My father is currently in the hospital on life support, the prognosis isn't good. People are kind enough to "keep me in their prayers" or "pray for you at this difficult time". Is this one of those times I should just bite my tongue and say nothing? Or do I respond? If so, what do I say?


This in regards to certain people who keep saying this too me and do know I don't believe in gods

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I had a Catholic friend for the longest time who would always tell me I was in her prayers. At first, I would try to argue and say that, since I don't believe in God, prayers were useless and she should not waste her time. This put  quite a strain on our relationship because, she told me, it made her feel powerless to help me since she lived so far away.

I get that a lot now from people who are close by where I live and I have learned that the best choice of action is just to smile and say thank you. Most of the time the people who are telling you this, even if they know you do not believe in God, are just trying to be helpful and supportive.While it does get annoying to hear that over and over again, it is easier in the long run to just accept their prayers even if you do not believe they will do anything of any use.

Good response, Daryle!
Granted, people are saying these things to you for a very different reason, but when people who know I'm Atheist say "bless you" or "god bless you" to me when I sneeze, I dislike it. I feel disrespected. A coworker was offended when she received a christmas card.... she's jewish. We can say the christian was just being polite and didn't mean to offend. It doesn't make the jewish person feel less offended. If you are being made uncomfortable by the comments then you have a right to voice your discomfort.

My condolences to you on your father's situation.  I am lucky enough to still have both my parents in relative good health.  I know I will be heartbroken when they pass away and I sympathize with what you must be going through now.


This is definitely a time when you should bite your tongue, however.  No matter what your beliefs are, finding words of comfort are always difficult.  Atheists might be conscious to use secular language when doing so, but the religious are accustomed to offering up their own brand of comforting words that, although we might disagree with or even find offensive, is no less well intentioned than those secular words.  Sincerely thanking them for their good thoughts would be a gracious act.  


Now, if someone is being snotty and rubbing religion in your face passive aggressively, then that may be a different story.  But almost invariably, in my experience, this is not the case. They genuinely do empathize with you and their words are sincere even if misguided.   Being the better person sometimes means swallowing objections to religious platitudes.  If you have a trusted friend or family member that might sympathize with this aspect of your situation, it might help to vent to them about it and get your frustrations aired out.


I hope your father is comfortable and at ease.  Don't let religion distract you from taking care of  your father and yourself during this difficult time.

Billie-Jo, I'm sorry your father is so sick and I know how hard this must be for you. You are in our thoughts.


I've found that the best thing to say is "thank you".  This doesn't mean you are accepting that prayer works, or god exists, you are just respecting their beliefs and their right to practice them how they wish. It means nothing else. Now if someone says please "pray for them", I always respond and say "they will be in my thoughts".

Sorry I said I would come back to chat and then didn't last night. A storm came


I would agree it is best to just say thanks to people who tell you they are praying, HOWEVER, if you get to a breaking point and you snap, I don't think it would be a problem if you nicely told the person something like "please don't say that - I'm tired of hearing that." Considering the sterss and circumstances you are under, I think they would more than be understanding (hopefully), and not hold it against you.

It would be one thing if they said they were praying for my father, as he does believe in god. But they are saying they are praying for me AND have been told in the past that I don't believe in god and don't appreciate being told such things. My father's siblings, nieces, cousins etc. are not around at all let alone now. And the family members saying this too me are on my mothers side and no relation to my father.  I do feel disrespected by this, I don't challenge their beliefs and yet they can't leave me to have mine? One person actually told my sister who is also atheist, that she needs god more than ever right now. Maybe I should just let it be, but with all the other shit I have to deal with, they could be a little more respectful.

Oh, well that sheds a whole different light on it. That would annoy me if I were in your shoes. For goodness sake, your own father is possibly at death's door and instead of people trying to support you in whatever way they can - some want to kind of "preach" to you in this Christian sideways hug way by making these comments about praying for you.


Edit:  Okay a quick trip to the Urban Dictionary an I see "Christian sideways hug" is not quite the phrase I was looking for. I just meant that sarcastic way some of them have of saying something but meaning something else.


So in terms of suggestions of what to say to them; that is a tough one. Maybe something like "Please, this is really hard for me - just... don't say things like that." And leave it at that. I don't know. Just throwing something out there for you.


If they are making a point to say they are praying for you, specifically, because they know your beliefs, then they are crossing the line from well meaning to backhanded proselytizing. There are a multitude of ways to handle it, but not knowing you, your family, or the situation, I'd hesitate to offer up anything in ways of advice on how to handle the situation.

I'm not sure how I would handle it if I were in a similar situation, but being opinionated and outspoken, I doubt that things would remain diplomatic for long. Of course, I can do without people like that in my life, family or no family. Not everyone has that luxury.
That does give me a completely different perspective on the situation and does make me more inclined to say that it might be a good idea to confront them about it and let them know that it makes you uncomfortable. You are already going through a very difficult time right now and the added "insults" that they are throwing at you, and what they said to your sister does sound like an insult to me, are not at all needed.

My only issue with taking that route is that it can create more drama and emotions on top of an already very emotional situation. If you were to confront them I would suggest waiting to do it until things have calmed down some and doing it in a relaxed setting. If it were me, and this may not work for everyone, I would simply ask them to pray for your father instead of for you and maybe mention that it makes you uncomfortable while reassuring them that you are not angry with them.

I hope things get better for you and your family.
I stick with what I said before. If it makes you overly uncomfortable, you have a right to voice your discomfort. Religious people don't get that we see praying as a futile task. You could simply say "thank you for your support. Please keep my father in your thoughts. I'd appreciate it if you keep your religious remarks for someone who will be comforted by them."
Is the phrase "I'm sorry for your loss" (which is what I usually say) any better or more meaningful?


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