There seems to be a lot of buzz going around concerning a certain “Dear Prudence” question. The writer asked how to handle her Atheist husband who thinks the Thanksgiving dinner table is the appropriate place to vent his feelings on religion to an Episcopal family… in my opinion he is completely wrong.
I grew up with an Atheist father and brother- the rest of our brood fell somewhere on the spectrum of the Catholic church. I can still picture my grandparents house filled with family on Thanksgiving and hearing my grandfather give the blessing over our meal. Despite my disbelief in God, I never once even considered using this as a place to plant my soapbox. Perhaps it is that I love my family more than I dislike religion, but I never viewed our family table as my pulpit… and I tell you from the bottom of my heart, I would give anything to hear my grandfather give the blessing just one more time.
Family traditions are sacred. Whether they are rooted in religion or not is irrelevant. Taking the time to purposefully disgrace them is despicable and this Atheist does not support such behavior. Rich and I may be the “Couple of Atheists” but if he ever threatened to shame my family over something like a religious gesture during the holidays, I would do a lot more than ask the internet for advice, and I am sure he feels the same. Both of us have believers in our family. People as close as parents all the way to the friends that are our chosen family. They know our views and sometimes we do engage in a little debate, but not on the holidays and certainly not with the objective to disrespect and belittle one-another.
Just imagine that there might have been someone on the edge of reason sitting at that table with him. Someone questioning God and searching for an alternative. I would imagine that seeing the behavior of this “angry Atheist” and what the reaction was would only make them cling tighter to the security blanket provided by God.
I am not saying that you have to agree with someone’s beliefs, but if you are a guest in their home you need to find a way to separate the believer from the belief and show them the respect that a loved one deserves. Saying grace at the dinner table is not forcing their beliefs on you, it is observing the traditions that they practice. No one is forcing you to be at that table. No one is forcing you to pray. By using the holiday table as a chance to proselytize you are just as bad, maybe even worse than the people you are disgracing.
So to the wife of this Atheist, I am sorry that he disrespected your family and ruined their holiday. If he decides to make this a tradition, please let your loved ones know that this is not the typical behavior of those in the Atheist community… it is the behavior of an asshole and unfortunately you will find those types everywhere.