Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

What happens when an atheist fervently prays for someone?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42294points) June 11th, 2017

A FB friend of mine who has one foot in Christianity (the philosophy without all the miracle stuff) and the other foot in agnosticism posted that his father went to bed last night able to see fine out of both eyes.
Woke up this morning and he couldn’t see out of one eye. A blood clot had somehow become compressed against his optic nerve and he’ll never see from that eye again. Man, that’s a bummer.
He said, “I don’t believe praying for the optic nerve to return would be within the bounds of reason, but I sure hope he draws strength from all the positive thoughts I’m sending his way.”
I posted that the advances we’ve made in medicines have been staggering and I’ll continue to hold hope out for that.
Then we got to talking on PM, and he mentioned that his Dad likes prayers.
I briefly ran down my religious history, born again in the 80’s and all, and told him I can sure pray for him. I’m good at it. I told him that he has to tell his dad I will or it won’t do any good.

He said he would, so I did.

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71 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I don’t know, but I know some women who have healing hands.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I think we all pray in some way. Maybe not formally to an old man with a beard who lives in the sky, but sending good thoughts, best wishes and other euphemistic phrases describe the same thing, I think. An old man just lost the use of an eye. Saying you will pray for him, or whatever, might help to make him feel better, give him some comfort. And not to make yourself out to be a liar, I would follow through. As an agnostic, I seriously don’t think there is anyone on the other end of that particular phone line, but what the hell, who knows. The old man will feel people are rooting for him and that is a good thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Those were my thought. My thoughts. I just wish there was something I could say that had the “power” of “I’ll pray for you.” “I’ll keep you in my thoughts,” or “sending good thoughts your way,” sound so insipid in comparison.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

^^Nah. That’s just your personal history talking. The phrase “to pray” is a loaded one for you. Once you realize it’s a very universal thing among humans described in many different ways around the world by the religious and non-religious, all the phrases become of equal value. It’s our compassion coming out. It’s our wish to assist in any way we can, even if it means enlisting a supernatural force that we really believe may not exist. Even the most rational of us have our romantic and mystical moments. We’re humans, not computers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know that. But the question is, how does the person who needs the prayers perceive it?

kritiper's avatar

Nothing happens except the atheist makes a fool of himself if the person receiving the prayers knows the atheist is an atheist.

Dutchess_III's avatar

At a recent gathering at a hospital where my BIL was having some major surgery, his wife stood up in the waiting room and asked us to come together and pray. I held hands with the people on either side, bowed my head and said “Amen,” at the right point.
Did I make a fool out of myself? No. They don’t know I’m an atheist.
Did I feel foolish? A little. But I understand. It gives them comfort. That’s more important than whether I feel foolish or not.

NomoreY_A's avatar

Go for it, it probably won’t help but it can’t hurt either. And now I’ll prepare for a wall of scientific philosophizing, or a wall of scriptural text. Yawn…

NomoreY_A's avatar

@Dutchess_III Kudos to you. By Jove, I think you’ve got it. No worse than saying Under God in the Pledge. I tell people If it bothers you, don’t say it. No one is paying attention anyway.

chyna's avatar

I can’t see an atheist praying fervently for anyone. Perhaps an agnostic would.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’ll be curious to know if your prayer was effective.

kritiper's avatar

An agnostic might pray with tongue-in-cheek. And/or with fingers crossed.

Coloma's avatar

I think that if someone is truly an atheist their power of prayer is going to be completely ineffective if there is some magical god. After all, said God would know you don’t believe and probably feel manipulated. LOL
Personally I , being atheist/agnostic, would roll my eyes and be rather offended in a sort of patronizing manner. Tell me straight up ” I’m sorry you’re going through this” or ” I’ll be thinking of you” or any number of caring sentiments, great, thank you, but, if you tell me you are going to pray for me I will secretly roll my eyes and feel annoyed. haha

elbanditoroso's avatar

but @Coloma if god is all powerful and all seeing and omnipotent, then

—why would god feel manipulated? Can something surprise God? wouldn’t he/she know the truth?

I think that the real question that underlies everything – does God care if you are an atheist? Does God care more if you are a Jew? or a Baptist? Whose voice gets listened to first?

My take is that if there any decent God would care for people, not for religion.

Coloma's avatar

@elbanditoroso Good point, but yes, based on religion if you are not a believer you are going to burn for all eternity in hellfire and brimstone.
God: That evil woman, praying in my name but not a believer, smite! Piano falling on @dutchess. LOL

NomoreY_A's avatar

@elbanditoroso Unless you’re talking about Bible God. He once sent a bear to maul children for making fun of a bald guy. That YHWH, what a card. More fun than a barrel of Darwin’s monkeys.

Coloma's avatar

@NomoreY_A Yeah, like “suffer the little children” as “God” sics pit bulls on little babies. haha

NomoreY_A's avatar

And kids will be kids – I mean, maybe the prophet dude had a crappy toupee.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@elbanditoroso youll be curious to know if my prayer was effective.
Well if you can tell me what I’m suppose to look for I’ll let you know if it was effective!

NomoreY_A's avatar

@Dutchess_III I reckon you’ll be ok, as long as you don’t poke fun at any bald prophets. Bad form.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Bald prophets?

JLeslie's avatar

Let’s say there is a God, and this God says if you pray your prayers will be answered. I think your prayer counts. You prayed because someone who believes in God asked you to. I think for God that is enough.

Consider my FIL is Catholic, but he was raised Jewish. When his father died he went to the synagogue. He prayed for him in Hebrew. He didn’t shave, he covered his mirrors, he did what his father’s religion does traditionally. How can God not see the respect shown, even though he now is a practicing Catholic. He’s a theist, but let’s say the Jews are right; Jews aren’t allowed to be attending Catholic mass weekly, and not ok to raise your children Catholic. He left the faith, but I think when he does a Jewish prayer for his dad who has passed away I think it counts. For years my FIL went to temple on Yom Kippur to pray for his parents.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Coloma I believe all prayer is ineffective no matter who it comes from. The effectiveness is in the psychology of the reciever.

NomoreY_A's avatar

@Dutchess_III Just kidding, I was referring to a place in the Torah/Old Testament, where these kids make fun of some bald prophet or other, and God sends a bear to maul them. Go figure. Maybe God was having a bad hair day, and envied the guy.

NomoreY_A's avatar

@JLeslie Therein lies a lot of my problem with the God thing. Jew/Catholic/Eastern Orthodox/Protestant, not to mention Islam and Hinduism. If Sky Guy is so great and knowledgeable, why can’t he male himself plain? It’s lie, ok, Moses screwed up, I’ll send Jesus. Dang it, Jr. got himself killed, I’ll send Mohammed. No, that won’t work rather. Back to the Cosmic drawing board.

NomoreY_A's avatar

@JLeslie Therein lies a lot of my problem with the God thing. Jew/Catholic/Eastern Orthodox/Protestant, not to mention Islam and Hinduism. If Sky Guy is so great and knowledgeable, why can’t he make himself plain? It’s like, ok, Moses screwed up, I’ll send Jesus. Dang it, Jr. got himself killed, I’ll send Mohammed. No, that won’t work either. Back to the Cosmic drawing board.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Couldn’t hurt…...

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t get the idea of prayer. Does God decide whether to help someone based on the number of prayers received? I was gonna let him die, but since so many people want him to live, I will give him a few more years.

When I went to Hebrew school, I was taught that the Jewish stand on prayer was that it was appropriate to give prayers of thankfulness, but not prayers for making requests. Makes good sense to me, even as an atheist.

rojo's avatar

Some people are reported to have a beneficial response when they believe in prayer and know that others are praying for them. If it does you no harm and provides him some benefit, either real or imagined, then I say go for it or at least tell him you are. All that matters is that he believes it, not you.

As to what happens to the atheist, nothing that I can figure out. No harm, no foul.

NomoreY_A's avatar

What rojo said. Very astute, and very true.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, as long as people keep in mind that prayer has been proven to have no effect for things like cancer and deadly infectious disease. Placebos seem to work a percentage of the time for things like pain and depressions, I’d put prayer in the placebo category to be on the safe side. Pray like everything depends on God, and take action like everything depends on you.

NomoreY_A's avatar

I wouldn’t put a lot of reliance on God. I read about a Fundy Protestant group, who like to jump around holding poisonous snakes, because they believe that God won’t let them be bitten. God must be out on a smoke break, because a lot of them do, and die.

tinyfaery's avatar

Nothing. The same thing that happens when believers pray. Appealing to something that doesn’t exist is about making yourself feel better. It does nothing for the sick.

kritiper's avatar

@Coloma I always thought that if not believing was such a big deal there would be a Commandment about it.
Absolutely nothing in my stanch Catholic upbringing ever mentioned that not believing was a sin to burn for. If there was a “God,” an all powerful, all knowing, eternally compassionate “God,” then he/she would understand my point of view and, if anything, we’d have a good laugh about it.

JLeslie's avatar

^^I always quite Timothy 5:8 in regards to God on atheism. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Basically that means to me that people who aren’t responsible in life for their children, family, and even within society, are worse than atheists. So, we aren’t at the bottom, and no amount of believing makes up for being a shithead.

Coloma's avatar

@kritiper and @JLeslie Yep, but the question is do the non-believers have to repent for not believing before they die to be forgiven as the murderers and thieves and rapists and pedophiles. haha
Pretty sure if there is a ‘God” that he/she/it would hardly consider not believing on the same continuum as a baby raper. I’ll take my chances thanks, but I really hope there is no God, I don’t want an after life, holy fuck, this one life is more than enough, I don’t want eternal life, I want eternal rest. LOL

NomoreY_A's avatar

I agree with Coloma, I’ll take my chances. If there is a God, I’ll have a wiener roast in Hell, if there’s not a God, I’ll never know the difference anyway. What, me worry?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tinyfaery He specifically told me it would make his dad feel better. It made me feel better because I felt I was actually helping a little in that regard. I didn’t actually think it would make any difference, other than that.

@kritiper that may have been the teaching of the preacher who taught at your church, but absolutely the general belief among Christians is if you don’t believe you don’t go to heaven. Where else is there to go if you don’t go to heaven?

NomoreY_A's avatar

That’s where I think religion is complete BS, God aside. As Dutchess pointed out, Christians claim that if you don’t believe (In Jesus as Savior), you can’t go to heaven. Jews don’t believe in Jesus at all, they are still awaiting a Messiah. Muslims think you get to heaven by killing unbelievers (In their own brand of religion). Protestants think Catholics are Mary worshipping idolaters, Catholics think Protestants are apostates from the True Faith. So many Gods, so little time…if there is a God, and that’s very possible, yet highly improbable, surely He/She/It did not intend things to be that way.

ragingloli's avatar

His Atheist Club membership gets revoked immediately.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And lets not forget the thousands of other religions that have sprung up over the course of humanity. Which one is right?

NomoreY_A's avatar

@Dutchess_III Amen sister, can I get a hallelujah? (Rhetorically speaking).

Coloma's avatar

Well, clearly prayers didn’t save this dolt. LOL

www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmATcGJ3uJE

Dutchess_III's avatar

Prayers don’t save anyone. It just makes some people feel better. Absolutely nothing, nothing has changed for me since I shook religion off. I still have the same amount of good luck and bad luck.

NomoreY_A's avatar

Well that can change – allow me to introduce you to the Volcano Gods of Rora Bora… ; )

Dutchess_III's avatar

You mean Roara Dora the Esplora?

NomoreY_A's avatar

The very same…I think?

Dutchess_III's avatar

You must believe in the Right One or you’re up shit creek without a paddle. Pray on this.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The God I created in my head (I think we all create our own version of God) would be super glad to hear from me! If he wasn’t, if he pouted and just told me to go to hell for ignoring him for so long, I would be very disappointed in him.

ragingloli's avatar

You should have killed your god, like the Klingons did.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, we did! ‘Member?

ragingloli's avatar

You only killed one instanced version of it, and then badly. it came back 3 days later.
You have to nuke heaven.

Coloma's avatar

Zombie gods, run for your life!

syz's avatar

I’ve been asked numerous time to “pray for me/then/him/her” and as an atheist, it’s nonsensical. My answer is usually something along the lines of “No, but I wish you the best” or “Is there anything I can do for you like grocery shopping or cook dinner?”.

JLeslie's avatar

@nomoreY_A Jews believe Jesus existed, they just don’t believe he was the son of God or the messiah.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III There is no place else to go. And no reason for there to be a place. If there was a heaven, and you were bound to go there, you would. It’s not like you’d have a choice in the matter.
What kind(s) of heaven(s) you might find there would be interesting to know, since there couldn’t be just one place to go when you got there. You know, like white heaven, black heaven, Jewish heaven, Catholic heaven, bachelor heaven, hippy heaven (that’s HEAVY, man!), Mormon heaven (they think they’re the only ones up there), rock and roll heaven, country-western heaven, etc., etc., etc. Hell, there could be a Agnostic heaven as well as a Atheist heaven. Why not??
And maybe after so many millennia “God” might decide that having all of these noisy souls running around under foot asking all sorts of stupid questions would be too much for HIS idea of heaven (there was SO much peace and quiet before THEY got there!) and kick EVERYBODY to the curb!
So much for heaven…

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know what you’re talking about @kritiper.

kritiper's avatar

When you die there is no place to go, as you put it. You are dead. All conscious thought, everything you were: mentally, psychologically, distinctive personal character, individuality, is gone. Vanished. At an end. Discontinued. End of story. Without further adieu.
All that is left is your husk, literally.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I know that. I was referring back to Christian beliefs and your comment specifically. You said that in the Catholic religion you were brought up in no one said unbelievers were going to hell. Well, it’s clear they aren’t going to heaven, so where else would they go?

Coloma's avatar

^ Only because you are still alive. :-p

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III IF there were a heaven and these non believers lived their lives according to the “Golden Rule,” being Christian-like in their actions, they would be judged as any other believer, since not believing is not a sin to be judged by as much as how their lives were lived, and how they treated their fellow man, as Jesus Christ taught. Simply put, believing or not believing is not a GO-NO GO gauge on entry to heaven. If it were, I wouldn’t want to go. (If, indeed, there were such a place.)

“Well, it’s clear they aren’t going to heaven, so where else would they go?” And how can you say for certain they couldn’t go to heaven? How would/could you know? Who are you to judge?? Like I said before, if it were so damned important to be a believer, there would be a Commandment about believing!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Because it says to in the Bible, over and over and over again! I’m not judging silly! I don’t believe in any of it. The Christians are the ones judging.

Matthew 7:21–23:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

John 3:16 : “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
So what happens to those who don’t believe in him?

kritiper's avatar

Just because it says it in the Bible doesn’t mean it would come true. After all, it was men who wrote the Bible, not “God.”
As for Matthew 7:21–23:21 You gotta do the will of “God,” it doesn’t mean one has to believe in him.
And as for John 3:16 The person who needs to be believed in is Jesus Christ and his teachings, not “God.”
But it’s all just so much religious propaganda.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@kritiper I’m not talking about from my point of view, or yours. I’m talking about from the Christian’s point of view.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III There is no standard, universally, widely accepted, point of view. Christians probably don’t want to and/or wouldn’t want to convert any of their number to Agnosticism/Atheism and thus thin their ranks and collection plate proceeds. It’s a non-issue that never came/comes up, so no reason to examine the question.
You’re the only one I’ve ever heard mention it. And, since it never came up with all the priests, nuns, and other Christians that I went to church, or Catechism classes with, or any other Christian of any other church, I’d suspect that, if suddenly put to them, 33% of them would say it wouldn’t make any difference, judgment day wise, the other 33% would say they’d go to hell, and the other 33% simply wouldn’t know.

rojo's avatar

Ok, I have prayed on this and this is the official response I got:

If an atheist prays, fervently prays, for a Christian someone then an angel is automatically relegated to purgatory until a Christian prays for said atheists immortal soul in return. Then, evidently, the angel is released from purgatory but must spend half of eternity cleaning out the heavenly septic systerns which, at least according to God, is not as bad as it sounds because those in heaven actually crap pistachio ice cream and pee chardonnay.

So, There ya go..

Pandora's avatar

It doesn’t really matter what you think will or won’t happen. It has more to do with his own belief. If he feels you are sincere in your effort to pray for him than he will have a positive response. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that prayer can work on it’s own but the receiver has to be the one to mostly believe.
There is science on the effects of belief. Belief can lower your stress levels and make it easier for a person to recover.

Like when they do experiments with control subjects. Some people may be given a pill that has no medication and some are given a placebo. Sometimes people in the placebo group get better from their condition even though they are not taking the medicine. However they may be believing that they are receiving the actual medication. And some people who are taking the medicine don’t get better because they believe they are not getting the placebo.
I believe the human body has a way to recover from most things but belief in the recovery is necessary.
So, so long as he believes that prayer will help him in addition to medical treatment, than he should do fine. I don’t know about getting his vision back but never say never. Stranger things have happened.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Pandora my thoughts too. That’s why I told my friend that he had to tell his dad or it won’t do any good.
I’m wondering if they can do an optic nerve transplant…......praise God.

@rojo so, we need to come up with a name for your new religion!

rojo's avatar

No, No, @Dutchess_III it is just one of the old time christian religions. I just seem to be able to get a response when I ask questions.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That just sounds like a lot of work for the old man, @rojo. How’s he gonna keep up with who’s where?

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