EDIT: Though it’s mentioned several times below, I want to emphasize again that I’m still a believer in a higher power/God. If you are part of an organized religion, I do not think poorly or less of you, unless you use your religion to infringe on the rights of other people. A journal like this would possible have angered me to read a few years ago before I gained more knowledge. So I understand heated responses, but realize I respect your beliefs. I just don’t think you should use them as a crutch to not take action, or push them on other people.
This is going to be a doozy of a post, but I wanted to get these thoughts out because recently there have been multiple tragedies in our community and I keep seeing this pop up and it’s bothering me way more than it used to, even when I was deep into religion, because I’ve always found “thoughts and prayers” to be a pathetic cop-out, and something that is only said out loud to feel like you “did” something (you didn’t.)
I am a former Christian, and gosh… it’s still hard to write that, much harder than writing “former Catholic”. Indoctrination is a bitch. I’m not an atheist now, or even agnostic. I’ve disavowed any attachment to any organized religion however. But I digress. As a former Christian, and one who was raised into Catholicism, and still consider myself to believe in a higher power and in intelligent design, I can relate to the desire to offer someone your prayers at a time that is possible the WORST in their lives: you don’t know what to do, and praying is easy and free, right?
And yet, I would encourage you to at least consider keeping such religious offers, including of prayer, to yourself, UNLESS you know that the person you are speaking to specifically would welcome your offer of prayers, and be comforted by them.
For one, you could have the opposite effect. A lot of people have been hurt by things connected to religion, or have traumatic memories related to religious upbringing. You may tell yourself, “Well, my offer to pray is well-meant, if that’s going to upset them, clearly they don’t have enough problems.” That’s conceited at best. If you think prayer does something, wonderful. Pray away! I’m not even saying I can guarantee it doesn’t work. But keep it to yourself unless the knowledge of your prayer would bring the person comfort, unless you’re trying to make yourself look good (something that often strikes me as the case… which is gross.)
As an alternative, how about asking the person if there is anything you can do to help, offering them a listening ear if they want to, or a shoulder to cry on? Or making them a drawing? None of these things cost money. I’m not saying don’t include a little end note of “You’ll be in my prayers, if it’s welcomed/wanted.” But don’t freaking push your prayers on people. Don’t tell them how many rosaries you’ll pray. You’re not helping, you just look like you want to tell everyone on a public place how religious you are and seriously, makes my eyes roll so far back in the sockets. 🙄🙄🙄
And more than ANYTHING: don’t tell others to pray for someone if you don’t know their religion. Like, wtf??
You must realize, all of this comes from someone who considers herself a deist still: I still pray! But just to talk to God. And me talking to God is between God and me, because I don’t need others to know how much I pray (that’s weird). I don’t ask God for things because I think that’s so unbelievably conceited of me and I don’t think God can intervene (or would) based on prayer (and I will not even entertain an argument about this in the comments, so don’t even start with me: I’ll respect your beliefs, you respect mine, and other people’s.)
Part of respecting other people is not assuming that everyone belongs to your religion or is comforted by you engaging in it.
Also don’t try to take the easy way out by offering your thoughts and prayers. DO SOMETHING. If you think you can do nothing for someone else other than offering prayers I guarantee you’re lying to yourself. Do something for other people other than asking your God to fix things which often cannot be fixed or helped other than by people propping each other up. I do believe God, or whoever is out there, created us with incredible ability to do this. If you think you don’t have this ability you’re doing God a discredit.
But sitting quietly by yourself repeating Hail Mary’s won’t do that. Don’t pretend it does in order to feel like a saint.