“You are the answer to my prayer.”

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Alembé's picture
“You are the answer to my prayer.”

“You are the answer to my prayer” my sister-in-law Sally said to me the other night on the phone. That statement is not one that I expected, especially since I became an atheist.

As I have said previously, my wife’s family are conservative (some dote on DT) and very religious. When I rejected theism, I told my wife, who accepted the change, but we decided not to tell friends and family. The accusation of Satanism and resultant hassling of both of us would not be worth it. So they all think I’m still a Christian, though I have not participated in a religious service for a while.

A few years ago, Sally went through a nasty divorce. Her ex-husband attempted to weaponize their 3 children and turn them against her; he succeeded with Jill, the middle child. Jill has estranged herself from her mom, and to a certain extent her aunts and uncles, ever since. Being a good Christian mother, Sally has prayed regularly for reconciliation since then.

The other day, Jill and her husband were in town, they called my wife and I and we all spent a wonderful evening together sharing Thai food. Jill is a Registered nurse, studying to get her Nurse Practitioner qualification and is working in the emergency room. She loves it there and regaled us with “Tales from the ER” all evening.

Sally is a doctor so the next evening I called her to update her on Jill’s life and professional status. After I had finished, Sally said to me, “Well, there is a little book of praying that I am following. It says that when we come to God/Jesus in prayer, in his infinite wisdom, He already knows what we want and is already working behind the scenes for us. So sometimes we have to be thankful for the things going on behind the scenes that we don’t know anything about. Now, I’ve been praying for a long time for reconciliation to happen, and nothing has. So last Sunday I said a prayer and thanked Him for all the work behind the scenes that I was unaware of, and now you call and tell me this has happened. You are the answer to my prayer.” Not wishing to throw a whole toolbox into the works and cause a big scene, I smoothly changed the subject.

The episode does highlight why people think that prayer works. Sally has been praying for almost 5 years, and nothing has happened. Conclusion: prayer does not work. However, the moment that something she perceives as positive randomly occurs within days of a prayer, then all the previous 5 years of “failed” prayers are discounted. “Obviously, God knew that we were not ready for reconciliation up till now,” would be the way for a theist to explain away the negative responses.

As humans, we can so easily reject the data that do not fit our preferred narrative and wildly accentuate the data that do. It is the power that drives gods and demagogues.

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Jophar_Vorin's picture
This was interesting to read.

This was interesting to read.
Atleast prayer "helps" some people.

What is a sister in law by the way?

mykcob4's picture
"Prayer" helps no one. It

"Prayer" helps no one. It causes people to have false hope and invest in hope instead of answers and medicine. Prayer actually kills people.

Ryan Russell's picture
"Hope is for those who have

"Hope is for those who have already given up"

Alembé's picture
Sister in law = my wife's

Sister in law = my wife's sister

Jophar_Vorin's picture
Ohh now i get it.

Ohh now i get it.

Endri Guri's picture
Pathetic, just Pathetic to

Pathetic, just Pathetic to see People still believing that "Prayer" actually works.
They're praying to nothing, believing in nothing, dying knowing that they'll go to a place that doesn't even exist.
The "Bible" teaches Love, Tolerance and Embracing God - Nothing, Nothing and again Nothing.

I suggest you take a step forward with this matter, although this will bash a few relations, what she's "Praying" for is Nothing.
But, you can also just let it slide, let her be devoured into "God", and become "One With Him".

MCDennis's picture
Nothing fails like prayer.

Nothing fails like prayer. If prayer worked, hospitals and cemeteries would be empty.

Seenyab4's picture
It's a shame how deluded some

It's a shame how deluded some people can become. I will "think" for you and your sister.

Best of luck to you and your family, you seem like you deserve it. : )

charvakheresy's picture
I guess people have their own

I guess people have their own coping mechanisms. When faced with a situation that is out of your control some people resort to help from a divine source just to keep themselves from falling apart.

what i find intriguing is ;
I do not know of too many atheistic people who are going through a situation they cannot emotionally handle.
1) Is that because they are generally emotionally and mentally more stable or
2) Is it because those that cannot handle the pressure resort back to theism ?

nevermore's picture
It is entirely normal for

It is entirely normal for people to wish for things--a natural response to bad times or personal ambition (etc.). Prayer takes this response and attaches it to a symbol that has been provided by the mythological traditions of your society. Prayer might be regarded as harmless except where:

1) it is used in place of the physical/mental or social effort that would really fix the situation, or
2) it wastes time (e.g., the millions of man hours Muslims spend each day with their noses on the ground), or
3) it is a definite part of a person's identification with a supposed deity, and that identification includes the belief that the person knows what our all-powerful, universal masters really want.

Some years ago I was invited to a family's Thanksgiving dinner--and was mildly surprised to find the meal preceded by "grace." Well, I bowed my head and reminded myself that I ought to be grateful for that meal and for lots of other things. That moment of meditation was not addressed to anybody in particular.

If I had voiced an objection to prayer instead, it would not have been courteous or constructive. I would be reacting in a prejudicial way to a categorical difference between myself and my hosts. If, however, I knew these people had a prejudice of their own-=-one of those that we find most offensive and damaging among the true believers--I would be obliged by conscience to speak up.


PS: This is my first attempt at participating . . . and I see where the system has automatically added a lion's head icon used by someone else. I'll try to find out how to fix that.

mykcob4's picture
@Pope Sinus IV

@Pope Sinus IV
Outstanding first post. That is what I have been saying for years! Welcome aboard!

ThePragmatic's picture
@ Welcome

@ Welcome

Is there any specific meaning behind the name "Pope Sinus IV"?

Doubting Thomas's picture
This line of thinking from

This line of thinking from the everyday theist fits nicely,hand in hand, with the belief that all good things are from God, while the ugliness of the world is chalked up to either mans wickedness, or mans feeble mind not being able to comprehend God's plan and timing.
It is quite typical for the religious (or "spiritual") to create miracles when something good happens, but deny God's liability if/when the good disappears.


Attach Image/Video?: 

nevermore's picture
For some reason I couldn't

For some reason I couldn't find this thread yesterday.

In answer to Pragmatic (or fellow pragmatic, I might say): there is no reason for "Sinus," other than (perhaps) my current struggles with sleep apnea. I could have chosen Pope Esophagus, or Pope Stratocumulus, or Mickey the Elder, or The Venerable Bob, or the Rt. Hon. Brig. Gen. Ret.* Zachary Tourmaline.

Call me FishMeal.

*retired after breaking my left foreleg in the Kentucky Derby.

ImFree's picture
Through the years I found it

Through the years I found it more and more difficult to sit through prayers imposed by friends or family. The more one reads and discovers how out of touch with history, science and reality that religion is it is hard to keep a straight face or eyes closed during such social encroachments. Being in the Atheist minority, one has to do a cost benefit analysis and consider the possible repercussions for not silently participating in their cultist behavior. I do not like forced acting even if it is just bowing one's head with eyes closed.

Usagi's picture
Aw I kinda feel bad for Sally

Aw I kinda feel bad for Sally, she has been waiting for so long to fix the relationship with her daughter. However, instead of praying perhaps actual actions to fix the relationship would have helped. Of course, I don't know if she has tried all these years other than prayer.

Alembé's picture
Hi Usagi,

Hi Usagi,

Things are improving with time. Last Christmas morning at her brothers house, Sally and her daughter sat 3 seats away from each other while the presents were opened. They spoke to each other a little during the morning, more as friends in a strained relationship than Mother /daughter, but that is a great improvement on the previous few years.

Alembé's picture
Hi ImFree

Hi ImFree

You say:" Being in the Atheist minority, one has to do a cost benefit analysis and consider the possible repercussions for not silently participating in their cultist behavior."

Agreed. If it were just me, I might have revealed my atheism to them by now. However, the family would cause my wife much grief, so for her sake I refrain.

Yes, the price is "forced acting," when I cannot avoid the situation. I choose the avoidance route a much as possible.

ImFree's picture
Hi back Alembé

Hi back Alembé

When it comes to faking participating in prayers, my acting skills have steadily decreased through the years. Being subjected to a “captive audience” type prayer situation really aggravates me. I have to hide my annoyance which becomes more of a challenge since religious platitude talk makes me cringe. Such sneaky prayer sessions make me fantasize how fun it would be to return the favor and prayer trap the same people with prayer to another god and enjoy their reactions. Just a phantasy of mine : )

This would be funny: “I most humbly thank Thee, oh Noodly Appendaged One, for Touching me with the mental capacity to adapt the mythologies of This Universe to aid and comfort me here, until that day I am able to join together with my Pastafarian Brothers and Sisters at the foot of the Beer Volcano, and enumerate my specifications at the Stripper Factory, so that happiness and contentedness and good cheer be present for all, forever and forever” http://www.loose-canon.info/page53.htm

LogicFTW's picture
I just bow my head down at

I just bow my head down at first, then look around at others when they get started, and if i see them looking at me, I smile at them conveying a:
"ah ha! busted! you are not praying either but being snoopy instead! If you rat me out I will rat you out!"

Alembé's picture
In a couple of weeks the

In a couple of weeks the family will gather at the beach in Florida for a week of fun in the sun. They always assemble for an hour long "devotional service" on the Sunday morning. I get up early and go fishing till they are finished. Last year one of my sister's in law said to me,
"I didn't see you in the service this morning, Alembe." I looked her straight in the eye and said,
"That's a great witchcraft skill you have there, Amy. The hardest thing to see is something that isn't there." She didn't talk to me for the rest of the week.

ImFree's picture
The fact they take their

The fact they take their religion so serious is very aggravating when in reality their beliefs are about as credible as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, truth be known. However, to make such a comparison even joking could cause permanent damage with such relatives. Your time fishing is much more productive than what they are doing during their morning service. You are enjoying life while they are living in a dream world, such a waste of time (and money put in collection plates at church) and energy for nothing. I hope you can continue to fish at these family gatherings and avoid any pressure they may attempt to place on you to sit through a boring religious ceremony.

LogicFTW's picture
In my mind, the flying

In my mind, the flying spaghetti monster is far more credible then just about all the major religions practiced today. Comparing Christianity, the flying spaghetti monster idea does not make claims like: Noah's ark, talking serpents, all the earth and heavens created in 6 days, 5000 years ago, rising from the dead, talking burning bushes etc.

Only thing Christianity got going for it is it has fooled a whole lot of people to give money and their lives to their insane story.

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