Go to a large family gathering. (Or a similar gathering. Borrow someone else’s large family if you don’t have one.) When somebody decides you are all going to pray together with bowed heads, start to bow your head so everybody else sees you doing it, but after everyone’s heads are supposed to be bowed, unbow your head.

Have a look around.

You will find yourself looking at a few other people who are also looking around. Those are the other atheists.

Introduce yourself after the prayer, and then you can make arrangements for an orgy or a baby-roast or something.

Comments

  1. #1 Russell
    September 12, 2009

    And if there are uncowed kids looking around while the prayer is going on, give them a wink, to let them know you find it as silly as they do.

  2. #2 John Swindle
    September 12, 2009

    Russell – Exactly! If I had gotten a wink like that as a child, it might not have taken me so long to shed that nonsense.

  3. #3 Ole
    September 12, 2009

    No families that I know do stuff like that. I don’t think it would work.

  4. #4 Azkyroth
    September 12, 2009

    Unfortunately, in many families, like mine, the other atheists tended to bow their heads when prayers were said so as to not be “offensive.”

  5. #5 Anon
    September 12, 2009

    Hint to Real Americans on how to find the atheists you already know.

    Go to a large family gathering. (Or a similar gathering. Borrow someone else’s large family if you don’t have one.) When somebody decides you are all going to pray together with bowed heads, start to bow your head so everybody else sees you doing it, but after everyone’s heads are supposed to be bowed, unbow your head.

    Have a look around.

    You will find yourself looking at a few other people who are also looking around. Those are the other atheists.

    Make a note of their names, so you can firebomb their homes. God hates atheists, and wants you to kill them.

    Pray like hell that none of the other people who are also looking around have read this and are doing what you are doing.

  6. #6 RichardX
    September 12, 2009

    Make a note of their names, so you can firebomb their homes. God hates atheists, and wants you to kill them.

    I’d rather save my divine driven wrath for the Furries. Anyway to detect them? Something involving the family pets perhaps?

  7. #7 a lurker
    September 12, 2009

    They are either nonbelievers or they are believers who just did not feel like praying at that particular moment. This test is going to have a lot of false positives.

  8. #8 chris
    September 13, 2009

    I’d rather save my divine driven wrath for the Furries. Anyway to detect them? Something involving the family pets perhaps?

    Look around. The ones wearing a human sized mouse suit are the furries.

    Seriously, though, if anyone wants to try this out (the atheist part), come to Easter dinner with me at my in-laws’ house. It won’t take long to find the atheist staring at the wall. Find me and you’ll be looking at him.

  9. #9 Crystal
    September 13, 2009

    No matter what gathering, I never bow my head for prayer. Before I came out as an atheist, I did, but I don’t try to fake it anymore. It’s especially useful at extended family get-togethers because I’m able to make sure the kids don’t start throwing food at each other while the grown-ups aren’t looking.

  10. #10 Joe M.
    September 13, 2009

    Seriously, Greg …

    You were trained as an anthropologist, right? Not just archeology in the narrow sense, but the core concept of PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION, and I’m sure you’ve respectfully indulged in it your entire life, especially in cultures other than our own. Otherwise, with your latitude of experiences, you’d be dead.

    I await your reply curiously. This is deliberately short; if you get my meaning, then I’ll respond in full with my own thoughts on this topic, which I do not consider at all trivial even in the relatively benign context in which your raised it …

  11. #11 JefFlyingV
    September 13, 2009

    Funny, I’ve done this but it has backfired at meal time. I was asked to leave when the host noticed I didn’t bow my head for grace. They weren’t going to have any damned atheist sickening the dinner table.

  12. #12 Heidi Anderson
    September 13, 2009

    When I hosted Thanksgiving this past year at my house, I was horrified when my mother began to offer a prayer. I have never gone into someone’s home and demanded that they cease prayer, it seems equally odd to me that you would come into an open atheists house and lead a group prayer.

    Turns out my mother was just nervous that my grandmother would learn that I was an atheist. Still, I am not going to lie in my own house.

  13. #13 MikeMa
    September 13, 2009

    I’ve refused to bow my head for prayer for over 30 years. Never caught any flack for it (maybe) as almost all the others gathered in their subservient poses didn’t look up to see me. I will remember the wink thing for future events. Anything I can do to help a questioning child has to be a good thing.

  14. #14 speedwell
    September 13, 2009

    Mom and Dad were very religious. Dad was a church elder and Mom turned into a fundie after (or maybe before) they broke up. We three kids were raised devoutly. I hit 30, and had a very weird e-mail exchange with my father where he hinted broadly that his real religious influence was Spinoza. Mom died a few years after that, and at the funeral, my grandmother and uncle and cousins were sitting around talking about the sermon and how uncomfortable they were with some of the things the preacher said. I said, “Well, of course, you guys are Jewish. Imagine how I feel… I don’t even believe in God.” To my utter shock, they started to laugh. And my grandmother said, “Honey, neither do we. We just didn’t want to say anything about it because we promised your mother we wouldn’t talk about it with you.”

  15. #15 speedwell
    September 13, 2009

    Oh, and ugh, I have to meet a friend at church this morning. Unity church, with a floating Jesus projected on the wall. What can I do… laugh, I’ll just laugh. And look around for fellow “what the hell am I doing heres”. :)

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    September 13, 2009

    Joe [10]: You question is just “You were trained as an anthropologist, right? ” … well, you know I was. You were there! Awaiting your fuller response…

  17. #17 Tim H
    September 13, 2009

    At the family gathering, sis, bro-in-law, niece and nephew (all Catholic, sis a conversion) mom (northern Baptist) and dad (who knows?) bow and pray. I’m heads-up, and the nephew (9) and the niece (4) know it. I’ve babysat the kids a couple times and the nephew leads the niece in a prayer before we eat the pizza, and they know I don’t participate. No one has any problems with it. At least the kids are aware that unbelievers exist and are just like everyone else in most ways.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    September 13, 2009

    Heidi: wow, that sucks. That happened to someone I know at her wedding, many years ago when I was an atheist but had no idea there was such a thing as atheist activism. It was to be a non-religious ceremony, and the pastor, who agreed to that, started in on the god stuff and went on and on as the bride started to cry. Then got mad. She did not make a scene but this was in a rural area where people cooperated on a lot of things (a “barn raising” culture) and I guarantee that pastor lost position in the community that day, because every single person at the ceremony knew this was not supposed to happen.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    September 13, 2009

    A floating Jesus? Well, THAT might make visit to church interesting.

    Spent the day at the Ren Fest yesteray, and Jesus was there too. He seems to be EVERYWHERE.

  20. #20 Still in Closet
    September 13, 2009

    Thanks for the chuckle.
    The thing that makes me most nervous about large family gatherings is that it is very likely I will be asked to lead in prayer! I was a very devout believer/observer before I left home, and my folks are quite alright with women taking on spiritual leadership roles.
    (sigh)
    I think I’d wiggle out of it by transferring the honor of “blessing the food” to my husband – just like a Biblical wife ought to, lol!