I feel for you. This time of year, it’s particularly common.
Sometimes, I’ll be in a pile of atheists (like me) and someone will want us to hold hands and take a minute to appreciate each other. That feels pretty good.
I can imagine that’s what I’m doing when the religious folks I encounter do the prayer thing. I keep my eyes open and watch them all. It’s a subtle undertext that an adult is observing their pagan ritual and judging them.
I will say that when I love people and they are religious, I let them know I am an atheist and understand that they need religion to confront the dismal reality of the human condition, but that I don’t buy it. Nothing personal, it’s just that I have come to terms with this in my own way.
Try not to be too hard on them. They, like you and I, have to get through the night and maybe they don’t have the emotional strength to accept what is clearly a pretty dismal thing. They do want community and for the most part, love. THey are possessed of questionable adult reasoning skills, but their hearts are often in a good place… worried about us, wanting us in their club, needing validation.
Anyway, it’s over in a minute and tolerance costs very little. The nation is full of people like this. Someday, as they are fond of thinking, we’ll all come together in a common wakening and be saved…. from gods and fantasy, not for gods.