Family Values Indeed

I’m was at the networking brunch at the FIG@20 conference this morning and the group was talking about saying grace during the holidays.  A young woman was telling us that when her family, who knows she is an atheist activist, makes her say grace, she fights back by thanking the farmers who grew the food, the chefs who prepared it, and all the non-god ways that food came to the table.

Her story made me sad.  This woman is a successful academic and about as sweet as they come.  If I wanted a daughter, I would want one who turned out to be like her.  We all would.  It must suck for such an exemplary human being to have their family insist that she pretend to be someone she’s not so as not to embarrass them.

Family values indeed.  This is how religion wins: not by good arguments or playing fair, but by fear and social penalties.  Fortunately, the world is changing, and people are starting to get fed up with that bullshit, and not a minute too soon.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    She needs to learn the agnostic’s all-purpose statement, by Zelazny:

    “Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.”

    Or the easier to learn Buddhist “gatha”:
    We receive this food in gratitude to all beings
    Who have helped to bring it to our table,
    And vow to respond in turn to those in need
    With wisdom and compassion.

    • kosk11348

      Even easier is “Buddha, Buddha, thanks for the foodah.”

      • bbgunn

        Or one that my non-religious grandfather used: “Rabbit’s tender, rabbit’s tough. Thank the hunter we have enough.”

  • Ray Moscow

    Prayers to alternate deities, such as Thor, are another solution. Thor may not exist, but at least he’s cool.

  • Sithrazer

    When celebrating various holidays with family I simply sit quietly while those who believe say grace. They typically close their eyes while doing so, so they’re none the wiser even if they did care.

    The more I hear stories like the one in your blog post, the more I realize I grew up in a family that is the exception. I was baptised Lutheran but my parents only ever took me to church for weddings and funerals. I know my Mom’s opinion on [i]organized[/i] religion, but not whether she believes in God herself. There is a bible in the house, but it never gets used. It’s like one of those reference books you pick up or get gifted because, hey it might be useful to have, but ends up collecting dust for 30 years (it actually shares a shelf in the basement with a ‘House Framing’ how-to book). We celebrate Christmas and Easter, but don’t attend midnight mass or observe the practice of lent, they’re more like family tradition and an excuse for a long weekend than religious events (also presents and candy. everyone likes presents and candy :D )

    • Sithrazer

      Bah! should be “> <" brackets for those italics. I've been using BBcode for too long.

  • Lauren Ipsum

    My MIL cordially loathes my atheism. She’s actually forbidden me from mentioning it in her house. She always says a grace before meals, and I’ve learned just to shut my mouth, hold the hands of whomever is next to me, and wait for it to be over.

    One year, at Christmas dinner, she said her grace, and then commanded her middle son, who was to her right, to add something.

    We were all startled by this, since she’d never done that before, and BIL just said, “Amen?” I was next in line, so she prompted me.

    Without hesitation, I rattled off the Hebrew prayer said over uncovering the bread at the beginning of a meal. (I had learned it by rote years before at a sleepaway camp.) My FIL was next, and added “What she said.”

    BIL turned to me afterwards and asked what I said, and I explained. My MIL was cross-eyed with fury most of the meal, but she couldn’t say a damn thing. She never said I had to say a Christian prayer, or one in English.

  • Leanna

    “This is how religion wins: not by good arguments or playing fair, but by fear and social penalties.”

    Well said! In my large Catholic extended family, we always hold hands in a huge circle and recite Our Father before big meals like Thanksgiving. (Picture at least 50 people, usually more.) I participate in the hand-holding circle, but not in speaking the prayer, which usually leaves me feeling a little hypocritical. But the idea of standing outside that circle? I can’t even imagine.

  • carolw

    My last public prayer experience was at my FIL’s memorial service. The pastor said to bow heads and pray, and I didn’t, because I don’t, and my mom proceesed to slap me on the arm and give me the stink eye. I shrugged at her. If she’d been bowing her head and praying, she never would have seen that I wasn’t.