Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To bow or not to bow...

I went to Easter dinner with a friend of mine a couple years ago. Both he and I are Atheists. Both out of the closet, as they say. When it came time to say the grace I bowed my head, closed my eyes and started wondering if they were gonna serve pork (I don't eat pork). People always have pork or lamb on Easter. I cracked open my eyes to peek out and there was my friend boldly not bowing. He was actively not bowing his head. Like he was trying to push it out there.

Here is my question, who was being disrespectful? He was going out of his way to make it clear that he was not praying. I, on the other hand, was trying to stay below the radar and just mimicking the behavior of those around me. I have done this all my life. At the age of eleven I gave a really nice prayer to a family of Christians because they said it was customary for a guest to do so. So I did.

I understand there are different dynamics for my friend and me as it is his family and there is baggage in any family. I still wonder about manners. Should we just go along to get along or do we upset the balance by acting defiant and different?

If you've read my paranoia post, you know that I like to stay hidden until I know how people are going to act. Get to know the landscape, so to speak. That probably causes me to miss a lot of really interesting situations. Perhaps there are two reserved atheists who do not say anything or act all heathen-y. Just standing next to each other acting polite and grumbling silently. How many of us do that?

How many of us are out of the closet but bow our head during a prayer? I do it to fit in as I was raised Unitarian (if anything) and they don't pray. I never prayed in my life. Not once. Never tried. It is too silly. But, when the group is doing it I bow that head and wait bored and annoyed. I do it out of a deep fear of being ostracized.

Problem I have is that it seems more disrespectful. I am feigning a faith that people have and revere. It seems like mockery. Like the times I got Communion. Apparently that is a big no-no. Is this the same?

When people go out of their way to show they are not praying they seem like jerks to me. Just defying to make a point. Everybody gets all weird and they don't say anything. I have never seen this spark a conversation or debate, just dirty looks. How does that help?

Of course the best option is to not bow your head and not seem that out of place. That is an option for many but seems really hard for some.

I think we need to all sign a petition saying we will not bow our heads and stick to it. If we can be confident that there are others doing it it will be a great way to find Atheists in crowds. Ask for a prayer. Look around and find your kindred spirits.

That is it!! I have figured where this rambling post is headed. I propose that we never bow our heads during any kind of prayer and ask for prayers to be said at every event of 10 people or more. Yes, I am suggesting that Atheists go out of their way to get prayers said at any event. City Council meetings, exercise classes, random bus rides, or fast food restaurants are all great places to try this out. Just make sure everyone hears you and knows this is in reference to their God. Keep those calls for prayer general, people. No Arabic or Yiddish words or speaking in tongues or sacrificing babies (Satanism is a religion) just general calls for prayer.

Y'see, when the Atheists do not bow their heads we will identify the silent majority. We will find the 18% nonreligious and we will bring them together into a Utopia of freethought and skepticism and...

Maybe I will just start with not bowing my head. Try it if you are a bower as well. When other heads are bowed, look around, you might not be as alone as you think.



  1. I don't bow my head. I don't try to make everyone notice either.

    However, you may be shocked to discover how many others are not bowing either. I went to church a couple of times, for various reasons. When prayers get said, i am shocked to find many people not bowing either...

  2. I know. I went to a wedding of a fairly religious couple and during the prayer there a lot of people who did not bow their heads. Just looked ahead as nonchalant as they could. I felt it was not disrespectful in any way but there are people who act like it is a crime against humanity.