Recently I was engaged in a discussion with a few Christians. Being the Non-Believer that I am I was informed that the person said a prayer for me. This was my response. I wouldn't mind hearing other Atheists viewpoints on prayer.

While I appreciate the prayer, I've concluded that prayer merely serves the person praying and has no effect on the person receiving the prayer, which again begs the question, can a person really receive a prayer? I don't believe so. But like this thread started in the beginning, "if it works for you", if it makes you feel better then have at it.

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If they do exist in America, probably in Sarasota, FL. No offense to Floridians.
My parents have a house in venice, just a skip away... its a freaking geriatric clinic there. And I can tell you from experience that old people like them some god.
They've got to find some use for those old telephone booths.
I've pointed this out before. There are basically two types of unselfish prayers that can be beneficial - but only in that they calm a person down in the face of perceived helplessness. They are similar and the efficacy is based on what my father used to say to me: The fastest way to drown is to panic. (He would then point out: The second fastest way is to not swim.)
And there are two types of selfish or unhelpful and, frankly, insulting prayer.


First, there is prayer for oneself to be able to face a challenge to best effect and/or accept the results with least unnecessary pain or drama. This can be helpful as it can cause one to calm down and reflect on the options available and 'big picture' repercussions as well as accept the fact that we do not control the universe.

The second is to pray for someone else when you can do nothing else to help them. This can be helpful as it can calm you down and make it easier for you to be supportive and comforting to your friend in need even if you can't, for instance, cure their cancer or bring their child back to life.

The other two are: Selfish petition for personal gain. Does nothing but reinforce a self-centered, narcissistic view. And, finally, there is the unhelpful, holier than thou, condescending: I'll pray for you. which can be translated to mean: I am superior to you because I believe (insert bullshit theology here) and you are going to hell. This achieves only the bolstering of a weak self image through the denigration of another.

Basically, in terms of 'receiving' benefit - it may be that being reminded that people wish the best for you can help your own sense of self worth which, in turn, may enable you to fight harder on your own behalf.

Within the context you describe here, you didn't mention any hardship that a person would be praying (wishing) goes as well as possible for you - so it sounds to me that they were 'offering' that condescending type of prayer - even if they were able to present it as some sort of 'kindness' on their part.
This is the response I was looking for. I found the 'prayer offering' quite condescending within the context of the discusssion. It was supposed to be a thoughtful discussion on my Atheism and why I no longer believe, when they don't have an intellectual response it devolves to "I'll pray for you". It's a sign that I have no response and that my God will handle matters. I deplore this cop out.

I was in debate mode and thought to myself, what's the best way to combat this comment? I feel one approach is to go to the core and discuss the nature of prayer. I think you're right on every point, especially the superior, egotistical explanation. It's the very reason I left the faith, I found myself, one night pointing a self righteous 'Jesus finger' at a friend, explaining "you'll burn for not believing".

I thought the core may be the very fact that a prayer cannot be transmitted, a person isn't going to receive a prayer no matter how you feel about the particular situation. Sure, it feels good to the one offering it, but it's a false sense of action. I think it's rational to say 'Hey, I love you and thinking about you". Using the word 'prayer' merely perpetuates religion and a notion a God is above protecting you. Incidentally, what's the frequency that a prayer travels, radio waves, light waves or is it just magic? :)

By the way, I never did receive that prayer, I'm still a nontheist, I find blind faith abhorrent and I found Atheistnexus to confide.
When someone says they will pray for an individual it means they are going to do something without actually doing anything. That's what goes through my mind when some bible thumping do-right says they are praying for me - a completely useless gesture.
I agree completely. Prayer is the best way to feel like you're making a difference without lifting a finger. It's completely useless.
I hold that view as well unless this bible thumping goody knows I am an atheist, then I see it as a passive agressive attack on me. Usually stemming from them being fucktarded and not knowing how to come up with any logical defense
I happen to be a pretty sneezey person, so I hear 'God bless you!' a lot more often than 'I'll pray for you.' Mostly I just try to ignore it, though sometimes I feel a little like laughing when someone says 'God bless you!' I wonder if they know the story behind that phrase? Supposedly a sneeze is a person's soul trying to escape their body. Saying 'God bless you!' supposedly stops the soul from escaping.

I don't know what to say when someone says they'll pray for me. Sometimes I have the same reaction that I have to 'God bless you!' I want to giggle and pat them on the head, "That's nice, dear."

I can't imagine myself saying something that condescending on purpose. Giving a speech on the futility of prayer also isn't my style. For me, I think the best reaction would be a gentle dismissal. "Thanks, but I don't believe in that."
"You pray for me -- I'll think for you."
I always respond "thanks but give your prayers to those who needs it" however it makes them more obligated to insist to say "I'll pray for you" then i usually respond "you sound like a vendor selling pork to a muslim"

Being surrounded by relatives who feels that my soul needs saving it is sickening to explain every time
that what they're doing is like what Howard and Mark said "its condescending".
Lol I am going to have to use that "you sound like a vendor selling pork to a muslim" line

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