One of my best friends is currently in the hospital with an as-yet unknown ailment she picked up during a trip to Argentina.
Neither of us are religious, despite both of our families and many friends belonging to our old church. So when just about everyone who visited or called assured her that “I’ll pray for you” I had some very mixed feelings.
At first I did what I always do when someone mentions religion around me and her, I shot her a sarcastic look, which she reciprocates. It’s usually like in Fight Club when members give each other a little nod when they meet in the outside world, except this time it seemed like it really bothered her. I realized she must be getting that all the time being in the hospital and the fake smile you give a person who says it probably gets really tiresome. I was mildly outraged that people would be so insensitive to another person’s worldview.
Of course most people who “send their prayers” don’t really think about it that way. For them it’s assumed that it’s doing practical good for the recipient and because they surround themselves with like-minded religious people it doesn’t ever occur to them that it might be insensitive. It’s like the “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” debate. People who regularly say “Merry Christmas” think nothing of it, and assume that everyone understands it as a polite gesture. But how awkward and estranging it is for a Jew, Muslim, Atheist, or anyone else not practicing the holiday under the same terms as a Christian. Especially when it comes in such high frequency.
I must admit however, that as soon as I left, my mild outrage transformed into radical jealousy. When these people leave and express their sentiments in the form of prayer they actually believe that they are doing practical good towards helping her get well. They leave 100% confident that their supernatural deity will listen to their pleading and intervene for her well-being. Meanwhile I leave deeply frightened and concerned for my friend and feeling utterly helpless. As of yesterday the doctors still aren’t sure of what she has and she’s on a regular supply of morphine to minimize her pain, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I find myself desperately wishing I was capable of believing something I know to be false.