The always compelling Christopher Hitchens has a terrific piece out in Vanity Fair (“Unanswerable Prayers”) about being an atheist with serious cancer, who is the subject of prayers. And that got me to thinking, should believers tell atheists that they are praying for them? I have a longer missive about the matter over at Secondhand Smoke, but for those who don’t wish to travel there, I suggest that prayers for atheists remain in the closet, God will still hear, and conclude:
The root meaning of compassion is to “suffer with.” I think one of our duties as human beings is to suffer with the ill by offering them emotional support at the place where they are–not from where we might be. (The same goes for the other way around, of course. Atheists with ill religious friends should not push their non belief on those undergoing a terrible struggle.) Forcing unwanted agendas on others at a time of extremis isn’t caring, but just the opposite by adding to the burden on their psyches at a time when they are most vulnerable.
What do you all think?