I remember the time when I revealed to my family I was a Humanist. It was at our family Christmas shindig. I wore my Humanist Community T-shirt. My Grandma asked me if I was a heathen and some cousins asked how could I celebrate Christmas if I was an atheist. Holidays may have strong religious ties but atheists can enjoy them if the believers work a little harder to include us.
Herb Silverman wrote a couple of posts about the interaction of atheists and believers on the holidays.
I don’t agree with most of his post “7 Tips for Atheists at Thanksgiving Dinner” because I don’t believe in humoring believers. I actually think it is rude to say the blessing and to quote Bible verses when one isn’t a believer.
Silverman does have some interesting points in a follow up post titled “7 Things Not to Say to the Atheist in Your Family“.
1. “Why are you angry with God?”
Atheists are no angrier with God than with the Tooth Fairy. Only God-believers can be angry with God. Some people might have become atheists because they are not satisfied with theodicy explanations about why a good and powerful god would allow so much evil in the world, but most have become atheists primarily because they find no evidence for the existence of any gods.
3. “Why are you rejecting our family? Was it our fault?”
Would you ask this question of a family member who voted for a different political candidate? Would you rather the atheist simply lie or remain silent (as others in the family might be doing)? Families have learned to welcome rather than reject gay members, and so it should be with atheists. Families can thrive and grow stronger with diversity.
Most families can function with members who hold contrasting view points. So why not different ideas on religion. At least for a day.
Atheist should not say the blessing but should be respectful of the believers when they start praying. The atheist should also not back down if challenged on their non-belief. Just respond in an even and confident tone.
Also remember that no matter on many facts you have your side, the Believer will fall back on “faith” and the “word of God”.
Believers who want to include more atheists should try and tailor the event or party to be more inclusive. You might ask for someone to say something about the gathering. Believers could then say a blessing or the atheists can give a secular blessing.
Believers shouldn’t try to convince atheists to convert to their religion. They should avoid any religious debates with atheists for the duration of the party or event.
Being inclusive takes a lot of work with the hardest being keeping silent about religion.