Quantcast

«

»

Dec 31 2007

Praying for other people’s souls

(I am taking a break from original posts due to the holidays and because of travel after that. Until I return, here are some old posts, updated and edited, for those who might have missed them the first time around. New posts should appear starting Monday, January 14, 2008.)

After I published an op-ed on intelligent design in the Plain Dealer following the Dover case, I was woken up at 5:30am the next day by someone who had clearly disliked my article. The point of his call was to tell me to read some book (presumably in favor of intelligent design) and he proceeded to spell out the name and the author. I interrupted to ask him if he knew what time it was and he replied “I can only pray for your soul.”

When people say they are praying for someone else’s soul, what they really mean depends on the context. When friends and members of my family say it, they really do mean it and are worried that my atheism is going to bring me to a bad end. I am touched by their concern and appreciate the thought.

But when someone who is obviously annoyed with you or disagrees with you says it, then you know it is insincere. When such people say it, what I think they are really saying is “I can’t wait for judgment day when I can see you rot in hell and gloat over you.” But because such people feel the need to preserve a publicly pious face, they sanctimoniously say “I will pray for your soul” instead.

Another thing that puzzles me is when you tell people that you are an atheist and they try to convince you that you are wrong using the Bible as evidence. What’s the point? The Bible can only be used to debate points between people who accept its central premise that it is the word of god. Using it to argue with an unbeliever makes as much sense as appealing to the Book of Mormon.

So here’s my advice to such religious people who do such things, in the unlikely event that they are reading this blog.

If someone says that they do not believe in god, quoting Biblical passages is not going to get you anywhere. Worse, that person will think that your belief has led you to lose your grip on the nature of rational argument. Competing philosophies cannot be resolved by using the tenets of one of the competitors, but must always appeal to common, mutually agreed upon principles.

Similarly, if someone annoys you because of their disbelief in your particular version of god, do not expect to get any appreciation when you say that you are praying for their soul. If that person is an atheist, he or she will probably laugh at you (internally if they are polite people) for saying this, because atheists don’t think they have an immortal soul, remember? And if that person is religious but belongs to another sect, he or she may be offended at the implication that you are tighter with god than they are and have some sort of say in what happens to their soul. Nobody likes a “holier than thou” attitude. Just ask the Pharisees, if you can find one in your neighborhood. Or better still, ask Pat Robertson.

POST SCRIPT: John Edwards

Steven Zunes, a progressive rofessor of political science whose does careful analyses, looks the policies of John Edwards. He finds him to be progressive on domestic issues but with troubling positions on foreign affairs. He concludes:

[A] John Edwards administration would be a real improvement over the administration of George W. Bush in the foreign policy realm, but it would clearly not be as progressive as many of his supporters would hope for.

Since first entering politics less than a decade ago, Edwards has greatly deepened his understanding of important policy issues and has moved to the left on his domestic agenda. His learning curve on foreign policy matters has thus far not been as impressive, but could potentially improve as well if, and only if, Democrats at the grass roots demand it.

Zunes’ conclusions resonate with mine. His full article is well worth reading.

POST SCRIPT: Is John Edwards progressive?

Stephen Zunes, a progressive professor of political science whose does thoughtful analyses of many issues, looks the policies of John Edwards. He finds him to be progressive on domestic issues but with troubling positions on foreign affairs. He concludes:

[A] John Edwards administration would be a real improvement over the administration of George W. Bush in the foreign policy realm, but it would clearly not be as progressive as many of his supporters would hope for.

Since first entering politics less than a decade ago, Edwards has greatly deepened his understanding of important policy issues and has moved to the left on his domestic agenda. His learning curve on foreign policy matters has thus far not been as impressive, but could potentially improve as well if, and only if, Democrats at the grass roots demand it.

Zunes’ conclusions resonate with mine. His full article is well worth reading.

1 comment

  1. 1
    Matt

    As one of those “unlikely” Christians to have read your post, I happen to agree with your general premise that a) waking someone at 5:30am to pray for their soul is a bit counterproductive, and b) using the Bible to win an argument with an athiest is also a bit unreasonable. My personal belief is that faith without reason is as useless as no faith at all. If one can not rationally describe their beliefs and why they hold them, those beliefs should be viewed with doubt. One must examine the evidence, form a reasoned opinion, and move on. As for the “vindictive” use of prayer, if a few more Christians would practice what they preach it might be easier to get athiests to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is a God out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>