep my eyes open during the family prayer and unfortunately, I have never met anyone else’s eyes looking around at the same time. Except for the little kids, with whom I normally stick out my tongue and make faces. (I’m sure their parents would LOVE to know that.)

    • Neko

      I use the opportunity to make googly eyes at my spouse.

    • allein

      Well, if other people are looking around they can’t really say anything about you doing it, now, can they?

    • Jacqui H

      I too use “prayer time” to find my Atheist/Agnostic/Heathen brethren during holidays and weddings.

    • Persephone

      I live in anticipation of the day one of my nieces innocently asks “Why doesn’t Aunt Persephone pray?” into the awkward silence that follows pre-meal prayer at the in-laws’ house.

    • breeezyboy

      It’s good to know I’m not the only one to do this. Fortunately, I live out of state and now I refuse to go “home” for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I no longer celebrate either holiday, and I don’t miss any of it.

  • Jennifer Kim

    My sister in law is also atheist, so I’m lucky in that aspect. I’m not alone.

  • primenumbers

    I’m a conscientious objector, or,

    stand up, utter the single word “grace” and sit back down.

  • Bernadette

    For many years I was the host and we did not say a prayer (we did say what we were thankful for). It was my house so it was my rules. If someone didn’t like my house rules they did not have to come over. But this year we are going to a family members house and there will be prayer. His house his rules. So we will be joining in on the prayer but I really like the idea of keeping my eyes open and seeing who else is playing along to get along.

  • latraviata

    Not at my dinner table. I live in the Netherlands, so no thanksgiving dinner here.
    In general, no silence for grace or prayer in my house.

  • allein

    I’ve thankfully (ha!) never been asked to say grace. The only time I really ever encounter it is at Thanksgiving, and my uncle always says it. A few years ago he got all choked up and I felt very awkward, to say the least. The next year he didn’t say it at all, which I thought was odd. Last year I happened to still be in the kitchen fixing my plate when he started, so I just stayed where I was until it was done. No one noticed.

    We have breakfast on Christmas at my parents’ house, and sometimes my mom decides to say it and sometimes not. If she asks who wants to do it I just deflect and usually she or my dad will do it. Christmas dinner is at a different uncle’s house and we’ve never said grace there.

  • TheG

    How about a page from Juan Mendez’s book?
    “Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you to take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    I’m a Christian, but most of the people we have Thanksgiving dinner with are friends of various philosophical stripes. So whoever says Grace always expresses thanks for our health and bounty, and the fact that we’re together with loved ones for yet another big feast. As long as it’s sincere, non-denominational, and brief, everybody’s happy.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Thankfully, I’ve never been at a meal where grace was said, and probably never will be. But if I found myself in such a situation, I’d politely decline to participate. I can’t imagine myself eating a meal with anybody who wouldn’t gracefully accept that.

  • Kat N. Nerdvana

    Anyone who knows me would never ask me to say grace. If hard pressed, by someone who doesn’t know me very well, I’d go ahead thank the people whose labor brought the food to the table… and of course, whoever did the cooking. Anyone who wants to put god in it, could pick up where I left off – no skin off my butt. That person would probably never ask me again. To me, saying grace is another situation where unbelievers are expected to, and most often do, defer to the customs of religious people by not making a big deal of it… How “Christian” of us. Hahaha

  • Darren

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

    -Bart Simpson

    • compl3x

      Dammit! I was coming here to make that post!

  • Itarion

    That awkward moment when only the host has closed eyes.

  • Justin Miyundees

    We are hosting a Thanksgiving. Everyone we initially invited are atheist just by coincidence – we all came to realize that religion is harmful and ridiculous separately – it wasn’t until we were friends that we realized we thought along the same line. We are also two families that find ourselves “orphaned” at the holidays every year so we naturally began celebrating together. In a twist this year, however, another family has joined in – they used to go to Kansas but find themselves also “orphaned”. I know they’re religious – it came up because of a Zombie Jesus party at Easter – the husband told me “y’all have to understand that is EXTREMELY offensive!” I told him, it’s pretty much a textbook definition of “zombie” – he laughed but went back to “I’m just saying – that is EXTREMELY offensive,” but that he himself was not offended, so I assume his wife was taken aback and swore off the party (of course). Anyway – one other religious friend (she wears a cross pendant) has joined in too. We’re happy and glad to have everyone together so this “grace” thing is the only stumbling block. Religion, it seems, poisons everything – hey! I should write a book!

    It was a lot easier when I didn’t have to consider pandering to an irrational streak in my friends, but here we are in, as you say, a dilemma.

    Right now I’m thinking of reading Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” quote. It ends so beautifully – “… it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

    • Art_Vandelay

      I told him, it’s pretty much a textbook definition of “zombie”…

      Far more accurate would be a Lich.


      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        But no phylactery! He didn’t keep coming back and coming back and coming back (why yes, liches as primary villains in a campaign are so freaking annoying …)

  • The Starship Maxima

    What should an atheist do if asked to say grace during Thanksgiving dinner?
    Politely say “no thank you”???

    • allein

      That’s what I would do, actually.

      And the tag you want is

      • The Starship Maxima

        Thanks man. I was wondering what I was doing wrong.

        • allein

          You’re welcome! (But I’m a girl ;) )

          • The Starship Maxima

            Holy gender fail, Batman! :)

            • allein

              No worries…I guess my username isn’t exactly obvious.. ;)

              • Monaka der Hund

                You are not alone.

                • allein

                  You are the second person to say that since I’ve been posting here ;) (but the other one did it in German)

    • The Starship Maxima

      Tainda, your comment literally makes me laugh. I could write books on being different.

      I can write books on being shunned for not being black enough, male enough, Christian enough, liberal enough, right-wing enough, etc.

      We can discuss how I’ve spent most of my childhood the bullied outcast, and now my adult life as the “curious anomaly”. But the bottom line is, I realized that it was always to be true to myself and my being. You mentioned bullying, 98% of bullies back off when you make it clear you won’t budge. And most people aren’t out to change you anyway.

      The remainder? The people who shun you for being different? Then you make some hard choices. But the one choice I will not make is to be fake to myself for the sake of accommodating someone else.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Not even your entire family? Mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews? If you knew they’d cut you off, cut you out, if you said you weren’t Christian, would you still say it? Knowing that you would be the “black sheep” forever, that your nieces and nephews would be taught to fear and hate you, that your parents wouldn’t see you except to see your kids, and even then they’d try to turn your kids against you. Would you still say it?

        Would you look down on another person who didn’t say it?

        • The Starship Maxima

          Let’s make this clear, I would NEVER look down on someone else for making a decision they felt was necessary. I’m very Republican in that way; “you gotta make the choices for you, and I gotta make the choices for me.”

          With that said, I have cut off family, friends, coworkers, and others when I made it clear they could either respect my choices and beliefs or I could remove myself from their presence.

          It was NOT easy. It was not fun. I spend many holidays eating alone at a restaurant because I had NO ONE. I’m not ashamed to say I cried.

          But then I realized, as the Bible says, there’s the family you didn’t choose. And then there’s the family you choose for yourself. I’m surrounded by people who don’t agree with me on everything, but they love me for me.

          Sometimes, you have to get rid of the old, natty, bedbug-ridden couch that was passed down from your grandparents, in order to make room for the brand new leather loveseat.

          • The Starship Maxima

            I believe I’ve said “I know not everyone is me, and I know it’s not easy. But by all logic and reason, this is the best way.”

            You don’t annoy the piss out of me. But your lack of 3rd grade reading comprehension does grate on me a bit.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    When I am in someone else’s home, I allow them to of course follow whatever tradition they want, and I respectfully remain silent (eyes open) during their prayer.

    When the gathering is at my home, then we usually say no grace, or I ask each person to say one thing they admire (or are grateful for) about the person sitting to their right. I have had devout believers tell me they love that exercise.

  • http://www.autodidactic.biz/ Nashville Kat

    Interesting, especially at this time. Thanksgiving is a big day in my family, mainly because all my kids, grand-kids, in-laws, cousins and a few friends gather at my home. We enjoy each other’s company and have a great time. However, on Thanksgiving Day, grace is always said while holding hands in a circle. I don’t get asked because all know where I stand. I hold hands with eyes open and say nothing. I have been asked outside of my home to say grace, but I always let them know that “I don’t say grace.” That’s it. No explanations unless somebody seriously wants to know and I will seriously tell them.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

      i like you. “seriously tell them,” heh. i think i know what sort of family you’re talking about. ;-)

  • Persephone

    “I would not dream of demeaning your religion by pretending to be a part of it or by mouthing one of your prayers insincerely. It’s better if you do it.”

    • http://sdhardie.tumblr.com Sheila

      This is very similar to what I’ve said in the past when I was asked. If someone asks me to pray, knowing that I’m not religious, then they aren’t respecting me, so I have no obligation to pray just to keep the peace. This response is perfect because it’s a subtle way of putting the person in his or her place without being too confrontational.

    • Kellie Jones

      Perfect way to volley it back to them .

    • badgerchild

      “It’s better if you demean your own religion by insincerely pretending to pray.”

      Oh, wait. :D

  • http://sdhardie.tumblr.com Sheila

    “Do you mind if I say grace?”
    “Only if you say it out loud.”

  • DanV

    We thank our dear parents and friends for all of the wonderful food on this table. We also thank you for the home and educatuion you provided, without which I could never have learned to think like a Humanist by realizing that you, as my parents, are allowed a few faults, for I have certainly had my faults while growing up and while growing wiser. I admire you and your moral beliefs while realizing that there are no damned fairies in the sky watching over us. So dig in and watch football!

  • Rethea

    Decline….and quietly start eating. That’s what I do (sometimes with a chuckle and shake of the head, because it’s usually people who know me). Yeah, I’ve been called rude, offensive and whatever…but, not only is it not my responsibility to care about how anyone sees me…I also don’t recall anyone NOT saying grace to “accommodate” my non-belief.

  • Gringa123

    I just found someone else at work with their eyes open before our thanksgiving lunch! That being said, I don’t think that a prayer is appropriate at work anyway, but have chosen not to make a big deal about it. I can suffer through it once/year.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Depends on how offensive I want to be.

    Nice: “Thank you for this delicious meal we are about to eat. I’m glad we’re all here together to eat, drink, and be merry. We all have a lot to be grateful for this year, way more than I can even begin to cover. This meal is definitely a start, though! Let’s eat”. Secular, full of ‘thankfulness’, and some people might not notice the omission of the divine or think too much of it (depending on the general religiosity of the family).

    Not-so-nice: “Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min haaretz, amen” (yes, I grew up Jewish). The only people I know who say grace before meals are my Christian in-laws, so that would give them a gentle kick in the pants. They’re nice people, so I wouldn’t do it, but I might be tempted.

    Downright rude: “Why are we thanking an imaginary wizard in the sky for anything? People grew this food, picked it, shipped it, and people here cooked it. I’m grateful for those people.” I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d say this, though.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

    i’m sure this has already been covered in one of the 100 comments so far, but there’s a difference b/w “saying grace” and “leading grace.” so i think you missed an opportunity there, Hemant.

    it’s one thing when it’s a join hands, bow down, and listen to grandpa ramble on about (your family’s traditional diety). and yes, you’re right about the eye thing. i’ve been doing that for years. i’m usually the only one, which is weird cause my family is mostly atheist or agnostic. but the elders were raised in this tradition as part of thanksgiving, and they always did it for that reason, not because any of them were church goers. good americans say grace at thanksgiving, was more the ‘logic.’

    but let’s say you’re the one asked to say grace, actually say it. what do you do then? it’s an honor, in many families. what if your grandma says to you one year, “honey, this is the first year without grandpa and you’re a man now, why don’t you lead grace?” and beams at you proudly? she’s a sweet old thing who loves you and has no idea that you smoke pot, live with your girlfriend, and are an atheist.

    is this the time to show grandma what a man you are, and break her sweet little heart by informing her that her favorite grandchild is a heathen demon worshipper? do you go with a “grace” and just skip saying the god-word and hope no one notices? do you say the traditional religious words? do you close your eyes and bow your head?

    myself, i’d go with the grace without god and hope no one was too disturbed to bring it up during dinner.

    • The Starship Maxima

      You say “Grandma, I love you dearly and would love to accommodate, but I don’t really believe in praying to a non-existent deity.” Adroit. Painless.

      Sweet Granny is either going to say “Oh, well okay.” and get over it, or she’ll flip her shit. And if a grandmother’s love is dependent of playing to her traditions, then that was a relationship doomed to fail anyway.

      I’ve been to meals with plenty of irreligious Christians, agnostics, and atheists, and I never felt the need to explain why I was the one person saying grace for my meal.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        It’s … really not that simple. People don’t want to make a scene for a reason- chicago dyke would be blamed for “ruining Thanksgiving” by the whole family, not sweet old Granny who is just set in her ways. Sometimes, careful maintenance of family ignorance (or at least plausible deniability) is the way people choose to go, and it’s not wrong. People are not cavalier about the possibility of being shunned, lectured, mistrusted, shamed, guilted, or otherwise negatively emotionally impacted by the revelation of their disbelief in gods.

        In no way is calling the Christian god “a non-existent deity” adroit or painless. It is, in fact, a recipe for pain, guilt, shame, and drama in many families.

        • The Starship Maxima

          Saying it was “painless” was a bit careless, yes. But as someone whose faced bigotry and prejudice from both the “loving Christians” AND the so-smart, intelligent, “way better than those Jesus freaks” liberals/atheists, I’ve come to learn that tip-toeing around these things, while good in the short run, doesn’t fix anything.

          I don’t want to be “Starship Maxima who got kicked off a website for expressing a Christian opinion.” I don’t want to be “Starship who refused to act happy to see a family member he knew to be a manipulative, lying bitch.”

          I don’t revel in these things. I do revel in the peace of mind and freedom that comes from knowing that while I did what I could to be peaceful, I refused to hide who I was.

          I prefer the enemies who know who they are dealing with then get me, rather than the alleged “friends”, I had wasted years of my life lying to keep.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            That’s fine. I commend you for your honesty.

            Some people don’t want that. You’re saying they’re wrong and minimizing the pain they feel. That’s what I’d like you to stop doing- people have to weigh the pain of (real) love and (false) acceptance against losing both, and not everyone decides the same way you do.

            • The Starship Maxima

              Don’t read more or less into what I said. I fully acknowledged that while the choice isn’t easy, it is a widely-accepted axiom that any relationship built on hiding or suppressing the truth won’t last, and when it does fall apart it’ll be far worse than simply severing the cord up front.

              On a site where atheists ask “Why are people entitled to their beliefs?”, I don’t see how me saying “Why continue this dance of tip-toeing around the truth?” Is something objectionable.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                It is objectionable because it looks like you’re ignoring the very huge costs people might have to pay for something that shouldn’t matter.

                Losing your entire family is not nothing. Potentially losing your job is not nothing. Being shunned by your town is not nothing. Having your kids be targets for bullies is not nothing. Having your spouse potentially lose hir job is not nothing. Having your house be a target for vandals is not nothing. Why continue this dance of tip-toeing around the truth? Because sometimes, the costs are just too great not to. It’s not just about intimate relationships. It’s about every single relationship, close or distant, even with strangers. You’re minimizing or ignoring the potential damage by comparing it to what you’ve been through; I don’t discount how hard it is to be “the token” whatever or to stand up for yourself. I just don’t think you understand this goes well beyond being tokened and into being shunned.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  You say this because you don’t agree with my position overall so you read all kinds of extra stuff into it, and ignore what I have said. In this way you are no better than the so-called brainwashed Christians you claim yourself better than.

                  I have said for the 19th time now that my decisions are mine; they are not to be taken as the rule for everyone. I’ve also said quite emphatically that I know being upfront about who you are is a risk, because I’ve taken that risk and suffered the consequences.

                  I minimize and ignore nothing, saying it over and over again doesn’t make it less bullshit than it was the first time. I’m usually tokened NOW, I have been shunned before. By my own family.

                  I am saying that even though it seems that tip-toeing and hiding these things helps, there’s not a single story from anyone anywhere that it has worked. Not once. On the other hand, it seems, by all evidence, that while being upfront can have adverse consequences, they are outweighed by the benefit of honesty.

                  If you disagree with that, fine. We can talk about. But seriously, enough with this strawman bullshit. Disagree with my position, not the made-up position that doesn’t line up with my actual statements.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Fine then. I disagree. Honesty can be an excellent policy, but there are plenty of situations in which it is not the best one. The adverse consequences can sometimes outweigh the benefits. I think you’re not giving enough weight to the adverse consequences, ie, minimizing them.

                  It is not strawmanning you to say that it seems like you’re minimizing the downsides, by the way. It is telling you what your words convey to others. It may mean you need to pick your words more carefully in a medium as devoid of nonverbal cues as the Internet, or it may mean people are picking up on things you didn’t realize you felt. Either way, it is not a strawman logical fallacy.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  It is not strawmanning you to say that it seems like you’re minimizing
                  the downsides, by the way. It is telling you what your words convey to
                  others. It may mean you need to pick your words more carefully in a
                  medium as devoid of nonverbal cues as the Internet, or it may mean
                  people are picking up on things you didn’t realize you felt. Either
                  way, it is not a strawman logical fallacy.

                  You have a point. I can work on that.

                  Honesty can be an excellent policy, but there are plenty of situations
                  in which it is not the best one. The adverse consequences can sometimes
                  outweigh the benefits. I think you’re not giving enough weight to the
                  adverse consequences, ie, minimizing them.

                  I think you have a point here as well. I have to think about this a bit.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Fair enough! No rush.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  Having given this thought, I have some questions for you.

                  It is telling you what your words convey to others. It may mean you need to pick your words more carefully in a medium as devoid of nonverbal cues as the Internet, or it may mean people are picking up on things you didn’t realize you felt.

                  Or could it be that I made my points clearly, more than once, but because many people have an undeniable and transparent anti-Christian bias, statements appear that aren’t there, and the actual statements I gave are ignored?

                  And before someone comes with “Oh look, the Christian is playing victim again,” let’s look at the facts.

                  I’m not the only person or the first person who suggested that this was a straightforward choice. But I am the one who has had people assume I have privilege that insulates me from the consequences of my choices, and downvoted my explanations, and had people name call.

                  You are reading the same page I am. You can look at the reactions and see if I’m making this up.

                  Now, yes, perhaps I could have spelled out that my advocacy of honesty over accommodation is borne of personal experience. I grant that. But it’s okay to have people prejudge you because you admit to holding a certain belief? I have to tolerate people assuming they know my life and have a clue of what kind of things I’ve been through?

                  If I approached an atheist and made blanket statements about them and their life, I’d be downvoted 53 times and have a dozen people call me out for it. I don’t know why if I’m a Christian, I’m suddenly obligated to tolerate less respect that I give.

                  If I don’t assume someone else’s life, if I can ask “Why, exactly, do you feel this way?,” then I expect the same.

                  The adverse consequences can sometimes outweigh the benefits. I think you’re not giving enough weight to the adverse consequences, ie, minimizing them.

                  I do have to realize that not everyone is me, and I haven’t lived everyone’s life. Yes. So I do apologize for not making it clear that my situation, your situation, and everyone’s else’s situation, will be different.
                  With that said, I think your statement is slightly off. Honesty is nearly always. I agree that overtly displaying and broadcasting the truth is not always the best, yes.
                  But what I’m seeing here is a continued concealment of the a fundamental aspect of one’s viewpoint, something central to their being. Why on Earth would you hide that?? Isn’t the whole point of sites like this and the Foundation Beyond Faith and the whole atheist movement to move away from that? Didn’t Hemant write this whole proud post about being out the closet and blowing off the door?
                  Again, I’m NOT suggesting it’s easy. I guess what I’m asking is….what’s the alternative? To constantly suffer through family gatherings hoping and praying it doesn’t come up? Why?
                  Feminerd, in all honesty, what more do you have to lose? If your family discovers you’re an atheist, then whatever you were trying to avoid is going to happen ANYWAY. Why is it so bad to face the consequences, good or bad, sooner rather than later?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I, personally, am out to my family. They know I’m an atheist, and it’s not a big deal to them. I knew that before I said anything, though- I never did worry about being shunned. Oh, sure, my right-wing Christian aunt might try to lecture me, but whatever, she already did that. And yes, the alternative is to hope it doesn’t come up, to elide and deflect and bob and weave, to mouth words you don’t believe. It sucks. Some people just find it sucks less than the alternative. Why do people live in the closet about their sexuality or sexual orientation? Because coming out is scary and painful and has real risks and costs. And no, if you keep the atheism hidden, you don’t have to face the “consequences”, because they never show up. That’s the point.

                  So would I tell an employer? Oh fuck no. No, no, no way in hell. I could lose my job or not get hired for one. And it’ll come up- casual questions about where I go to church, for example. My husband grits his teeth a lot at work when the subject comes up, because mentioning that he doesn’t believe in this whole Jesus thing is to potentially risk his job and alienate his coworkers.

                  And yes, this blog is in large part about trying to make the world safe for everyone who is a nonbeliever. That world doesn’t yet exist, however, and no one is obligated to sacrifice themselves to try to make it. We choose our own battles.

                  As for why you’re getting more scrutiny than others- yes, it’s not fair. And it’s definitely happening, though I would have replied if to them too if I’d seen them. But most of the time, when people who are openly Christian come here, they are coming from a place of religious privilege (even if, as you, they have been unprivileged in many other ways). They also tend to try to proselytize. You haven’t done that. I’m glad you’re here, actually, because you mostly have interesting and relevant things to say. However, you’re going to get a lot of suspicion because of how so many of the other Christians around here behave. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but there it is.

                  And no, I disagree that you made your point clearly. I still think you were (and are) minimizing the potential costs of becoming an out atheist. It’s something we can disagree on, of course; how to value family ties, job, community status, friends, and so forth is inherently subjective.

                • The Starship Maxima

                  I will make an effort to understand the unique challenges of being an atheist.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  They’re not unique. In many ways, they’re similar to being gay about 20-30 years ago (or today in very conservative areas). The level of pariah-hood is about comparable and just about as variable.

      • Pofarmer

        Does being a pompous ass just come naturally?

        • The Starship Maxima

          I can’t say.

          Does your lack of reading comprehension and rampant self-righteousness come naturally to you, or is this the result of practice?

        • Red-star

          Where did that come from dude? Honestly.

          • Pofarmer

            It comes from a whole series of posts, some or many of which are not on this thread, and maybe not on this particular blog. The guy’s a pompous ass, I just call em like I see em.

            • Red-star

              He has said some bad things, (as we all have) but he actually does want to know the other side and does want a debate.

  • cyngus

    What can an atheist say on Pilgrim’s Fools Day?

  • Colleen C. McGill

    In the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost, whoever eats the fastest, gets the most?

    • Kellie Jones

      Good Bread, Good Meat, Good God, let’s eat!

  • paulalovescats

    My husband at best is a deist. But I guess he’ll be the one to say anything, because we’re having friends at our house. If he’s pressed, he’ll say something, but I am NOT going to close my eyes or even look down. F ‘em.

  • Sanky

    For our hard work, good health, and the food before us we give thanks.

    It removes mention of god, and instead allows people to take it as they see fit. To the atheist, we are able give thanks for the fact that our hard work/ the hard work that others have done has helped improve our lives. To the religious it allows them to give thanks to whatever entity that they believe in.

    Holidays should be a time to bring us together, not apart. Leave the discussions/arguments for days when we won’t be downing copious amounts alcohol after a rough week of work.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty


  • Troy Fitzgerald

    Here’s how I explain thankfulness without God: http://wp.me/p3PoLj-3L

  • Tobias 27772

    If I’m in a particularly accomodating mood – No, thanks.
    If I’m not – Thanks to all of the farmers who worked their asses off to bring us this feast at a reasonable price. Chow down !

  • les becker

    I wonder how many native Americans are “thankful”

  • Kellie Jones
  • Kellie Jones

    How’s this?

    • badgerchild

      I love that one. Even the Christians on my Facebook page laughed.

  • Shirley H Brown

    Virtually all my family and friends know I’m Atheist, so it is unlikely I would be asked to “say grace.” However, I am not shy about asking to say THANKS to all the people I love for the wonderful life they’ve allowed me to have. I use any such opportunity to let those I love know that I DO love them, and I try to express exactly why it is that I love them. I’ve found they actually appreciate that I would use Thanksgiving to honor each of them.

  • Andrew Kilian

    Matthew 6:5-6And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

  • freemage

    This is obviously one of those questions that requires some degree of personalization–everyone’s situation is going to be different.

    That said, a few broad suggestions:

    1: If you’re not ‘out’ to the whole family, particularly the person making the request, then this is not the time to come forward. If Grandma Sally has no clue that you’ve become an atheist, she has no way of knowing she crossed a line, and you’re only gonna look like the bad guy if you create a scene at the T-day table. So suck it up, draw upon your memory of pro-forma grace, or just speak of being grateful for family and friends and so on with no direct religious statements.

    2: If you ARE out to the person making the request, then we’ve got a different situation on our hands. This is now a form of manipulation, and you’re in a different ballpark. But again, your situation may require some degree of restraint. If there’s people at the table you’re not ready to come out to, then yes, you may need to do as above. A bit of passive-aggressive counter-digging about being so happy your family is a loving and mutually supportive one, tolerant of diversity of thought, might be appropriate however.

    3: If you’re already out to everyone there, or you are ready to finish the job, then the polite way to respond is as follows: “Well, Grandma Sally, [as you know--include this only if Grandma Sally does know already], I’m an atheist. If you want, I would be happy to express my joy at being part of this family, and that we’re all here safe and sound. Or, if you’d like a more religious grace, I’m sure [religious relative] could offer a prayer you would find acceptable. I certainly wouldn’t want to offend your faith by offering up a hollow, pro-forma prayer devoid of sincerity, after all.” This establishes a clear line, makes it known you won’t be manipulated, and forces the religious to be the ones to turn it into ‘an issue’ if they’re so inclined.

  • drakvl

    I was in this situation once. Since I had recently read some Joseph Campbell, I decided to thank the animals from which our meat was made, for giving their lives that we may eat. Everyone else at the table looked pretty uncomfortable after this.

  • Edward Baker

    Today I give thanks to my family and friends for their love . I thank science for all its medical advances keeping people alive . I especially want to thank my sister-in -law for being such an excellent cook .

  • robininseoul

    Book: “Mind if I say grace?”
    Mal: “Only if you say it out loud.”

  • Cloe

    Every year I always start the meal with; “eat, eat, eat!”, to which it’s usually met with laughter and looks of relief. :)

  • http://www.fabdesigns.com/ ConcettaBruce

    We always have a mix of faiths and non-faith friends and family. We always open our table to anyone who doesn’t have a place to go or family to share with. We say a family thankfulness statement of being grateful to share the day, love and happiness together.

  • Joe.02

    I think the idea of saying thanks w/o referencing some supernatural being or force is a good one & like legislators who are atheists saying something when picked for an invocation, it’s quite possible to have an atheist grace. Many will take “God” as implied (like the standard implied ‘you’ in imperative statements) but hey that’s just them. The opening your eyes bit is cute but if someone wants to leave them closed to respect the host or rest your eyes, that’s fine too.

  • Lee

    I would refuse to say grace if I was at someone else’s house as I would expect them to respect my views. Equally I would not try to prevent someone saying grace if they were a guest at my dinner table.

  • lora120

    I would thank the turkey for being sacrificed for our delicious meal.

  • ConureDelSol

    I personally feel like leading a meal prayer is a betrayal of my own views as an atheist. I understand the suggestion of just saying what you’re thankful for, but I have family members that would get offended if God wasn’t mentioned in something like this in any way.

    I also would feel incredibly stupid doing something like that. It seems as though I’d be talking to myself or a wall.

    At this point, my parents know I’m an atheist and that I would turn down any offer to lead grace. I do the same at guest gatherings and have received a nasty glare or two but that’s all that comes of it.

  • Jon

    I agree with your sentiments regarding the saying of “grace”- If asked, there is no harm in saying what you are thankful for– and , honestly, you don’t have to ” Thank” anyone else’s invisible friend to do that…

  • QuestioningKat

    Thank EACH AND EVERY person responsible for making the meal possible. Set a good example in giving credit where credit is due. This stuff didn’t magically appear on the table….

    “I am so grateful for being with all of you today and would like to give thanks and recognition for all that have made this meal possible. Special thanks to the cooks and those who purchased and grew all this food. Thank you to the cashier who smiled despite the crowds and the truck drivers who drove for days across country instead of being with their own families. Thank you for the migrant workers who harvested this food and the manufacturers who made the plastic and paper to wrap these items in the grocery. Thank you Mr. Turkey for giving your life so that we may be nourished. Thank you wine growers and bottle makers. Thank you Reddi whip. Thank you Land-oLlakes, you save me and our ancestors hours of labor churning while Kitchenaid mixers were busy mashing potatoes……..”

  • Rob Welborn

    If you wanted to be inflammatory, you could pray,
    “Thank you, god, for this food that we’re about to gorge ourselves on
    and gain unwanted pounds from, and then half of it will go bad and be
    thrown in the trash, while on the other side of the world, people starve
    to death or live on a cup of rice a day. Thank you for taking the food
    out of their mouths to give to us.”

  • tomlatimer

    I am an atheist. I am GRATEFUL. Not to god, but to life, love and luck. And I hope to use life, love and luck to help me help others. So, in gratitude, I can say grace w/a full heart and no mention of superstitions.

  • BigMrE

    “For all that we are about to receive, let us be truly grateful” It’s reasonably quick and to the point, includes no religious language and yet doesn’t seem to needlessly ruffle feathers

  • https://www.facebook.com/naumadd Naumadd

    I would do and have done exactly as Hemant suggests. I take the name “Thanksgiving” quite literally and express gratitude to those who actually deserve my gratitude rather than granting it to imaginary characters. And yes, I keep my eyes opened during prayers to see who else might prefer to think and emote with their eyes wide open.

  • Lee Eddy

    The first time I was asked to say grace was a couple days after I had sent out a facebook message announcing my atheism (I call it my “Open Letter.”) My dad—who was a recipient of the letter—asked me to say grace and I laughed. I thought he was joking! My wife just shook her head. I realized he was serious and just said, “No.” He asked why and I told him, “I don’t believe in that anymore.” He admitted he hadn’t really read much of the letter.

    That was about four years ago. I think I would handle it differently now and do a purely secular grace like Ed Selby mentions above. In fact, I recently got a small collection of table graces from various cultures, many of which have no mention of any god at all. We choose randomly most nights. This works pretty well for me, my wife—still a Christian, though a fairly liberal one—and our kids—whom we want to be religiously literate and knowledgeable, no matter what they choose.

  • raerants

    Back when I was a part of a Pagan circle hosted by my UU congregation, we would always end the ritual/begin the socialization and eating with “We are grateful for the fruits of the Earth and the work of human hands.”

  • The Starship Maxima

    In light of discussions with others here, I wanted to apologize for making it seem that this is an easy or frivolous decision. It’s not and it wasn’t my intent to suggest otherwise.

    I’ve been shunned by own family because my brand of Christianity didn’t jive with theirs. I’ve had coworkers snicker because I said I do believe in God and Jesus. I’ve had women I thought there was a connection with pull back because I didn’t hide my faith.

    I guess…..maybe it’s a kind of privilegism to believe “Well, I’ve been through it, so I understand it.” I don’t. I understand my situation, and I can relate to other situations. But I can’t pretend to know them, or understand them.

    My only goal in suggesting honesty is because it seems like the pain and pressure of not being open seems to render any temporary peace not worth it. To me.

    Again, my apologies.

  • http://ceegen.hubpages.com/ James Lappin

    Atheism is a religion too, because you gotta BELIEVE that this all came from nothin’. Can I get a Hallelujah-Amen? No?

    It’s okay, I’ll still pray for you all when I give thanks. Jesus loves you anyway. <3

    • raerants

      Belief doesn’t enter into it. Atheism is not a religion because there is no dogma, no leadership, no sacred text. To trot out the old analogies, atheism is a religion the way bald is a hair color and off is a TV station.

      What rationalist skeptics do have is an earned trust in the discoveries made via the testable, repeatable methods of scientific inquiry. And really, where all the matter in the universe ultimately came from is completely irrelevant. What matters is how we treat this planet and each other right now.

  • Anna

    I’ve never been asked, but if someone did, I’d probably just laugh and say someone else would be better suited for the job.

  • JoeScience

    My father always insists on saying grace before we have our Thanksgiving meal. This year, he said “Thank you father for this food you provided”.
    Afterwards, I said to my wife, sister and mother (in front of him): I don’t know why you are all so tired, apparently “father” provided this meal. He was not amused.