So I got this email. I think it’s sincere. Can you answer it?
I’ve lurked since forever at Pharyngula, and wanted to ask so many questions, but feared ridicule and contempt. I wish there were room for folks like me at FTB.
I’m what you could call an extreme agnostic, and to the bone, a secular humanist. To keep peace in the family, I do not advertise. But here it is…I still find myself, in moments of extreme stress, essentially falling back on the “prayer” release.
As in, “Dear God, if you do actually exist, and you are not actually an irrational, misogynist, kill-happy sociopath, could you please do something about X?”
How does a non-believer get past this NEED to do something, anything…when there really is nothing that can be done at all?
Thank You for your time.
She also sent a picture.
There should be room for people in transition to full-blown raging atheism, especially for people with an appreciation of the tentacle esthetic, so let’s try to do better, ‘k?
But my answer to the question would be…don’t worry about it. I’m not going to judge someone’s atheistical purity when they’re lost in despair or fear, and I can sympathize with someone who wants to reach out to someone, anyone for help, and is so desperate that they’re even calling on imaginary help. It’s a reflection of how we are brought up, not our intellectual capacity, and of our current straits, not our rationality.
Speaking for myself, I was cured by cynicism. That imaginary help never answers, and it always seems to be real world people who do right by me (which also says that maybe one way people could be cured of this belief is if other people did a better job of helping). I don’t call on a god for the same reason I don’t call on the Blue Fairy or Optimus Prime — I’m pretty dang sure they’re not going to show up. They’re fictional characters.
But if you’re in trouble, and you whisper a little prayer, and some atheist overhears…they should be more focused on helping you out of your trouble than chastising you for a common cultural tic. If they aren’t, they’re a bad human being and you should just ignore them.