Friday, February 11, 2011

No, I won't bow my head and pray

I'm agnostic. To be exact and after reading up on it a bit (by bit I mean like 5min. on wiki) I think I would fall into the Weak Agnostic camp. Do you know when I feel the most confusion over my religious beliefs?

When someone is about to bless the meal and everyone is asked to bow their heads and pray.

You see for the longest time when that time came I simply bowed my head and prayed not even really thinking about whether or not I really believed in said religion. Well then I started to think about it a bit and from there I ultimately decided that the variations of Christianity I've been exposed to just weren't for me.

However when it came time to bless the meal I still bowed my head.

Why?

A trained response maybe. Maybe I had just gotten so used to doing it that I just did it out of reflex. Fear of being "bad" perhaps. Perhaps I was bowing my head so that I could "fit in" and not cause any trouble. Whatever the reason even after concluding that I was not a Christian of any sort I still bowed my head at blessing.

That is until a few years ago.

At this point I realized two things.

1. To bow my head in psuedo prayer was kinda of insulting to the ones that actually were praying. I have to admit that if I were Christian (or whatever religion) I would feel a bit insulted if I knew that someone was pretending to pray.

2. I was insulting myself. If I have concluded that I'm not a Christian and therefore do not participate in their activities.

So next time you are at a meal with me and someone asks that we bow heads to bless the meal no I'm not bowing my head. I'm just sit there quietly and wait until you finish. The least I can do is respect your practice right?

However there is one trick this. Christmas. Okay honestly I grew up on the notion that Christmas is all about cooking, eating, getting together with friends/family, partying, school breaks (if you're in school), and exchanging gifts. All things that happen pretty regularly outside the Christian tradition. But I'd be lying if I tried to say that I was not partaking in a Christian tradition though. I guess that's just one piece of cowardice I've yet to get over.

Come to think of it there's this woman in my office who is a Jehovah's Witness and every year when we have our office Christmas Lunch she doesn't participate. And while I do not act like she was wrong for not doing those things (but some of the Christians in the office thought and acted like she was) I did think she was weird for not at least joining us for the Lunch (its just a meal right?). Nor does she engage in exchanging gifts. Maybe if I were not Agnostic but actively practiced a different religion I would have disconnected myself from Christmas a long time ago. Perhaps I would have never connected to it in the first place which is what I guess is her case.

What do you think about this?

(Don't ask me to explain the connection but this post came to mind while I was reading this article about a Catholic Confession App from the iStore)

7 comments:

Tim said...

"I have to admit that if I were Christian (or whatever religion) I would feel a bit insulted if I knew that someone was pretending to pray."

Really ? I have never seen it like this before. Every time (and that wasn't often. Praying doesn't seem to be the most popular activity where I currently am) I was invited to a table where people pray before before eating I did so too, out of respect for their traditions. I figured that even if praying to a god has no meaning for me, does not mean that I can go ahead and violate other peoples traditions.

April said...

I am in the same boat as you (I clicked your link about weak agnosticism and it pretty much describes me, too), and always feel weird about the meal-time prayers. It doesn't happen to me very often, just when I visit religious family in Missouri mostly, but when it does I sort of just alter the prayer in my mind. They're basically just ritualizing a thankfulness for the food that they are able to have, and acknowledging that others don't. Even though I don't think that "gift of food" or whatever came from a person/spirit/whatever called "God," I worry that they'd take my non-participation as disrespect.

April said...

I didn't end that right. I meant, even though I don't really believe the same thing as them, I try to use the time period to reflect on the fact that I am lucky to be eating. It always feels so contrived, though, to go through the motions like that.

Danny said...

Yeah it does feel weird and it also feels weird to have to come up with something to do in order to occupy the time.

Danny said...

I can see your point of view Tim. Its just to me it feels like the disrespect would be in praying for something or someone I don't fully believe in.

Adiabat said...

I myself am a weak atheist, but its tied to weak agnosticism. I don't believe in god *because* "at present, there is not enough information to know whether any deities exist" (from the wiki article). The lack of information along with basic epistemology (the burden of proof is on those making the assertion or "That which can be asserted
without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence") is why I'm an atheist.

As for praying before a meal. I've always had the view that I work to pay for that food so why should I thank some deity for it. I wonder if the practice comes from a time where people caught their own food and so it was a matter of look whether you would catch something that day. Couple this with the human quirk of applying agency to chance and you end up with a ritual to perform when you manage to catch something. It's still kinda insulting to the skill of the hunter though.

Danny said...

Thanks for dropping by Adiabat.

As for praying before a meal. I've always had the view that I work to pay for that food so why should I thank some deity for it. I wonder if the practice comes from a time where people caught their own food and so it was a matter of look whether you would catch something that day. Couple this with the human quirk of applying agency to chance and you end up with a ritual to perform when you manage to catch something. It's still kinda insulting to the skill of the hunter though.

I can agree with that. While I am certainly thankful to be in a position where the closest thing to "Where's my next meal coming from?" is having to choose from several options I'm just not sure that that is due to some deity. It might be but I haven't seen enough to believe so.

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