Doctor Love: Born-Again-Atheist

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Readers email your question to [email protected] Your letters are edited solely for grammar, spelling, and length

Dear Doctor Love,

I don’t like the use of labels, but if I were to categorize myself as far as religion is concerned, I am a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. I don’t believe in God, or the bible or anything religious, and my friends and family know that. My family and many of my friends, however, are at the other end of the scale. They are preachy and pushy, and I think, quite rude about forcing their beliefs on everyone around them.

When my mum passed away, my cousin put her arms around me and whispered, “I’ll pray for you.” This statement infuriated me. It still does today. I told her she might as well write a letter to Santa and we haven’t spoken since.

I simply don’t know how to respond when someone tells me they will pray for me. How do I make people understand that it is insulting to me to assume that as a Christian, they know what I need better than I do? I don’t make anti-God statements to them, why do they insist on making pro-religious statements to me?

/s/Born-Again-Atheist

 

Dear Atheist,

There is no good response to someone telling you “I’ll pray for you” if you are an atheist and don’t wish to offend or anger. Christians turn to prayer as a hope for a miracle or divine intervention, and that isn’t offensive. So, getting defensive and returning a negative reply to this seemingly genuine and caring remark isn’t very kind.

What Christians don’t understand is that in telling the atheist that they are being prayed for, they are implying that the person doesn’t know what’s best for them. They will go over their head, so-to-speak, to get them to the right place spiritually. And that is offensive. If you went to dinner at a friend’s and you said you don’t like broccoli, would you expect her to put broccoli on your plate anyway because she thinks it’s good for you? Of course not.

In the case of your cousins’ response to the passing of your mother, take the remark as a show of love and sympathy, an understanding of your loss. It was meant as such, and it’s her way of expressing feelings of sympathy at your mom’s passing.

As far as those who just dog you with their beliefs, if you feel like a debate, then ask them, “Why?” You’ll be in for a lively discussion if nothing else. For those emphatic Christians who want to beat you into believing, don’t worry about offending them, they’ll continue to pray for your soul.

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