Should athiests, agnostics, and inactive believers participate in saying grace?

Should athiests, agnostics, and inactive believers participate in saying grace?

I’m in a gourmet group with a mixture of the above, plus some very active church members. We came together from being in a class put on by a local Modern Cook kitchen/gourmet/stove equipment store.

The church members are adamant in trying to insist that everyone say grace, out loud with heads bowed and hands clasped around the table.

The first time, everyone else was surprized and went along, mostly out of deference to a group of strangers.
But, once we knew each other, the tensions rose and the group will probably have to stop meeting.

My dad comes from a family where they said Grace before large and important meals. He’s retained this tradition, but in a somewhat, ahem, modified form. When we get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, we all say, “One, two, three, GRACE!” and then immediately dig in to the food. :wink:

Hell no!! Would you make a bunch of religious folks say ‘This food comes from nowhere, there’s no God and the <name of religion> are a pack of liars’.

I say yes as a politeness to your hosts. If you have strong feelings against saying grace or you think your hosts would be offended then skip it.

I say yes as a politeness to your hosts. If you have strong feelings against saying grace or you think your hosts would be offended then skip it.

While, I’m uncomfortable with idea that people are being pressured into saying something they don’t believe in, I really don’t see the harm. Besides, while they may join in by clasping hand, they don’t have to recite the prayer or bow their head.

Now, if someone was of a different religion and was denied the opportunity to represent their religious views or felt that the prayer was contrary to their beliefs, then you would have a serious, serious problem.

IMO, they shouldn’t be made uncomfortable, regardless of whether they chose to or not.

Again, IMO, the believers should have invited the others to join them in saying Grace - they definitely should not have insisted.

The first is inclusive, the second dictatorial.

I think that “when in Rome” is a good idea if it’s feasible. By which I mean, if people feel comfortable bowing their heads, or clasping hands, which others say grace, I think that’s respectful of others’ beliefs without being co-opted into them. (Certainly I don’t think anyone who doesn’t ascribe to the religion in question, whatever it might be, should be expected to recite the blessing.) But if the non-religious people in the group do not feel comfortable going even that far, and would prefer not to be included at all, I don’t think the religious members have much right to complain. It’s not a religious occasion; it’s dinner. People did not come together to share religious beliefs; they came to enjoy the company and to eat.

I think it’s important to be respectful of others’ religious beliefs, but I also think it’s unfair to be expected to participate in them if you don’t share them. Perhaps the religious ones could gather in the kitchen to bless the food before everyone sits down at the table?

As usual, when the religious and the atheistic get together and the word “compromise” is brought up, it means that the atheists are the ones doing the “compromising”.
If this were being held in a church, or organized by a church group, the “When in Rome…” saying might apply, but it isn’t, is it?

A more equitable call-to-grace might have been, “I invite you to say grace with me. You don’t have to, but if you don’t you’ll still have to sit still and not eat until we’re done saying grace, because this is my house, darn it.”

Well… I’m an agnostic who married the son of a preacher man. :slight_smile: He’s even less religious than me, but when we visit his parents, we both say grace and sing in church. They keep hoping that one day we’ll catch the Jesus bug and hop on board. I figure there’s no harm in participating since refusing would just make them feel bad.

Really, agnostics are in the best position for compromise here. The religious folks are going to feel all guilty if they don’t say grace, whereas it’s not going to hurt us any to hold hands. Shrug.

Of course, I do draw the line at reciting creeds. I’ll participate in a prayer with no problem, but I won’t recite all the stuff about “we believe in one god, one church, one resurrection, etc.” Even if there IS a God, what’s the point of lying about believing in him – he’ll know the difference.

I read Tracer’s post and thought that was the OP. I thought the question was asking what you do when you’re at another person’s house for dinner. Oops…

In a mixed, somewhat public group I think this is WRONG. You were brought together as a group interested in cooking. Nothing about the whole thing had to do with religion (as I understand it).

In that case I say screw 'em. I’d take great glee in telling them to stuff their prayer. If they want to pray on their own more power to them. To force this on a group of mixed strangers is bull(something or other).

It’s not that I’m especially opposed to prayer but I am opposed to people foisting their religion on others.

I wonder…when these people go to McDonalds do they have the patrons at the restaurant say prayers with them?

…just to be clear.

If you’re at another person’s house for dinner then I go with my original post above.

My view is that it is an insult to a person’s faith for a non-believer to particpate. I am quiet if someone wishes to say grace, but I think it would be very rude to pretend.

Trying to get non-believers to say grace is not about faith or respect, it is about authority.



Being an agnostic jew, when I’m in a group and someone gets the idea that a saying of grace is in order, I just tend to look at the tops of their heads when they’re bowed.

Unfortunately, this makes me feel wholly uncomfortable, and I dislike it. The bigger the group, the better…when they’re all saying grace, and you look up, you might even find someone who’s in the same position as you are, looking around to see how many other non-believers there are! :slight_smile:

I don’t complain about shutting my yap for fifteen seconds when someone’s saying grace. And I’ve never had a religious person complain about the fact that we don’t say grace around my table.

Religion dictates that you say grace. If that’s not your religion, table manners dictate that you shut your yap if the host is saying grace. If you’re a guest and you want to say grace, you either ask permission or do it quietly by yourself.

well said matt,
well said tracer,
IMO, it shouldn’t matter to the host or majority present that do say grace if you don’t, if they are offended, that’s between them and their god(s). In public, no one has the right to demand another to drop their own beliefs for another, but a polite announcement that they will be saying grace is all that is neccesary. In the Army, whenever a chaplain was at a formal dinner, he asked that we all say grace, as a Jew not only did i feel uncomfortable becuase of the mentioning of a father, son and holy ghost and then something about Jesus, but also becuase of dirty looks afterwards that i wasn’t of the same faith. Yet, there was nothing any of them could do… I certainly wasn’t about to ask them to join me after the meal and say Birkhat H’amazon. Fair is fair IMO. We live in a world full of differences, if you can’t accept that there are so many, you have a problem of just BEING that needs to be taken care of.

I have frequently been in a situation where the person saying grace (or some other prayer) was a devout Christian, and his/her prayer often includes some mention of Jesus, or the Trinity. My compromise: I will show respect to my host, by bowing my head, waiting before I start to eat, etc. However, I will certainly NOT say any words that I do not believe. I would think it rude of the host to ask me to. If I am to respect his/her traditions, then he/she must respect mine.

I’ve never been asked to hold hands during a prayer, I’m not sure how I would react to that, but I guess I don’t see anything wrong with holding hands.

BTW, even an atheist can certainly be grateful or thankful to the sheer random luck that has ordained there is food on the table, when so many millions are starving and have no food.

I think that to expect everyone to acquiesce and say grace is pretty damned rude. Especially since this is a gathering that is not associated with any house of worship.

Interestingly enough, my daughter has recently discovered the whole saying-grace-allows-me-to-be-the-center-of-attention gig and seems to be wholly in favor of it. (What can I say? She knows that she is every bit as important as I tell her she is) The few times that I’ve eaten with her since, she tells everyone that she’s going to say grace, then begins. Of course, I won’t bow my head, nor will I genuflect. Therefore, she manages to get through a phrase or two before she looks up and notices me. At which point she rather pointedly tells me, “Greg! I’m saying grace!” Then she starts in where she left off, and eventually realizes that I have failed to act according to her whims, at which point she stops and berates me again.

I love mealtimes. . .

Flick Lives!

I agree with CKDex. You shouldn’t be forced into professing some belief that you don’t have, but you can also be respectful, and make the “grace period” work for you personally.

Just think to yourself, “It’s good to be alive and in the company of you fine people” if you don’t wanna pray. Or silently balance your checkbook. Whatever.

Not digging in or making noise while believers take 20 seconds to pray shouldn’t be considered too huge of an imposition.

You also certainly have the right not to participate, even to make a big scene about the whole situation. Does that make things better, however?

Yeah, some fundies can make this a very uncomfy situation. As I said, no one should have to do anything they don’t believe or don’t want to do. But if there’s a way to slide through it without making the situation MUCH more uncomfortable, why not go that route?

I find it just as or more annoying when atheists make a big stink about something like a nativity scene on public property at Christmas time. That happened in our town, and city officials eventually took it down. Despite the fact that hundreds, probably thousands, of Christians (and even non-Christians who just liked the seasonal look of it) got enjoyment from it being there. Was the one athiest or ACLU member who bitched really that offended? C’mon.

I am an athiest. I do not say grace, and I do not bow my head when others do.

I do remain silent while others pray. I will join hands if that is the desire of the company.

It would be hypocritical and disrespectful for me to mouth emptily the words others speak with reverence. It would be rude and disrespectful for me to disrupt their prayers by speaking through them or beginning my meal.


This idea, which is far too prevalent these days, exactly reverses the roles of host and guest. It is the hosts responsibility to make his guests feel comfortable and at home. It is the guest’s responsibility to be polite, appreciative and a cheerful particiant in the activities which the host has made available. However, there is never an obligation on the part of a guest to take part in activities which they would find uncomfortable.