How do you respond when a theist says "I'll pray for you?" I know the best reply is simply "thank you." But what if a theist offers prayer immediately after learning you are an atheist?

A couple years ago my old pot dealer and his girlfriend were hanging out in my apartment, and like most stoned conversations go, we started talking about deep subjects and religion came up. It was at this point in the conversation that I let him know that I am an atheist. He sat there for a moment, and said something along the lines of "How can you not believe in god?" I don't remember what my response was but, after that, he said: "Well... I'll pray for you." I sat there, dumbfounded, feeling deeply insulted. I'm sure he said it with the best intentions, but I took it as a very condescending remark.

I wanted a witty comeback, but I couldn't find the words at the time. What would you say if you were in that situation?

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This is a topic which has been discussed before (and probably multiple times) on A|N, probably because the whole "I'll pray for you" scenario is so prevalent.  Any number of responses have been proposed, ranging from innocuous to downright belligerent.  Here are a couple I might consider, and frankly leaning toward the belligerent end of the spectrum:

  • "Thanks for nothing."
  • "And that is supposed to do WHAT for me?"
  • "Don't waste your time."
  • "Might you consider doing something USEFUL instead?"
  • And there's always the classic: "Okay, and I'll THINK for you."

There is no one universal response to this situation, especially since it plays out in so many different scenarios, as well as with different players.  I would expect a different response if a stranger were to offer that phrase to me rather than a friend; my response might be different if I had invited the conversation rather than if a JW had knocked on my door.

Still, the root problem is that prayer is as useful as tits on a bull.  Those who would pray for me more than likely have no idea about who I am or what I'm about, which makes their vacuous offer all the more condescending.  At some level or other, I want to convey back to that person that they are offering nothing of value to me.

Finally ... there's always this:



And that's my $0.02 worth.

Thank you for the reply, Loren, and for sharing that video! That's hilarious.

I have seen some of the other threads regarding this issue (they're the reason I made an account here), but I was looking for more offensive comebacks, and personal insight. I wouldn't normally say any of those things unless I was being talked down to like in the instance I originally posted about.

Actually, now that I think about it, "make me a sandwich" is the perfect retort under the conditions you experienced.  I mean, don't the munchies almost automatically go with being stoned?

Oh, absolutely! Haha

Loren, as usual, your response is worth it's weight in gold. 

I will set aside my Victorian upbringing and say thank you for giving me further evidence that being stoned isn't all that bad. I wish I had known that when I discovered that my purpose in life wasn't to serve, but to participate in life. 

Now, to the issue. "I'll pray for you" is a perfect opportunity to say that I don't have enough evidence to convince me that god, any gods exist. Obviously, this starts an unwelcome invitation to snow me with their evidence, which is rather easy to refute, just time consuming. On the other hand, how are people going to know there are those of us who do not believe and who have perfectly healthy lives filled with family and friends we love and who love us. We have morals and an ethical core that comes from deep within our humanity. That many of us trust in observation, critical thinking, being open minded (not to the point our brains drain out), examination, experimentation, valuing diversity all contribute to our sense of self, of the value of work, the importance of community, and the wonderful powers of using out minds to inquire, instead of figuring out how to obey a jealous, capricious, cruel, unpredictable, frivolous, violent, arbitrary god, whatever that is. I allow my contempt to show. 

Many people do not like my process. So, what else is new in this crazy world under the influence of delusions. 

My first reaction is usually, "Why?????? If praying worked, we wouldn't be in these positions to begin with!!!!" But depending on the circumstances, I may pay lip service with a thanks, but my face would show a completely different story. In most circumstances though, I just say I don't believe that crap, & they can think whatever they like.

It's just really funny that your old pot dealer is praying for you.  While stoned.  

I know, there isn't one word in the bible about pot.  Or about any other herbal delight.  Alcohol had a mixed rep, but basically considered one of the good things in life.  But still, your pot dealer praying for you brings on some cognitive dissonance.

That must have been some good stuff, taking 2 years to think about a witty come back.  I'll tick with Loren, "Don't pray for me, make me a sandwich" or in this situation, maybe "Don't pray for me, get me some Cheetos".

Call him up and see what happens.

We were able to find preventive, treatment and cures for TB, small pox, mumps, scarlet fever, we can find a prevention for cancer. Get off your knees, stop putting your hands together, and join with others to find a preventive measure. Only by thinking and acting will we put an end to all this suffering.

Don't give me the delusion that prayer solves problems. Yes, it may make you feel better when someone has their head in the toilet; prayer makes you feel better and the legions of us doing our daily chores need more than that.

Stop the denial of reality. What is, is. There is a reason. Become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Thanks to Loren Miller for the "Make me a sandwich!!"

Instead of praying, identify the underlying cause of the problem and then think and act to make necessary changes. Praying for someone with cancer may have an underlying cause that can be found by looking for it. With so many having cancer, and so many at the grocery store with no hair, there must be a cause for this epidemic, some environmental thing, or some chemical in our food our in the air, for so many of us to have cancer. 

We were able to find preventive, treatment and cures for TB, small pox, mumps, scarlet fever, we can find a prevention for cancer. Get off your knees, stop putting your hands together, and join with others to find a preventive measure. Only by thinking and acting will we put an end to all this suffering. 

Don't give me the delusion that prayer solves problems. Yes, it may make you feel better when someone has their head in the toilet; prayer makes you feel better and the legions of us doing our daily chores need more...See more
Don't pray for me, make me a sandwich!!

Stop the denial of reality. What is, is. There is a reason. Become part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

Thanks to Loren Miller for the "Make me a sandwich!!"

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