Facebook is a treasure trove of religious beliefs and shared emotions. For this atheist, sometimes there is too much sharing of beliefs, particularly when those beliefs are either misguided or just plain wrong. I’m talking about the millions of postings every day that are accompanied by tag lines that say some variation of “Like if You Agree, Share to Say ‘Amen!'”
It’s not that I mind people sharing a story with religious connotations or a personal account of their own faith journey. Reading sincere stories of faith have moved me more than once, even though I don’t personally believe. I think everyone should be able to share their beliefs with their friends and family. I don’t mind them asking others to like or share their personal testament. What I do object to are the posts that take it one step farther by saying, “Share this prayer/mantra/blessing to be blessed with health/wealth/success!” or veiled threats such as “If you scroll past this post without sharing, you’re denying Jesus.”
I realize that many will say that since I don’t have faith myself, I have no right to criticize how others practice theirs. But I did have faith for years, and when I was moving from faith to agnosticism and beyond, I studied the bible, read dozens of books from both sides of the faith equation and talked to more than a few pastors. These admonishments to demonstrate faith by reposting prayers or testimonies smack of the worst kind of superstition. They infer that if you jump through specific hoops you’ll reap the rewards offered by God. I have several problems with this.
- God isn’t Santa Claus or a Fairy Godmother. He doesn’t grant wishes to the people who repost the tritest sayings on Facebook. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t buy your way into heaven or a state of grace.
- God doesn’t reward people based on how many Facebook posts they put up or whether they share every prayer or bible verse that shows up on their wall. This would completely negate two very important religious underpinnings – Justification through Faith and Salvation through Christ. Neither of these beliefs requires that believers “earn” blessings.
- I hate the undertones of guilt in many of these posts, particularly the ones that say some variation of, “I bet most of you will scroll by this. But if you are a true believer, you will show the world by having the courage to share this.” These posts insinuate that you aren’t really a good Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Believer unless you are willing to follow through. There is already so much guilt tied to religion, do people really have to drag it onto Facebook? It’s manipulative.
- These posts are often just as much about the egos of the people posting. They post these prayers or statements of faith as a sort of badge of honor reminding the world how powerful their faith is. They are trumpeting it from the mountain top of social media. But I thought faith was supposed to be the opposite of boastful.
It bothers me that many of the people I love take these posts seriously. They feel judged or like they are falling short if they are honest and say they are tired of seeing these kinds of posts. If you are a believer and want someone to pray for you, by all means, ask them. But ask them in an email, over the phone or in person. Posting or reposting an impersonal photograph with a few generic bible verses or words of pray is neither sincere nor effective. And it opens up people who don’t share or repost to questions about their faith, often from virtual strangers.
I’ve actually had people ask me why I don’t repost or share their many prayer postings. I reply that I don’t normally re-share any posts of a religious or political nature. Which is true, but only partly. The whole truth is that I don’t believe in the power of these requests, but I don’t want to have to explain myself to anyone in this respect. So please, don’t ask me to like, comment, share or say “Amen.” If I want to pray, proselytize or preach to others, I’ll do it personally and I won’t plaster it all over an impersonal Facebook page. These posts are the kind of lip service to genuine faith that I associate it with people who only attend church on major holidays or who attend church more to be seen than to learn something.
So when others post, “Like if You Agree, Share to Say, ‘Amen,'” I don’t have any qualms passing them by without action on my part other than to hide them on my own Page. I won’t be perpetuating this magical thinking.