So I came out of the closet some time ago last year and told all my closest friends that I am an atheist. One of my friends is very into her faith and I knew of all my friends her reaction would be the one of most concern. Wasn't as bad as my other friends thought it would be because they thought that I shouldn't tell her at all. However, I really couldn't lie about who I was much less lie to a friend. So over a year has passed since they all found out now and to my knowledge they all love and care for me the same.
Last week, in a late class I have, I get a call which I ignored and a then a text from the one friend mentioned above. She said she was wondering if we could get together and hang out just the two of us because she had something important she wanted to tell me. So instantly my heart skips a beat and starts to speed up because I'm wondering if it's something bad. The way she said it made her sound rather dour. So needless to say I panicked necessarily so a bit, but we decided to meet up after my class. Now she's a good little roman catholic, but I will admit that the first thought was 'Pregnant'!
We made small talk and caught up about everything and anything until I inquired about what it was she had to tell me. At this she became embarrassed and said "you'll probably think this is stupid." I did the friend thing and said no I wouldn't unless it was severely so to which I'd explain why I thought it was ridiculous. So she's looking at me and I can see that she's getting pretty emotional (eyes tearing up, red face) and she say's that she prays for me. Right off I told her that it wasn't stupid.
However, I don't know if where I took it next was the best way I could have handled this. This is because I remembered an e-mail I got from someone once telling me if I ever need to talk blah blah blah... And I always had a nasty comeback in my head of "I understand your concern, but it is NOT appreciated." This was because I didn't want their petty sorry's and bullshit.
Thing is I said this exact same thing to my friend. That while I think I understood why she prayed for me, I could not honestly say that I appreciated them. This is by no means said with the snark of the first time, but I couldn't really lie to her and say "well thank you maybe your prayers will save my immortal soul." Just wouldn't happen ... So could I have handled this differently/better??
So, let me get this straight, you told her that you do not appreciate the praying? If you really feel like this, then why would you have taken it any differently? The best thing you can do is to be honest towards everyone about your disbelief and your other opinions in life. If you feel insulted about religious people praying for you, then you should say so. They can then continue with this nonsense and pray for your "soul", but then atleast they know what you feel about this.
If I was in this type of situation, I would have said that "I do not appreciate this and I feel rather insulted.". If they continue to pray for you then, as I see it, they do not respect your disbelief in their god.
It's not so much that I was affronted by her saying that she's been praying for me. Also I have no idea what she's been praying about be it "save my friends soul" or just "make her happy" or any other bull people could think of. I personally feel neutral about it because in my mind she's just doing it because it makes her feel like she's doing something and because I'm sure it makes her feel good.
However, I worry that she may have taken my comment as a snarky "well I don't need your damn prayers!" When really I was just trying to tell her in the most honest way I could that I really don't care if she prays for me. Just don't expect me to be grateful or whatever was going on in her head.
Okay, perhaps, but let us say that you got cancer, and religious people prayed for your life, that god should let you survive. This I find useless, but I would say "Well, I do not care for prayers, but if you want to pray go ahead, but it will have no effect on my health.". But of course it could be a moral booster for you which could effect your current state of health.
But there is a huge difference between these two, if someone prays for your survival, even though it will have no effect, they still just want you to continue with your life. If they pray for your soul, which you do not believe exist, so you won't go to hell (or for some other reason), then I think that it is rather insulting to you as an atheist and to your disbelief. But they are allowed to pray so then all I can say is "Good luck!"
But may be think differently on this. But I will always express my opinion, and in some situations I might soften the blow, but I will say what I think, even if it might offend them.
Never show or voice contempt for a friend that wants to pray for you. It's a fruitless act. If you don't want to be friends with that person, say what you want. Tell them about their ridiculous beliefs but otherwise just tell them that it's unnecessary but that they can do as they please. The prayer is truly for them. Atheism isn't about making enemies of friends. If anything, you hang around and discuss things if it is possible. Some are so hopelessly brainwashed that it doesn't do any good but talking always ends up showing the truths involved. We should be just as considerate and understanding as they are supposed to be. True friends are hard to come by and sometimes you have to bite the bullet on issues you disagree about. It's no different than a relationship. At what point your religious disagreements actually destroy your relationship is up to you but if someone wants to pray for you or your soul, whatever. Being insulted by it is kind of dumb. Remember, it's not for you, it's for them.
Someone praying for you is not at all similar to someone proselytizing to you. The anger is atheism needs to go. We made it out. We are above the b.s. No need to gloat about it or be insulted about our fellow man's ignorance to what we already know to be true. No need for us to ram our disbelief down their throats. It makes us no better than them. I've been there and it serves to counteract what we should be doing
I expect I would just say "thank you." Your friend thinks it's the right thing to do, and she cares enough about you to do it.
Christians have some funny ideas about prayer. I asked some students recently if all their prayers are answered because Jesus promised they would be. They said a prayer might be answered later, even years later, and that you don't always get what you want, but you get what you need. Weird.
Wishful thinking? Perverse rationalization? In this situation, what is true is what you want to be true.