That kind of reminded me of what I read once, about J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter’s creator), telling about how she was walking in a mall, and then suddenly a man told her “I’m praying for you!”, but in the same tone of voice you tell someone “Go fuck yourself!”
I can’t find the source, so I can’t be sure if it is true or not. Of course, considering how many Christians feel about Harry Potter, I think it is very likely that something like that had happened.
So very often in a debate regarding religion, non-believers will hear those words. “I’ll pray for you”, they say, with a condescending look on their face that basically means “Oh, you poor, undeluded thing, you can’t be happy because your imagination can’t take over reality”. Yes, that is what that “I’ll pray for you” means to most non-believers, especially when we hear it in that “heavenly” voice that many put after not being able to find a rational response to one’s argument.
But that is not how Rowling is said to have heard it. That “I’m praying for you” is not just condescending, but filled with rage, rage that another person is not seeing the same delusion the believer holds so dearly. The one spouting such words feels so weak and unempowered that lets his anger take control. The interesting thing is that such anger has its root and expression through a statement from a belief that advocates love.
Yeah, that is supposed to be love, doesn’t it? It can’t be hatred, because, well, that’s a sin, wrath, isn’t it? When I hear that kind of stuff, directed to me, it feels more amusing than threatening. It’s kind of hard to answer because you don’t know on what to focus your response. Should I take on the tone of voice? Should I take on the smugness of someone saying he/she will pray for me, as if that would change anything? Should I take on the fact that prayer doesn’t work? Should I just laugh it off? Or respond with a “Fuck you and your God”? No, hell no, I couldn’t do that, neither would I advise it.
But whatever you do, my non-believer friend, don’t get angry. You were just hinted that your opponent has no better answer. I would go for something like “sure, thanks, but prayer doesn’t work. No matter how much you like it, it doesn’t work.” If you need an example, you can cite this:
Oregon faith-healing parents fight to get baby back, face criminal charges
A Beavercreek couple who left their infant daughter's fate to God rather than seek medical treatment for a mass that grew over her left eye will face charges of first-degree criminal mistreatment.
The Wylands and their church reject medical care in favor of faith-healing -- anointing with oil, laying on of hands, prayer and fasting. The parents testified at a juvenile court hearing last week that they never considered getting medical attention for Alayna.
Disturbing picture, isn’t it? That’s what prayer does. Nothing. If God hears prayers, it either can’t do anything or just doesn’t care. And if it can’t help that baby, neither by miraculously healing her, or making those nutcases she has for parents understand that she needs medical care, God will certainly not be able to change a non-believer’s view.
Sometimes I thing believers do understand that, but the “I’ll pray for you” makes them feel better, like that they are doing something, useless, but something. Oh, and that they have a connection with a superior being that supposedly works miracles. That is always something nice to think; just like thinking you have a rich uncle that eventually will die and leave all his money to you.
Finally, going back to my ride-giving friend. Yes, he said he could only pray for me. But I didn’t felt any animosity or smugness in that. Maybe because he really wanted to do something for me, but couldn’t, and instead of saying “sorry bro, I can’t do anything” he chose to say “I can only pray for you”. That made me feel like he cared and he wanted to do something to ease my pain. That feels good, no matter from who it’s coming. He wasn’t trying to convince me or to convert me. Just being caring.
So, final words: please, non-believers don’t get angry when someone says “I’ll pray for you”. It’s a sign you are winning. It doesn’t matter if it’s condescending or insulting. Your arguments are powerful. And if it’s neither condescending or insulting, well, why get all worked up at all? It might just being someone who doesn’t know how to express their desire to help.
And believers (if any is reading this), save the “I’ll pray for you” only for occasions in which true concern is involved. Otherwise you are hurting your cause. Of course, I have no problem with that.