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And where is this line I’m not supposed to cross? December 13, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, family.
Tags: , , ,

We were having lunch at a Chinese restaurant I really liked, and the waiter had just served the cold cuts and fried rice.

“Wait,” my mother said as she always did, “let’s pray first.”

The rest of them prayed while I immediately helped myself to the jellyfish. This scenario happened every time we ate out. Today, however, Mother Dearest couldn’t help herself.

“Next time, please just stop what you’re doing while we’re praying. Even though you don’t believe in this anymore, you should still show some respect for our beliefs.”

I rolled my eyes and continued to add jellyfish to my plate by the forkful as she yammered on about “respect for religion,” although I really wanted to voice a rebuttal. Why should I show respect for your beliefs when you haven’t shown any respect for mine? Besides, I’m showing enough respect by not talking shit about your Catholicism (only your bigotry) the way you’ve been talking shit about my atheism.

Besides, how is this any different from the forced moment of silence being imposed upon American schools? Then again, I probably shouldn’t expect much. We’re not a secular family, after all.

Still, it’s an imposition on me to have to wait until you finish praying, and it in itself is showing disrespect to what I believe in. Is it really so hard to just mind your own fucking business while you’re praying? Just close your eyes and ignore me, damn it.

I realize that I’m being a total brat about something this tiny, but I’m already out to the family. It’d be a step backwards for me to bend over any further for their bigotry, even if it is just for a meager fifteen seconds before a meal. I’m not ashamed of my atheism, and I’m sick of taking any more bullshit from these people.

If they don’t let me eat in peace the next time we’re at a restaurant, I’m getting the fuck out of there. Enough is enough.


1. Mike - December 13, 2007

It may be worth your while smuggling The God Delusion into your house; it has a recap of Dawkins’s argument, expanded on that given by the late, great Douglas Adams, that religion is given undue weight and respect by society.

2. Les - December 13, 2007

This is one of those tricky issues that are always awkward to deal with. My in-laws don’t pray at every meal, but they do tend to pray at meals for special events such as Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. They’re fully aware of my atheism and have been nothing but accepting of me for who I am so while I don’t pray myself I will clasp hands with the others if a hand is proffered and I will sit quietly until they’re done with their prayer.

It’s not that I necessarily have respect for their religious traditions so much as I have respect for my in-laws themselves. They accept me for who I am without pressuring me to change so in turn I accept that on occasion I’ll sit through a small prayer or two over a meal. It’s a mutual respect thing with us.

I’ve only been following your blog for awhile, but it seems like there may be a lack of mutual respect between you and the rest of your family which changes the dynamics involved. I don’t mean to suggest my approach is superior, but I thought perhaps a different perspective on the issue might be intriguing for you to consider.

3. Teen Atheist - December 13, 2007

I think you have a point there, Les. My hostility does stem from the way they’ve been treating me. If my family were more respectful and accepting of me, I would probably not have a problem with waiting for them to finish their prayer.

4. Genevieve - December 13, 2007

Les has a very, very good point.

My closest friend, Alice, is deeply religious. I am not. I never criticise her, and therefore would respect if she wanted to pray before a meal and be quiet. But then again, she never condems me for *not* being religious.

*sighs* It’s a tricky situation

5. Babelfish - December 13, 2007

Perhaps you should take the initiative and try to show them respect first*, and then when they give you trouble concerning your atheism, you can point out that you try to respect their beliefs though you no longer share them.

I don’t know your family, of course, so I don’t know how effective it would be with them, but if both sides are expecting to be shown respect first then both will end up remaining frustrated.

* When the situation merits it, such as that detailed in this post. In situations such as when your mother forbade you to attend the pride march, ignoring her was completely justified.

6. Holy Prepuce - December 13, 2007

I think it’s a question of picking your battles. Standing up to your parents’ bigotry about gays and atheists is worth being a “brat” over; as is going to the college of your choice. The right to avoid a fifteen second delay in eating jellyfish probably isn’t.

7. Teenage Atheist « The Ironism - December 13, 2007

[…] 12, 2007 Teenage Atheist Posted by fungrim under Atheism, Religion   This is a damn fine blog which you all should it. A teenage atheist in a heavily catholic country. With […]

8. yinyang - December 13, 2007

I always keep my eyes open and head up whenever things like this come up, so that I’m not completely passive or accepting of the situation. It’s just a way to show I don’t include myself in the ceremony (though the only people who notice are the others who have their eyes open, which I guess isn’t effective if my message is directed toward the religious). But, since this doesn’t happen with my family, and I rarely face this situation, I don’t need to worry about it as much.


9. Teen Atheist - December 13, 2007

Babelfish: I’m way beyond that point. It doesn’t matter how “respectful” I am, they will always, always try to turn me back to Catholicism.

10. Teen Atheist - December 13, 2007

Holy Prepuce: Maybe not to you, but to me it is. Beyond the offensive emails and exclusion from Christmas (both of which I just ignored, mind you, even though I wanted to react more violently), this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can’t let them win all the time.

11. E(Liz)a(Beth) - December 13, 2007

My mother-in-law told me once that she knows I’m going to hell and that she’s okay with it. This is without me ever verbally acknowledging that I’m an atheist. However, I find that I prefer peace in my life, so I do my best to ignore the little comments and barbs that come my way and try to “rise above”. (Last time we were there, we were heathens for not going to Sunday morning service. Ugh.) But I don’t have to live with her and she’s not my mom, she’s my husband’s, which changes the whole dynamic. If nothing else, if you chose to “be respectful”, it could be a pragmatic rather than generous decision. One that merely makes your life a bit easier.

If nothing else, girl, I feel your pain!

12. Salad Is Slaughter - December 14, 2007

I, Salad Is Slaughter, tag you with the “Seven Random and Weird Things Meme”

13. Nicest Girl - December 14, 2007

I respect someone’s religion as much as I respect someone’s opinion. It all depends on what the opinion is. My disdain for Christianity is growing by the day and so my respect for it has lessened dramatically. Though your reaction to them praying made me laugh because I have been an atheist since I was 12 and I STILL have never started eating while the people around me are praying!

*thumbs up*

It’s all about the situation and the opinion being presented. Some you respect. Some you don’t. And as much as religious people want “respect” for their religion (while almost always never showing respect for someone elses)… we’re starting to realize that we don’t have to if we don’t want to. Respect is not a given. It’s earned. And …. well… they’re not earning it.

14. atheistgirl - December 15, 2007

We have prayers 3 times a day at my school. While everyone else is standing and praying, I stand too. (although I don’t fold my hands or even pretend to pray) But in my case, I’m not really doing it to be respectful, I just do it so I don’t get in trouble.

15. Jersey - December 15, 2007

It’s only in the state of Illinois that has the silent moment of prayer, and it’s constantly being challenge. And when it is…the courts still allow the act to continue. So far all the challenges have failed or are pending.

Otherwise, I agree with whoever said to be more choosy about your battles. Don’t fall to your family’s level; be better than them. (Since you are atheist, I do not know if you see all humanity at the same moral level, for if there are some people who are better than others. Yet, I know you do have morals, as I am atheist myself, we have philosophies as humanism to guide ourselves. 🙂

Even when I go to church, I meditate, not pray, and elsewhere, when people pray before a meal, I meditate, or at least try to be grateful for what I have. 🙂

16. Teen Atheist - December 15, 2007

It’s all about the situation and the opinion being presented. Some you respect. Some you don’t. And as much as religious people want “respect” for their religion (while almost always never showing respect for someone elses)… we’re starting to realize that we don’t have to if we don’t want to. Respect is not a given. It’s earned. And …. well… they’re not earning it.

Hit the nail right on the head, Nicest Girl. It wouldn’t feel like such an imposition on me if they weren’t as horrible towards my belief system as they are.

17. Wildwing - December 15, 2007

That’s a toughie, TA. I can see why you’re so hostile, yet you’re not doing yourself any favors by disrespecting them in return. We also have to put up with prayers at meals from the uber-religious part of the family, but as Les said they respect us so we respect them by sitting quietly while they pray. I wish your family was as understanding.
I guess it depends on how much of a fuss you want to make. If you feel strongly enough about this issue (and I bet you do) make it clear that you won’t respect their rituals until they respect you in return. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like confrontation, but I admire those (like you) who don’t take crap from anyone and stand up for yourself.

18. Teen Atheist - December 15, 2007

Thank you, Wildwing. You’re right. I don’t want to pick a fight, but I’m just sick of having to lie down and take this all the time.

19. Wildwing - December 17, 2007

Believe me, I understand that. But how’s that old saying go, you have to pick your fights carefully to make them count? And you did so with the one for the parade, that’s for sure!

20. Brent Rasmussen - January 20, 2008

It’s tough when you’re a child living in your parent’s home – not that this technically applies in a restaurant, but you get the drift I’m sure.

My own personal way of dealing with this is that i respect the prayers of others when I am a guest in their home, or when they are paying for the meal in a restaurant.

However, when they are in *my* home, or when I am paying for the meal, I insist on no group prayer. (They are of course welcome to silently pray themselves into a religious stupor if they wish to. Heh.)

I came right up against this during the holiday season. We invited Mrs. Inscrutable’s parents and another couple to have a nice dinner at our place. The food was prepared and placed on the table, and we all sat down to eat – when my father-in-law, who is only pious before dinner and loves nothing more than to pray loudly and self-importantly before meals, said, “let us pray”.

I stopped him. “Sorry, dad, but we don’t pray in our home. You are welcome to pray silently yourself though.” And I dug in.

Silence, save for me mowing on a rare steak the size of a Prius. Covert looks back and forth. Then, slowly, everyone began to eat.

The meal was a great success after that with much laughter and companionship with our family and friends.

I respect him in his house, and I expect nothing less in my own home from him.

But like I said before, I understand that it’s tough to assert your right to mutual respect when you live with your parents.

Don’t worry, though. You’ll make it through this. We all did. 🙂

21. Jimmy-Jams - June 25, 2008

Interesting Post,

Having read through it in the UK we dont have this problem as extreme in america except at my grans.

I will sit through the preyer. But england it is mannors not to start your meal until everyone else is ready. I dont know if thats the same in america.

I am an atheist i might note and i understand your point of view completely

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