Post # 1
So when horrible things happen someone is sick or dead even people who aren’t overtly religious of course turn to god and start praying or talk to clergy. Which I think is fine especially if it gives them some comfort.That being said I find it uncomfortable when someone ask me to “pray” for their family, however I am noncommittal about the whole thing.
Recently Fi friends had a loss it was right before the holidays and I feel really bad for them, I even flew out early for the holidays so I could go to the funeral. However when asked instead of saying I will pray for you I was noncommittal, I said my thoughts are with you. We went over to help out, I organized all the food and cleaned the house with two other people. Eventually someone came in and said the Pastor was going to say a group prayer or blessing or something and if we could join them. The other two ladies went. I opted out and stayed in the kitchen to finish cleaning up and label all the food people bought over.
My Fi and I were talking about this and apparently he is miffed. He thinks it wouldn’t” cost me anything,” to just say yes when someone ask me to pray for them, and that it also “doesn’t cost me anything” to go “pray” with them. Again I am incredibly sorry for their loss, however I don’t think my beliefs and morals should be trumped by their need for religion at that time. If I was in the room and they were praying I wouldn’t get up leave I would just sit quietly. However if I know they are about to and I am not there or can quietly remove myself from the situation I do. I like to do things that are tangible, and will make things easier for them like cleaning the house and organizing things. That is my way to comfort and help them. Saying I’m going to pray for them is lying and meaningless coming from me.
Anyways this is probably going to be an on going discussion I am having with Fi.. Probably because even if he isn’t religious Fi does have a general belief, and probably finds comfort in church and praying at those times.
Anyways love to know atheist bees thoughts on this, and what do you do in similar situations?
Post # 3
I would do exactly what you did. If people were gathering somewhere to pray, I probably wouldn’t join them because it would make me feel uncomfortable and I wouldn’t be participating anyway. However, when people say grace or pray before dinners that I attend, I just keep quiet and try to think some positive thoughts of my own.
As far as your FI getting miffed at you for not “pretending” to pray… what?!? Why would it be at all beneficial (for ANYONE involved) to have you say you are going to do something that you have no intention of doing, or pretend to do something that you do not believe in? That is just silly.
Post # 4
I agree with your FI in that particular situation. I’m not athiest, but I can imagine being with a friend of another religion while they were praying. Being with the friend and the pastor during the prayer isn’t about you and your religious beliefs – it was about just physically BEING THERE for your friend at her time of need. Especially if you were specifically asked to join, I think it would have been more appropriate to suck it up and stand with your head bowed for a few minutes.
Post # 5
@PermaStudent: I also always sit quietly if I am at dinner or somewhere there is prayer.
Post # 6
I think what you did was wonderful, and you were helpful and just THERE, which is a lot. I would have done exactly the same thing you did, just sitting with the prayer group does no one any good. Maybe your FI would prefer you leave the decision up to the grieving family, and say something like “I’m not really the praying type, and I’d be happy to stay in the kitchen to finish the cleanup.” Then they can either agree or insist. Just so there’s no confusion and no one feels slighted. I am a little concerned that your FI is so sensitive to your lack of belief, but he also may have been upset himself for his friends’ loss. It’s something to talk about when everyone feels a little better.
Post # 7
I’m completely with you. I don’t believe in God and I’m not comfortable pretending that I do (and I think that religious believers would not want someone to “pretend” to pray if they didn’t believe, wouldn’t that be morally wrong? It’s morally wrong to ME to pretend something that’s not true, or to lie.) If people were praying, sure, I’d sit quietly — I wouldn’t stand up and say, “I HAVE TO LEAVE, I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD.” But when people are asking for prayers, I’ll say, “I’m thinking good thoughts for you/your loved one.” That’s the best I can do. I won’t tell people I’m going to pray, because I’m NOT going to pray; telling them that I’ll pray would be lying. I think your focus on trying to help in practical ways is a good one.
Post # 8
I would also do exactly what you did. I don’t think I should have to sacrifice my personal beliefs to possibly make someone “feel better”. Lying to them won’t help anything.
Post # 9
@TwoCityBride: You don’t have to pray to God. You could use the time to think about them and wish them well, sort of a moment of silence to show solidarity. Feel free not to say amen as well. In the future I would go out to show symbolic solidarity but just use the moment to reflect in your own way.
I do think there are always respectful ways to behave when there are religious differences that don’t involve risking hurting feelings. I don’t think you were trying to isolate yourself but I can see how someone in their sadness might view it that way, including you SO. Perhaps plan some ways to avoid isolation next time while still not doing anything you aren’t ok with
Post # 10
I am kind of in the middle… If asked for prayers for someone, I just usually say that my thoughts are with them. But if there is a group prayer for something of this nature happening there I will stand beside my loved one for support. Not because I am religious, but because they need to see me physically there supporting them. I may not believe in it and to be honest I am probably making a check list of things I need to do in my head, or if I knew the person I like to remember things I did with that person while others pray, but I am there to hold the hand of my loved one. For the record I am not religious, our ceremony is leaving out all mentions of God and religion. I believe in Karma and Life, nothing is right or wrong. But when I have lost someone in my life, my father, my brother etc… I broke down at moments that were odd and having the person who loved me next to me to catch me when I “fell” meant the world to me. A hand on my elbow, a hug, a tissue, a stroke of my hair. The person who knew me best and knew I needed it most… that was what mattered.
Post # 11
I just don’t see it as pretending or lying…. I dunno, when I go to DH’s church with him (not the same religion as me), I do the prayers along with the congregation even though I don’t believe what they’re praying for. I do it because DH appreciates it, and I’d do it for a friend too. I guess I figure the amount of comfort I’m providing to my friend trumps the discomfort I feel by standing silently while someone says a prayer I may not agree with.
Post # 12
I think there’s nothing wrong with what you did.
Secular people are often asked to compromise because we’re the minority. Can you imagine asking a Christian to bow their head and comply with someone saying god didn’t exist? Personally, I think it’s ruder to say you’ll pray for someone if you don’t want to because it’s disingenuous.
Sidestepping their requests is perfectly polite. I’m guessing you and your FI are the only ones still thinking about it.
Post # 14
Mine and FI’s families are religious; his is catholic and mine are fundamentalist christians. He is agnostic at best and I am an atheist. We sit quietly during grace, try to remember that they actually do pray before meals (so hard!), and occasionally attend church with them. It’s all harmless and helps keep the peace.
When someone asks me to pray for them or with them, I generally just say “I’ll/We’ll keep you in our thoughts”. Most that I’ve encountered know that’s a general ‘please bug off’ and will take the hint. Those who don’t require a more in-depth conversation, and that’s fine. If they choose to be offended, that’s not my problem.
Post # 15
You did the right thing. I don’t believe in god and never will, and I’m not going to lead anyone to believe otherwise by saying that I will “pray” for them.
Post # 16
This is a tricky situtation I often find myself in as I work in health care and in a religiously affiliated hospital to boot. I still don’t have a great solution other than saying a euphemism like what you did: I’m sending you my best wishes, good vibes, healing thoughts etc. I just avoid the term “prayer,” and I don’t really participate other than staying silent if someone else(s) is/are praying. I guess at work I can also call in the pastoral care folks to cover the spiritual base that I don’t feel I could fill for them.