I'm an outspoken atheist, but I also try my hardest to be respectful of those that are religious. But there comes a problem. Here's an example of my dillema. 

Me: "Hey there, how are you?"

Friend: "Doing just fine, how are you?"

Me: "Oh, doing okay...I have a (insert big life event here that might not turn out well)

Friend: "Really? I will pray for you..."

Me:........

How do I politely tell them not to waste their time? It kind of grates on my nerves when people just say they'll pray for me. But I know they are doing it because they are concerned, but why can't they show it in other ways? How do you guys deal with this? Do you just let it go or is there some script that I can follow? 

Tags: conversations, prayer, religion

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I can't help but to be condescending when this happens. I usually look at them, smile/smirk and say "You do that" (but I make it sound like I'm saying "That's adorable"... actually, sometimes I just say that)

condescension is the trait I usually dislike most about religious people.  It's arrogant no matter what your feelings are about prayer or religion.  If it's not possible to rise above it, must you crawl beneath it?

I know, I generally push for peace but they can't softball it like that. I don't make it that obvious, it's mostly for myself. I don't even think they notice, and if they do they just think I'm weird. But it's also been a conversation starter. So there's that.

What I've said is this... "It won't do me any good since I'm an Atheist. Thanks for thought. If it makes you feel better knock yourself out. " 

Well I just happen to be a Christian and I was reading over some of these comments. I saw some comments relating to: "just say thank you to make them feel better." When I ask someone if I can pray for them I don't ask for my own feelings or for my own benefit. I'm not attempting to get something from you, by asking to pray for you. That's like giving someone a gift so I can get a gift in return. That means that gift is not sincere. 

In prayer, I realize that there are things which are beyond our control (like death and the emotions and feelings that come along with it). There are some in the hospital who are terminally ill, who the doctors have given up on, and it is prayer which stirs hope (from a psychological standpoint), which stirs the motivation to live, which saves the person's life.

So therefore, when I offer to pray, even though many of you are totally convinced that it is a waste of time, I am convinced (with proof) that it isn't. So the question is, where do we go from there?

In my response, I'm not trying to argue for the power of prayer, I'm simply trying to give insight into the mind of someone who prays. P.S. sometimes when I tell someone I'm gonna pray for them, I just want them to know so that when something drastic happens they'll know that it was prayer.


It doesn't mean you are only looking out for yourself on a conscious level. But since prayer has absolutely no positive effect on anyone else, that's the result. It gives people the feeling that they are doing something when they are helpless. Or distracts them from what happens. Both apply in hospital settings for example.

There was a study where the group that knew they were prayed for actually did worse. I'm not going to generalize that and say everyone would be worse off, but at least it means knowing someone prays for you doesn't actually help

In accordance with Steve, if you want to pray for the terminally ill and cause no harm, then please make sure that the patients are in no way informed or aware of this.

The Templeton funded rigorous study found that it can cause unnecessary complications.

No atheist would ever think that something good happened because of a prayer.  Fact.  As a matter of fact, I don't think that even makes much sense.

that sounds rather biased? would you be open to the possibility of praying bringing hope, even if it does sound stupid and makes no sense. I mean, falling in fove and doing stupid love things sometimes makes no sense either, but yet many of us readily accept it.

And if not, what avenue of reason can you use to bring hope to someone in a terminal condition?

As said it brings hope and comfort to the one doing the praying. It's somewhat like a placebo in that regard.

Look, prayer can certainly give something to religious people. Purely on a mental level. But this topic was more about believers asking non-believers whether they can pray for them. If the believer doesn't know that someone is an atheist, ok. No problem. But when someone knows someone isn't religious and still asks such questions I find that rather insulting. Especially when dealing with a terminal illness.

How about instead asking in a general way "Can I do anything for you?". Or asking their family members whether you can do something for them? They're probably dealing with lots of stuff, so they could use some help. Even to a believer that should be a lot more comforting and helpful han prayer

In the study it didn't matter whether the patient was religious or not, for as far as measurable effects go. Only the patients who were certain that somebody was praying for them were slightly, but strangely significantly, worse off. So it isn't even comparable to (memorizing) water or sugar-pills, let alone a nice and attentive doctor who wears a shiny, clean white coat and mentions a lot of difficult terms with a warm, soothing voice.

That is purely as far as intercessory prayer, the specifically altruistic form of petitionary prayer goes. It is the easiest form to do scientific experiments on. And that is out of the window, put a big cross through it, doesn't work, move on to a new idea.

This doesn't say anything about contemplative, meditative prayers or other sorts of not directly harmful methods of praying, having some effect on the practitioner. But I doubt very much this would depend on which supernatural entity or entities is/ are being addressed, contemplated or in other way, shape or form worshiped.

Maybe this was an anti-placebo effect.  "Gee, I didn't realize it was so bad, but if people I don't even know find it necessary to pray for me, I must really be boned."

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