Thursday, July 21, 2011

What if you were asked to pray by someone dying?

On facebook's page for the Greek Atheists and Agnostics someone asked the following question:

If someone who is dying, asked you to pray with him would you do it? 

A whole lot of people answered, and there was a debate going because I was one of the few people who answered that I would have said NO. It does seem to be cruel and unkind, but it's not. Not at all. Let me elaborate on this point.

I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god(s) and I will never accept such fantasies without some kind of scientific evidence. Most of my friends and relatives know of my atheism. Those who don't, is just because the subject has not been discussed. However, everyone knows that I will not go to church unless it is for a wedding, or a baptism, or a funeral. And those have to be about people that I am close to. Otherwise, I will not go to any wedding for a relative that I see once or twice per year. I dislike orthodox church hymns to the point of hatred.

So my answer, was no, I would not pray with anyone and for any reason. Not even if that person were dying. I am an atheist, and proud to be one. I do not change my practices and become hypocritical because someone is dying. That would be betraying myself firstly and my lack of beliefs, and being dishonest and a hypocrite towards the dying person. If it were me the dying person, I would prefer truth and honesty from people. So, it is not just about me and my lack of beliefs, but it also is about being honest and truthful to someone else.

Prayer is also supposed to be addressed to someone or something one holds to be a deity. Who would I even trying to pray to? And how can I even utter some phrases and be serious, when faith itself is ridiculous to me? Some people said, to pretend. But I cannot pretend to pray to someone/something I don't believe in. It would be insulting both to the dying person and to myself.

Another thing to note, is that I do not know any prayers. I just know the first couple of lines of one prayer. I stopped praying when I was a little girl, and never looked back. I did try and ask for some favours as everybody else has done, but those prayers were never answered, as is usual. People said to ask him what that person wants me to say. True, that could work, but the other problems remain.

What I could do though, is tell that person the truth. Tell him/her that I do not believe, that I am an atheist, and thus it would be dishonest of me to suddenly pray. It would be hypocritical and insulting for both of us. But, I would add, that I can stay silent and listen to that person praying. I would not mock or ridicule a dying man, and if his/her praying provides some comfort, I would not take it away.

What would you do in that case? Would you pray or not?