August 26, 2014

Dear Christians: Please don't say you'll pray for me. God already has his hands full.

Dear Christians is a recurring column that deals with my intersection between belief and nonbelief. It looks at my personal views of belief and deals with the myths of nonbelief that I was taught growing up. All opinions are, of course, my own. To see more Dear Christians columns, click here.

Dear Christians:

Please don't say you'll pray for me.

It's not that I find it offensive. I understand entirely where you are coming from--I too fervently prayed for the nonbelievers in my past life. I wanted them to come to understand God, to be with Him, and to avoid Hell.

I completely understand the impulse.

It's just not going to do you any good.

I'm pretty set in my ways. I've got my conclusions, which I've seen backed by evidence, both positive (in the form of nonbelief-affirming) and negative (in the form of belief-disaffirming).

What do I mean by positive? Positive beliefs include my belief that I can make moral decisions. I can tell right from wrong. They also include the idea that I can do good in the world, and that those around me are inherently worthy of respect, simply by being human. It's a belief system based on mutual respect, and it's one that I have cobbled together myself, based on what I feel and know to be true. It's the freedom to question and to find answers. It's the belief that my own power of reasoning is amazing--as is yours, and everyone else's. All of it together positively affirms my nonbelief.

What about negative? Well, some of them we have already talked about. For instance, I don't find Satan and Original Sin to be a good explanation for evil and suffering. I also find God's inherent characteristics to be at odds with the state of our world. There's also the rampant homophobia and even racism of some churches, and the Believer Persecution Complex, and the misogyny of the Bible--all of these together remind me that I don't have much in common with belief anyway. It's topped off by instances like public prayer, which clearly violates biblical principles, and yet is heralded as a deeply cherished right by the Christian majority in our nation.

So my nonbelief isn't based on any one thing in particular. Much like my prior life of belief, it's made of a variety of beliefs, looking at the evidence for each one and accepting or rejecting it based on what I find.

I understand why you want to pray for me, and I thank you for caring enough.

But the crux of the issue is this: Why waste prayer on one staunch nonbeliever when there is an entire world of pain and suffering?

Right now, there are families in Iraq being ripped apart. Syria is enduring yet another year of war. There are still more than 200 young women missing in Nigeria. Ebola is cutting a painful swath across western Africa. There are people starving, even here in the United States. One in five women in our nation is sexually assaulted. We have soldiers committing suicide at alarming rates. 26 families in Newton, Connecticut are still mourning loved ones lost in unspeakable violence. There have been two separate plane incidents--presumably crashes--that have caused the deaths of nearly 600 people...all of whom had families, who are now left to pick up the pieces. In Ferguson, MO, a family mourns the loss of a life, seeking answers, and the people deal wit the harsh punishments meted out by the police when faced with the public's rage. Our world gets a little warmer as time goes by, and yet our government turns a blind eye.

So why waste the prayer on me?

There are literally billions of people across the face of this little blue speck that are hurting and need help.

So please...please don't say you will pray for me. I don't need it. I am happy, healthy, and secure.

If you must pray, pray for them.

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