My friend made my family pray. And we don’t even believe in God.

A few nights ago I had a friend over for dinner, and out of nowhere she grabbed my hand and led my family in prayer. The thing is… we’re atheists. When at her house, I have no problem bowing my head and respecting her rules, but I’m uncomfortable with the fact that she did this at my home. If she wants to take a moment to herself to prayer at my table, that’s okay too; I just don’t like being pressured into following someone else’s supernatural beliefs in my own home. Why should someone else’s pre-meal rituals trump mine? What should I do if this situation arises again–with her or another religious friend?

No one’s rituals trump anything, so don’t get your panties all in a wad over it. I think we should operate under the assumption that it’s just a habit for your friend to pray before dinner. And let’s say that even if she was trying to make a point, her point was that Jesus loves you, not that she wanted to ruin your dinner and make you feel uncomfortable.

That said, there’s no reason for your family to pray if you don’t believe in it, and since you guys are friends, she probably knows you’re an atheist. She probably just doesn’t care; often, people who are captains on the God Squad feel like it’s their duty to make you see the error of your ways. I think you can be kind, non-defensive, and mellow about it. The next time you talk to her, don’t make a big deal out of it, just say, “I know you meant well, but I felt pretty uncomfortable the other night when we all prayed before dinner. I don’t mind if you do it privately before we eat, but it was really weird for us to pray when it’s just not something we do.”

If it arises again with another religious friend at dinner, just clam it at the time and bring it up in the exact same way later. Chastising people or starting a religion fight over your nicely prepared coq au vin is just as rude as making other people give thanks for it when they don’t want to.

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