Mintaka, you bloody hypocrite!

Dear Auntie Agnes,

I hope you can offer me some advice on a problem of decorum wrestling integrity.

I’ve recently relocated and am currently renting a cute garden cottage in a neighborhood not far from work. Now, since moving in, I haven’t gone out of my way to sacrifice any goats or engage in unnatural sexual acts, and I play my Jethro Tull at no more than a whisper. So my very sweet land-couple has no reason to suspect that my subscription to Christianity has lapsed.

Last weekend I was invited over to the main house to join the couple and a few friends for a braai, and in spite of initial misgivings, it turned into an intoxicatingly fun afternoon with swimming, darts, beer, G&T’s, and succulent steaks the size of Vredendal.

Come lunch time, however, we were all required (well, not explicitly) to hold hands and a prayer followed, touchingly thanking the lord for bringing new friends together etc, etc. The sentiments were good, so I felt it would be wrong not to participate in this little ceremony. Also, I would sooner eat glass than unnecessarily stick out in a small crowd. (Large crowds are, of course, a different matter.)

I’ve felt the same kind of internal turmoil when attending christian weddings or buying pannekoek from kerktannies raising funds for the new orrel.

Considering that my faith in the supernatural is as stale as last week’s bran muffin, how evil am I being?


Not evil at all, nor hypocritical. The only entity you could possibly offend by deceitfully taking part in these little ceremonies is the deity who doesn’t exist. Being a non-believer in supernatural claptrap does not oblige you to be rude (especially to kind hosts who have just fed and watered you on a grand scale); and a refusal to take part would draw negative attention to yourself and reinforce the belief amongst the faithful that we atheists are fundamentalist nutjobs unworthy of serious consideration.

There is a time and place for reasoned dissent, the saying of grace at a convivial meal aint it.

I do not think you are being evil at all since a belief in the possibility of being evil presupposes a belief in being good and the whole good/evil debate inevitably gives rise to the good god/evil devil debate which I believe is futile and rather silly.

Besides, the internal turmoil thing is, while annoying, probably necessary for functioning in society. We dont judge people for their beliefs (although we dont have to agree, and may think they are ridiculous) but in the end, I think anyone would do anything for good pannekoek…

There is a time and place for reasoned dissent, the saying of grace at a convivial meal aint it.

I agree. I have a good friend who is a Seventh Day Adventist, if I’m invited to his home for a meal, I also bow my head with him while he does his thing. When he comes to my home, he knows that I’m an atheist and we don’t say grace before we eat, and he’s cool with that. We do have some really good debates and it usually ends with us agreeing to disagree.

As st0nes says, there is a time and place for everything.

a refusal to take part would draw negative attention to yourself and reinforce the belief amongst the faithful that we atheists are fundamentalist nutjobs unworthy of serious consideration.

This is also something I bear in mind. I do try and have reasoned discussions and will, 95% of the time, remain calm when doing so. However, there have been one or two nutjobs I have tried this with and it doesn’t work.

So, no, you’re not evil or a hypocrite. :wink:

Nah, you’re not evil nor a hypocrite, you’re simply being respectful (tolerant?) of another’s way of life. Nothing wrong with that, unless of-course YOU did the thanksgiving prayer, if you did that you may label yourself a hypocrite.

My landlady is a really sweet ouma - her hubby is 92 and still going strong - really good boere-stock. After about a year of staying on their premises they found out I was an atheist. All of a sudden I’m no longer the “oulike seun” they thought I was (even though I’m 50 yrs old) and I get a really off-ish vibe from them now. The ouma even asked me the other day if I was like Hitler and Stalin - evil to the core. I was hanging up my washing and didn’t feel like a long discussion, and she is a really wonderful lady with deep traditions in her culture that didn’t warrant me going for her jugular. So I backed off and retreated with a non-argumentative “no I’m not like them” response.

My view is that it is not always appropriate to mention our unbelief. As a musician I even led a congregation in a Christian song at a wedding - it was part of my job. Sweet couple getting married - would not have been appropriate if their musician had said, “What? Me play guitar for your guests to sing in church? Naa, I’m an atheist bwuaahahah” It was actually quite a beautiful song and a really touching moment in their wedding. When people say grace before a meal I usually look down at my steak and think, “Dude, thank you for giving your life so that I can eat a slice off your rump.” thus saying a kind of grace more in line with my own world-view. Hehe ;D

You would possibly have received a total different response if you directed this question at a religious forum! ::slight_smile:

What would a religious person’s reaction be in such circumstance, being surrounded by atheists? If he then doesn’t say a prayer before dining, is he a hypocrite and/or wouldn’t he have re-acted the same than you have? Would he be considerate? Most likely not :wink:


Good idea Steve, I’m struggling to keep my head down these days, can’t resist to see who else is peeping ;D

Had a giggle at xmas dinner at the religious in-laws when I caught my youngest miming to whatever tune in his head and inspecting the ceiling during a very LOOOOOOONG and earnest prayer session. :smiley:

Thanks to all for the advice and anecdotes, and you are quite right, there are other, more suitable forums (in the broadest sense) for being awkward about religion - at work for instance >:D. Its nice to know that my perceived dilemma is generally considered a non-issue by the wise present here. I shall henceforth bow my head in camaraderie and devour ecclesiastical pancakes without a shred of guilt. 8)


Just watch out if offered the cheap red plonk and unleavened biscuit thingies - they do have a reputation for something or other… can’t quite remember what… old age!