Can I Pray For You? – A Religious Encounter

prayer

So I haven’t posted in a while and since I’m kind of circling around the drain until I finally get around to reviewing About Time, a film I sincerely hope I don’t make a pun out of, and some other stuff I’ve seen recently, but for now I hope that this’ll do as I’d like to share something that happened to me last week.

If you have read my About Page, you’ll know that I’m an Atheist, and no before you ask, I’m not an “Angry Atheist”, I don’t seek out religious people to bash their beliefs and I don’t go around purposefully trying to offend anyone I can. That’s just being a douche bag, and in all fairness, anyone, religious or not, can be a douche bag.

But anyway, I’m an Atheist and I am part of my University’s Secular and Atheist Society and last week was Activities’ Week. It’s when all the freshers, and perhaps not-so-freshers, tip up and look at all the societies the University has and signs up, usually after a good spiel by those on each table.

Now our stall, which was pretty damn good I might add, was in the Faith section of the fair and, while we’re not a faith society, it’s not bad that we’re in that section for three reasons. 1: It makes sense that a society, although no religious, but about not believing in religion, is put in a section about religion. 2: We get on well with the other faith societies and we have to interact with them if we want debates, joint-events, and so on. 3: It’s makes people laugh that a non-faith society is stuck between the Jewish Society and the Hindu Society.

So back to the story. Our stall is doing quite well and loads of people are signing up, and we have some interesting people turn up for a chat, from both a religious and non-religious standpoint. And then this guy walks up to me and introduces himself. He was very congenial and, for the sake of anonymity, I’ll just refer to this guy as Steve.

So Steve knows about our society and knows me through one of my friends who is a Christian. With a vague sense that I should know this person, but don’t quite remember, I make polite conversation with him. He’s a Christian, so we chat about the fair, the Christian Union’s Stall and the Secular and Atheist Stall.

All’s fine and then Steve says; ‘You know I’m a Christian right?’

I say ‘Yeah, I know’

‘Is it alright if I ask you something then?

Hesitant, but not wanting to be rude, I say ‘Sure, go for it.

‘Ok, is it alright if I pray for you?’

And thus the bombshell was dropped.

I was dumbfounded. Now I’m not saying that he was rude about asking. He wasn’t he was polite and I guess in his mind, this was a perfectly ordinary thing to ask. But I was astonished. I don’t know why he thought I, a man in a bright orange shirt with “Atheist Society” written on it, with two other guys behind me in the same attire, and with a huge banner that said “Secular and Atheist Society” would think “You know what? Sure, I believe that you putting your hands together and asking your omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God for my safety and whatnot. It’s better to be safe than sorry!”

Just no. Now I know him praying for me won’t hurt me, but it seems so wrong for him to ask. I have shown by saying that I am an Atheist that I do not believe that prayer of any kind will work. I don’t mind people talking to God on their own time, but please don’t bring me into it when I have no affection for it. It would be like him coming up to me and saying; “I know you for the Fox Hunting Ban, but is it alright is I sign you up to the Repeal the Fox Ban Petition?”

I have no qualms with people having religious beliefs. That’s your business. But please don’t make me part of it. That’s just wrong. I told him I would fell uncomfortable with being prayed for, and in all fairness he was pretty cool about it. He said that was fine and then after a little bit, moved off to another stall.

I guess I may be more annoyed about this than others, and I know loads of people will think; “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t affect you! God, I hate these Atheists moaning all the time about religious people!” Well, sure you may feel that way, but I’m just against religion when it’s used in a manner that I would feel intrudes upon my liberties and that of society in general.

That’s why I think Faith Schools that are funded by the Government are wrong, why the Church and State should be separated, why there shouldn’t be 26 Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords, and why I think that people should not pray for me. It infringes on my liberty to say; “No, I don’t want to be part of this in anyway” and for people to pray for me when I’ve specifically stated the contrary is wrong.

Well that’s all I’m going to say on the matter, but if you have any views, or have had any weird encounters with religious, or indeed non-religious people, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and don’t worry, I won’t be praying to a divinity for this article to be read, and for those who read it to be safe.

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11 thoughts on “Can I Pray For You? – A Religious Encounter

  1. I feel the same way. I’m an atheist too and i don’t like when religious people volunteer a prayer for me. It’s hard on me because my wife is a catholic and she’s all into God and everything so she wants to share that side of her with me. I’m not a douche about it so I listen but I will never go to church with her. Religion is the best form of brainwashing in my opinion. I will not force religion on my children but if it’s something they want to do when they get older I won’t hold it against them. I’ve had debates with my wife’s friends on why i’m an atheist and they always try and make me out to be the bad guy but i’m smart and I mean really smart. When it comes to religion you can’t win, you’re always wrong to them or they consider you arrogant for not considering it. I think they’re arrogant for believing in something so blindly that it makes them offend other people.

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    1. I won’t promote my intelligence too much, although I like to think I have a modicum of intellect that gives me a grasp over some concepts others may not have, but I agree with you. I have no qualms with people having religious belief themselves, I just don’t like them making me part of their beliefs in any manner. I really don’t offend easily, but asking to be prayed for does feel a little patronising. If anyone reading this prays, good for you, just keep your conversations to what I deem to be your celestial imaginary friend to yourself.

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  2. Pingback: Video: Why Do Black Christians Hate Atheists? | Black Atheists

  3. Glad to hear the fair went well.
    I don’t think i’d really care if someone prayed for me. I don’t believe it does anything. It’s just someone talking to themselves, so I don’t particularly care if they do. And at least he asked you.
    I suppose the sentiment is kind of patronising, and praying for you rather than trying to persuade you to his point of view with rational arguments seems to be a sign of weakness from his perspective, sort of like saying “I’m telling my dad on you” rather than sorting it out yourself. That being said, if religious people pray rather than actually trying to recruit people all the better for atheists, because it sure as hell (sorry) won’t get them anywhere.

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    1. I know it shouldn’t be something that irked me to the extent that I should write an article about it, but, as you said, I found it patronising as if to say “OK, well while you’re doing your temper tantrum against God, I’ll put a good word in for you”.

      I do agree with your sentiments that it feels a bit of a cop out move in the sense than rather giving rational argument he resorted to prayer, but at least he was sincere about it. He asked and valued my opinion (I hope) on whether or not I wanted to be prayed for, so kudos to him for at least taking my heathenistic opinion into account!

      And yes, being prayed for is definitely better than being preached to, but I’d rather not be prayed for or preached to.

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  4. Joanna Costin

    I’ve got to admit it seems a bit strange to me that someone would offer to pray for you out of the blue. I’m a Christian – and I’ve been out on the streets as part of a team from my church offering food and hot drinks to homeless people. We have a great big sign that says we’ll pray for people if they want us to, but it’s mostly people approaching us, rather than us approaching others.

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  5. Andy

    The situation described seems to be: the question asked you if it was ok, you said no, he didn’t push it. I’m unsure how him asking intrudes on your liberties? Surely it precludes that? If he had gone ahead then I can understand if you’d feel intruded on, however nothing happened against your express wishes.

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    1. The situation as you described it is correct. And yes I see your point as to how, usually, I wouldn’t be irritated like this about being prayed for as people will not see me an think “Hey, best not ask him, he looks like an Atheist”. I felt that my liberties were intruded upon in this instance by the fact that, despite the clear situation that was presented before him, he felt that it was almost necessary to ask for me to be prayed for when I expected someone to be able to figure out that was not what I wanted.I just felt a bit patronised mainly. It would be like me going up to a Christian and saying “I see what you are doing here, but is it alright if I make a sacrifice for you to the great God Imhotep?” I know that’s an outlandish example, but the point stands. You’d have thought from the situation my desire not to be prayed for would have been made clear.

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      1. Andy

        I see your point of view, but personally I prefer people to treat me as an individual rather than a stereotype. He could have made assumptions about you and guessed what your response might have been, but surely greater respect is shown by dialoguing with you?
        In my experience many atheists are in search of the truth about this universe we live in, and as such many are open to considering that if God IS real then he can show them the truth, and if he is not real then nothing is lost by a prayer. I also know atheists who have no objection towards being prayed for (they either think it is, at worst, harmless, or else they appreciate the sentiment it embodies). Noone is able to know your response without asking.
        I am not sure your point does stand from the example given. You are not offering to do something which you have a strongly held belief that this action will be for the immeasurable benefit of the person which you are offering it to. If the action were of this nature then I, personally, wouldn’t have any objections.

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  6. I see your accentuation is incorrect. It should be IF God is real. But aside from that, I do respect he came and had a dialogue with me. I enjoy chatting people of all faiths and no faiths. I know he couldn’t know as to whether I would be receptive to his suggestion or not. But given the parameters of our meeting, I feel he should of held back that suggestion. I know many atheists don’t mind being asked to be prayed for and in all honesty I don’t either. I mean no offence, but in the end it’s merely people talking to their imaginary friends in my view in the end.

    This isn’t a description of what I think all atheists believe, I know better than to do that. I just took something that happened to me and thought, maybe people would like to hear about and maybe they’ve had similar occurrences when they felt a bit awkward about it. That was the point of all this in the end. Religious people can pray. Fine with that. Should you go up to people and ask them would they liked to be prayed for? That’s when you go into the grey area and that’s why I think, unless you are at an event or clearly indicate in some manner that you are offering prayers, the person should approach them and say, “One prayer for me please”, not the other way round. And again, these are just my thoughts.

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