If you are an atheist and were getting married, would you let someone – a family member, friend, spouse-to-be – inject religious speech or traditions into your ceremony? I sometimes revisit this question with myself. A religious ceremony was injected into my wedding ceremony at the last minute. And I frequently remember on it with dissatisfaction.
I certainly never wanted a religious ceremony when I got married. I wasn’t even sure I was an atheist back then. (Though I have always been highly skeptical of religion.) But, I certainly was not getting married by some religious cleric or in a church. Frankly, I was ready to enlist the local Justice of the Peace to marry us. One of my husband’s long time friends received some sort of credentials via the internet, so we had him perform the ceremony. I wrote the entire ceremony. He never once broke script.
There was music, poetry, wine, rings and the traditional vow making (sans religious references). But my “adopted” mom took me aside before the wedding and asked if we would let her say “The Lord’s Prayer” “for the troops.” How could I say no to that? I relented. She led everyone (except me) in the prayer, then read the Pablo Neruda poem I gave her. I was annoyed. But it didn’t really hurt me any. Except, it always comes up in my mind as something I disliked. A gray mark on my beautifully blue day.
I’m sure most atheists experience daily the annoyance of people who assume you want or just don’t care whether you want to participate in religious practices. In my opinion, some people are downright rude about it. For instance, if they know you are an atheist, they’ll post religious passages or prayers on your Facebook page. I’ve even had theists try to tell me that my own Facebook page was neither “the time nor place” for atheist talk. (The audacity!)
Pointless reminiscing aside, sometimes taking a stand is not really worth the conflict and rancor it could create. Flexibility defines those who live to a ripe old age. A philosophy of compromise can certainly relieve unhealthy tensions. But maybe other times, getting your way may actually be worth the fight.