What does one say when asked to say grace?

Smart alec!

Etiquette in a mixed-faith group? Don’t embarrass people who may not believe as you do by insisting on your faith’s formulary for blessing food – say it in your mind if you have scruples about giving thanks at every meal.

Handy formularies when a grace at meals is appropriate, from the Book of Common Prayer:

I concur with this model. Something short, sweet and traditional,
well recited, is all that is called for. Not being terribly religious myself but coming from a traditional Chrisitan background this type of prayer is well received and appreciated. In my family, at least, no one’s really looking for a sermon or a call to worship. Just the traditional observation of gratitude. I also try to add a plug for the chef!

Those are all acceptable to people who are religious.

To someone who is an atheist, like myself, saying grace at all is an uncomfortable thing. Using the words ‘god’ or ‘lord’ or even ‘amen’ indicate participation in a religion I don’t believe in, so it wouldn’t be possible for me to say grace.

Then there’s the matter of what to do while someone else says it. I don’t feel right bowing my head or saying ‘amen’ because it’s not in my custom of belief to do so. I usually sit there uncomfortable and quiet hoping that it’ll be over soon, which is the basic practice I follow during all events that people feel necessary to open with a prayer.

Damn those Lancastrians! (If they exist.) :wink:

I think it is just as rude to impose your beliefs - by making a point of your disbelief in God and/or organized religion, as it would be for someone to demand you say a grace based on religion.

Conversely, I can think of nothing offensive about being asked to say “grace” and responding with a generic well-wishing (several good examples above).

Now, if you have a problem simply wishing the folks at the table, peace, harmony and so forth, I think you have bigger problems in life, but that’s when “I’m at a loss for words, perhaps X would do the honors for us” would be the way to go.

Actually, I’d think you’d be pleased to be ask – it would avoid the quandary of what to do if someone ELSE says grace including God, Christ and other references that are problematical for you. I used to get very annoyed when the the grace (not mine) at family meals asked for blessings upon President X (not naming names to avoid starting THAT debate) whom I happened to think was a foul turd of a leader and did not necessarily WISH for blessings etc upon him…

I prefer the more passive, vaguer ‘we are grateful’ to the falser-seeming (for me as an atheist) ‘thank you’. Knowing for myself that I’m thanking my host and intending to be misunderstood by others is pretty weak.

This doesn’t happen too often in my life, since most of my family are non-believers, but for my brother-in-law and family, it comes in handy.

I second the nomination for wishing it over soon and not saying ‘amen’, though.

Why don’t you just speak to the host during ‘grace’? This is the most polite thing to do.

If you’re an athiest, and someone asks you to say grace, just lower your head slightly and say, “Thank you for this food, and for this gathering of friends and family. Amen.”

If you can’t bring yourself to do even that, just say something like, “I’m a little too shy”, or “I wouldn’t know what to say, but thank you for offering.”

But if a guest at my home was asked to say grace and responded with some snotty athiest diatribe or a joke just so they could make a point, that’s the last time they’d be invited to dinner. There’s no excuse for rudeness at the dinner table, especially when you are a guest in someone else’s home.

Likewise, it’s rude to ask an athiest to say grace. So if someone knew I was an athiest, but asked me to say grace anyway, I would politely decline. If they didn’t know I was an athiest and asked me to say grace, I would politely use the generic form above, and finish by saying to the host after the prayer, “And thanks especially to you, for working so hard for this great meal”.

I always say something like

"Thank you, but I would rather hear [insert other name here] say grace tonight. Naming someone I know would be more then happy to do the honor.

I think this is a good answer.
I, for one, believe in God, though I’m probably more of a Deist than a Christian. Anyway, I find it sacrilegious to refer to any person as “reverend” or “father”(except my biological father) or “Holy Father”. I feel strongly about this too.
But in the company of a catholic Priest or a minister I will refer to them as that. I’m in the situation so rarely that it’s not such a big deal to set my beliefs aside for a moment.

How often can an atheist be asked to say a prayer anyway?


Those are all acceptable to people who are religious.

To someone who is an atheist, like myself, saying grace at all is an uncomfortable thing. Using the words ‘god’ or ‘lord’ or even ‘amen’ indicate participation in a religion I don’t believe in, so it wouldn’t be possible for me to say grace.

Well stated. Why is it that most people assume that it is all right for them to say grace and yet are not in the least concerned with social ettiquette vis a vis our sensibilities? Yet we, who do not believe in the “Sky God”, have to be extra careful to be ‘R-C’ (religiously correct). Of course one does not want to be an oaf and impudently step on another’s feelings. Of course not. My motivation in initiating this subject/thread was simply to poll members’ for their suggestions as to appropriate non religious grace/prayers that would simultaneously not offend others yet, by it’s lack of religiosity let everyone know where one stood. That’s all. :wink: AvidReader

In groups where atheists or agnostics (or other non-monotheists) are present or you don’t know the faith status of all preset:

How about “We give thanks for the food before us and the company of friends and family around us.”? Doesn’t say who thanks is being given to, or even if it’s being given to anyone in particular or is just an expression of pleasure. Accomplishes the ends of a theist’s grace (he hears it as directed at God) without offending the sensibilities of the atheist/agnostic (who hears it as a verbalization of the pleasure felt by those present and their gratitude to the host for providing it).

Also, Avid Reader and others, did you note my first paragraph before I quoted the BCP? My faith calls for my respecting your dignity as a person, and not for forcing my beliefs on you (or at least forcing you to choose between joining in a custom you don’t agree with and being rude to me as host and grace-offerer).

Personally, i’m trying to imagine a scenario in which i might be asked to say grace, and am having quite a bit of difficulty coming up with one.

All my friends, religious or otherwise, know that i’m an atheist. My secular friends feel no need to say grace at all (for obvious reasons), and my few religious freinds are not rude enough to challenge my atheism by asking me to say a prayer. (Nor, by the way, am i rude enough to challenge their religion by talking while they say grace.)

And if i were having dinner with strangers, i would consider it quite rude if one of them asked me to say grace without ever having taken the trouble to ascertain whether or not i would be comfortable with this.

I do not see any need to mock and ridicule religion. If people want to say grace, they are welcome to go right ahead, and i will stand or sit silently and wait for them to finish. But don’t ask me to lead your rituals, thanks very much.

Finally, in answer to the OP, i would say something like “I think it would be more appropriate for someone else to say grace.”

two options:

good bread, good meat, good god, let’s eat.

rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the grub yeaaaa god

Dal Timgar

God was my co-pilot, but we crashed in the Andes and i had to eat him.
**Love it!!!**Love it!!!

I’ve always liked “Bless the meat, damn the skin, open wide and cram it in”.

But generic thanks work fine, as stated - you’re thankful to the others at the table for their companionship, aren’t you? Just tell them so.

My dad often asks me to say the blessing, I’m sure simply because he knows what position it puts me in (they’re Christian, I’m Pagan), so I just kind of invent a grace that makes everyone happy.

I say, “We give thanks for this food and the animals, vegetables, minerals, and people who made it possible; bless it to our use and continue to bless us in the adventure of living.” Whereon I let all the Christians say “amen.”

The first part I read somewhere, and fits nicely with Wiccan liturgy; the second part is not only Christian, it’s part of the blessing my preacher grandfather used to say at big family gatherings. Extra points!

I should have said - it’s Christian in origin, but it successfully stickhandles around references to God, Jesus, the Bible, etc, just as mine leaves out inconvenient references to the Goddess and so forth that would confuse everyone and make my aunt sway back and forth in a reverent fashion as she does when they’re singing grace in a foreign language at interfaith dinners.

Is that really being respectful of their beliefs? What if it isn’t just a social convention to them, but a solemn prayer of thanks to their God? If I’m a guest in their house, I’ll respect their beliefs by remaining silent and being respectful while they say grace, but I don’t think offering up a counterfeit religious ritual is really being respectful.

Well, if they ask you to “say grace”, which is it going to be? Someone’s beliefs are going to be imposed on someone here. Grace in this context means “a short prayer of blessing or thanksgiving said before or after a meal” (definition 9) and a prayer is a “a reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship” or “an act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving”. Again, this isn’t about being respectful while they say grace, this is about being asked to personally perform the “reverent petition to” or “act of communion with” a God I don’t believe in, or else to fake my way out of it with some artfully vague language. I’m not saying an atheist should launch into some diatribe against the evils of religion in such a case, only that an atheist should politely decline.

If the people at whose table you are dining are sufficiently strange to me as to ask me to say grace, I can’t see how their blessing ritual could possibly be offensive to me, or how it could offend my sensibilities to lower my eyes in respectful silence. I do not close them. This is the sort of thing that happens with family, or with the friends of your parents, or the parents of your friends. How can it be unacceptable to anybody to respect other people’s traditions? I wouldn’t be offended by the presence of, say, a nativity scene or a menorah during the holidays. To be offended would be oversensitive and even rude.

However, if I was in a group of relatively close friends of mine, and they felt it necessary to make a production out of saying grace knowing my beliefs, that would be rude of them. And people saying grace over my table would be rude as well. If saying grace is important to you, surely the food is just as blessed if you bless it silently in such a circumstance out of respect for others.