What are the social rules on prayer in mixed company?
I hope I’m not opening a can of worms when I ask. I recently moved from an extremely diverse city to an extremely homogenous one. In Orlando, Mickey Mouse was my Lord and Savior. I can’t remember the last time someone truly prayed at a meal. Religion was a private matter and even hinting about it got you a main dish of suspicion accompanied by the occasional side order of HR sauce.
This worked out well for me, because religion is something that happens to other people. I’m not an Angry Angry Atheist nor do I have much in the way of starry-eyed faith, but I think it’s cool when other people do. I think religion is great in theory but I view it much the same way as I do stories about the Greek Gods: entertaining, culturally historical, and utterly inapplicable to me. However, given that my current workplace and the neighbors that we dine with pray before every group meal, I’m at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do. I want to respect their choice while not lying to them and fake-praying alongside them. Is that even possible?
Clearly, I don’t eat before or while they pray. I’ve got that part down. But should I bow my head? Close my eyes? Is that leading them on? I don’t want to give the impression that I’m religious when I’m not. On the flipside, I don’t want to be distractingly and obviously Not Praying, because that’s disrespectful and “HEY LOOK AT ME; I’M A GODLESS HEATHEN. ASK ME HOW”. But my hand is getting forced here. What’s the best response when the group around me is praying that won’t disrupt the proceedings and damage my reputation? Do I have more or less personal leeway when I dine with my neighbors versus dining with my coworkers? I don’t want to make anyone mad, but I definitely don’t want to give off the wrong impression, because eventually, they’re going to figure out that prayer ain’t my bag.
Maybe I should just be a hunter/gatherer.