I've always felt a bit uncomfortable saying "amen" at the end of religious invocations at family weddings, baptisms, even thanksgivings. But I also realize its such a trivial thing, so I don't want to interrupt things by refusing to participate. What do you do in situations like these?

Tags: religious ceremonies, uncomfortable

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I have spent most of my life around religious people and ceremonies. As a former believer, I am sensitive to appearing hypocritical or insincere. I now approach religious functions like an anthropologist: I stay out of the way, don't interfere, but try to observe everything that goes on.

I'll be attending a big family wedding in an evangelical church next month (so no booze). I plan to pretend I am Jane Goodall.
I try to avoid such events if at all possible. Being inside a church makes me very uncomfortable. It must be the demons inside me clamoring to escape. After all, as atheists, we are all possessed by evil spirits! I have been told this by more than one person. When this happens, I'm never quite sure if I want to laugh at them, spit in their faces, or bust out the death metal growl and see if I can make them wet their pants. Life is full of tough decisions.

When everyone bows their head to pray, I always look around the room to see if I can spot anyone else who can't wait for the nonsense to end. Occasionally we will spot each other at the same time, which almost always leads to the other person quickly looking away like they have done something wrong. I usually get a good chuckle out of it, yet I can't help but also find it sad that people cannot shake that childhood fear of getting in trouble for not conforming like everyone else.
Oh wow! I've never heard the 'possessed by evil spirits' one before. That's a riot! And now i just HAVE to do my death-metal growl if I hear that. If I ever get the opportunity, I'll send you my findings.
Well, I just try my hardest to respect their beliefs because I believe, unlike many religious people, that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I do not participate in the ceremony in any way other than sitting when they sit and standing when they stand. I have been in some situations where I've received communion, but I only did this to avoid family conflict. I've also had to serve a mass this past summer. It was sort of funny because I had not been to mass in awhile, and I did not exactly remember when to do things. Serving mass was actually a very difficult thing for me to do. I felt like all eyes were on me (and they probably were because I have hot pink hair), and I had to pretend to go along with the whole affair. I know that I don't look like I belong in a church, so I felt like everyone was judging me. When no one is looking the task of feigning interest is not too difficult, but when everyone in the church is looking directly at you it becomes much harder. As for amen, I refuse to say it, even when I was on the altar.
At a lot of military ceremonies they have an invocation and I've only had problems twice. Mostly because I refuse to bow my head. I'm not really being rude or anything, I just stand there politely. Both times the chaplain just tried to stare me down and kept repeating "Bow your head" and I refused. At family functions, most everyone knows that my husband and I are atheists and if they still get offended, that's their problem not mine.
Thankfully, i'm not subjected to protracted ceremonies, like weddings, etc. but i'm visiting my grandma, and the praying before eating, is trivial to me, but i know that it holds no significance for me so i close my eyes and go through with it. i also know that it gives my grandma comfort, as when her husband died, she said to mt that she would have actually gone mad with grief, but then she found god, so i just think of it as a coping mechanism, which i have no problems with.
Last weekend I stood up for my wife's brother at his wedding.There were several events surrounding the wedding at which we were asked to bow our heads for prayer. I did not, nor did my wife, but my 5yo boy did half the time even though he knows he does not have to. The newlyweds are from two fairly large families and it was kind of cool to look around and catch nods from the few atheists who were also waiting for the superstitious moment to be over. We all went out for drinks later. However, during the actual ceremony I did bow my head. I considered it good theater as well as respectful to my family.
I deal with these situations with a great deal of patience! I just sit (or stand) respectfully, in silence, most of the time thinking about more interesting things, and that's all. I only attend religious services if close family members or friends are involved, and I attend those services as "a proof of friendship". Like going to see a movie you don't really like because your 'significant other' would like to watch it. ;)
My father-in-law died about the time I embraced atheism. At his funeral (Jewish), there were all the prayers, etc. But the thing I remember is the part where we sprinkle dirt from Israel on his casket. I remember my mother-in-law watching me and I was thinking that it meant something to her, so I did it. I didn't care either way and I don't think my father-in-law, being dead, cared either. When my friend got married a month later, I went through the "religious" motions. I try to take the path of least resistance. No one has ever called me out and demanded that I conform. Stealth is the key.
My Mother died 3 years ago. My only sibling, my sister, and I have been atheists for years, but we went to the church and took the seats of "honor" at the front. My head was down through most of the service because I don't like people to see me crying. The only part of the whole nonsense I remember is listening to my sister belt out "Amazing Grace" with her awesome voice.

Thanks for reminding me to set out my last requests: no religion at *my* funeral. Hah! You'll know I'm dead if I don't protest any religious crap if it pops up anyway.
I do not attend religious ceremonies. As an adult, I see no reason whatsoever to put myself through that sort of thing.
Don't say amen! If it is so trivial why sould anyone care if you don't want to say amen. when everybody is praying, I think it is fun to look around at everybody that is and see if I think they are really praying or just going through the motions. There are probably alot of people that don't want to be either. There are a lot more of us than we know. Linda

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