It’s a bit hard not to be annoyed when people make big religious scenes out of purely secular events. For instance, I went to a silent auction fundraiser at a local bar for a friend of my husbands who needed help. This friend was in the hospital; but, barring infection, was going to be okay. His family had lost everything. So local citizens organized the event. We donated money and housewares that were gathering dust in our attic. Somewhere in the middle of the event, one of the participants halted everything to “lead everyone in prayer.” I was annoyed, but just continued drinking my beer in silence so as not to offend the other people who believed in it all.
The prayer lasted FIFTEEN MINUTES! Fifteen minutes of annoyance and discomfort. It was more convenient for the ‘faithful’ to assume everyone in the bar shared their beliefs, rather than acknowledge that there were some people in the crowd who may feel uncomfortable with or even offended by the whole religious ceremony by keeping it short and on point.
And I wasn’t the only person feeling these emotions. While all the theists had their eyes closed and heads bowed, I was looking around. What I saw filled me with hope and encouraged me beyond… well, I don’t know what.
I knew one friend in the crowd who was also atheist. I was surprised to find nearly a quarter of the people close to me were also not participating! I don’t know whether it was the intransigence of myself and my friend that emboldened others to waive participation or whether it was purely an individually-driven moment of “No thanks.” for all of us. Maybe it was a case of birds of a feather sticking together. I can’t even know whether every one of the spectators was atheist like me. But it was encouraging to know that I was not alone, that someone else shared my feelings – or at least some of them.