I need help with a productive response to a young family member. Here is her question to me:
So, I'm at a Christian conference for college students and I couldn't be more convinced of our God. Yesterday we were challenged to a "social media outreach", meaning that we were challenged to contact friends and family members via facebook and twitter asking if we can pray for them in any way. I debated and debated over sending you a message because of the comments you had about your beliefs at Christmas, but the Lord has really put it on my heart to talk to you. It breaks my heart that you don't see the overflowing love God has for you and everything He has already done for you on the cross. With that said, is there anything I can be praying about for you?
I think a decent response would be this: If she finds the need to pray over things and waste her time with it, why not take the prayer she has for you and use it to pray for a child in need, a person in the world grieving, or those hurt by natural disasters/famine/strife. Tell her that if she's going to do it anyway, don't waste a prayer on you.
If she does want to help you with something, tell her to help you in some physical, realistic manifestation of that concern and love. For a hypothetical situation: You have a family member in the hospital. Instead of praying for you, ask her to make a dish for you, bring you snacks, or maybe offer to drive you a couple times. Hypothetical situation of course.
Ask her to pray to her god to help christians understand just how offensive their comments to non-believers are.
To demonstrate the futility of prayer to your relative offer the current information:
West Texas has been in the midst of a severe drought for the past two years. It has gotten so bad the Xtian governor of that state eventually asked all Texans and anyone else to pray for rain in the area. One estimate is they have lost over a billion trees. Farmers are going bankrupt. You might want to ask her why the delay on god's part to not answer the millions with clasped hands for some phreakin' water. I mean, god can make it rain, right?
Well there's a well-intentioned thought!
Maybe you are a bit worried about your young family member... that her eyes will gloss over and she will begin reciting bible verses as responses
That said, de-conversion usually has to come from within and she seems pretty convinced that you should be prayed for right now.
In your place i would say "Thanks for thinking of me, but i'm good" and as another person already suggested "look forwards to seeing you at X gathering in the future" ... I would keep the channels of discussion open and encourage critical thinking and appraisal of her religion. It's probably the best you can do.
Be gentle with a relative, especially a young one. I would express that I appreciate the offer, but that if she feels it will do some good, many others could use the prayer more. Make some suggestions (sick kids, struggling families, the homeless, etc.). I would then offer to discuss your own views on the subject in the future, if she is interested. If she expresses interest, then you can get into whatever else you want at that point.
Honestly, the comment is genuine. People experience invigorating inspiration at events like this. I used to help recruit for similar ones. The love of God and the value of the crucifixion has been renewed in her mind as an ontological reality. She is convinced and awed by the power and goodness of God and I am certain that she is convinced that she will put effort into being a more devout Christian.
I am certain she experiences loss in the thought that you are missing out on the invigorating experiences that come from faith. Nothing you say will likely make a difference. But we don't believe prayer has power. We don't believe God is real. We believe that something being "put on our hearts" is emotional inspiration. If we believe prayer has no power, why avoid it?
This is the opportunity to start to dash, destroy annihilate the foolish notion that atheists are so because they have "hardened their hearts to the truth" or are "mad at God". Tell her the things she could pray about. Don't appear "hard hearted". Instead exude open-mindedness. That will win the day because unless you crush the notion that you are "hard hearted" you will never get through. It is once she begins to have sympathy because you seem so open, yet God wont turn your heart that will cause her to question.
Never appear hard hearted to a Christian. It will only reinforce their belief about that matter. Its a tactical mistake to do it.
Maybe you can request that she consider that any time she is willing to set aside to pray for you, she instead pray for abducted and abused children to be found, just in case prayer ever does work.
I appreciate everyone's advice. I wanted to elaborate more on my situation.
On Christmas Eve my step father asked me point blank, "what's the deal with liking American Atheists on FB". I had been working up the nerve to talk about this with him and my mother for some time. So, put on the spot, I told them "I'm Atheist". Everyone in my family except my brother are staunch Christian. Needless to say my revelation came to a shock and disappointment, all of which was expected. I was most concerned with my mother, but she either hid her true feelings or silently accepted me. It wasn't long before word spread among the family. Needless to say, it is quite a relief for me to be "out".
I'd like to think I'm in a good position to have meaningful conversations about religion and Christianity since I was raise in a Christian house and attended plenty of Sunday school and church. Little did I know, that experience only helped me to see the clear path to Atheism. As I got older and out of that narrow view of the world I began to see the truth. Bottom line, all religions are man made and designed to exert control over large groups of people. The only truth lies in the laws of science and nature. Stephen Hawking is my hero for making this absolutely clear: http://richarddawkins.net/videos/642571-curiosity-with-stephen-hawking
The family member in question is a sophomore at a St Edward's University in Austin, TX. She began her Christian life in high school and became more and more outspoken in the past few years. I know living in that bubble will only strengthen her convictions. My long term plan is to feed her bits of knowledge that will hopefully help to expand her view of god and religion and it's impact on the world. I honestly don't expect to make any progress with her as long as she lives among like-minded Christians.
I plan on slowly explaining my views with the rest of the family. Actually, my next big step is to become Atheist FBO :) I suspect my friend list will drop, but I tolerate plenty of Christian comments and viewpoints. Two can play that game ;)
Thanks again everyone.
Thanks for sharing and good luck! Let us know if you need any help or support as you move forward :).
Well she seems to want to do two things.
1. She wants to pray
2. She wants you to see the love of her Christian god and believe in it.
So… ask her to pray for you. Ask her to pray that your high moral compass be reduced to hers:
-Your high moral compass that prohibits you from worshipping anything even if it were true.
-Your moral compass that makes you rejects this evil concept of punishment and reward afterlife.
-Your moral compass that rejects Christian’s vicarious redemption.
Yes in order for you to accept Christianity and love a god that demands you worship him -you would have to drastically alter you’re since of morality. You would have to become a worst person then you are. So… it goes to reason, you are not likely to do this to yourself… so she better pray. That’s all she can do…. To deal with the reality that you will never sink to her level of morality.
How about "No, nothing - can't think of a thing; but thanks, anyway."