I’ve written in the past about why I’m so impatient with lip service Christians, judgmental Christians and others who profess faith in a loving God but who do lots of things that are antithetical to a loving, accepting existence. But if I am going to criticize others, I have to admit to my own flaws. I’m a hypocrite as well. I pretend to be something I’m not in order to “blend in” with the Christians around me.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t attend church and sings hymns (although I still miss the uplifting music and beautiful songs). I don’t identify myself as a Christian – primarily because in this part of the country, it’s pretty much a given that you are some kind of Christian. If you aren’t, it’s assumed you are Jewish. So I keep my mouth shut and soldier on in my community, keeping my beliefs under wraps.
The real hypocrisy happens primarily on social media. When I’m not writing about my beliefs on this blog, I’m on Facebook to keep track of my grown children and grandchildren, old friends from my hometown, and new friends where I live now. I post nearly every day and I see dozens of posts on my wall every day; many of them are asking me to “Say ‘Amen’ and Share,” or request prayers for loved ones who are sick or going through a difficult time.
I confess that I didn’t know what to do in these instances for the longest time. If I don’t reply with my promise to pray for them, they may feel that I don’t care. It’s obviously not the right time to tell them I don’t believe in God, prayer or angels (why add to their grief?). But sending back a message that says, “I’m praying for you and your family,” seems glib and diminishes their beliefs. It’s not my mission to convert those I love to atheism. If they find peace in their God, who am I to take that away from them? To me, their belief system is harmless until it becomes bigotry or judgment of others.
I’ve tried lots of ways to respond to requests for prayers. “Healing thoughts are headed your way.” “You are in my thoughts.” “Please tell your husband/wife/child/parent that they are loved.” I’ve never found the ideal response. If I can help in some way, I often say, “Please tell me what you need from me and I will do all I can to help.” Taking action in some way is in some small way my answer to their prayers.
How do you respond to prayer requests? Do you keep your atheism to yourself or take the opportunity to educate true believers in the folly (in your opinion) of their ways? Am I a hypocrite for not revealing my lack of faith to those I know and care about, or am I preserving my relationships with those I love?