This is a phrase that we hear a lot in America, every single time there is a school shooting. Neither one has done anything to remedy this plague, but I am not here to talk about it within this context, although we will touch upon it.
As a warning, I must let you know that this post contains LOTS of nuance. I know that some people out there have a great deal of difficulty understanding nuance, and that difficulty can get worse if a person feels that I am attacking their religious beliefs.
This entry also is not about attacking personal beliefs.
Rather, this entry is about my position as an Atheist, and what this means within the context of personal relationships. It gets VERY granular.
Yesterday was my 57th birthday, so it makes sense that I got more phone calls than usual, by people from whom I actually want to hear.
One in particular — and I will NOT identify this person — called to wish me a happy birthday, but then let me know that they would be undergoing some major surgery in the near future.
At one point, they told me, “I know you don’t like to hear it, but I pray to god every day and ask about my purpose.”
My response to that was, “Well, I know you don’t like to hear it, but we will be thinking of you during this challenging time.”
Thoughts, coming from an Atheist, seem to be a replacement for the act of prayer. I think of the people I care about often.
But there is a BIG difference between the problems I have with religion as a whole, how I approach THAT, and how I approach friends who are believers. Still, some friends may not quite understand the nuance of my non-belief, and again this can happen when someone who believes encounters a non-believer. My very existence serves as a threat to their beliefs.
First I will get into what my call with my friend was NOT, and then get into what it really is all about for me.
WHAT MY FRIEND’S PRAYER WAS NOT
When a friend says that they “pray to god,” it doesn’t upset me. It doesn’t “trigger” me. I don’t get flush and start getting the vapors because someone had the nerve to believe in a god. How DARE they! [That last part was sarcasm.]
My problems with religion are bigger.
As noted before, thoughts and prayers have done nothing to stop school shootings, the sex slave trade, COVID, terrorism, or the corruption that is destroying our country. Nothing. It doesn’t fix things like this. It also doesn’t stop those who use Christianity against believers for their own gain.
Only action will fix things like this.
There are many other issues I have that are similar to this. The biggest issue is when politicians USE their religious beliefs — in this case, Christianity — to get votes and political support and activity.
This is bad because Christian citizens who seem to truly believe in all of this have the false belief that the politician believes like them, or that the politician cares about their beliefs.
American politicians and others who are in power DO NOT believe in any gods. They don’t. Rather, they USE the concept of religious belief to their own advantage. They know HOW to manipulate believers, and this manipulation is VERY effective, to the point that Christians have NO IDEA that they are being DUPED and played like fools by politicians and other corrupt entities who love to SAY that they believe.
They do not.
There is another aspect of this that is even worse, not for me, but for Christian believers. This is the fact that their beliefs, which are supposedly sacred and of spiritual value, are being USED by politicians as a tool to get votes and support.
They LIE to American Christians to get what they want, and they get what they want VERY easily.
But no, my call with my friend has NOTHING to do with ANY of this.
WHAT MY FRIEND’S PRAYER WAS
Now that you’ve read about my big-picture objections to religion and how it is used, forget all of that. This is NOT what my friend’s prayer was about.
We’re getting granular, into a one-on-one situation here.
I could start by answering a few questions.
Does my friend saying that he prays to god every day offend me? No. Getting offended about little things like this is for the weak and stupid. I also don’t get angry, upset, or “triggered.” The word “triggered” is a pejorative that Republicans like to use in a childish way.
Does my friend praying bother me, upset me, or freak me out? No. I don’t view it as a negative thing. I just view it as a useless thing, for me, personally. For him, it is meaningful. For that reason, I really have nothing bad to say about it.
Here’s the deal.
It doesn’t bother me. It’s not offensive. It’s just not something I do, not something I believe in, and not something I value personally. That said, if it is giving a friend comfort, whether in actuality or in placebo form, then I have no reason to want to shoot that down.
HAS PRAYER EVER UPSET ME?
No. It doesn’t bother me. That said, some of the people who use it in weird ways have bothered me.
I once had a YouTube Christian let me know about the prayer that he and 300 of his followers were engaging. Their prayer was about how I would get into a horrible car accident, where I am not dead, but I am mangled and in great pain. And then, I would suffer for weeks on end in total agony before dying and going to hell. Then, when they get to heaven, they’ll look down and laugh heartily as they watch me burning in agony for eternity.
This was almost 13 years ago. I’m still here.
IN THE END
My problems with Christianity are the corruption on the inside, as well as those who use it to exploit actual believers.
My problem with prayer is that it doesn’t solve society’s issues or really much of anything.
But when it comes to the individual, who does NOT use it in a way to harm others or to be better than others, I have nothing much to say about that.
If a friend prays for me, I don’t really know how to respond to that beyond a “thank you.” I take it more as them saying that they’re thinking of me, and don’t relate it to any actual mystical thing.
Prayer does not bring me anything resembling comfort, nor does it “trigger” me. But if it comforts a friend who is dealing with something, I won’t ever belittle or attack them for it.
Just do me ONE favor, if you could. If I am ever invited over, and we’re having dinner, and you like to have prayer before the meal, DO NOT ask me to do it. I’d prefer to sit there quietly and respectfully with my eyes open, to see who else secretly doesn’t believe. They’re at your table, you just don’t see them because your eyes are closed.
But if you insist that I say the dinner prayer, I’ll have to do it Atheist style.
“To whom it may concern…”
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