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interested to know what atheists feel about this

(36 Posts)
lorelei9 Fri 04-Dec-15 11:51:55

saw this this morning
www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-34992061

It was interesting to me because after being a devout Tweeter for years, I have come off Twitter because all the praying post Paris bugged me - no objection to people praying but the fact that it's the default reaction when clearly it doesn't help at all just annoyed me and so many of my Tweeps are on about it, it's a pain.

So I was interested that it's troubling for other atheists as well. Anyone else feel like this?

specialsubject Fri 04-Dec-15 16:33:12

'devout' tweeter? smile

the issue in the USA is that those are are 'praying' also tend to be those who are stopping anything being done by blocking gun control. Not a total match of course but that is what is angering people.

I don't care if people pray, whatever makes them feel better.

lorelei9 Fri 04-Dec-15 16:54:41

Special, I didn't take that view from this article at all. regardless of what laws anyone would or wouldn't back, it is the offering of prayer that annoys me at all and I think some Tweeps saw that too, rather like the Hebdo cartoon that pointed out, so ,kindly and carefully, that prayer hasn't helped avoid any of these problems. That Anne Marie is saying "don't say that offering a prayer is offering nothing". At best it is offering precisely nothing, at worst, well I'm not one of the professionally offended brigade but the hashtags about praying every time something awful happens do make me feel worse, hence the Twitter exit (pursued by a pray-er). grin

CastaDiva Fri 04-Dec-15 17:16:15

I grew up in a devoutly Catholic country where there was a direct correlation between the fatalistic 'Ah, please God' attitude of the older generations and the total political inertia that allowed the incarceration of unmarried mothers and the mass abuse of children, to mention only two obvious human rights abuses.

By all means pray - if you can handle the conundrum of why a presumably omnipotent deity who allowed an atrocity to happen is likely to take any notice of people who subsequently pray about said atrocity - as long as it doesn't stop you also getting angry and activist. I worry that platitudinous tweets about prayer make people feel they've done their bit about altering gun control laws, or whatever, whereas all they have done is make themselves feel better.

BigDorrit Sat 05-Dec-15 13:14:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ouryve Sat 05-Dec-15 13:17:21

I don't care if people pray. II don't care if people tweet about praying. I just don't join in.

HermioneWeasley Sat 05-Dec-15 13:21:35

After Paris I saw something along the lines of "prayer - how to feel like you're doing something without doing anything useful"

I thought it was pretty spot on

FattyNinjaOwl Sat 05-Dec-15 13:23:08

I know you wanted atheist, and technically I'm not (I believe there's something more, some form of God but what exactly that is I've no idea)
As a believer I get annoyed by the praying. Even if God can understand us and change things, its a bit late after the fact.
And he/she/it obviously doesn't listen before bad shit happens, as no bad shit would happen then. All in all god seems to be a bit of a twat so why ask for anything? If you're that concerned do something practical to help. Surely that will earn more brownie points with God? Doing good deeds gets you into heaven, not praying.

FattyNinjaOwl Sat 05-Dec-15 13:24:26

But, each to their own and all that. If they want to pray let them, its the ones that day everyone should join in and you're a cunt if you don't that annoy me.

BugritAndTidyup Sat 05-Dec-15 13:28:56

That Anne Marie is saying "don't say that offering a prayer is offering nothing". At best it is offering precisely nothing,

Genuinely curious: would you say the same thing about the phrase 'My thoughts are with you,' or a minute's silence? How about the display of poppies for remembrance (disregarding the donation of money)?

What exactly is the difference between them and prayer?

While I am an atheist myself, I disagree that at best prayer offers nothing, if it provides comfort and hope to those who may have been affected.

LaurieLemons Sat 05-Dec-15 13:31:01

What else can you say in a situation like that? Honestly, I doubt they did offer 'prayers' it was just a figure of speech. If anything 'thoughts' are going to have 0 impact on the families but no ones complaining about that. I would consider myself more agnostic/more open minded than most.

BugritAndTidyup Sat 05-Dec-15 13:41:04

What exactly is the difference between them and prayer?

I should probably have said 'between them and telling someone that you're praying for them.'

Prayer alone won't achieve anything other than perhaps making the person praying feel better. But that too is not necessarily 'nothing'.

lorelei9 Sat 05-Dec-15 14:01:21

thanks for the replies

As I said, I wasn't thinking of indidividual Republican responses but more the concept of offering prayer at times like this.

I am not suggesting for a minute that this is a right vs wrong argument, just wondered how other atheists feel.

in terms of "offering prayer being nothing", it is offering something if you know someone is a believer, but on Twitter, those hashtags about prayer are clearly not intended for anyone who is not. I am finding it very noticeable that people who fall over themselves to be sure that no religion is offended do not give a stuff if atheists are offended or upset by something that is said.

It's a bit like the student atheist society who were asked to remove the Flying Spaghetti Monster from a promotional stall. If that is offensive to believers, then why is it never acknowledged that the numerous religious society posters may be offensive to atheists?

I would not compare prayer to thoughts or a minute's silence - the last 2 can be conducted by an atheist and offered to an atheist. But as I think the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist said, so politely "your prayers are clearly useless and frankly we don't want any more of them because they haven't helped in any way".

Perhaps I have crossed over from atheism into anti-theism.

BugritAndTidyup Sat 05-Dec-15 14:41:19

I would not compare prayer to thoughts or a minute's silence - the last 2 can be conducted by an atheist and offered to an atheist.

Whether they can be offered to an atheist or not is irrelevant. Your point was whether or not they do any good. That is a wholly separate argument, and applies whether whatever is being discussed is secular or not. Set the subject of religion aside: what is the difference between a show of support through offering prayer and a show of support through a minute's silence?

Personally I interpret 'I'm praying for you' as 'my thoughts are with you.' Maybe that's not always the intent, but again that's not really the point when talking about prayer in general. As a PPP said, sometimes it's just something to say.

lorelei9 Sat 05-Dec-15 16:28:35

Bugrit "what is the difference between a show of support through offering prayer and a show of support through a minute's silence? "

a prayer doesn't feel like a show of support. Neither does a minute's silence but that seems more about taking a moment to reflect on what has happened, on how people might feel, whereas a prayer is about someone's personal relationship with whoever they are praying to.

As I said, this was never meant to be a right or wrong, I just feel very angry that it never occurs to anyone that prayers or religion might offend -whereas anti-religious stuff appears to offend all the time.

I don't interpret "I'm praying for you" as "my thoughts are with you" tbh.

if a group gathers for a minute's silence to remember something, that doesn't exclude anyone. If they gather for a prayer, it excludes atheists. It's as if we don't really exist - lol!!

Haffdonga Sat 05-Dec-15 16:43:35

what is the difference between a show of support through offering prayer and a show of support through a minute's silence?

As an atheist I think that a minute's silence is a chance for me to think about whatever it is and how I personally could or should be responding to that terrible event.

Whereas prayer is a chance for the pray- er to abdicate all personal responsibility for the event and ask God to sort it all out for them. Then they'll feel so much better that they have done something useful. confused

lorelei9 Sat 05-Dec-15 18:10:06

Thanks Haff. I'm struggling with what to say here because I am worried about offending people too but that seems a fair way of putting it.

I guess I also feel "my thoughts are with you" is heartfelt - like someone really cares - which I don't feel at all when they say they will pray.

BugritAndTidyup Sat 05-Dec-15 18:39:53

Don't worry about offending me, Lorelai. Like I said I'm an atheist myself and I do have sympathy... I just don't quite agree with you,

I think I have a very different interpretation of what people mean when they say something like 'you're in my prayers'. With my interpretation, I don't feel like it does exclude atheists. I don't feel like it excludes me.

I also disagree that offering prayer and a minute of silence aren't shows of support, because that's how I interpret them.

As an atheist I think that a minute's silence is a chance for me to think about whatever it is and how I personally could or should be responding to that terrible event.

But how exactly does that help people who may have been affected? What does it actually achieve?

Whereas prayer is a chance for the pray- er to abdicate all personal responsibility for the event and ask God to sort it all out for them. Then they'll feel so much better that they have done something useful.

That's what you believe prayer to be. I don't pray either as it happens, but isn't it possible that there are some people for whole prayer is like what you describe in your first paragraph, a quiet moment to reflect?

I guess I also feel "my thoughts are with you" is heartfelt - like someone really cares - which I don't feel at all when they say they will pray.

Okay, you don't feel that way. Someone else may feel very differently, and might find an offer of prayer enormously helpful at a difficult time. Even if they don't believe in god.

lorelei9 Sat 05-Dec-15 18:57:38

Bugrit - a prayer is a prayer

if it was just a quiet moment to reflect and didn't involve any deity, then it wouldn't be called a prayer, would it?

lorelei9 Sat 05-Dec-15 19:01:23

are there any atheists reading who would find the offer of a prayer positive in any way?

TheExMotherInLaw Sat 05-Dec-15 19:27:52

I am an atheist. It all depends on the context. If I'm ill, or have problems, and a devout friend says that she'll keep me in her prayers, then I know that I am in her thoughts, and she wishes the best for me - it's her way of saying it. If we still lived close, she'd be round to visit and bring cake, too.
What is very offensive is when there is a challenge about something - eg, a woman's right to choose, or homophobia, transphobia, and someone declares that they will pray for me - all they're saying is that they are going to tell tales on me to their sky wizard - a bit like a five year old tattling to teacher. Passive aggressive twaddle.
I think prayer might be useful for people to organise their thoughts, think of what needs doing - then get off their knees and do it! Prayer without action is useless. Dear sky wizard, fix these problems, because I can't be bothered to.
I am cross when, after excellent medical care and sheer good luck, people thank a sky wizard for healing someone. NO! Thank the medical staff, thank the researchers!

PerspicaciaTick Sat 05-Dec-15 19:38:47

If I was in distress and someone I knew, and knew to be religious, offered me a prayer then I would feel that they are being kind but ineffectual. I find it very distressing when strangers have offered me a prayer, as if I had to focus on what the prayer needed me to do rather than what was best for me. It made it about them and their religion.

Oneeyedbloke Sun 06-Dec-15 02:24:41

I'm an atheist who dislikes being told by anyone "I'm praying for you." It's always Christians and it is always in the context of my nonbelief. What they are praying for is my soul, whatever that is. It really hacks me off when a Christian decides that my (unsaved) soul is their business. Height of arrogance to tell someone you know is nonreligious that you're praying for his soul. If I have a soul, it's my business, get your hands and uninvited thoughts off of it.

Totally agree, TheEx, re medical efforts. When the footballer Patrice Muamba collapsed & was saved by paramedics & a cardiologist, I tweeted something about not forgetting the part talented medical personnel had played in his recovery. A Christian acquaintance began a discussion with me offline, expressing his faith in the power of prayer. I asked him how he believed God's will expressed itself - specifically, what part did the cardiologist play? Was he an agent of God's will? No, it was direct prayer. I find this annoying and insulting; essentially, he was saying human destiny is 100% in God's hands, fellow humans don't have any power at all. It follows from this sort of nonsense that you can't prosecute anyone for any crime, because everything that happens is God's will. How can you jail someone if their act was not their own but God's?

I stick with Epicurus's formulation re God's existence; sorry if you've seen it before:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

lorelei9 Sun 06-Dec-15 11:52:44

Oneeyed, thank you.
And I think the Epicurus explanation is spot on, it's the one I use when people question my certainty. If people believe in something that isn't all of those things, I have more understanding I guess, but then their use of the term god confuses me.

Oneeyedbloke Mon 07-Dec-15 11:57:12

I only came across it a few years ago, I was very encouraged by it. I don't believe in any god, I can't see myself ever taking that sort of step, but I can understand believers better when they allow human agency into their world view. Those who believe that God's only power is via good acts on earth, I can at least sometimes find humane.

I think I can find common ground in a belief in a human ideal, some conception of goodness. I'm never going to call it Jesus, or believe anything supernatural about it, or pray to it, or - least of all - accept the frankly bonkers notion of it, or him, somehow atoning for all my sins, and everyone else's, by dying 'for' them, just to show me how much he loves me and persuade me to follow his example.

(And then, in the practise of this followership, you have to accept the guilt of being an imperfect, fallen, sinful being who can never attain the perfection you worship but must instead live out a life in this vale of tears trying, and inevitably failing, all in the hope of qualifying for a better life in the hereafter. No thanks. Imagine a father - or mother - who offered those unattainable, depressing choices to his or her child. You would call them abusive, possibly mentally ill.)

I do think atheists should pay more attention to morality. The fact that any conceivable atheist morality operates unanchored by any religious views doesn't invalidate it. It is anchored in the long-term practices of its human community, which change, slowly, over time, to reflect new understandings of the human condition and the world. For example, fifty years ago in this country, homosexuality was still regarded as deviant and dangerous so we made laws against it. Now, thanks to certain determined and clear-thinking people working in a sufficiently democratic system, we know better. Those laws were rational in the context of our old beliefs, but wrong. Any religious person who says this moral system is illegitimate because unanchored by some abiding, unchanging belief in an ultimately ineffable deity (who has, nevertheless, handily vouchsafed us some holy Scriptures) must continue to defend moral practices that are thousands of years out of date. Add temporal power to these beliefs and you have the recipe for religious tyranny.

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