I can’t believe what just happened. Or some other click bait. Because THIS.

comments 11
the godless side / the post-God side / Uncategorized

I’m still sweating.  That kind of nervousness that lightly gathers on your forearm, the back of your neck, your upper lip.  That kind that is preceded by a hot wave reddening your cheeks and followed by a large unsettling sickness in your belly causing your heart to race and fingers to shake.

My husband comes from a fundamentalist Mormon (polygamist) sect.  We are spending Christmas with them.  And every night, their family gathers in a circle on the floor and his father, as head of the house, asks one of those present, usually one of their ten children, to say the nightly prayer.

Silver’s sister came into the game room and said, “Hey, come in for night prayer if you guys want.”  I glanced at Silver.  Should we?  We agreed to at least kneel with them out of respect.

But what happened next shocked me.  “Teal, will you say the closing prayer tonight?” his father asked me.  ME!! Completely and entirely unprepared for that, I agreed out of habit of being agreeable.  Did he have no idea we were unbelievers???  Was his family really that oblivious and out of touch with us?? My mind began to race.  It had been years since I prayed.  And technically this wouldn’t even be a prayer, as I wouldn’t actually be thinking anyone would listen.  I would just be reciting words they would want to hear.  But I felt SOOOO weird about it.  I glanced at Silver again, “Do what you want,” he whispered.  I felt extremely awkward and unsure and untrue to myself.  But I figured I could withstand that for a few moments if it meant I didn’t have to face even further awkwardness by now refusing to pray.

So I did it.  “Dear Heavenly Father…” I started.  I felt sick.  What the smell was I doing.  What was I reinforcing.  I rambled on with some “thank you’s” for family, living a fortunate life, time together, and some other junk that my mind tried to recall from my zealous religious days, and then… because of the Christmas season and the social pressure I felt to say it, “for sending your son on this earth to die for us that we may celebrate his birth tomorrow.” My ears were ringing so loudly I wanted to puke.  I hated these words.  I hated that they were coming out of my mouth.  I hated the reinforcement of lies and misplaced hope and excuses for self-righteousness, judgement of others, the extreme sexism of the culture I found surrounding myself.

My mind is reeling.  I immediately came to the computer to try to debrief with myself about what just happened.  I feel so deceptive.  I DECEIVED a FUNDAMENTALIST RELIGIOUS group into BELIEVING in GOD even more!!! OMG!!!!!  ON CHRISTMAS!!!

WTF!

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The Author

I'm a closet atheist christian missionary. Paradigm shifts happen frequently for those who allow themselves to think critically about currently held beliefs and openly about new ones. I’ve developed the skill, or perhaps addiction, for change but the community around me is slow to catch up -- and would damn me if they knew where I stood.

11 Comments

  1. I *liked* the comment not because I like what you went through here but to show I’m here and I just don’t want you to beat yourself up over this but use it to learn for the next time, if there is any next time. Was asking you to pray a subtle manipulation or an innocent request? Next time you probably won’t be caught off guard now that you know the possibility could arise again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah says

    I’ve thought about this exact same situation. What if my parents that I live with now ask me to save the prayer? I think I might say something like ” oh great and powerful universe, what an amazing energy we can choose! Fill us all with love and tolerance as we can join together in our similarities as human beings! “

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Violet says

    I’ve been in a similar situation. I found comfort in the words of a former fundy baptist preacher; he wrote a post (linked below) about how when unbelievers are pressured into praying for various reasons, it’s just words bouncing off the ceiling and back. They mean nothing. You aren’t indoctrinating or affirming anything for the fundys…they’re already indoctrinated. Keeping the peace is sometimes just the best option. Other times you can fight the good fight, but I don’t know that the middle of a “sacred holiday,” in the midst of many hard-core religious in-laws, is the right time to do it.

    You did ok in a tough situation. You really did.

    http://brucegerencser.net/2015/09/bruce-would-you-pray-if-asked-to/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Violet says

      Forgot to say: at Thanksgiving 2015, my 4 year old son was asked to give thanks before dinner by my extremely devout catholic family (I’m raising him atheist). I did “stick up for myself” and refused to have him pray, and neither did I pray myself. I tried to be polite about it but ended up getting rather snappish…it had a very, very scandalous effect for the rest of the party, and I was indeed accused of ruining the entire holiday dinner.

      On the plus side (and this alludes to Ubi’s comment below), no one DARED ask my son or I to pray before Xmas dinner yesterday. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, that was unfair to you! They ambushed you, and pushed you into participating in their religious nonsense. You were trying to be polite and they completely took advantage of that.

    I guess this will have to be chalked up to being a learning experience. Some thoughts if anyone ever tries this on you again:

    You could have a discussion now with Silver’s dad about how you tried to be polite under the circumstances by offering a prayer as they requested, but that putting you on the spot like that wasn’t OK, in fact it was really inconsiderate. If they know that you are no longer a believer, then it was disrespectful to you to put you in that situation.

    You could let them know that you will join them in the room while they pray, but that you will not participate, especially not if they put you on the spot. No more kneeling. Or, you could just refuse to join them, which I think is probably the better response.

    Or, you could take my husband’s advice. “If you do something badly enough, you will never be asked to do it again.” If they ever try this on you again, have a “prayer” ready that will be so objectionable that they will never consider asking you for another one!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Girlfriend, I think we all cringed when you said “Heavenly Father…”!

    Thankfully no one has asked me to pray in a long time. No… actually, that isn’t true. Until recently, a small group from our church met at our house weekly. Over the past year my participation in the scripture discussion has waned, and my prayer requests stopped completely.

    One night the leader asked me to start the prayer to close our time together. I felt the heat roll up over my neck and face and the hair stand up on the back of my neck. What was I going to do?

    For a second I was actually afraid of doing it, thinking it would be sacrilegious if I prayed. I brushed that off immediately – no sacrilege if there’s no god to punish me. There would be no lightening bolts!

    The next second I considered doing it. After all, much like you, I had enough training and experience to pray like a pro. I could say the words I once meant from my heart and I could do a darn good job of it, no one would be the wiser, and life would go on, cover unblown.

    By the third beat of my heart, I knew it would be disingenuous to lead this group of people I cared about in a prayer to someone they believed in when I no longer believed. I wasn’t ready to discuss my unbelief (and still haven’t) but I couldn’t dishonor them (or myself) in that way.

    After what seemed to me like an eternity, I said, “No thank you, please ask someone else.” Simple. And that was that.

    They never asked me again.

    Liked by 2 people

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