Do You Participate When You Don’t Believe?

I was recently a bridesmaid in a wedding–bouquet and all. It was a gorgeous event, and I had a wonderful time celebrating my childhood best friend’s marriage to her new husband. Standing up with her was a youthful dream come true.

The wedding mass was held in an old, opulent Roman Catholic church where the bride is a member. I didn’t mind this despite my divorce from Christianity and personal views on the way the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) manages itself. It was a beautiful location for their special moment.

Photo by photine

During rehearsal we ran through the ceremonial procedures and were instructed how to act by the wedding sacristan and the priest. At one point, the priest walked over to where we bridesmaids were sitting and gave us all a stern look. “When you are walking up the aisle,” he said, “Once you reach the front you must stop, pause, and bow to the Eucharist. You can’t genuflect in your dresses, but you must bow.”

At this matter-of-fact instruction, he walked away. Immediately, my eyebrows shot up. Surely he didn’t expect us all to be Catholic. and what non-Catholic would bow to a piece of food in a gold box on the stage?

My feeling of puzzled reticence only inflated when the priest joined us once again ten minutes later. He instructed us how to “properly receive the Eucharist” during communion: All of us must go up together because it would (apparently) look better. Those people not in good standing with the RCC should cross their hands over their chest (like a dead person in a coffin) and receive a blessing in the form of a cross drawn on the forehead by the priest’s thumb.

I sighed audibly, rolled my eyes, but kept my vocal opinions on this instruction to myself. The bridesmaid beside me was clearly perturbed as she scoffed, “Geez, who wouldn’t want a blessing?” I guess I didn’t hide my distaste for these traditions very well.

Some of the other other bridesmaids knew I wasn’t a Christian, but all of them knew I wasn’t Catholic. I saw a few  eyes dart towards me from further down the pew as I pondered what to do.

First we’re told to bow to someone who isn’t there. Then we’re told to receive a blessing and get a torture device religious symbol drawn on our foreheads? I mean really–what kind of atheist would I be if I didn’t feel a bit annoyed by this?

My usual practice ever since childhood was to stay in my seat quietly and just wait for all the Catholics to get up, move through the line, eat and drink some Jesus, and come back to kneel beside me. The one thing you must not do, according to the RCC, is let a non-Catholic receive communion. We’re not part of the club, you see. Since the bread and wine are supposed to impart grace and salvation, you don’t want to hand that shit out to every Tom, Dick, or Harriet that sneaks up that aisle. Non-Catholics have got to follow all the Church’s rules in order to get the good stuff.

Compromising

I remember tweeting about the priest’s orders after the rehearsal–the requirements for me to bow and receive the blessing of the cross weighing rather heavily on my mind. What was the right thing to do?

On one hand, I didn’t want to take part in traditions I thought were silly and meaningless. I wouldn’t require anyone else to take part is my religious or non-religious traditions if they didn’t feel comfortable with it. Even if I thought my beliefs or practices were correct or “best”, I would still respect those of other traditions. I did as a Christian, and I still do this today.

On the other hand, this was not my special event. I was a guest and an honored participant in my close friend’s wedding. The bowing and the blessing meant a lot to her, and I didn’t want to harm or hurt her in any way. Since these orders of behavior didn’t do me any harm, I could participate without any consequence besides a b low to my ego and an annoyance about play-acting a role I didn’t support.

My Choice

The priest stood at the front of the church with clasped hands, watching as I walked up the church aisle. I was smiling from ear to ear and loving this moment. My friend was getting married! That was the most important thing to me. As I neared the stage upon which the altar and the Eucharist stood, I stopped, faced the priest, and nodded. I chose not to bow, but I made the movement of my head as a sign of peace and respect.

The time for taking communion came. I stood with my fellow bridesmaids and received the blessing from the priest, a cross pressed into my skin. As we returned to our pew, everyone knelt in prayer, but I stayed sitting, considering my choice. Did I do the right thing? Was I honest? Weak? Too compromising? Did it even matter?

It all came down to my desire to give my participation as a small gift to my dear friend. My actions were empty, meaningless, and had no spiritual meaning to me, so I didn’t see any true harm in acting the part. The compromise I made was tiny and it kept the peace.

Do you agree with my choice? Would you participate in a similar situation or stand up for yourself and make a fuss?

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June 28, 2010  |  christianity, god, personal, religion

40 Comments


  1. This was a challenge for me last summer, when my husband’s grandmother passed away. As the only atheists in the family (and we aren’t officially out to them, though I’m sure they suspect) , it was hard enough listening to all the “she’s in a better place now” – though I will not argue that the end of her suffering was a mercy.

    The kicker, however, was the funeral service. All it lacked was an altar call – rather than a celebration of her life, that those who loved her had shared, it was a litany of threats that, if we didn’t give our hearts to Jesus, we would never see her or anyone we loved again. It was, quite frankly, tacky. We then sang a hymn about being covered in the blood of the lamb, which made me want to vomit.

    We stood when others did, but neither sang nor prayed. I took that time to think of how kind she had been to me when I joined her family, and how much she loved her family and friends. I thought of her sweetness and generosity, and grieved that she was gone. I think that my actions and responses were as genuine and respectful as possible, given the situation. I think that you did the same – the day wasn’t about you, and if the minister is asking people to participate who aren’t catholics in good standing, apparently he doesn’t much care about the veracity of the rituals either.

    • I’m deeply sorry you experienced that grief. I suppose we all go through losses like that, but it’s always hard.

      I’ve never wanted to go to a funeral. the only one that I appreciated very much was my father’s, but that was because I saw more loving people and old friends in the space of two days than I had in years.

      I haven’t yet gone to a funeral as an atheist, but I think I would act just like you did. I would grieve my own way, but I would attend any service, even if it was religious.

  2. I agree with your choice. It was her wedding day and if you were to “cause a scene” then you would have just been an ass-hat. When I go to church with my grandparents (a rare, rare thing) I go through the motions (though skip communion cus I’m trying to cut carbs…) but am usually musing about something else. I don’t sing, I just stand up and look around. When they pray, I look around for the other person not praying. It doesn’t hurt my feelings none to play the game, and I know that it gives my grandparents bragging rights to all their friend’s who’s grandkids rarely show up to visit, let alone come to church with them. They are in their 80s, it’s a small price to pay for me. Same thing applies to your friend. It makes her day “perfect”. And at your atheist wedding, she has to play your game!

    • I often find myself in situations where the positives (peace, someone else’s happiness, and a healthy relationship) outweigh the inconvenience or offense to me. I have boundaries and limits to that, but sometimes I just go along with the ride because I don’t want the trouble.

  3. This is a difficult dilemma.

    Speaking for myself, I would have a hard time doing what you did. I probably would have done things differently had I been in your shoes, BUT there are many determinants in why a person like YOU was there and a person like ME would probably never be in such a situation (things like, you’re probably a lot nicer than I am to the religious friends that you have, you probably aren’t as stubborn a person as I might be, etc etc).

    What would I have done? Probably have told the friend upfront of my choice not to go along with the ceremony I had no belief in and that they could choose to have my participate in whatever way they wanted with such news. Perhaps I’d have just sat while the faithful got their Jesus crackers… dunno.

    That all said, I’m a bit of a dick so what do I know? :) A great read, thanks for sharing.

    • I may be more lenient with my religious family and friends, yeah. Probably because I would want them to be just as giving to me. Like I said, I’m a peacemaker most of the time and I avoid trouble. You seem more ballsy and outspoken and perhaps more ready to take on a debate or confrontation.

  4. I don’t think the problem is what you do or don’t do once part of this ceremony; it’s more a question of whether it’s appropriate for a non-theist to take an active part in a religious service at all.

    I would happily attend a religious wedding, but only as a spectator. I would sit and stand in all the appropriate places, but not kneel or sing hymns. From one point of view, a church wedding is both a religious sacrament and the sealing of a legal contract of marriage. I can celebrate the latter whilst simply observing the former.

    Not the same for a baptism, to my mind. I wouldn’t attend a baptism, since that is an exclusively religious event. Funerals are problematic. To sit through a religious funeral you have to listen to a lot of stuff that any self-respecting atheist would find delusional at the very least. In 55 years I’ve never attended one. When my time comes, I’d rather be composted.

  5. See, I just got to the priest telling you to bow and that just shot a does of testosterone into my mainline of, “Go suck it!” response.
    I will now continue reading your post.
    OK, I’m done.
    Overall you did well. Your friend made a tactical error in pairing you with a full Catholic mass.
    Good choice on not f*cking bowing.
    That is just monekey-speak for submission.

  6. That’s a tough situation but I think you handled it well. I don’t really think there’s a single right answer to this sort of situation (which isn’t to say there are no wrong answers). What you did, I think, successfully balances self-respect and integrity on the one hand with concern for your friend’s happiness on the other.

    That said, I have to wonder at the bride’s not stepping in the address the priest’s imperious (and borderline obnoxious) behavior and talking to both you and him about the issue of how a non-catholic, non-christian participates in the wedding ceremony of a Catholic in a way that all, so long as they are sensible and respectful of one another, can agree to—the situation is, after all, far from unique. A priest has surely encountered this sort of circumstance many times.

    Or did the bride not see this happen?

    • I think there are a few things at work:
      1) My friend (and I’m sure the priest) does not understand what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in a religious service or why it would be harmful or disrespectful to ask someone to act like she does.

      2) They think they’re doing the right thing. I’m sure that they would want everyone to bow to Jesus’ cracker because they truly think that’s their king up there on that altar. Acting like it’s “no big deal” would be a terrible thing for them to do (in their eyes).

      3) Maybe they just didn’t realize that we might not want to do things they find perfectly normal and harmless. I mean, take that other bridesmaid’s reaction to my sigh. She was aghast and offended that I’d respond to something “positive” like that.

  7. I went through something similar when my father died last month. My family is almost entirely Roman Catholic (heck, even dad’s sister is a nun.) So, during the months that he was in the hospital and then through the funeral and afterwards, I had to deal with a lot of religious situations.

    There were times where I got pretty angry, like when dad was in the hospital and someone offered a “miracle prayer” to my mother that had been proven to work. And then there were the people from church always handing out communion like that was going to help. And the neighbors who kept saying — after dad died — that he was with Jesus now and he was talking sports with old friends up in heaven (I secretly wondered if Jesus was a Notre Dame fan because dad wouldn’t want anything to do with him if he was anything but.)

    But I realized that there are times to fight and stand up for what you believe in and there are times when you have to let it go. For me, this wasn’t the time to challenge what I perceive to be downright stupid beliefs.

    If I were in your situation, I think I would have done as you did. We have to pick our battles.

    • Oh dear, what a fresh loss. I’m very sorry for your grief. And I agree with you about picking battles—especially when you have more important things to concentrate on and care about.

  8. This is a question that has often bothered me in the past, so I’m glad you brought it up. I think I agree with The God Critic on this one, though: you have to choose your battles. Your friend’s wedding should be completely about her and her groom, and even a small protest could upset the mood. You did a very nice thing by going along with the ceremony. However, I do think it’s important to let people know where you stand on religious issues. I’m often criticized by my family for not praying with them before meals (I won’t bow my head or hold their hands), because they think I’m making a stupid fuss over nothing. But if I placate them in that way, then that reinforces the idea that my beliefs aren’t as important as theirs. Which battles you fight are, of course, up to you; everyone will probably draw the line in a slightly different place.

  9. I have been in this situation, too. I agree that it doesn’t mean anything to participate in someone else’s traditions even if you don’t like them or agree with them. We do it for the one’s we care about. The act of participating doesn’t change who we are or what we believe. It’s not different then participating in any other traditions, religious or not. I spoke to the priest in my case and he was very kind and understanding and simply asked that two of us who were not Catholic go along for the sake of the look of the wedding. I had no problem doing that for my friend. Kneeling had no significance for me, so it didn’t matter. Make sense?

  10. I really don’t understand what you were thinking here. Why didn’t you just politely decline the bridesmaid role or alternatively just set aside your views and go along with the charade for the benefit of your friend without the sighing and eye rolling?

    Typically as an atheist I find other people imposing their religious views when I don’t have a choice — the people who insist on thanking Jesus for every meal or the folks who mention the awkwardness at funerals. There, it makes sense not to participate in the reliigious nature of things.

    But you agreed to be part of a Catholic wedding and then seem shocked and annoyed that it was a *Catholic* wedding.

    • I wasn’t annoyed at all, as I said in my first paragraph. I was surprised that I was ordered to do thngs that I wouldn’t be required to do in a normal mass.

      I would have never once considered declining such a meaningful role in my friend’s wedding. Being friends for life and enjoying the day with her is much more important to me than religious beliefs. It was an awesome event, and we had a blast :)

      Your second option was to go along with the charade, which I did in part, as I explained. I only sighed when I first heard the orders we got from the priest since it’s abnormal in my lifelong experience that a non-Catholic would be told to do something like that.

      I grew up Catholic but attended a Presbyterian church in my pre-teens. I was not in good standing with the RCC, so I did not take communion or go up for a blessing (which was not encouraged for non-Catholics in my parish). Being told that I had to bow and had to go up during communion was abnormal, and it bothered me that I couldn’t do what I normally did in mass.

      Does that clear it up for you?

      • This would have been an issue for me, even before I stopped believing in God. I was raised Southern Baptist and spent a bit of time in the Presbyterian church, neither of which subscribe to the transubstantiation (the belief that the bread and wine BECOME the body and blood of Christ) idea. To bow to the Eucharist or to take a blessing from a religion I didn’t agree with would be offensive to many non-Catholic Christians.

        That said, I like how you handled the situation. You didn’t risk doing something totally offensive to, what I assume were, most of the people in the room and you also didn’t go as far in your playing along as to actually bow to the Eucharist (which is a pretty ridiculous thing to ask of a non-Catholic).

        I sing in a local choir that often performs in a Catholic church downtown. I am fine with removing my hat and not placing things on the alter. I would not be fine genuflecting or bowing to anything in the building. Some of the non-Catholics in the group are, and do. Not I. And no one ever has a problem with that.

  11. It seems to me that you acted in a classy way. As long as religious practices mean nothing to you, you can always just look at it like one of those complicted contra dances in Jane Austen – simply social ceremony. You were joining your friends in the celebration that they hosted, and being an adult rather than preferring to make her uncomfortable so you could make an overt statment about you and your feelings. From the way you talk about your friend, it doesn’t sound that she was rubbing your nose in the religion or anything – onlyl inviting you to join her. It’s great that you were able to enter into the happiness of the day instead of getting too distracted by the “issue”.

    I’d like to always handle myself in as respectful and considerate a way when I’m in an uncomfortable situation. . I’ll have to check with the people who know me better than I do to see if there’s a chance that I do. :-)

  12. Gah.

    I think if put in this situation, I would feel like a complete ass if I didn’t go along with things as I was expected to, but that’s because of my particular situation. Most of my friends have some knowledge about my atheism, but when it comes to my Catholic family, I’m still in the closet. So if I can put on the FULL show for the family, it doesn’t seem fair not to do the same for friends, just because I happen to trust them enough to tell the the truth about my beliefs.

    That said, I’m not exactly comfortable with being a closet atheist. I’m rather confident in my beliefs (though the other night I had a dream in which I became intensely religious again after receiving a magical cure for a variety of medical problems [that I do have in real life, but were a bit exaggerated in dreamland]. That might qualify as my weirdest dream ever.) and I have only kept my secret because my relationship with my family is already excessively complicated, and I don’t really feel like tossing religious disputes into the mix. It’s an imperfect solution, but it’s what I’ve got for now.

    So in an ideal world, where I was out to everyone, I don’t know what I would do. I might actually have more trouble dealing with a Catholic ceremony than that of another religion, because I was raised in the church and have lingering negative feelings about many of the rituals. I also think that taking place in the same ceremony as an outsider that I have in the past taken part as a member of the parish will always be painful. I remember distinctly, for example, feeling surprised and annoyed that anyone would object to taking a blessing in place of the Eucharist, until my boyfriend and I had a discussion about the matter and he made me realize that to a non-catholic, that blessing doesn’t mean a damn thing in any religious sense, and its only PRACTICAL purpose is to point out that you aren’t in the club. It’s a way to build in to the service a distinct reminder that the non-catholic is not fully welcome. The sudden realization of the arrogance and us-vs-them thinking inherent in an act that I had been taught to see as benevolent shook me, hard, and it’s always kind of stuck with me,

    On the other hand, I don’t have any deep knowledge of rituals in most other religions, so as long as I tried not to think too hard about the symbolism of what I was doing, it is unlikely that a wedding in another religious tradition would provide as difficult a situation for me. But then, if I think I could justify avoiding the Catholic rituals because of their insulting symbolic meaning, why would it then be unreasonable to justify avoiding equally dubious rituals in other faiths just because I do not happen to be intimately familiar with the ritual itself?

    In short, I think in your situation, even if I was out as an atheist to everyone I knew, I would probably avoid confrontation and submit to whatever silly ritual I was asked to take part in.

    And then I would go to my seat, reflecting bitterly on my “meaningless” (in that they have no effect on my life other than that moment, they are obviously ripe with symbolic meaning) actions that nonetheless failed to sit well on my conscious.

    An imperfect solution, but then, I suppose I’m used to that.

  13. I think it funny that 22 people instantly responded to talk about how wierd it can be to interact with the Catholics.
    Some 20 people quickly responded on the blog about not returning to the faith. And a scrappy 9 comments were made on the blog about keeping promises. And all the responses basically said I don’t keep promises so I don’t make them. Sad. If only we showed as much passion about being true to our word towards other people as we do about “freeing our minds” from religion. I’m not battling here. But don’t you think the strongest case for atheism would be made by people blogging about how they will go out of their way to honor their word. Wouldn’t the stronger case be made by people going out and volunteering at a charity every week because they care for the poor or the health-stricken. Wouldn’t it speak stronger if “atheism” proved its might by living out a more selfless life than the “religious folk”. What’s the saying? Actions speak louder than words? Food for thought. If you want to sway people that one system is better than another, maybe the brochure should match the activity, so to speak.

    • Unlike religious folks who have a product to sell, I’m not trying to make anyone buy or accept atheism. It’s not a commodity, nor a religion.

      I am not required to act better or worse than anyone else. Unlike in many circumstances I was in as a Christian, honesty is the best policy here. Why do we say we aren’t reliable? Because we aren’t. Neither are you, probably. We’re just honest about that shortcoming because we don’t have to prove anything or pretend that we keep every single promise, covenant, or vow that we make.

      Have you ever lied? Have you ever broken your word whether you meant to or not? Yes, I can guarantee you have. That’s because you are just like us. Human and imperfect.

      The difference is that atheists don’t pretend that an imaginary being is responsible for our lives or how good we can become.

      • I’m not trying to claim I’m perfect. Truly that would go against my beliefs. And I’m sorry that’s the idea I gave. Sure, I have lied my fair share in life. My point was not about lying in itself. I’m merely saying that the desire to exile from religion has shown itself stronger than even a desire to improve morally through the comments on your blogs. I’m not saying it’s anything you’ve done and I’m certainly not calling anyone on here stupid or a bad boy or girl while I sit and play with my halo. I just wanted to bring to attention the trend of the discussion responses. I know you’re not trying to sell atheism anymore than I’m trying to sell Christianity. But just as an atheist can bring up a point that is valid to a Christian, I hope that I as a Christian can still bring up points that are valid to athiests. So, human to human my heart in my previous comment was this: Atheist or not, can’t we worry less about bashing the “other teams” and maybe more about bettering ourselves. You’ll always be yourselves, but if you’re going to change throughout life anyway, why not have some input on where that change leads. Sorry for any offense, GGirl. My point is never to insult anyone or claim I have life tackled. I’m learning with the rest of the world. I want to be part of the discussion too.

        • Atheist or not, can’t we worry less about bashing the “other teams” and maybe more about bettering ourselves.

          That’s a fabulous point, and I really do agree :) That’s very important.

  14. I don’t get worked up about these things. It’s all just part of the ceremony. The religious part of it is completely meaningless to me. As far as I’m concerned, bowing to the spirit of the Jewish zombie that’s not actually there and eating a cracker is no different than throwing rice in the air when the newlyweds are leaving or tying cans to the rear bumper of their car.

    If the religious people think the 2000-year-old zombie is smiling down on them from Heaven because they bowed and scraped just right, then they’re entitled to their fantasies. For me, it’s just one more goofy ritual in a ceremony filled with goofy rituals. It’s not like it means anything.

  15. That’s a tough spot to find yourself in. I was raised Catholic (and recovering nicely). My family (back when I tried to play nice) would always go through the ostentatious routines at the holiday gatherings (Christmas, Easter, etc.). I used to think that since I knew the lingo that I could make myself go through the motions. Somewhere along the way, I decided to stop making myself feel unclean by doing this. As silly as it may sound, it actually made me feel dirty to go through the motions. I applaud the way you handled the situation. I would hope that I would have the…..(trying to thing of a better word than “guts”……) guts to do the same thing. My wife was raised atheist so she doesn’t share my desire to oppose religion every time it raises its sanctimonious, self-aggrandizing head. You were true to yourself and true to your (lack of) beliefs. In my opinion, well played.

  16. It sounds like your choice was the right one for you, and that is probably all that matters. If you can live with it, then so be it.

    Ten years ago, I would have done exactly the same thing you did. I wouldn’t have liked it and I wouldn’t have felt good about it, but I would have done it. Currently, I wouldn’t have gone along with it because I feel like I have compromised more than enough and am not willing to do so in cases of religion. Why the change? I suppose I’ve come to realize the cumulative effect of feeling that I’ve betrayed my values. For me now, it wouldn’t be the right choice.

  17. I see no problem with the way you handled it. Personally, I don’t think I could have been as amicable as you. I would feel like I was already compromising by participating in a ceremony run by an organization that I find morally appalling. Now you want me to bow? No way. But that’s just me. I applaud your tolerance.

  18. I was in a similar situation last week. It was a funeral. I bowed my head and even closed my eyes during prayer, out of respect for the memory of the deceased. I did not recite the prayer that was publicly recited though. I had forgotten it!

    In a more public sitch like a wedding, I would probably go through the motions. If I were part of a religious wedding, I would see it as part of the act. It’s important to the people having the wedding and going through some extra bendings and flexings and having some dude touch my forhead isn’t going to hurt me.

  19. I think you made the right choice because, like you said, this was your friend’s special day, and you put her first, not yourself. I am a bridesmaid in my close childhood friend’s wedding next month, and although she is not Catholic (so I doubt there will be an entire formal mass or service), I am interested to find out if I have to do anything I normally wouldn’t…… I’ll make the same choice as you, and yes, it will deeply bruise my ego!

  20. I wouldn’t make a fuss out of it. Just like some people identify a lot with being Christian (they follow all the traditions to a T), you may identify too much with being an atheist. It’s just part of their tradition, and you’re part of their event, so participate. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.. or sumthing like that.

  21. I’m a semi-non practicing Protestant, so I’ve always struggled with the rituals in Catholic or Mormon functions. I feel that (ironically) Paul’s instructions work well here – if you don’t feel that the gestures matter, perform them out of respect for the friend you are there to support as far as your own conscience allows. I’d probably not even nod to the Eucharist, but I’d accept a blessing from the priest in lieu of taking bread and wine.

  22. In that situation- and I have been in a few- I just do what makes my friend feel comfortable. It’s all meaningless nonsense anyhow, so what difference does any of it make? I have taken communion in Catholic churches during weddings and the like even though I have never been catholic nor have I ever believed in that nonsense. If it makes someone I care about happy what difference does it make? I am there to honor a person and will do whatever my loved one would want me to do.

  23. I really dread going to Christian friends’ weddings and family funerals because of this. I try to remain respectful, not of the religious stuff, but out of love for my friends. Like you mention it’s their special day, or it’s a solemn occassion when there’s loss, and in those moments it’s not difficult to feel empathy. What I will not do is sing along. There’s two reasons for this – firstly, I remember how much meaning those words had to me as a Christian, and it seems like mockery for me to sing along to them when the people around me know that I think it’s nonsense. Secondly (because I have tried at funerals because I wanted to show my support in some way I guess) singing them only made me angry because I didn’t believe in the words and they disgusted me.
    I’ll stand when they stand, sit when they sit, be silent during prayer (not with my head bowed) and sit through the indirect or direct insults of their sermons and preaches but I won’t give anymore than that.
    Like someone else mentioned, it’s awful going to a person’s funeral and being forced to sit through threats of hell instead of celebrating their lives.

  24. Considering your motivation, you made the right choice, no doubt about it. When I was visiting family in Hezbollah controlled territory in the south of Lebanon, i attended a funeral for one of our clan. My father and I are both atheists, but we went through the motions of prayer at the grave site for the sake of keeping harmony and saving face. No harm done.

  25. I think your choice was noble. You didn’t bow to the eucharist but still showed respect to the church (and the bride) by nodding to the priest and not making a scene. I have always felt that religious institutions and practices only hold meaning to the people who believe in them. I once responded to a letter to the editor from an individual who was offended that his polling station was at a church. My response was similar: to me it is a polling station that just happens to be a church – not the other way around. The fact that a statue of Christ watched me vote really meant nothing to me while to a voting believer they likely felt their vote was blessed. So in your case, at the risk of sounding disrespectful, the “joke” is on the RCC, as the rituals pass while you daydream about the reception!

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