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..."


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? 

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Sorry for straying from the point, but to tell you the truth, there are allot of people who don't ask for prayer but sincerely want it. Also, there are scenarios where people have no idea what to do, you offer to pray, and that prayer becomes a light in a dark tunnel for them.

A father who has a child on her death bed, you can offer him coffee, offer to take him to the doctor, offer to pay his bill for the year, but that won't take away the worry and fear he has for his daughter. Prayer (even if it is purely emotional) can bring comfort to a person. 

So it might be annoying to you but it's life for someone else.

Interesting. And since you could give me some insight, I ask you this: Why not, instead of wasting words..why not offer to help them in some physical way? A gesture of kindness can also bring about the same psychological effects. Instead of saying 'I'll pray for you' if the person is say, sick, why not offer to help them get to a doctors appointment? Or if they're in the hospital, offer to look in on their house/pet/family? That's just what I don't understand. Sure, you may believe God is control, but that shouldn't stop you from offering a helping hand. 

Yeah...getting 'snarky' is not what you want.  But I think that if they're your friends you should find a way to let them know that you're an atheist and that one of the things that can easily offend an atheist or "grate" on their nerves is the offer of prayer as we see prayer as a way of doing nothing while claiming credit for using nothing but good will emotions to "effect" a positive outcome that may occur.

i suppose it's their sentiment that counts

  I get that a lot.  I just smile and say "Thank you for thinking of me."  Sometimes I add that I am an atheist, and sometimes I don't bother; it pretty much depends upon the spirit in which the comment is offered.  If it's simply a nice person who is genuinely concerned with my welfare, I usually don't say anything else.  If, on the other hand, it is a pointed reference to my lack of belief, I may well launch into a mocking of the idea.  I sometimes go so far as to ask them to pray for God to kill me.  That usually stops them cold.  

Hi Elisha.  Question - Does it matter to you that they tell you they plan to have inconsequential thoughts in the privacy of their own mind?  Why? Consider this scenario: A Christian tells you of some difficult situation they are facing.  You empathize with him/her by saying you will keep him/her in your thoughts.  What if he/she said they prefer a prayer?  That would be presumptuous of him or her, wouldn’t it?  If you are uncomfortable with their religious thoughts, even if they are imagined to be for your benefit, it is not his/her problem to correct.  It would be very impolite to suggest how they should express their empathy about your situation.  Is it possible that you feel uncomfortable because you don’t want to give an inaccurate impression that you share a faith in prayers?  If so, and if you feel strongly you need to make that point, remember, that is still your problem, not theirs.  The gracious response is a simple “thank you.”  Expounding on your feelings about religion or rejecting their kindly religious-based response is rude and way out of scope of the conversation.  Save it for another time when religion is the topic of conversation.

Thank you. This is a very interesting way to look at it. 

I'd recommend to pick your battles.  At the end of the day, prayer does much less harm than other stupid shit people do (religious or otherwise).

My question is, in the event of something dramatic, what alternative do you have to prayer?

Just about any rational approach.  Doing anything positive is better than meaningless superstition.

This truly depends on the situation and what you personally get out of prayer.  There are situations where I do not know what more to do.  When this occurs, I research and reach out to others; perhaps someone else in my life has the skills or information or resources to provide what I need.  There are situations where there is nothing you can do to get what you want.  When a loved one dies, there is nothing I can do to bring them back - and that's okay with me.  Sometimes, there is nothing more you can do but move on.  Other times, there is plenty you can do even if it's hard or difficult to imagine.  I accept this, love the support I have in my life from others, and "vow" never to stop learning and striving.  Think of this: when you pray, do you do some of these same things?  Perhaps we're not so different.

Well, I don't pray. I think, personally, it's a waste of time and an empty gesture. So I try to find any small thing, because any small things helps. Even if it's walking their dog for them, or maybe helping them with some chore to help get that one thing off their chest. If all else fails: Coffee, laughter and companionship to help them through their time. (I'm figuring if they come to me with some sorrow, they are wanting my company anyway). 


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