The Raving Theist

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April 29, 2004 | 47 Comments

Is it rude for a believer to say he or she will pray for an agnostic or atheist friend who is going through a very rough time?


47 Responses to “Prayer”

  1. Eva
    April 29th, 2004 @ 8:51 am

    oh yes
    almost as rude as having all kinds of people, relatives and strangers alike, tell you or INSIST in that you have to baptize your yet-to-be-born baby, just in case, or even if “you don’t believe in baptism”.
    the relatives all you are an atheist….so, it is particularly rude…

  2. leon
    April 29th, 2004 @ 8:54 am

    It’s most likely an insult.

  3. markm
    April 29th, 2004 @ 9:00 am

    It doesn’t bother me any. However, I wonder how a devout Christian who was going through a rough time would react if a Wiccan proposed to do some sort of druidic ritual for him.

    No, I lied. I know the typical Christain would be furious.

  4. hermesten
    April 29th, 2004 @ 9:10 am

    I think it would depend on the spirit in which it was done. I had a catholic coworker send a card about lighting a candle and praying for my father when he was in the hospital. I appreciated this act as a gesture of concern.

    I think if someone sincerely thinks prayer is effacacious it is only natural and human that they are going to pray for someone they care about, atheist or not. I don’t think there is necessarily anything rude or insulting in this act, though I have met religious people who can make it seem that way.

  5. Kevin
    April 29th, 2004 @ 9:10 am

    I get this all the time, and it drives me insane. I neither want nor need the prayers of some delusional theist twit. Offering prayers for an atheist, or a theist of another religion(and mean outside the Abrahimic three), is tantamount to telling them that their beliefs are worthless garbage.

    Except, of course, when theists come on this site and offer their prayers to us. Then it’s just laughably pathetic.

  6. Mijae
    April 29th, 2004 @ 11:45 am

    While it IS annoying, I can’t call it rude. Since the theist does believe in the existence of some kind of supernatural force and the efficacy of prayer, it would be rude for them to cruelly *withhold* prayers from me for being a godless heathen and all.

    Unless of course, I’ve specifically asked them to stop bothering me by telling me all about it. Then it would be rude to continue bringing it up. But they could still go on and actually do the prayers in private, of course. Them wasting their time wouldn’t hurt me any. In fact, I remember something about Jesus saying that’s the way prayer ought to be, for some reason…

  7. Lydia
    April 29th, 2004 @ 11:45 am

    When you can tell that the statement is sincere and caring, it is not rude. If it is said judgementally, it is rude.

    Please consider that religious people use the action of prayer to deal with things over which they have no control. They have no substitute for this when dealing with non-believers. You know what? Even I (staunch Atheist) have a hard time figuring out what to say to someone I care about when that person is suffering. I usually tell people that I will be thinking of them, or that I will keep them in my thoughts. At those times, I realize how powerful the ” I’ll be praying for you” thing is. My statement is completely powerless, I’m really not doing anything for them. The praying bit feels like the person doing it is taking some real action. Very tough to give up, and not an insult if the person is doing it for the right reason.

    On the judgemental side, I have a favorite comeback for a person who uses the statement: “I’ll pray for you”. ( Unstated: you sorry loser, I know what’s true and you are totally deluded.) Have you noticed that xtians use this as a final statement to close an argument that they are losing? My comeback is: “And I’ll think for you!”, but only if I don’t care if I piss them off.

  8. AK
    April 29th, 2004 @ 11:53 am

    I agree with Eva and Kevin. I do think that in the Christians perspective (or whatever religion they are), they are being nice and doing you a favor. But its a classic case of ignorance causing offense unintnetionally. Just think about what markm said, how someone could be offended if a Wiccan cast a spell on someone or for someone.

    I also look at it like an attempt to push ones cultural practices on someone else. Imagine white people trying to “help” black people by giving them slacks that dont sag, or trying to teach them to talk without urban slang?

    Xtians think prayer works, so in a way its the same as taking positive action to change someone or impose your bleiefs onto someones life. It would be no different than an atheist flushing an Xtians Bible down the toilet or trying to hush them when they are praying.

  9. Anton Mates
    April 29th, 2004 @ 12:46 pm

    I wouldn’t appreciate a stranger telling me they’d pray for me, although obviously they’re welcome to make any number of burnt offerings on their own time without telling me about it.

    If they knew me well enough to know that I wouldn’t take offense (and I wouldn’t), then sure, they can tell me they’d pray for me. Inasmuch as I know what prayer means for them, that only tells me that they care for me.

    Of course, it also depends what they’re praying for. If they just want me not to have cancer or something, that’s a much sweeter sentiment than if they want me to “find my faith.” In the latter case, I’d feel that they were doing me an injury.

    I can’t recall this ever happening, though. Most of my (few) theist friends don’t pray much, partly because they don’t believe in a prayer-swayed God, and partly because they don’t really spend much time thinking about their religion.

  10. Viole
    April 29th, 2004 @ 1:00 pm

    Though I certainly feel free to tell the odd theist my opinion of their prayers, I don’t get offended. If their prayers were worth more than the mere thought, I might be bothered.

    When I’m confronted by someone who wants to pray for me, I find the most effective response is to tell them that I’d rather burn in hell than spend eternity in the company of christians. I only do that people I don’t know… those I do, I just tell not to pray for me.

  11. Julia
    April 29th, 2004 @ 2:43 pm

    I don’t care in what spirit it is done, I am offended by the remark when made by those who know me peripherally or not well. Those who know me, don’t make the statement, of course. It is a method of shoving a particular view down one’s throat, or at the least, it is insensitive and presumptious.

    Lydia, your remarks are astute and right on the mark. Prayer makes those people feel as if they have some control over a given situation, whereas we atheists must deal with the general chaos of life without a fairy tale net. I have a client whose mother is dying and they are particularly close. All I have to offer is genuine support (shopping, errand running and the like) and the ever ubiquitous “You are in my thoughts”. But I imagine they both (the “in my thoughts” or “in my prayers”) are taken in the vein in which they are offered… Personally, thoughts don’t help much when dealing with day to day suffering, anymore than prayer would…

    Anton, do you get a side salad with the burnt offering, at least? MMM, I do so love bbq…

  12. Anton Mates
    April 29th, 2004 @ 3:19 pm

    Of course you don’t get a side salad! Remember Cain and Abel? God wants meat!

    So when a theist says “I’ll pray for you,” how often do you think they really just mean, “I like you and I hope things work out?” As opposed to, “I’m literally gonna go talk to God now and see if I can get him to do you a favor or two.”

    I’ve a feeling that most people who mean the latter wouldn’t be praying for me under any circumstances anyway.

  13. thisgirl
    April 29th, 2004 @ 5:58 pm

    On the contrary, Anton. When a Christian says “I’ll pray for you,” most of the time, they mean it. And it is just because they care about you. As for the Wiccan thing, I have had my Wiccan friends offer to do some druid ritual for me when someone has hurt me, even though they know that I do not believe in it myself; but I know they are offering out of their love, concern, and mutual respect for me. So no, while some might get upset, I, a Christian, do not. If they want to do one on their own time, that is their business, and if they want to tell me so that I know they care enough about me to do something they believe will help, then I know it’s because they love me and to know you are loved is a wonderful thing that makes you feel good in and of itself, however they let you know, whether by praying, a ritual, or just saying “I love you. Is there anything I can do to help?” which is what my athiest boyfriend does. No reason to get upset by it. Relax. :)

  14. Julia
    April 29th, 2004 @ 6:20 pm

    Thisgirl, does every xtian who has ever said to me “I’ll pray for you” love me? Cool. Since love is something of a bargain for exchange(wait, that’s marriage) , rather, love is a chemical impulse that causes irrational behaviour (hmm, sounds familiar), I’m expecting a little bit of love right now, from all of them, in writing my term paper, changing the litter box, washing the dishes, paying the rent… All I’m saying, and poorly, is that one cannot love another without knowing the person. Since most of the time, the people who mouth the “I’ll pray for you” platitude don’t know me (it almost appears to be an obligatory comment they spew), how can they make the comment out of love?

    The comments made about your wiccan friends sound manufactured. I expect on future posts, you will claim affiliation with Mormons, followers of Koresh, Janists, etc. in order to “make a point” or to appear worldly, tolerant or to advance your “pure” xtian-ness.

    A note: Druidism and Wicca are mutually exclusive and both are themselves manufactured from limited, poor research and knowledge. And please remember, your bible exhorts you to stone witches to death. Consorting with them will imperil your immortal soul.

  15. ebonmuse
    April 29th, 2004 @ 7:14 pm

    I agree that the answer to this question depends largely on the spirit in which the offer is made. If prayer is offered out of genuine concern for my well-being, well, I obviously don’t believe it’s going to do any good, but I do appreciate that someone else cares about me. However, if the prayer is offered in a spirit of arrogance (“I’m going to pray that God opens your closed eyes” – yes, I’ve gotten that one), then I will perceive it as an insult, and respond accordingly. Too often the latter is the case; I’ve heard stories from nontheists who were going through very rough times and were told by believing acquaintances that their troubles were God’s punishment for their lack of belief.

  16. Anton Mates
    April 29th, 2004 @ 7:52 pm

    Well, I’m happy to believe that thisgirl feels love–or at least compassion–for all strangers, and if she thinks prayer will help them, she ought to pray away. And given that I’ve already said I don’t take offense at hearing it, I don’t mind her telling me about it.

    By the way, I’ve heard self-described Wiccans say they followed the practices of the Druids. What with it lacking a Pope or a divine text to tell you the exact right way to be a Wiccan, I doubt that Wicca is mutually exclusive with anything. Although I admit I’ve never met a Wiccan Muslim.

  17. Christian
    April 29th, 2004 @ 7:52 pm

    I agree with a lot of you before me.
    We should all be able to tell the sentiment behind the words. In the majority of cases it is a heartfelt response from someone who at least thinks he cares. The comment “I’ll pray for you” given to an athiest is obviously given in ignorance/nonconsideration (for a real Christian wouldn’t say such a thing to offend. He would just say nothing or a typical secular response and then just pray anyway as is his right–really what can anyone do to stop a Christian from praying? Kill him? Then in his mind he’d be praying in heaven next to God and Jesus Christ himself, which might be even more effective in his eyes), and any athiest who takes offense at such a statement is just as bad as a “typical Christian” who is offended by athiests holding adverse beliefs.
    Lydia is right. To a Christian, prayer is the best thing one can do to help: asking God, the all-powerful one, to intervene and aide in someone’s situation. If a God did exist and he helped, I’d certainly be in favor of a Christian’s prayer. So actually a Christian saying “I’ll pray for you” to anyone is much more powerful than someone saying “I’m sorry” or “that’s a bummer” in a considerate voice. These Christians feel they are doing something that will directly effect my situation and I can believe they would be willing to do more if I asked.
    It should be different for an agnostic though. An agnostic has no right to be offended by such a statement since he acknowledges the possibility of a God and is just unsure.
    To Julia, if there were a God and it was the one whom the Christians take stock in, then Prayers would do a hell of a lot more than mere thoughts don’t you think?
    ~Steve (icqus)

  18. Julia
    April 29th, 2004 @ 9:20 pm

    But since there isn’t a god, this is a moot point. Further, since prayers ARE thoughts in themselves then….Hmmm. Are you saying that in order for the divine to interfere, he, the all omnipotent, must be memo’d in a specific manner in order for him to take action? Perhaps this explains all the godless bastards dying the world over for want of water, food, a decent and non-slaughtering gov’t: they simply aren’t putting their thoughts in an acceptable manner to the all mighty, omniscient, omnipotent, all knowing being. Rather petty, I think. I mean, wouldn’t the mere shout out to ol’ god there be enough to get his attention and maybe some relief??? Just asking.

  19. Ben
    April 29th, 2004 @ 9:34 pm

    It’s just a harmless buzz-phrase, despite the fact that it seems to be used primarily as a condescending, proselytising backhanded compliment, regardless of whether they realise this or not.

    Christian wrote:
    and any athiest who takes offense at such a statement is just as bad as a “typical Christian” who is offended by athiests holding adverse beliefs.

    A Muslim has adverse beliefs with regard to Christianity. An atheist has none. It’s not a difficult concept.

  20. Tim
    April 30th, 2004 @ 2:43 am

    Rude, insulting, arrogant ….. ESPECIALLY if it’s said by someone who knows you are an athesit and is saying it to “show they care”. Often it is a case of a theist using the oportunity to get someone in a weakened state of mind to come round to their way of thinking.
    The rest of the time it is merely annoying. Something that christians often say after I have shown them that their beliefs are total bullshit, just to get the last word (or to finish the conversation as they realise that if things carry on they might have to face the terrifying prospect of actually thinking for themselves). In a way it’s kind of satisfying – when a christian ends a debate with “I’ll pray for you” you know there is nothing else they have to offer.

  21. Tim
    April 30th, 2004 @ 2:47 am

    … and I doubt they actually mean it anyway. “Dear God, some guy pointed out that my religion is bullshit, please forgive him” …..

  22. speedwell
    April 30th, 2004 @ 6:18 am

    My gut reaction to “I’m praying for you” is about the same no matter how it’s meant… a kind of vague and indifferent, “Oh. That’s nice.” I mean, as an atheist I basically think the words mean little more than “ooga booga,” in any event.

    My mom’s friends are all religious and they always tell me they’ll pray for me to be saved. I just laugh and say, “yeah, you go right ahead if it makes you feel better.” Then they get pissed off. They tell me I’m going to Hell. I start singing, “…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love….” (I was always on the music team in church when I was religious). They get even more pissed off. LOL.

    Or, when my boss’s secretary, a kind and decent Christian lady, tells me she’ll pray for me, it’s usually meant as sympathy. She’s the type who salts her conversation with Bible verses and “Praise the Lord” and “Isn’t God good.” But I couldn’t possibly take offense at Ginny; nobody could really. Ginny’s all right.

  23. Cassiopeia
    April 30th, 2004 @ 7:36 pm

    “I’ll pray for you!”
    “Don’t waste your breath, chump.”

  24. Daniel
    April 30th, 2004 @ 11:15 pm

    I agree with Tim. ‘I’ll prayer for you’ is a cliche, like ‘Jesus loves you’. And if you’re argueing with a Christian, and that’s how they conclude it, then you know that you’ve ruined their shit in the arguement.

  25. thisgirl
    May 1st, 2004 @ 9:17 pm

    to Julia
    I don’t have to “claim” affiliation with anyone of any faith . . .we live in a world where people everywhere deal with people of different faiths or lack there of. The difference is that I chose to befriend and love people regardless of our differences. So believe what you want, several of my friends have been Wiccans or ex-Wiccans, four Catholics, 2 are Hindu, 2 are Mormon, three are agnostic, three are athiest, while most are Protestant. I only know one Muslim and one Christian who was a Muslim until she was almost 20 years old. But I don’t have to explain myself to you. Everyone should be able to realize that people of different beliefs mingle everyday and love each other. I guess you mean to tell me that you DON’T know anyone of a different religion. If so, where do you live? A cave?

  26. Eva
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 8:56 am

    thisgirl, you seem to confuse concepts with an amazing ease…..

  27. Julia
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 12:33 pm

    thisgirl, thank you for explaining yourself to me. I gather you haven’t read my responses to some of your other posts.

    So, back to the original intent of the post that set you off: Does every xtian who’s ever told me “I’ll pray for you” love me? Not knowing me? Remember, that is one of your key assertions, that the comment is made out of love and a true desire for the well being to whom the comment is addressed. I would posit this is, in fact, untrue.

    I don’t live in a cave, darling. Additionally, I am well educated and have the great good fortune to live in an area that is fairly tolerant, particularly of my atheism. So the majority of the folks I run in to are… whatever they are. I don’t know their religious affiliations, nor do I care, until they start shoving them down my throat with insincere platitudes based on religious bullshit and hypocrisy. And, as many posters have pointed out, the phrase “I’ll pray for you” is used as a weapon in many instances, or as a snide value judgement, or as a shield against “blasphemous” people who point out inconsistancies in one’s religious beliefs. And please, don’t blather about freedom of religion yadayayayayaya. I have no problem with xtians or other religions. Just keep it out of my face, my schools, my government. Do your rituals at home or at properly sanctioned places where I don’t have to be assaulted by them. Damn it, the bill really should have read “freedom FROM religion” as well.

    What was it you told Viole or Eva on a different post? “Relax”? I think that was it.

  28. Seth
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 4:08 pm

    I, personally, would see it that the person hopes everything works out for the best. Do I find it insulting? No, just caring.

  29. thisgirl
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 7:02 pm

    another thing to Julia, if you knew anything about Christian belief, you would know loving someone who is a witch does NOT “imperil my immortal soul.” The only thing that could do that, would be denying Christ as my Lord and Savior. If you’re going to try to say something against what I believe, please at least try to get your facts straight. Afterall, Jesus didn’t hang out with religious leaders and the “acceptable” ppl, he went to those who needed him the most, and loved those from whom he had cast out demons. Learn about something before you bash it.

  30. Steve
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 7:16 pm

    Could you clarify? I’m not sure who ‘the godless bastards’ are.

    Are you saying that atheists have no beliefs?

    Speedwell, when did you realize there was no supreme being? What made you see the light? I guess anyone can share their thoughts on the subject too.

  31. Steve
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 7:39 pm

    “I’ve a feeling that most people who mean the latter [that is] ‘I’m literally gonna go talk to God now and see if I can get him to do you a favor or two’ wouldn’t be praying for me under any circumstances anyway.” ~Anton Mates

    Why do you say that Anton?

  32. Julia
    May 2nd, 2004 @ 10:30 pm

    I am not bashing. So jesus hung out with the rabble. Don’t we all? Manson did. Koresh did. The Bagwan (spelling?) did. Please don’t confuse the fact that the old testament and new are NOT mutually exclusive. God=Jesus=holy ghost. And as a trinity, they have exhorted the stoning of witches. Oh, and don’t forget the inquisitions and witchcraze (an excellent book, by the way, although more of a feminist take than only religious, but all of the burnings were based on your holy book). Sorry, it isn’t my holy book, it is yours. The burden of proof lies upon you, to reconcile the atrocities and silliness committed by your god (and please don’t forget the equation god=jesus=holy ghost = omnipotent being). Therefore, all that went on and was sanctioned by your god in the o.t. was clearly and logically sanctioned by his son in the n.t, even though King James I of Scotland actually had the bible rewritten to his liking… ( I kind of like King James, in that he was quite the scholar, but a religious idiot. Oh, well.) Oh, I won’t deny the jesus of the n.t. was much more warm and fuzzy than his “dad” (confusing, since they are one and the same, now, isn’t it?), but again, how can you separate jesus’s actions from those of his, ahem, “father”? Look, here are a few examples, ok?
    exodus 12:29-30…Sounds like an insane maniac to me….
    Leviticus 11:6….Hmmm, your omnipotent god doesn’t know rabbits don’t chew cud…
    Numbers 22:21-30… Cruelty to talking animals… Admittedly, not by your god. But he’s had countless other innocent animals/humans slaughtered because he was, what, having a bad day?
    Dueteronomy 7:15… What an asshole (your god). He’s going to inflict the diseases of Egypt not on his followers, but only on those who hate them…. This is peace? This is love? This is tolerance?

    Unfortunately, I cannot remember the other passages that so irriatate me off the top of my head, you know, where your god exhorts his followers to dash to death against the stones the infants from their mother’s arms etc…. If you’d like, honey, I’ll look it all up again for you. Really, it would be no trouble. Of course, in between full time work and full time school, you’d have to wait a couple of days.

    Look, darling, this is an atheist site. We talk about atheist things. And as I’ve posted to you before on another thread, it is wonderful that you believe in love and flowers and peace and gamboling lambs, ok? This is wonderful for you. But don’t, please don’t, attempt to show any of us the errors of our ways. We’ve read (most of us) too much of the bible (Quran, Torah etc) to be complete imbeciles.

    Steve, the godless bastards are any/all those people rejecting or unaware of the existance of the xtian god (think undeveloped countries)…. Unfortunately, missionaries seem to be spreading the cancerous “word of god” far and wide….

    Oh, my goodness, look at the time. Time to gather kitties and sleep.

  33. Anton Mates
    May 3rd, 2004 @ 12:53 am

    Hey, I believe in love and flowers and peace and gamboling lambs. I just don’t see them as depending on a deity–except for seven-headed, seven-eyed, blood-dripping zombie lambs, who’re definitely Christian property.


    In my experience, most Christians who believe that God is directly influenceable by prayer–rather than simply attending to the world’s needs as he sees fit–also feel an obligation to withhold the benefits of prayer from the undeserving (other than praying that they become upright believers.) Conversely, the Christians who are willing to pray that even nonbelievers find happiness within their own lifestyles, also tend to believe that God is trying to arrange this anyway.

    I don’t think there’s a logical connection there, it’s just how they pan out statistically. Those who believe more in the magical efficacy of prayer (I’m talking Christians only here, not New Age “Energy Healers”) also tend to be the more hostile ones toward nonbelievers.

    If you’ve got stats showing the opposite, I’m happy to see them.

  34. markm
    May 3rd, 2004 @ 8:53 am

    Many people posting on this apparently didn’t read the whole question, or else think that “going through a very rough time” means failing to shake a godidiot’s delusions in a ten minute conversation. “I’ll pray for you” (to lose your mind and come to share my delusions) is rude. “I’ll pray for you” (to recover from cancer) is kindly meant, and no rational person should take offense at it.

    On the other hand, suppose it’s a Christian who has cancer and a believer in voodoo that offers to sacrifice a chicken to Damballa with prayers for the Christian’s recovery. This will evoke screaming rage from most devout Christians. (Hint: they aren’t rational.) So why do Christians think “I’ll pray for you” is OK?

  35. speedwell
    May 3rd, 2004 @ 12:18 pm

    Steve, it went something like this:

    I was reading the Bible on Easter Sunday three or so years ago when it suddenly hit me that the whole Bible was so full of BS that it wouldn’t stand the level of scrutiny given by a Texas good-old-boy hangin’ judge to a case involving a Mexican fruit picker accused of taking indecent liberties with the head cheerleader of the local high school football team.

    OK, maybe that’s a bit too colorful. Seriously, it WAS Easter. And I was trying sincerely to understand some stuff about God. Then I realized that the Bible was an unreliable, inconsistent, and in places morally and intellectually obscene document, and any God halfway worth worshipping would forbid worshippers to read it on the grounds that it was an incompetent, vile slander (and probably an effort to discredit the religion, too).

    Then later that day I realized that the notion of a “God worth worshipping” was itself extremely problematical. Even if I could think of such a deity, I would have no proof such a one even existed. In fact, such a deity would have manifested in obvious ways throughout history instead of remaining unreachable and unknowable. I thought to myself that if any notion of God was morally inferior to ME, it certainly couldn’t be God. Or at least it was not worth worshipping anyway.

    In the few years since, I’ve noticed that the scales of evidence and demonstrable truth weigh heavily on the side of atheism. Against that sort of weight, the various illusions and fantasies of religion just don’t count a bit.

  36. speedwell
    May 3rd, 2004 @ 12:23 pm

    Julia: Your post #32 passed my mental Readers Digest condensers as the following:

    1) It’s only natural that rabble hangs out with rabble.
    2) It’s unnatural for you to be hanging out with us. Go hang out with the other rabble where you belong.


  37. ocmpoma
    May 3rd, 2004 @ 1:04 pm

    Personally, I feel that for something to be rude, it has to be intentional. I can say something, such as “you look great today” and it could be rude – if I said it under the right circumstances or in the right way.
    If a Christian offered to pray for me, not knowing that I was an atheist, I would be irritated. But I would most likely keep it to myself, like I do when someone says ‘bless you’ after I sneeze or wishes me a merry Christmas (very rarely do I get wished to have a merry or happy anything, except for Christian holy days).
    But these wishes are not rude, unless you feel that assuming Christianity is rude. Sometimes I feel that way. But usually I just think it is a combination of ignorance, complacence, and being part of the mainstream. It’s not intentional.
    So, I wouldn’t classify it as rude unless the person was implying that I needed to be prayed for; that is, that the trouble was a result of my atheism.
    Otherwise, I would just think to myself ‘go fuck yourself and your god’.
    Like I do all December long.
    I would also like to add, that doing something rude is usually a means to an end – a way to get a rise out of someone or to make the actor feel better. Offense is the fault of the offended.

    “If I speak at one constant volume at one constant pitch at one constant rhythm right into your ear you still won’t hear… you still won’t hear…”
    -Faith No More, “A Small Victory”

  38. Julia
    May 3rd, 2004 @ 5:22 pm

    Speed: I should be hanging with xtian rabble (perish the thought)? Lesbian rabble? Um, feminist rabble? Barnie Rabble? To which rabble do I belong? I stopped reading the Reader’s Digest in the 6th grade, so am unsure if I should hang out with that rabble…

  39. Steve
    May 5th, 2004 @ 5:52 am

    In response to comment 18. Julia, everyone is dying like you described, not just the

  40. Steve
    May 5th, 2004 @ 5:52 am

    Anton Mates,
    You know people who would withhold the

  41. Julia
    May 7th, 2004 @ 12:22 am


    We suffer due to extrinsic factors: predation such as viruses, bacterias and environmental factors (both natural and unnatural… Think earthquakes vs. synthesized chemical pesticides). We suffer privation due to wasted/appropriated/reduced resources. We suffer in subjugation to governments and corporations (um, could they be one in the same?). We suffer loss of our cultures due to the invasive doctrine of religion (and examples are too numerous to list here). Intrinsically, physiologically, we suffer from abnormal psychology, or “normal psychology”, in that we are sentient, and feel pain for our fellow (wo)man (think John Donne’s “no man is an island”). We could add, relating to sentience, that we are aware of our mortality, and that the telomere’s are gradually reducing, our body’s are responding less and less to our neural input and following a decay rate all their own (generally believed 51% lifestyle related, with life expetency being much different than life span) and the bittersweet knowledge that this is what we have, this grand, wonderful, adventerous life, and that is it. I am not advocating here that I believe in reincarnation in any aspect (heaven, hell, hindu/buddhist beliefs), or that they are the mitigation to basic human suffering and would be the answer to ameliorating this “suffering” in regards to the knowledge of our existence being but a simple burp in the entire cosmology. Additionally, the whole thread on thoughts v. prayers (see my response in 18)… Well, you should look a little more closely at the hypothetical position that the poster took. My point is that prayer is useless, and does as much good as saying “I will have you in my thoughts”. The sentiment is there, but there is no divine response, even in memo form, from either endeavor.

    Shall we address the central nervous system and reflex arcs as primary conductors of pain (suffering)? I mean, just to be thorough.

  42. speedwell
    May 7th, 2004 @ 11:35 am

    Steve, you may e-mail me at the address link in this post. Frankly, the subject is distasteful to me, since I consider myself well and truly cured of the “religion syndrome.” However, if you are genuinely interested in answers and not disputation, then I’ll be willing to overlook your condescending, ever-so-slightly snide, “warning.”

  43. Anton Mates
    May 7th, 2004 @ 4:39 pm

    Hi Steve,

    Feel free to email me, but don’t expect a rapid response. I already spend far more time debating empirically nonresolvable issues on the Internet than I should! School comes first.

    On withholding the benefits of prayer–disgusting it may be, but it’s also quite understandable from certain religious perspectives. One argument for it is that God obviously believes the just should be rewarded and the wicked punished–that’s the whole point of Heaven and Hell, after all. So praying for the benefit of unbelievers is both futile–since God won’t do them any favors–and sinful–since God shouldn’t do them any favors. Except, as always, for the prayer that they be converted.

    Another argument is that since nothing is worse than going to Hell, unbelievers should be made as miserable as possible for the sake of saving their souls and the souls of those who see their sufferings. Thus argued the Inquisition, for instance. I’m hopeful that even most conservative Christians would not approve of conversion by torture these days, but many believers certainly aren’t above hoping that the heathen will suffer enough calamities to convince them to turn to (the right) God. Not because fundamentalists are spiteful or sadistic–let’s be charitable here–but because any amount of earthly torment is worth escaping Hell. Jack T. Chick has often expressed this sentiment.

    Just a couple of examples of how religion can convince good people to do bad things, IMO.

  44. thisgirl
    May 7th, 2004 @ 10:50 pm

    To Julia on comment number 14 . . . I don’t know if EVERY Christian who says “I’ll pray for you” loves you. I tend to have a love for all human beings. According to those who knew me even as a little child I was always that way – my parents had to stop me from giving everything I had to others. But I think most people start out good and loving towards others, but then they are either taught to hate or taught to love. And to truly love, one must value all others, and to some extent have a general love for all members of the human race.
    Several athiests, on this site and others, have stated that religions spread hate and cause wars. Well, some of you seem open minded, others full of hate, so are not MANY, but NOT all, of you doing what you claim religion does, spreading seeds of hatred? We are all going to be on this planet together for quite sometime, so isn’t it better to agree to discuss/argue and disagree and to try to understand each other rather that be full of hate for each other, particularly when that hate is based on religious belief?

  45. Julia
    May 8th, 2004 @ 6:07 pm


    I fully agree communication is the key to successful living and conflict resolution. In order for communication to take place, there has to be a common meeting ground. I’m not certain that can take place between a religious (truly religious) community and a secular humanist (or even just a secular) community. And I don’t mean this as an insult, thisgirl, I truly don’t, but your indication that “some of you seem open minded and some full of hate” smacks of the usual argument, that if I only talk long enough, I will get these godless people to understand and accept jesus/god/ganesh/zeus…Being well read and having studied a variety of philosophies and religions, I would put to you that I already understand your religion.

    I think, being a member of a couple populations reviled by the common populace, generally those of a religious bent (since I’m a dyke AND atheist), that I have good reason to be angry over religious doctrines being forced down our throats… by religious people who don’t even follow their own holy book’s teachings….Of course, if they did, they’d have to do things like stone their neighbors to death for adultery etc… I digress. The problem with discuss/argue and disagree is that if we agree to disagree, when push comes to shove, we are back where we started, with the religious population trying to legislate based on the morality of a 2000 year old doctrine THEY don’t even follow. Even your president has said outright he doesn’t consider atheists American citizens. How’s that for condemnation? Further, 51% of Americans wouldn’t vote for an atheist. Regardless that the belief in religion and a god, is inherently irrational. This is not to deny you your right to believe!

    Look at what is happening in Malaysia, and spreading into the south of Thailand. Look, again, at the Phillipines, boiling for years with Muslim anger and terrorism. Bali. Indonesia (although I may be speaking in ignorance, since I haven’t examined the issues there lately). See right here, in the U.S., a religious right trying to (and apparently succeeding with bush) legislate their vindictive morality on the entire population.

    All I ask is that you xtian/muslims/hindis/buddhists/mormos/jw’s/whatever, keep your religion out of public institutions, away from politicians and put it back in your homes and temples where they belong. There is no need to spread the word of your god anymore. If he needs help, being omnipotent, I’m certain he could find a peaceful resolution, especially to what looks like is brewing up into a holy war, world wide… Ok, mildly hyperbolic, but it’s been a long night of assessing reports for school, and man, am I tired…

    thisgirl, what is your take on the separation of religion and state, and why the authors of the articles/constitution specifically mandated that no state church be imposed on the nation? (Ignoring the inherent puritanism rampant from day one….).


  46. SpockGirl
    May 9th, 2004 @ 1:40 am

    I am personally not bothered by it. Actually, I am grateful. Although I might not believe in God myself, it does not diminish that belief in the mind of someone else, nor does it diminish the importance of their belief to them, and what prayer means to them. When someone is willing to pray for me, I appreciate their kindness. My sister once said to me, “I know you don’t believe what I do, but I’m going to pray for you anyway.” I said, “Thank you.” And I know my Mom prays for me all the time, even though she has never said anything about it (it’s not her style.)

  47. hermesten
    May 9th, 2004 @ 1:29 pm

    Julia, according to some of the Bush crowd anyone who doesn’t accept Jesus as Lord is not fit to be an American citizen. Merely believing in God is not enough.

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