Newbie to this group. So many discussion posts to make. Here’s my first. I’m married. My wife is a Christian (as was my 1st wife). We each have a son, each is on the Autism Spectrum. Her side of the family is what I would deem very religious. We live in a fairly large house and this often host either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. As with these gatherings with my ex-wife’s side of the family, they are a bit uncomfortable to me as they all start dinner with a prayer. Since it’s my wife and my place, and we are the hosts, I sit at dinner for their prayer. I don’t want to be rude, as I am not a rude person, and say something like “I’m going to excuse myself for your prayer” as I know that this would set the mood for the rest of the dinner and visit. I know that I can’t be the only person who has had to deal with this issue and I’m wondering how others have handled these situations without causing an issue. They know that i'm not a Christian, and a few of the people on her side know that i'm an Atheist from my facebook posts. So, it's not new news that i'm not a believer.
Thanks for your input.
We too live in a large house with my elderly mohter in law which is always the location of extended family Xmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving meal gatherings. Even refereshments at a baby shower or some other occasion that is not even an official meal seem to require prayer before the first bites are taken. I agree with Ted Foureagles that it works well to look around the room and see who else is doing the same during "the blessing".. I also don't stop sipping my glass of Diet Coke or iced tea or maybe buttering a biscuit if that's what I'm doing when the prayer has started, as long as I can do it quietly. And if I'm in another room when the faithful are summoned to pray, I conveniently lag behind until the prayer is over.
As the others said, I'm not rude or interrupting, but I don't join in. They can't force me to pray anymore than I will force them not to pray. I especially will never feel forced to pray within my own home. I'll be quiet and maybe watch, but nothing more. I don't stop what I'm doing if I was in the middle of something that's not noisy. For example I wouldn't stop reading my book or drawing. I think it's disrespectful for someone to try to force me to pray.
If you and your wife were both atheists I'd say that it's your house and you are not obliged to start things off with prayer for the benefit of the in-laws any more than they are obliged to forgo prayer at their house out of some equally overblown concern for your sensibilities.
However, since your wife is also a believer it looks to me like you are totally outnumbered and probably stuck with the pre-meal religious formalities. That being said, there is no need for you to participate. But there is no need to make a production of exiling yourself to the kitchen for the duration of the sacred interlude either. Why not just sit there respectfully and think about whatever it is you feel like thinking about while they communicate with the Mother Ship? Once the amen has sounded, get the food moving.
All this religiosity / non-religiosity needn't be a zero sum game, though it does often seem so on the religious side. The non-religious have to understand that the religious are generally coming from an absolutist standpoint of "good" vs. "evil", and that those qualifications are, for them, emanating from somewhere outside the brain in a dualistic universe. Concessions, if made at all, are likely have to come from us non-dualist, non-absolutists. Some concessions probably shouldn't be made -- such as, "Don't try to infect my kids -- your grandkids with your superstitious virus." These arguments needn't be framed in such confrontational terms, but they have to be broached and will engender conflict. Again -- not necessarily a zero sum game. We can disagree on what we see as ultimate points while still learning from and respecting one another. And in accommodating religious folk we non-religious are not necessarily admitting to "pure relativism" (which is an oxymoron). Some ideas are demonstrably better than others, but we needn't demand that anyone else accept our stance on their relative quality. Issues may arise that demand taking a strong position, such as whether foreign policy should be shaped toward end times prophecy, but such weighty subjects are not what typically cause dinner table conflict.
I wink at the little kids that are looking around. Everyone knows I'm atheist. It was the scandal in my family at the time. The little kids just wink back and we stand quietly till they're through.
I just sit there. I don't bow my head either.