From the mouth of a Christian, “I’ll pray for you” means “Fuck You!” For example:
Mike: “I believe that you, too, are misguided but I respect your commitment to your beliefs. I hope you are not offended at the notion that I will pray for you.”
Well, Fuck you too, Mike! That wasn’t my response but maybe it should have been. My goto response is “you can pray for me and I will think for you.” Not original, but effective nonetheless. Let me clarify that I am talking about the use of “I’ll pray for you” when used in debate or when people find out I am an atheist. As much as I find it pointless for people to say they are praying for someone who is sick, or some tragedy strikes and they say that they will keep it in their prayers, it isn’t the passive-aggressive comment I am talking about today.
I didn’t always object to the “I’ll pray for you response.” Years ago, I was still enslaved by the ridiculous notion that I had to respect a person’s belief. So when they said it, I acted like they were doing something nice for me and even though I thought it was futile, I thought, knock yourself out. You see, I was raised in a strict, Roman Catholic home. Church wasn’t optional, my father taught CCD and was a Eucharistic Minister and currently my mother has a shrine to the Virgin Mary in her home. It took me years to come out as an atheist. I went from a Catholic to dipping my toe briefly into born-again Christianity at Calvary Church–the most fucked up people belong to this church. So I moved on to Zen Buddhism. That transition was helped along by Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers. Though I took some wonderful humanistic lessons from Buddhism, I still couldn’t find peace in that belief. At that point I called myself agnostic. I had a co-worker that was an atheist and I would argue with him. I still had some “spiritual baggage” that I couldn’t let go of. I didn’t believe in any world religion but I had this belief that they were all inspired by something out there, I just didn’t give it a name. I was slowly coming to atheism on my own but the tipping point happened when a Facebook friend posted a photo of a man along with a quote. It read:
“If you look at Christianity in the big picture, you purportedly have this being who has an important message for everybody and yet he communicates it in the most inefficient and fungible way as possible… of delivering it to a handful of people who report it in languages that surely this being must know are going to die out, be subject to interpolations and forgeries and stuff, and it’s like the Bible is like a comedy of errors. Things just keep going wrong for this guy. He keeps trying to fix it including, “‘let’s wipe everybody off the face of the Earth and hit the reset button,’ and ‘oh crap that failed, so now I’m gonna pick one group of people and then I’m gonna come down and take human form and be a sacrifice to myself to act as a loophole for rules that I created yet I’m gonna leave behind no reliable evidence for that sort of event.’ I mean, if he exits, he’s a buffoon.”
The name attributed to that quote was Matt Dillahunty. I thought to myself, “Who the fuck is Matt Dillahunty?” So I surfed on over to Google and discovered The Atheist Experience. The rest, as they say, is history. So in the past, when I was more “respectful” to people when they told me that they would pray for me, I was really just weak minded. Growing up religious damaged my mind. It is believed that alcoholics stunt their emotional growth by drinking. So if they started drinking at 13 and stop at 30, their emotional maturity hasn’t grown past the age of 13. I believe the same thing happens to the mind in regards to being indoctrinated into religion as a young child. The part of your mind used for critical thinking is damaged, and even on the road to atheism, some of that damage holds over and it takes time to dump that and mature in thinking. In short, their critical thinking skills are immature for their age.
So I do take offense to someone telling me that they will pray for me. Why do they feel the need? The only reason I can come up with is that they believe that I am lacking in some or many areas of my life. They are praying that I find something, god, jesus, “the way”–put in whatever supernatural bullshit here you can think of. They are telling me that I am less of a person. They are telling me that they are in some way superior to me. They are putting me down. It’s wrapped up in nice metaphysical wrapping paper but open up that package and inside is a pure insult. They are attacking my person when they say that. Why can they not accept that I am happy, content, fulfilled and loving life without their god? And the truth is they are frightened. They are afraid to see people happy without god. They hate seeing atheists as good, moral, happy individuals. Because it spits in the face of all that they hold sacred. It proves what they believe is false. So they say, I will pray for you so you are more like me; pathetic, co-dependent, alone, scared, victimized, a child. Since childhood these people have been told that their big sky daddy would be there and non-believers threaten that belief. We are pulling away the curtain and revealing that it is just a lie behind it. And when they pretend to mean well and they cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, oh, so very delicately how to live my life and when I shoot down all their best arguments–when that happens and they say, “I’ll pray for you”–I know I won the debate. But at that point the win feels empty. It feels that way because they are so sad and pathetic that they will turn away from reason so easily for a childhood fairytale. And I know smart people who believe these tales and maybe, just maybe they don’t believe in them but they believed in their parents. And they love their parents so much that they can not hurt them by letting go of something that was handed down from them. Maybe it is like a family heirloom that was taken to a jeweler for assessment. And that jeweler told them that it was a fake and it had no value. I bet the people would curse the jeweler, tell him he didn’t know what he was talking about and walk away mad. And they will never go to another person to have the jewel assessed because deep down they know it is a fake. But they will just continue to convince themselves that it has value, because to do otherwise would be too painful.