Archive | March, 2011

Reader Question: Encouraging Critical Thinking

17 Mar

The following question comes from Cupcake reader Tony.  Thanks, Tony, for contributing this question.

If you have a question you would like answered on The Cupcake Atheist, please feel free to email me at cupcakeatheist@yahoo.com.

Note:  I’ve received a few questions over the past week and will be addressing them in upcoming blog posts.  I’m not ignoring you, I promise.

Could I ask a quick question? How do you encourage critical thinking in your child? I’m trying my best, but it wasn’t something that was encouraged when I was a child – it sort of got ‘switched on’ when I was a teenager. I have 2 young kids (2 & 5) and I can already see religious indoctrination starting to occur from some of my daughters ‘after-school’ clubs – I can’t stop her going to these as all her little friends go.

– Tony

Hi Tony,

Thanks for your question.  Raising free-thinking children is definitely a challenge.  I probably shouldn’t make assumptions, but I assume that you live in a developed, predominantly Christian area.  Therefore, your children aren’t in any danger of physical repercussions from not being part of the church-going crowd.  Also, at ages 2 and 5, they seem quite young and it is natural for them to be curious about the things their friends are doing.

I don’t believe there is any one right answer to your question, but I can share with you what I’ve learned in my own parenting as well as some resources I’ve found along the way.

1. Ask Questions – I make a conscious effort to not feed my son answers when he asks questions about religion or anything otherwise supernatural or unsupported.  Instead, I try to answer his questions with questions.  Take, for example, Santa Claus.  For a variety of reasons, my husband and I agreed that we wouldn’t play the Santa game with our child.  However, he hears about Santa from his friends in preschool and from other family members.  Last winter when he was three, he loved talking about Santa.  He would make comments like “Mommy, Santa is going to bring me presents” or “Mommy, Santa flies with reindeer.”  Instead of correcting him, I played the part of the interested skeptic.  I would ask him, “How does Santa make it all around the world to each boy and girl?” or “How are the reindeer able to fly?”  My hope is that by modeling critical thinking, he will learn to question things on his own.  At his age, the important thing isn’t whether he believes in Santa Claus or flying reindeer or a magic Space Daddy.  The important thing is that he learns to ask questions.

2. Allow Religious Exposure: The goal shouldn’t be to keep our children from being exposed to religion.  Rather, the goal should be to present religion in a comparative context and let the glaring incompatibilities speak for themselves.  My son has a book about Noah and the Ark that we like to read from time to time.  As we read it, we talk about the animals and how silly it is for all the animals to be on one boat.  He thinks it is just another fun story.  As he gets older, it is our intention to teach him about all different religions through books, discussions or maybe even attending a service from time to time.  We have Bibles, Korans, books about mysticism and Buddhism, as well as history and mythology books my husband and I amassed throughout our educations.  By some day sharing these with our son, we hope he learns to see the God of Abraham as just the latest in a long line of gods that people have made up throughout human history.  I will caveat this, however, by saying that at his age we do not allow him to attend church or any other place of worship.  In these places, questioning is typically not welcomed and that is not the way our family operates.  If he wants to go when he gets older, we’ll of course consider the circumstances at that time.

3. Don’t Label:  I try not to think of my son as an atheist child.  I also try to remind myself that his friends in preschool are not “Christian children” or “Muslim children.”  Regardless of the labels adults apply to their children, young kids simply cannot make those decisions about their own beliefs.  They shouldn’t be labeled with the beliefs of their families.  I need to remind myself of this every time he asks us why we don’t attend church like his grandparents or his friends.  My instinctual response is to tell him we don’t go to church because we are an atheist family.  However, that isn’t fair to him. He is only four and didn’t make the choice to be an atheist.  Instead, I try to explain that we don’t go to church because in church people learn things that likely aren’t true and people aren’t welcomed to ask questions.  Questions are important, especially when we are being told things that don’t make sense.

Furthermore, here are some resources that have been invaluable to me in trying to raise my son in an environment where critical thinking is encouraged.

Raising Freethinkers, A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief, edited by Dale McGowan.

Parenting Beyond Belief, On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion edited by Dale McGowan with foreword by Michael Shermer.

Maybe Yes, Maybe No; A Guide for Young Skeptics by Dan Barker

Lastly, I would just say that one of the best ways to combat supernatural explanations for things is with natural explanations.  Encourage your children to explore science.  Offer them enriching activities that might cultivate an interest in learning while also teaching them the importance of evidence.  Who knows? Maybe some of their little religious friends can come along?  Knowledge is a powerful tool.

Good luck to you and let me know how things go!

Cupcake


Atheist Blogroll

15 Mar

The Cupcake Atheist has been added to the Atheist Blogroll.  You can see the blogroll badge in my sidebar. The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to atheists around the world.  If you would like to join, please visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

My Response to Georgia Purdom, Answers in Genesis

10 Mar

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called Anthropocentrism: All of God’s Special Little SnowflakesI was fortunate enough to have this republished on PZ Myers’ blog Pharyngula as a guest post. (Many thanks to PZ, by the way).  The comments from Pharyngula readers were overwhelmingly positive and for a few moments I felt like my humble little blog was actually relevant and that I was contributing to a larger conversation.

Guess who else wants in on the conversation?  Why, none other than the young earth creationists over at Answers in Genesis.  Apparently, Georgia Purdom read my guest post and had a few things to say about it.  You can read her response here if you like.  I’m not so green at this blogging stuff that I don’t know when you have something to say about someone else’s blog post, you link back to it for your readers.  Naturally, Purdom didn’t link back to Pharyngula or to The Cupcake Atheist.  Wouldn’t want her readers to go clicking around and stumble upon something contradictory, now would we?

Now, when I say my blog is humble, I mean tiny and (with the exception of a few devout readers) mostly irrelevant. I’m still pretty new at this.  Going up against AiG would be (dare I use the analogy) a David and Goliath scenario.  Likewise, trying to persuade Purdom and the young-earthers is a poor use of my time.  If hundreds of years of scientific study, multiple converging lines of evidence and the entire scientific consensus can’t convince them their beliefs are foolish, then Cupcake here doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance.

However, since Purdom expressed such a personal concern about my son’s upbringing and about my ability as a mother I’ll happily take the time to respond.

She writes: “her son asked, ‘Mommy, are we animals?’ To which the mother replied, ‘Yes.’ Then the young boy said, ‘But, Mommy, we seem . . . different.’ Out of the mouths of babes!” As though my son’s observation about humans favors her point.  My son is bright.  Of course humans are different from other animals and, naturally, he noticed.  We have large brains, a capacity for language, art, music, etc.  We are fascinating and complex animals, but animals none-the-less.  From a biological perspective, to insist that humans are anything but animals is lunacy.

Furthermore, why is it dehumanizing to accept that humans are animals but somehow less dehumanizing to believe we are the product of something supernatural? In a previous response to Purdom, blogger Tantalus Prime had this to say: Here is what the The KJV has to say about what humans are: ‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’ So, if claiming man is an animal dehumanizes man, then just what the bloody hell does claiming he is a bag of dirt do? I’ll take being an animal any day of the week.

Well said, Tantalus.  I couldn’t have said it any better myself, so I didn’t.

Purdom continues: “How does knowing that I am a living thing, here and alive, and have a temporary place in the natural world (which is not in any way supreme to animals) give meaning, purpose, and hope in life? It doesn’t! If she really believes that God does not exist and when we die, that’s it, then why bother trying to convince people she’s right?” Knowing that I am a part of the natural world and that I am the product of millions of years of gradual evolution leaves me awestruck.  It is meaningful to be able to trace my origins back through the fossil record and to think I’m here because of time and selection.  Out of the endless set of possible people allowed by our DNA, I’m here.  Ordinary me.  And what makes it even more beautiful is the fact that it is only temporary.  I am transient matter.  How precious my time here on Earth is!  I don’t need supernatural explanations to feel like a part of something bigger than myself.  Every atom in my fragile, temporary body is tied to a 13.7 billion-year-old universe.

And that is flipping awesome.

And, lastly, why do I try to convince people that I’m right?  Are you kidding me?  This question from the representative of an organization whose reason for existing is to try and convince people that a 2,000 year-old book is literally true from beginning to end?  I don’t need to be ‘right.’  I do my best to not be dogmatically bound to any set of ideas.  I am willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads.  Unfortunately for AiG, the evidence doesn’t favor their version of reality. If my blog post about anthropocentrism ‘convinces’ someone by turning them on to science and skepticism then yay for me.

In an odd turn, Purdom goes on to ask what I would do if my son were to grow up to be a murderer. ‘But if the Bible isn’t true and humans are animals, then she wouldn’t have a basis for saying what her son did was wrong, because after all, he’s just an animal, and morality doesn’t apply to animals.’ That statement is, of course, wrong and I’m not going to rehash the whole secular morality thing here.  If you like, you can read my recent post about atheism and morality. But the bottom line is that if Purdom needs ancient texts and an invisible space daddy to help her distinguish right from wrong, then that is not morality.

She concludes her post by quoting some Bible passages and with an expression of concern for my son. Her concern is patronizing and unwarranted.

My son is healthy and happy.  He is bright, inquisitive, and affectionate.  He is being raised in a home where he is valued and loved, where his questions and ideas are welcome and critical thinking is encouraged.  He has a mother and a father who spend time reading with him, playing games and doing puzzles.  And yes, we take him to the zoo.

Trust me, Georgia.  The kid is alright.

Reader Question: Atheism and Morality

9 Mar

The following is a question submitted to me by Jeremy, a Cupcake reader who is a theist. Jeremy was kind enough to permit me to post this.

If you know anyone who would like to submit a question or if you  have a question yourself, you are welcome to email me at            cupcakeatheist@yahoo.com.

Amy,

Just wanted to let you know from someone who still considers himself to be a Christian that I’ve been reading your posts lately and they give some excellent insight. I am still wrestling right now with what I’ve been taught to believe but I am not at the point where I want to just give it up. I’ve been in too many situations where “the easy answer” or the “obvious answer” just wasn’t the answer at all. However I do take issue with certain things I’ve been taught. For example, the idea of heaven and hell. Heaven is supposed to be this glorious place where pain and suffering ends. But, not everyone is apparently going to make the cut. So, if a person makes it inside and finds that close family members and/or friends have not made it would that not invoke some feeling of pain or sadness? I also take issue with the idea of a “loving father” who damns you from the time you arrive on the earth with the hopes that you will eventually find “the way”. God apparently gives us free will, which is fine and dandy but in my mind if you love what you have created you don’t put a mousetrap in a room full of toys. So why still do I even hang on at all? Because if there is nothing greater in the universe, there really isn’t anything to stop me from doing whatever I desire. Sure, there are laws in place to protect moral decency but what makes them the “right” or “wrong” things to do? One of the burning questions I have on atheism (and no, this is honestly not an attack on it) is what moral foundation does the atheist community base itself on and how do they decide which human to listen to?

Anyways, I’ve made this way longer than it should have been but perhaps one day we can talk about all this stuff in person. Don’t worry- as long as I am stuck to the Christian faith I will never get to the point where I feel it is my job to convert anyone or force my beliefs onto others. However, I feel that if I just nod my head to everything I hear I truly don’t learn a thing so I hope you don’t mind if I simply toss ideas your way. I hope to talk to you soon. Take care!

Jeremy

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for the message.  I definitely don’t mind if you toss ideas or questions my way.  I am also thrilled that you are keeping up with my blog, because I often feel like I’m only getting to people who already agree with me anyway.  So, hooray!

It sounds like you have been asking yourself some important question and I must say I think you are on the right track

You had a good question for me about the difference between religious morality and secular morality.  I hope I can offer a decent response for you.  You asked what moral foundation the atheist community bases itself on and how do we decide which human to listen to?

Well, for starters it is important to recognize that atheists are simply people who do not believe in a god or gods. That is it.  There is no unifying creed, dogma, or doctrine.  So you have a broad group of very different people who might have different opinions.  I’m only stating this because we have to be careful when we refer to the “atheist community” and acknowledge that there are plenty of atheists out there who may disagree with my approach.  What you are really asking, I think, is about secular morality.

Point 1. So what is morality? Morality has nothing to do with one’s relationship with a god or gods.  It has to do with the way we treat our fellow human beings.  We are social animals, so we live in close proximity with one another and rely on one another.  If we were not a social species, there would be no need for morality. Anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago.  We were here long before god or monotheism. So morality (our way of interacting with each other) predates religion although undoubtedly morality has changed a great deal over time.

In my mind, immorality is anything that causes needless suffering to another human. Something that would contribute to human progress and alleviate or avoid suffering in others is something I would call moral.

Point 2. The problem with religious morality is that it is based on ancient texts that are often unclear.  They contradict one another and even, at times, themselves.  Someone looking at the Koran could read the passages about love and peace and come away with the interpretation that the Koran mandates we interact with one another in a kind and peaceful way.  Someone else could read the same book and come away with the interpretation that jihad and war are moral and necessary because Allah commands them.   It works with the Bible also. According to the Bible, plenty of things are moral, including treating women like property:

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not go out as the male slaves do.  If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, she shall be redeemed. – Exodus 21 7-8

Rape is also moral:

If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives – Deuteronomy 22 28-29

Stoning your children to death?  Also moral:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious.  He will not obey us.  He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death.  So you will purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. – – Deuteronomy 21 18-20

A brief list of things that are forbidden according to the Bible?: eating shrimp (Deuteronomy 14 9-10), women wearing pants (Deuteronomy 22 5), wearing blended fabrics (Deuteronomy 22 11) and for some reason plowing with a ox and a donkey yoked together (Deuteronomy 22 10).

So you see, religion is based on ancient texts which make no sense in a modern context. History is filled with people who went to war and killed others because they thought they were doing something good and moral (i.e. defending the holy land, etc.).  Indeed, religious wars continue today because people believe the will of their god is the correct one.  The parts of the Bible that good people like you probably consider moral such as the sermon on the mount or the beatitudes for example are just parts that have been cherrypicked because they jive with our secular notions of morality.  We read them and say they sound nice and they’ll do as moral guideposts while ignoring the parts of the text that don’t fit in with our desired ways of interacting with other humans.

Point 3. If you are avoiding doing things that cause harm to others simply because it was mandated by an ancient text or because you think you are being watched over, I would venture to say that is not morality.  You said if there is nothing greater in the universe (I assume this to mean god) there really isn’t anything to stop you from doing whatever you desire.  I don’t believe that you really think that.  You are a better person than that, and I think you know what suffering feels like and wouldn’t want to cause suffering to a fellow human being.  If you need the watchful eyes of a space daddy on you at all times to keep you in check, then you are not moral.

Point 4. Finally, you asked how do atheists decide who to listen to?  Who is the authority when two sides disagree?  Well, most atheists I know of are freethinkers, meaning they prefer to think things through for themselves rather than appeal to an authority. Also, most atheists will demand some sort of evidence to back up any claim.  For example, if the Pope (someone who many people would call a moral authority) says condoms are immoral and they are bad for Africa, most atheists would ask for some data to back up the claim that condoms are bad for Africa.

Personally, I don’t believe in moral authority because I don’t believe in an absolute morality.  I believe that morality is preventing or minimizing human suffering, whatever that means in any given case.

Jeremy  – I appreciate your question. If you are serious about thinking through these issues, I highly recommend you start with reading 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison.  It is the most respectful, eloquent book in the atheist genre that I have read yet and I would literally recommend it to anyone.  Harrison is an atheist, but he wrote this book with believers in mind.

Thanks and Keep THINKING!

Cupcake


The Pot Calling the Kettle Indoctrinated

5 Mar

“The obsession with children, and with rigid control over their upbringing, has been part of every system of absolute authority… Indoctrination of the young often has the reverse effect, as we also know from the fate of many secular ideologies, but it seems that the religious will run this risk in order to imprint the average boy or girl with enough propaganda.  What else can they hope to do?”

–       Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great

“Let children learn about different faiths, let them notice their incompatibility and let them draw their own conclusions about the consequences of that incompatibility….Let them make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.”

–      Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

This picture represents my friend Bob. Bob can't hear you because Bob is too entrenched in her own ideologies.

 

The other day someone called me indoctrinated.  Usually, such a claim would bounce right off me but this time I was called indoctrinated by the one person in the world I would label most responsible for attempting to indoctrinate me.  So as not to reveal her identity all over the interwebs, we’ll just call her “Bob.” Let me give you some context:

Bob and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum on almost every subject.  We got into an argument that started off on the topic of politics but which inevitably turned to religion.  She basically made the assertion that my higher education indoctrinated me into godless liberalism.  It is a claim she has made before, but for some reason the use of the term indoctrination was like a slap across the face.  For a moment, I didn’t realize what had actually transpired.  Then, slowly, my brain registered that someone I viewed as so utterly blinded by cultural and religious indoctrination had turned the term around and applied it to me.  What in the world was going on?  Was it opposite day?

To be indoctrinated means to be imbued with specific biased beliefs or a specific point of view.  So, this is what Bob believes happened to me as a result of higher education.  Our colleges and universities are just big indoctrination machines, taking in sweet children raised in good Christian homes and cranking out liberal heathens.

There are some serious problems with Bob’s claim.  First and foremost, I was indoctrinated long before I ever set foot in a university.  I was raised in a Christian home, called a “Christian child” (even though I hadn’t the wherewithal to choose that label for myself at that point in my development), and made to memorize prayers and catechisms. I was taught that my parents’ belief system was superior to all other belief systems, but I wasn’t told how that could possibly be.  I was taught about heaven and hell and who gets sent where.

As a young adult, I was a choir girl, a Sunday school teacher and eventually a Bible camp counselor.  I made life decisions based on the myths my parents filled my head with as a child, including which schools to go to.  I chose to attend private, religious universities for both undergraduate and graduate studies. The result of all this?  At some point I became a full-on, brainwashed, atheist zombie.

In truth, education helped me unravel the years of religious indoctrination I endured as a child.  This is not to say that everyone needs a college degree to be an atheist, or that all atheists are college graduates.  Perhaps some people are smart enough to figure it out on their own, but not me.  I needed distance from my family and my upbringing.  I needed access to a ton of books and enlightened professors who welcomed me to study, think and decide for myself. I found all this while in school and yet years passed before I finally called myself an atheist.

Bob is the product of indoctrination.  She was raised in the religion of her parents who were raised in the religion of their parents.  As a child, she was brought up in a primarily Christian nation and so she believes there is profound truth to that particular worldview. I’ve never asked but in all likelihood it has never occurred to her what beliefs she would so vehemently defend if she had been born and raised in ancient Egypt.  Or modern India, Saudi Arabia or anywhere Christianity is not the dominant religion.

Perhaps saddest of all, she is the product of a failed education system. She was taught that the United States is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles, even though in reality the founding fathers were men of reason who knew the difference between what it means to be Christian and what it means to be an American. She wasn’t taught about evolution in school because it is controversial, although the controversy is entirely cultural and not scientific.  Publicly in school and privately at home, she heard the same consistent message and learned that to question that message too deeply would be denying who she is as a human being.

I heard the message too, but I was fortunate enough to get away from it long enough to have some exposure to different ideas. My family taught me what to think.  As I matured, I learned how to think.  That doesn’t sound like indoctrination to me.

It should come as no surprise to you readers that Bob also takes issue with the way I’m raising my own child.  I have a strong desire to break the cycle of religious indoctrination. This is mistakenly taken for indoctrinating my child into atheism.  I wouldn’t call my child an atheist child or a Christian child, or any sort of child.  Those labels have no meaning to children too young to sort through these complexities for themselves.  Nor is my child denied access to religious education.  We have 3 versions of the Bible, an English version Koran, writings by different Buddhist thinkers, in addition to all of the books on theology and world religions my husband and I amassed in college.  My goal is not to protect him from being exposed to religion, but rather to present religion in a comparative context and to let the glaring incompatibilities speak for themselves.

In the end, my altercation with Bob was a learning experience for me.  I don’t think Bob got much out it of it, however.  As is sometimes the case with heated debates, each side just ends up getting further entrenched in their original position. You can’t reason someone out of a belief that was never based in reason to begin with.  Poor Bob.


Prayer is mean. I mean it.

1 Mar

“You know the insults I receive, and my shame and dishonor; my foes are all known to you…  Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them… Add guilt to their guilt; may they have no acquittal from you.  Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.”

– – Psalm 69 19, 24, 27-28 An “Imprecatory” Psalm

“As far as I’m concerned, all prayers for conversion are imprecatory. They are secret wishes that someone you care about will become a slave.”

– – Tony VanderHeyden

If you are a non-religious person, at some point in time you may have encountered the believer who promises (usually publicly) to “pray for you.”  If you haven’t encountered this yet, don’t worry.  You will.  If you are a believer reading this, then first and foremost welcome and good for you!  Secondly, at some point in time you most likely prayed for someone, for either their physical, emotional or spiritual health. Believers are persistent about the power of prayer in all matters: health, happiness, prosperity and spiritual well being.   This begs the question, why are there so many unhealthy, unhappy, economically challenged, malcontented people on this planet?  The ineffectiveness of prayer is a topic for whole separate article.  In this post, I want to focus exclusively on how prayer, like faith, is something that is often taken for granted as a good and necessary thing.  Upon closer investigation, prayer (even the well-intentioned prayers of a kindhearted believer) is not only irrational, but immoral.

I love you, and I will pray for you. This is what I heard from a family member the other day in response to my challenging her statement that Jesus lives in her heart and that she cannot live without him.  My challenge wasn’t vicious, I simply asked her to substantiate the claim she was making by providing some evidence.  Since the evidence was all “in her heart” she was unable to do so.  Whether out of genuine concern or because she lacked a more substantive response, she said she would pray for me.

I’ll admit I never quite know how to behave when someone says they will pray for me.  The soft, sweet cupcakey part of me wants to be grateful.  The person is saying, in the only way she knows how, that she loves me and is concerned about me.  On the other hand, the not-so-cupcakey part of me gets peeved at the condescension of it.  As though my non-belief is something to be pitied.  When you really think about it, if friends or family members are praying that you will find faith they are effectively saying you are not good enough the way you are.  You could be a wonderful mother or father.  You could be warm, hard working, loyal to your friends, helpful to your community and an all-around kickass person to be with.  It doesn’t matter to the person praying for you.  To them, you are lost without god.  They are praying for you to abandon reason and turn to prayer just like them.

In short, they are hoping not that you’ll lose your mind, but that you’ll willingly set it aside.

It isn’t just prayers for conversion that set me on edge.  It is the concept of prayer in general.  People who are praying believe that they have a direct line of communication with a magical being somewhere who will consider their requests and possibly grant them wishes. This makes me massively uncomfortable because someone who believes they have a power like that on their side are not likely to look at difficult situations through the lens of reality.  Consider, for example, someone who has a sick family member. Many friends will say “I’ll pray for you” or “You’re in our prayers.”  If that sick family member recovers, the person might say “Thank you for all your prayers!”  What a prickish, selfish thing to say.  Do the prayerful not consider the doctors and nurses who devoted themselves to years of medical training?  Are they not mindful of all of the people out there who were also prayed for but who did not recover? It is a trick of the mind to selectively remember only the successes and to disregard the times when prayer doesn’t work.

Even worse are the people who attribute the success of prayer and the intervention of a supernatural being to the most mundane and inconsequential occurrences.  Thank god I found my missing ring under the sofa!  God heard my prayer!  Thank you, god, for letting me find exact change in my car seat at the drive-thru.  God is good all the time! Thank you, god, for letting me win that raffle. Praise the lord!  The belief that a supernatural being intervened on your behalf to help you solve your ridiculously petty problems while letting millions of people around the world suffer hunger, disease, and misery is completely deluded, self-centered and insulting to the rest of humanity.  It is dehumanizing and immoral.

When I was religious, I used to pray for others.  Now that I am an atheist, I have a difficult time remembering what exactly my intentions were when I was praying.  I think they were good.  Still, I have come to view prayer as a particularly wicked manifestation of a selfish and twisted worldview.  I can’t help but look at the world around me and see beauty alongside suffering. I predict with confidence the lives of every single person reading this blog post will be filled with moments of overwhelming joy, debilitating sadness and whole lot of in-between.

It is almost as though there is no guiding hand at all.  The universe operates exactly as it would if there were no godly intervention whatsoever.

I chose to respond to my prayerful family member not with vitriol but with an appeal to her sense of humanity.  I asked to trade my prayer time for something practical.  I suggested that instead of praying for me, she could spend the time she would have spent in prayer volunteering at an animal rescue or reading to children at the library. After all, it is up to us to make the world a better place for one another.  No god is going to do it for us.

DISCUSSION QUESTION:  How do you, the reader, handle it when someone says they will pray for you?  If you are a religious person, how do you feel about praying for someone else?

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