Why would an agnostic person pray?
I don't have a particularly good relationship with my mother. By all accounts, I was the level-headed, stable one between the two of us by the time I was around 11 years old. She's always played the martyr in life, and never really done anything for herself to accomplish anything. I find this to be an embarassing quality.
Over the weekend, I got an email from my mother. She wanted to tell my brother and I that she was having sharp pains in her foot and that she had a rash (my mother's had an eczema-type rash on and off for years) on her leg that was starting to ooze. She asked us to pray for her so that she could better, and asked if we had any suggestions for her.
My suggestion? Go to the doctor. She's a diabetic. Infections on her extremities are ESPECIALLY dangerous.
She wrote back, letting me know that since she's alone in her life, it takes too much courage to go to the doctor. I wanted to tell her that the reason she's alone is because she's too difficult for anyone to want to be around for extended lengths of time. But I was polite, and told her that if she wanted to get better, she really needed to see a doctor. That if she took care of her problems, then other things in her life would be easier. She's been complaining that she has problems being mobile because of the swelling in her leg. And because she's not very mobile, that brings about a whole new series of problems.
Once again, she wrote back. She would be going to the emergency room, but wanted me to pray for her so that she could get better faster. I was having a rough day, and lashed out a little in my response. I told her that I thought she was being rude to me for asking me to pray to a god that I don't believe in and haven't believed in since I was a teenager. I said that she was being sacriligious for believing that god would answer the prayers of someone who isn't a believer. I told her that I would keep her in my thoughts, and gave her my best wishes and hoped the doctors would be able to make her feel better, but that was 'my' version of praying. Asking me to do any more than that would be disrespectful to me and my views. I've never asked my mother to NOT be a Catholic. I've simply told her that she needs to be more pro-active in her own well-being. I've even tried playing it her way, and have told her "God helps those who help themselves". It doesn't work. Her life is just TOO difficult. [/sarcasm]
I have no problems with people who are religious. I DO have problems with people who expect me to be religious. In keeping with my attempt to have an open mind, I expose my daughter to different religious beliefs and cultures. She knows more about different religions at age 6 than I did at age 16. I expose her to these things as if she was in a theology class. As in, there are people who believe these things, and I do not have an opinion on whether those things are correct or not. Except for evolution and things which I have come to believe as fact through science. If a religious fanatic tried to tell my daughter that evolution was a myth, I'd probably lay into them pretty hard. And if a religious person told my daughter (once she gets a lot older) that birth control was a sin, or that it was ethically wrong to be homosexual, I'd probably punch them. I don't believe in violence or prejudice in the name of religion.
Jason Sinclair went to a movie with me and my family about a year ago. It was almost Easter. Jason was raised Mormon, and so when my daughter asked what Easter meant and I tried to pass the question off to Jason, he laughed and said "Oh no... this one's yours". So I tried to explain that Jesus was crucified and on a day that we now call Easter Sunday, he rose from the dead. My daughter gave me a look that made me want to laugh out loud. I told her that it was a story that a lot of people believed, and parts of it might be true.
Going back to my mother, her response to my email was that it broke her heart that I was an atheist (she's known for years that I'm agnostic), and if I cared to find out, she'd let me know how the ER visit went later. Grrr...
Well, my mother is now on antibiotics twice a day for her oozing rash. It will most likely get better. And, of course, in my mother's eyes, it will have gotten better because she prayed especially hard. *sigh*
- February 21, 2008