Religious beliefs are often passed down from parent to child, making it difficult when a child seeks to buck the trend. A change of sect alone can cause family strife. Moving away from religion entirely can often lead to rifts that seem insurmountable. It is important to realize that as an atheist, your convictions, morals, and beliefs are valid, and should be treated with the same respect others demand of their religious views.
Some will shrug and say that the atheist should just attend church functions to keep the peace, however that is disrespectful to both the atheist and the church. It is no more polite to tell an atheist he or she should attend church functions to keep the peace than it is to tell the religious individual that they should skip the function or avoid the practice in an attempt to keep the peace. Atheists are not obligated to participate in any religious practice just to avoid causing someone else to realize that not everyone shares their belief structure.
Freedom of religion does include the freedom to not practice any religion at all. As an atheist, you should not be coerced or guilted into joining a religious practice that makes you uncomfortable.
It is also worthwhile to know that you are not the rude party for abstaining; the rude party is the one insisting you practice or flat out forcing the practice upon you.
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