Families and Traditions

Atheism, Holidays and Rituals

Perhaps the biggest loss in not attending religious ceremonies at a church and not participating in religion-themed rituals is the loss of joint family activities and the diminishing of a family tradition. If this bothers you and others in your family, you should entertain the possibility of developing some substitute activities and starting some new traditions which might genuinely include all of the family regardless of belief.

Perhaps you'll decide to attend religious services anyway as a sign of respect, but finding alternatives may prove to be the best long-term solution.


Attending Church

In some cases, especially among younger nonbelievers, you may find that parents attempt to make use of church services (among other things) as part of an attempt to "bring you back into the fold." It's both unfortunate and unhealthy to try and make family members conform to religious thinking in this manner, but it may be unavoidable.

If you put up too much of a fight, the holidays will likely be filled with rancor - and no one really wants that. Your best bet is probably to state your position in as calm and mature a fashion as possible, but go along with your parents' wishes in the end, at least until you're old enough to better assert your independence.

However much they might try, they cannot force belief as long as you remain true to yourself.

There is no easy way out of such a situation - all you can do is be better than the people around you and show them more respect than they are showing you. Be the sort of person you wish they were.


Holiday Church Services

It is standard during most religious holidays for churches or temples to hold special services in commemoration of that holiday.

Often, people attend services as a family as part of a long-running tradition, and even those who rarely or never attend religious services are moved to attend now.

Should an atheist attend such services with their family? On the one hand, it would seem to be an act of hypocrisy for a nonbeliever to attend a religious service as if they were a member of the community of believers. On the other hand, it is a family tradition, one which the atheist may have participated in when they were younger and still a believer.

As with many other things, your decision on this matter will ultimately depend upon where your levels of comfort and offense lie. If the church in question is one where the messages are particularly obnoxious towards freethought, you are probably best off finding some way of avoiding attendance. However, if you find that you particularly enjoy the holiday music, regardless of the actual content, then perhaps it's worth going.

In addition to figuring just where your comfort and offense levels lie, you'll also need to decide what attendance will mean to you. If you can find no meaning, much less pleasure, in attendance, then you should consider finding something else to do and looking for some way to help your family become more comfortable with that.

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