Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Prayer requests and the atheist . . . .

Since I have been a member of a certain semi-private social network website, I can’t tell you how many times I have read “please pray for . . . ” or “we will pray for you”, “we will keep you in our prayers”, etc. Just today someone posted that her little baby grandson is going to be having heart surgery on Friday and requested prayers. A good friend is awaiting a kidney transplant so that she will not die. She requests prayers. The list of comments that follow is quite long with extreme deity invoking that somehow makes my “you’re in my thoughts” seem insufficient. It would be terribly inappropriate for me to say what I want to say….if your god is willing to help you now, then why did he not prevent you from getting these diseases and problems in the first place?

I truly and genuinely care about my god-believing family and friends, and I want to offer support but I always feel that language fails me at such moments, and that I end up not really knowing what to say that sounds as concerned or caring as the magical incantations. There’s often a very fine line between appropriate and offensive which we must be careful of in people’s “time of need”. What we really want to say would be cruel when people are worried, sick and needing their god crutch.

So, what is an appropriate thing for the atheist to say? I try to direct my comments to the doctors and staff, that I am sure they will do all they can for the person who is ill. If a person is going through some sort of life crisis, financial or otherwise, all I can say is “I hope things work out” and that would be the honest truth. There is no way I could ever bring myself to be a hypocrite and write that they are in my prayers or whatever like everyone else.

What should an atheist offer instead of prayers?

21 comments:

Andrea said...

My but that's a perfect graphic.

The family & friend prayer requests are tough and an instant reminder of our minority status. Nobody likes to hear the brutal truth. I read that kind of stuff on my fb wall too. Hey, if I was a powerful diety I wouldn't afflict my beloved children with so much crap.

I haven't settled on much other than what you've said, 'you're in my thoughts,' etc. Sucks that it doesn't have the same ring as an appeal to a god, even though we're in the 21st century.

I don't want to belittle their prayers, but they still go to the hospital, don't they?

Hugo said...

I live in a society that has a large non religious population so "you're in my thoughts" and "I'm here for you if you need it" are valued and appropriate responses. I also try to find whatever positive element there is, good hospital, it's good that we have such care available for everyone...

However I do want to comment on
"What we really want to say would be cruel when people are worried, sick and needing their god crutch."
While I agree I am getting bolder and speaking out more when such situations arise, religious people do not think about the "cruelty" of their statements and will offer prayers and such even knowing the other person is not religious, and if I'm ever in a situation that would prompt believers to express their religion on me I will be telling them what I think of their imaginary deity.

Stardust said...

Yep, Andrea, they keep going to their hospitals and finding the best doctors possible while they are still requesting those magical incantations. Then when things go wrong do they say that their prayer is pointless? nope...it is either they blame the doctors for messing up, or say it is "god's will".

Hugo, when I was in the hospital with a gall bladder attack and complications from Lupus there was a woman in a waiting room while I was in a wheel chair waiting for tests and she started to pry. She said to me that god is with me..yadda yadda yadda. I forget the exact words now but I turned to her and said "there is no god" and she backed quickly away from me as if I were a demon. LOL!

A comment I cannot stand is "god never gives you more than you can handle". Well, that's just dandy, isn't it? A god is passing out crap for people to deal with to see how much they can "handle". That sounds pretty sadistic to me if a god was really doing that. It would be like torturing your children, inflicting them with pain etc and then saying that you are just seeing how much they can endure. Ridiculous!

CyberKitten said...

stardust said: What should an atheist offer instead of prayers?

Erm - nothing......

gsw said...

stardust said: What should an atheist offer instead of prayers?

How about some useful info on the medical staff like:
"I checked up that heart surgeon/liver transplant specialist in the medical journal's publications list.
(S)he really knows their their job. You are in the best of hands. So relax and try not to worry too much.
Oh, and if you need anything - dog sitter etc. - I'll be glad to help."

Stardust said...

gsw, good suggestions, thanks!

Stardust said...

Cyberkitty, you crack me up!

Tommykey said...

What should an atheist offer instead of prayers?

Some really good drugs!

Poodles said...

Usually I just offer help if needed and hope for them to have good doctors and drugs.

Randy said...

Why do you need to say anything at all?

Think about it. In the delusional worldview where prayer actually does something, telling someone you're praying for them is, at best, boasting about being part of the solution, mixed with a bit of pressure over how it would look if you weren't part of the solution. Selfish, and not at all helpful to the person who is suffering, but useful.

But what does it accomplish when you tell someone they are in your thoughts? Does "thinking about someone" help them? Does it help you? Do either of you gain, either from it or from their being informed about it?

Your infographic shows the difference between useless words, and actual action. So why are you looking for a better set of useless words? Just get off your ass and *do something*. Trust me, when you're suffering, you remember the person who helped you but you quickly forget about everyone who "prayed for you".

Stardust said...

Poodles, offering help seems to be the most constructive and "realistic" thing to do. (Good to see you here, sorry I haven't been around much but health issues, like I explained...not a good start to the new year)

Stardust said...

But what does it accomplish when you tell someone they are in your thoughts? Does "thinking about someone" help them? Does it help you? Do either of you gain, either from it or from their being informed about it?

Randy, those are excellent points. I am no longer going to use that phrase "thinking of you" because like you say, it is pointless as prayer. It's magical thinking and does nothing at all. But offering help, and actually following through, is the most you can do for anyone you really care about. If you don't really care about that person, then the "praying" for you and "thinking of you" is just a way to relieve one's own guilt.

Thanks for commenting.

MichaelBains said...

"What we really want to say would be cruel when people are worried, sick and needing their god crutch."

This is precisely the issue that best dispels the myth of the "Golden Rule". Those "cruel" offerings are generally exactly what I need to hear. Scare Quotes utilized as said cruelties are generally anything but.

I'm not saying that telling one to "get over it" is usually appropriate, because the delivery matters a lot, but prayers are all of those check marks on your list. Ie, essentially worthless, and frequently, if of any value at all, a dangerously delusional tack to take.

ruwhistle said...

This study shows that telling someone that you are praying for them is actually more likely to kill them: www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html

I have the full study in PDF if anyone is interested.

Stardust said...

ruwhistle, I have heard that too. Could you please email me the PDF? My email is stardust_55@hotmail.com

Hugo said...

That was a really interesting study I wouldn't mind having that report as well: belgianatheist gmail.com

ruwhistle said...

I sent to both of you. The best part about the study is that it was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. HAHAHAHAHA

Hugo said...

Thanks a lot ruwhistle I heard a lot about this study obviously. Interesting to see that it really was a long term really serious study, seeing the actual procedures and numbers is so much different from some numbers quoted in a few articles.
Indeed ironic that it was funded by the Templeton foundation but also commendable that they still published it.

velcrocat said...

I am a survivor of end-stage renal failure. After 2 weeks in the hospital and 3 days of dialysis, the kidneys started functioning again. I don't even need weekly or home dialysis now.

My southern baptist mom said she knew she could do nothing for me except pray, and she called all her church friends and asked them to pray also.

All I could say to that was that I survived because I had really excellent doctors, but my heartfelt thanks for your prayers anyway.

I'm an atheist living in a southern christian world (Texas and Oklahoma), and often I don't have the energy to do anything but bite my tongue. When I do speak my mind, people treat me as if I crawled out from under a rock. One woman actually asked me what kind of "rites" do I practice. What?

Stardust said...

One woman actually asked me what kind of "rites" do I practice. What?

LOL! I have had a few people who have equated atheism with "satan worship" which is ludicrous because we don't believe in gods, goddesses good or evil. We don't believe there is a holy puppetmaster pulling strings of every person past present and dead...we don't believe in evil overlords. Many people just can't accept that.

Facebook is full of this magical woo called prayer. I think "I"ll praying for you" is the most used phrase on Facebook. And the word Pray the most used word. People say this when they feel powerless to do anything else, or when they just don't want to do anything else. Easier to say "I'll pray for you" rather than any physical help and actually put forth an effort to do something that really does help.

Stardust said...

And...also cheaper to say "I'll pray for you" than to donate money for research, pay a medical deductible for a struggling person or any other financial offering.