Ray Comfort. The exact reference in which bananas
were used as a defense for a creator.
Jennifer Flammger asked how to handle the expectations of being raised Catholic, and having a family full of believers expecting you to do the dance of whatever ritual is occurring right along with them. That's not an easy question to answer. Unless, of course, you are Josh. (This is Paul writing, by the way.)
I'm fairly certain that Josh would advocate 'doing the dance.' In fact, one thanksgiving, I brought Mr. Billingsley down to my brother's house for some turkey and prayer. Josh thought it absurd that I wouldn't participate in the blessing. He likes ritual. I'm not so big on it.
For general family situations, I practice non-violence. By that I mean that my family and I have reached a detente wherein I do not criticize the fairy tales that they only half believe in, and they do not force me to participate in said rituals. I am well aware that this is not an option for many, especially those confronted with family members who are 'contagious christians.'
Here is what I can say to those who are confronted, backed into a corner, and beat over the head with a crucifix. It seems to me that there are only two choices, either go along to get along, or come out of the closet. Sure, argue that I am creating a false dichotomy, but understand that any middle-of-the-road behavior will be, absolutely, stopped dead in its tracks with one word, Faith. Any sort of "I'm just asking because I'm confused" will be confounded with "You can't know god's plan, and who are you to question it?"
So, go along to get along, choice one. This option involves sitting on your hands and bidding your time, staying silent during the prayer, showing up to the church on time for Timmy's baptism, and not wearing a t-shirt proclaiming "there is no god." This option sucks. The only saving grace (I say un ironically) here is in doing whatever you can in other aspects of your life to spread the information to the public on what you think is right. Besides, it is most likely the case that your relationship with your family has less to do with god, and more to do with each other.
Come out of the closet, choice two. This option involves revealing to your loved ones that you believe that their beliefs are bat-shit crazy. (Bat shit sticks to the ceiling, if anyone was wondering why bat-shit is craziest of all of the popular shits. It's upside down.) Here's the problem with this plan: To cite Jen Peoples, who is a co-host of 'The Atheist Experience,' sponsored by 'The Atheist Community of Austin,' "As bad as you can possibly imagine it being, you should be prepared, and willing to accept, that it will be THAT BAD." If you cannot, then don't come out. If you think your family will never speak to you again, then don't come out if you think that's something you could not handle, no matter how minimal the chance.
Now, as to the kid's communion...that's a bit easier. My advice, congratulate the child on passing a milestone in his or her life that all of the child's peers are experiencing as well. I would never confirm the beliefs in fairy tales, but I also would never debate a 12 year old on theology. I remember my communion. Do you know what it meant? It meant that we were going to have a big party, and I was the center of attention. It meant I was reaching some sort of milestone. It was a good time. Did god come into it? I guess. I stood up, I sat down, I kneeled, I ate a cracker, I had a party.
We need to modify the educational system to teach critical thinking, not tear down children on 'their day.' With a little bit of luck, and a little bit of learning, that child is going to realize the value of independent thought no matter what sort of dance they are told to do in their youth. So, smile, offer praise and congratulations, and never forget that every single one of us is misguided in more than one way.
Hate the game, not the playa.