Several folks, including myself, have launched a Facebook page entitled Pray for an Atheist. As you may know, April 1 has been celebrated in the past as “National Atheists Day,” and in the first week of April is held the American Atheists National Convention. So we thought it would be a good idea to encourage Christians to commit to praying for atheists for the entire month of April. If you would like to get involved, please become a “fan” of the page.
As you’ll see on the page, however, a number of atheists are strongly objecting to the idea that Christians are praying for them. As one atheist put it, “if you’re going to pray for me and my ilk, that is quite disrespectful.” And another said, “I personally find it offensive if anybody wants to pray for me.” There have been many other expressions of disapproval, some profane and vulgar (which have been deleted).
I can’t help but think—as some people have pointed out—that all of this vitriol confirms the thesis of my book. Atheists simply have no reason to object to our praying for them, especially since, given our worldview, it is an act of love. After all, if God does exist, then it would be an enormous benefit to atheists if they come to believe this. Moreover, as a Christian, it would be profoundly hypocritical of me to believe that prayer could be effectual in helping others to find redemption in Christ and yet not pray for unbelievers.
Therefore, I would ask atheists to respect my right to do what I want in the privacy of my own home, as I kneel in prayer on their behalf.
Why just during April? Why not every day of the year?
Good point. Hopefully, for many people this month-long commitment to pray daily for certain atheists in their lives will be create a permanent habit.
I find their abhorrence to be quite amusing for the reasons you listed. I dare say I find it preposterously delightful.
Its been several weeks since I posted that. I’ve noticed the lack of apologetical response from the majority of Christians on the page, so even though I’m only 18, I will respond as best I can.
I don’t know who posts under “Pray for an Atheist” on the page, if it is you or someone else, but it seems that the tenor has changed, and you now spend most of the time asking to stop the ad-homeinum bash from the atheists. All I have to ask is this: Are you surprised? I’m not. I expected a flood of atheists on the page, making havok. I just wished there were some other seasoned apologists to answer the legit questions that are being asked.
Its not even April yet, and already this is quite a firestorm. I can’t wait to see what happens in April. Praying!
Hey, guys, I’m an atheist and I wanted to let you know I have no problem if you want to pray for me. Obviously it will have no affect on me, as nothing fails like prayer, but it’s your time and I encourage you to waste it however you like.
I apologize on behalf of those who respond angrily to your plan to pray for us; if they are indeed atheists, they should know (as do we all) that prayer to some non-existent god can’t cause any harm, and if it keeps you in and out of trouble, all the better.
Finally, though I don’t believe as you do, I think your hearts are in the right place. I think your book, Jim, is somewhat condescending towards us atheists, but otherwise you probably really do believe it would be better if atheists believed in god too. Therefore, I don’t react with anger towards your plan. In fact, I’d like to reciprocate.
You pray for me, and I’ll think for you.
Pray for Atheists? LMAO! NOTHING Fails Like Prayer!
YES! Pray to Jesus for the atheist “FOOLS” April 1st! It will be yet 1 more Failed Prayer from a delusional Christian that totally wasted their time!
Yours truly http:// twitter. com /BibleAlsoSays
Please, pray all you wish if you think that will help. I’m all in favour of people doing whatever it is that makes them happy. So pray like crazy. Personally I’d rather be caught doing something more constructive with the life that I have but hey, it’s yours to do with however you please.
You dont have to be a Christian to pray for those with no hope.
As a life long skeptic, and in the last 10 years a fairly proud and radical atheist, I have absolutely no problem with you praying for me. If you feel that your time is best spent doing such a fruitless endeavour, then have at it.
Although I would like to see Christianity, and all other religions, dispensed with as the nonsense that it is, if it makes you feel better to pray for my soul I will not condemn or begrudge you that pleasure.
As an atheist, I really don’t care if you want to talk to your imaginary friend about me. As long as you don’t expect me to talk to him, we’ll get along just fine.
Considering the comments made by Christians regarding Atheist signs on buses, I would say the Atheist community has been very restrained. It’s a sad commentary on the Christian community that they expect to be able to spread their word in newspapers, on television and radio, street signs and church signs, but don’t wish to allow others of differing beliefs to have the same opportunity free of criticism. Being nice and getting along is a two way street. Let us know when you’re willing to participate.
Ann A. Theist
As an atheist, I am entirely apathetic towards your desire to waste your time engaged in an activity that I am confident makes no difference whatsoever.
Instead of praying for some conceptual atheists you’ll never meet, why not spend that effort instead on going out and doing something that generates some actual good for actual people? You know…volunteer at a soup kitchen; plant some trees; clean up a playground or park; be a mentor or tutor for disadvantaged kids.
While praying for some faceless atheist stereotype might reward the “smugness” part of your brain’s pleasure center, you’re wasting an opportiunity to help people who need it. And wouldn’t your god and Jesus have preferred that?
Well, I like your campaign, and will pray to my god, which happens to be the Pink Unicorn. I’ll pray for all atheists (they have the Flying Spaghetti Monster) and for the Christian god (the one with a white beard sitting on a cloud in the sky).
“Well, I like your campaign, and will pray to my god, which happens to be the Pink Unicorn. I’ll pray for all atheists (they have the Flying Spaghetti Monster) and for the Christian god (the one with a white beard sitting on a cloud in the sky).”
By your logic : A car that goes 1 million MPH doesn’t exist, therefore a car that goes 50 MPH doesn’t exist either. Case error and poor argument.
“Being nice and getting along is a two way street. Let us know when you’re willing to participate.”
Have you read the amount of hate spam that has come onto the page? We have tried repeatedly to have peaceful arguments, but every time we attempt peace on that webpage the majority of the athiest camp rejects it.
“Instead of praying for some conceptual atheists you’ll never meet, why not spend that effort instead on going out and doing something that generates some actual good for actual people? You know…volunteer at a soup kitchen; plant some trees; clean up a playground or park; be a mentor or tutor for disadvantaged kids.”
We are supposed to do both, and I think we are doing a good job for the most part. However, I know there are lazy Christians who need to get their butts off the couch. But read what atheist Matthew Parris said a few weeks ago:
@ Rob – Thank you for your comments. We really don’t hate atheists. At least I don’t. I have no clue where this irrational hatred of Christians came from *cough Dawkins cough*, but I’m glad to know that there are atheists like yourself who promote a peaceful relationship between the two. You have my thanks, and the thanks of plenty of other Christians.
Austin, you’re very welcome. This “irrational hatred of Christians” doesn’t come from Dawkins, though. For the life of me, and quite sincerely, I can’t imagine how anyone can read (or hear) Dawkins and come away with the idea that he is inflammatory, or irrational, or that he hates Christians. He certainly doesn’t like what religions (predominately Christianity *in our current culture*) has done, but he doesn’t hate anybody as far as I can tell.
I think the confusion comes from when he talks frankly about the problems that religion causes. Someone who is strongly aligned with a religious delusion will naturally see Dawkins’ exposure of that delusion as an attack on themselves, I suppose, but that just underscores how irrational the believer becomes over any criticism, no matter how just.
Of course I’m not saying that people of faith don’t do good things, just that they are examples of their better nature overcoming their religious indoctrination.
“it is an act of love. After all, if God does exist, then it would be an enormous benefit to atheists if they come to believe this”
Not really. Getting lobotomised by an omniscient being to make me believe in him seems rather unfaithful, which defeats the purpose of free will. The entire project seems rather self-defeating.
Perhaps unlike some others, I do have an issue with it:
I dislike lazy people. If you genuinely care and want to help, sitting on your knees at home talking to a god that wouldn’t in any way whatsoever intrude upon our supposed ‘free will’ is not only lazy but completely worthless.
On the other hand, should you take the time to actually use that time to engage in rational, honest, intelligent discussion, you might just get somewhere.
Your prayers are simply useless and simply represent the fact that you are either incapable or can’t be bothered putting in some genuine effort.
The idea that prayer is crazy, delusional, irrational, etc. is interesting when one seeks to examine documented cases of, for lack of a better word, miracles where prayer is involved. Indeed, to offhandedly dismiss prayer as fairytale nonsense is to ignore a growing chunk of strange events (miraculous healings) that have been occurring throughout the third-world church–much of which is attributed to prayer and witness by hundreds of people.
These events are hardly fake, nonsense, or fairytales. I see a woman who has had documented cancer get prayed over. She goes to the doctor. Doctor says, “This can’t be correct, where is the cancer?” upon performing another pre-surgery test. Poof. Cancer gone. This is not an isolated event.
To believe that the world is a large pot of soup particles that has evolved over the course of billions of years takes precisely the same amount of faith to look that doctor in the eyes and suggest, “Perhaps it was the prayer.” The supreme confidence of atheists to disregard prayer as foolishness, in such cases, is curious. How else would you explain such an “anomaly?”
nick, If prayer can cure cancer (which it can’t, but let’s play pretend), then prayer can cause a severed limb to regenerate. Show me one verifiable, documented case where a missing limb was prayed back (not a prosthetic, of course, the real thing) then I’ll take your case for prayer seriously. Until then…
As for how to explain such an “anomaly”, there are so many reasonable explanations that don’t involve the fantasy of prayer and “miracles.” Misdiagnostics, remissions, people lying (a very common one), but when you want to believe in miracles you’ll accept any claim uncritically, never doubting for an instant that it must be true, because it confirms what you believed all along.
“Documented” proof would shake your worldview to its core? Would it really? I’m afraid I cannot, via this comment section, give you such proof.
“When you want to believe in miracles you’ll accept any claim uncritically, never doubting for an instant that it must be true, because it confirms what you believed all along.”
I believe that’s a fine case of using circular reasoning, but I could be mistaken. Should Dr. Spiegel feel so inclined, he has a generous amount of data on such miraculous healings. But I dare say even these would not compel you to belief in prayer.
Allow me to contribute to this discussion…
Rob, when I was growing up, my mother was very sick. She had a form of muscular dystrophy, and every single doctor who saw her (regardless of their religious beliefs) told her she would eventually be paralyzed for life. She hardly ever left the bed because she could not move. There was a point in time where all she could move was her head – the rest of her body was paralyzed. For several years we prayed, and she was miraculously healed. The words “miraculously healed” came from the consensus of the doctors who treated her constantly – they could not begin to explain (from a medical standpoint) how the muscular dystrophy might have reversed itself. Several of the doctors concluded that it was a miracle.
Proof? She just hiked 4.2 miles in the Palo Duro canyon a few weeks ago. She no longer needs a walker, or a cane, and she is no longer bedbound.
You can accept my testimony or reject it. I would not lie to anyone ; this is my mom I’m talking about, after all. I would testify in a U.S. court with that testimony, if that makes it more legit.
Austin, I’m sure you aren’t lying about what you believe to be the case with your mother. She was diagnosed with “a form of muscular dystrophy.” The most logical explanation is that she was misdiagnosed. Beyond that, I can’t comment.
There are far too many instances where people earnestly prayed for a loved one to be cured of many diseases, including MS, and yet those people died. Can you offer any rational explanation for why your mother would be the one person “miraculously healed” from a disease that claims (eventually) everybody else? Did those other people not pray hard enough? Were they not really Christians? Weren’t they worthy of God’s intercession?
Oh, wait; of course, the answer is that it was “God’s will”, right? That would explain why most die but the rare exception lives. That would explain the almost *random* nature of these “miracles”, wouldn’t it?
Of course, if that *is* the case, then it makes prayer even less useful. If God has his plans, and his own motives, your prayers wouldn’t have made one bit of difference, just as all those other people’s prayers made no difference. God isn’t going to change his plans just because you prayed, is he? Why would he change his plans in response to his prayers when he wouldn’t do it for other people’s prayers?
It’s far more likely that those “miracles” you talk of were just random occurrences. You ignore the times the miracles didn’t occur, because they don’t confirm your beliefs. It’s called “confirmation bias”, where you only notice the “hits”, never the “misses.”
Otherwise, you have a God who acts randomly, ignoring most requests but granting the rare few. That doesn’t sound like a loving god to me.
By the way, Austin, such a miraculous recovery of MS would be almost unprecedented in the medical world, as evidenced by the doctors you refer to. Surely your mother’s case has been documented, as it must be the most rare of events for someone so far gone into MS to make such a sudden, dramatic turn around. I really hope you have documentation of this case.
Here’s a case where a woman claims medicine and positive thinking helped her beat MS, but she doesn’t say anything about prayer: http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/advice/tips/multiple-sclerosis-treatment I have no less reason to believe her account than yours, so apparently prayer isn’t the *only* way to beat MS. Perhaps prayer had nothing at all to do with your mother’s recovery after all, and it was simply excellent care and good medicine that caused such a dramatic turn around.
Either way, I do hope you can provide documentation for your mother’s recovery. What a wonderful, uplifting story it would be (if true), regardless of how she recovered!
Oh, Austin, a quick search on Google of MS recovery cases turns up a *lot* of hits about people who (claim to) have beaten MS. Most of the ones I’ve read so far don’t mention prayer at all; they seem to have relied on alternative medicines, vitamin regimens, and changes in diet/exercise. If I have to take your testimony seriously, then I have to take theirs seriously as well. It seems less likely that prayer had anything at all to do with your mom’s recovery, doesn’t it?
You haven’t proven prayer to be false by asserting that good medicine fixed MS victims. This statement, in particular, shows how messy you are getting with your logic:
“If I have to take your testimony seriously, then I have to take theirs seriously as well. It seems less likely that prayer had anything at all to do with your mom’s recovery, doesn’t it?”
No, Rob, it doesn’t. And besides, if you cannot take Austin’s experience at face value, Google searching for other stories to make your point is hardly more compelling.
As for a logical/rational defense of prayer, I suggest you read any of a number of fantastic Christian theologians/philosophers, perhaps beginning with Alvin Plantinga.
At any rate, I find it interesting how personal you have made this discussion and wonder why you are getting so defensive over something that is “pure fiction.”
Lol @ nick. I made this personal? I suggest you read yours and Austin’s responses (as well as the original post.)
I didn’t say I proved prayer to be false (though it’s easy enough to prove that prayer is no more effective than random chance)
Sorry, I accidentally submitted before I meant to.
Anyway, nick, I don’t have to prove that prayer is *not* effective; you guys are the ones who said it is. Austin used the unlikely event of his mother recovering from almost complete paralysis due to MS to illustrate his belief that prayer is effective. He attributes her recovery entirely to prayers, indicating that the doctors had given up.
If prayer is the reason she not only survived but recovered so remarkably, why can’t we expect all who are sick with some disease or another, and who pray to be cured, to survive and recover? It would be no surprise if prayer wouldn’t work for me, because I don’t believe and I wouldn’t pray. But people who do believe and who do earnestly pray don’t get the same results. Why would that be, unless prayer has nothing to do with the outcome?
And why would it be that some people do recover from illnesses who don’t pray, if prayer is the only reason someone could recover so dramatically? The answer, of course, is that prayer is most likely *not* the reason, but that doesn’t fit in your comfort zone, so you’ll reject it.
Ask yourself why you can’t provide evidence that prayer has been responsible for a person getting a missing arm or leg back, nick. Ask yourself why you’ve never read or heard of a verified account of that happening.
I simply meant that I find your responses curiously, well, snarky. Let’s address your qualms, and then I can go back to work and be done with this conversation.
1. “Why can’t we expect all who are sick with some disease or another, and who pray to be cured, to survive and recover?”
2. Why would it be that some people do recover from illnesses who don’t pray, if prayer is the only reason someone could recover so dramatically?
3. Ask yourself why you can’t provide evidence that prayer has been responsible for a person getting a missing arm or leg back?
These are the three main questions you have been repeating throughout the course of this discussion.
1. The short answer is because prayer, by its very nature, is not a magic trick that conjures “success” (strictly defined as your desired outcome) at its every invocation. Philip Yancey treats this subject quite well in his aptly named book “Prayer: Does it make any difference?” I would suggest this book if you’re truly interested in inquiring into the nature of prayer. As Yancey writes, “In the end, unanswered prayer brings me face to face with the mystery that silenced Paul: the profound difference between my perspective and God’s.” Look, none of us knows the Will of God. You don’t even *believe* in the Will of God, so it appears we’re at an impasse. An “absence” of proof that will satisfy you, however, does not mean that prayer is false, ineffective, or otherwise.
2. No rational person is advocating that prayer is the only way people get inexplicably healed. I would suggest that God is unbound from healing whoever the heck he wants.
3. I can’t provide you with pictures, before and after MRIs, or doctor statements. But I can explain to you the good-faith stories from missionary friends who have seen hearing restored, fingers grown back, and severed limbs healed. You don’t have to believe it. But, again, just because you don’t, doesn’t mean it can’t and *doesn’t* happen.
I, too, struggle with believing “miraculous” healings, rob. It seems that they are far too common, and people too readily chalk up inexplicable events to God. However, I have seen things that neither doctors nor myself have been able to medically explain, and I have seen prayer used as an “effective” medium in odd circumstances.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe that I can compel you to belief in prayer. It is, after all, an act of faith. But let me reiterate, nothing you’ve suggested damages prayer as a rational explanation for unexplained events.
So, nick’s parting shot wasn’t any better than his opening salvo. Is anyone else going to give it a try?
The short answer is because prayer, by its very nature, is not a magic trick that conjures “success” (strictly defined as your desired outcome) at its every invocation.
But there are several unambiguous promises in the New Testament that the person who believes and prays WILL have the thing he or she asks for. Jesus even expresses this idea very plainly: Ask anything in my name and I will do it. If only you believe, you can cast a mountain into the sea. If my words remain in you, then you may ask what you wish and it will be done for you. Ask and you will receive, etc.
None of the caveats commonly heaped upon these statement appear in these contexts, either. Nothing like, “Ask what you will … but God doesn’t always answer your prayer the way you want Him to.”
Am I wrong?
I guess nobody else wants to. I’ll answer nick, though he indicated he is abandoning the thread. Hopefully someone else may read this and be further enlightened, though.
nick, the lack of proof that prayer works doesn’t surprise me: I don’t believe in any god, so I don’t expect there to be proof of something that calls on a non-existent entity. The lack of proof *should* surprise you, though. You believe in God, you believe that prayer to that God can have some effect, and yet you admit that there is no *proof* of it. You belief despite the lack of proof.
I ask you, nick, in what other area of life, outside of religion, would that seem reasonable to you? Under what other circumstances could you feel comfortable saying “I have no proof that this is true, but I believe it and therefore it must be true”?
If prayer is not the only way people are inexplicably healed (from anything), then how on earth can you say prayer healed anyone, especially when you have no proof of it? The fact that you may have prayed for someone to be healed and then they were inexplicably healed is of no more relevance than if I eat a steak so that someone may be healed and then they were inexplicably healed.
My lack of belief has no more bearing than your fervent belief. So all we’re left with is proof. If there is no proof, by your own admission, how can you possibly have faith? Especially when prayer fails far more than it succeeds?
You question Nick’s belief in something for which he (supposedly) has no proof and insinuate that this is always irrational. All of us have MANY beliefs about things for which we have no proof. And some of these beliefs are foundational to thousands of other beliefs we hold. Examples: Belief in the general reliability of the senses, the law of causality, the uniformity of nature (that the future will resemble the past), the laws of logic, that thought reflects reality, and that other people have minds. These are all philosophical articles of faith. (And notice that the scientific method presupposes most of these.) Faith, apparently, is inescapable. So the question is not WHETHER a person has faith but rather what KIND of faith one has. Your refusal to acknowledge this is probably a symptom of your latent positivism—a philosophical perspective that long ago was shown to be self-refuting. (Richard Dawkins is one of the more prominent carriers of this philosophical disease. Perhaps you caught it from him.)
Jim, I don’t have a “belief” in the general reliability of my senses (for instance); I know from experience that my senses can generally be trusted. There are circumstances where I would doubt my senses, especially if they inform me of an experience that can’t be verified either through my other senses or (better yet) someone elses senses. All of your other examples are most certainly not “philosophical articles of faith”. Experience, experimentation and verification allow us to recognize the laws of nature (for instance); it’s not a matter of faith, because it can be independently verified and tested.
Your pot-shots at Dawkins in regards to positivism are so sadly off the mark that I’d almost feel sorry for you. Only almost, though, because you deserve the derision you heap upon yourself by making such ludicrous statements. But you’re a religionist, so I know where you caught *that* from.
You are welcome to pray for me as long and as often as you’d like. I’ll just be making a more productive use of my time.
You’re revealing your philosophical ignorance here, specifically with regard to some of the most difficult (and as yet unsolved) problems in the history of philosophy. The problem of induction (regarding the uniformity of nature) remains as intractable as it was when Hume first posed it in the 18th century. The reason that science cannot demonstrate that the laws of nature will continue to hold is that the scientific method proceeds on that assumption. As for the general reliability of the senses, you must ASSUME your senses are reliable to prove from experience that they are reliable (so your reasoning is circular). This is why, as it is often said, you cannot prove that solipsism is not true (or, for that matter, that you are not asleep now and dreaming all of this or, say, that the Matrix scenario isn’t true). And I notice you didn’t even address the problem of other minds (which many—perhaps most—philosophers today would concede cannot be solved).
If you can come up with a clear solution to any of these problems, then I can guarantee you that you’ll not only be published in a top-tier philosophical journal but you’ll go down in the history of philosophy. So do, please, share your wisdom on these matters. I am all ears.
I’m just catching up on your blog, I haven’t read it since I went through the sell of my company in the spring. Did Rob ever reply? I would love to see it. Why is it the atheist is so certain? Where is the humility, an occasional “I’m not sure about that” response. It’s all so tidy in their world, as one song writer wrote “everything in its right place.” It seems the atheist is so set in their mindset nothing can convince them…except I have recently read “There is a God” by Anthony Flew…he did change his mind didn’t he? What a great book, if I were an atheist I think I’d like to read what Flew thought. Thanks for the blog, great stuff.d
I think your comment is misplaced. It’s not to say that there aren’t arrogant atheists (there are arrogant adherents to any philosophical position), but when comparing the overall worldviews of the theist and non-theist I think it becomes clear which is more arrogant in terms of its overall truth claims. Have you read any Sam Harris by chance? Letter to a Christian Nation is a quick read (about 115 pages). As Harris puts it:
One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be appreciated in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while condemning scientists and other non-believers for their intellectual arrogance. There is, in fact, no worldview more reprehensible in its arrogance than that of a religious believer: the creator of the universe takes an interest in me, approves of me, loves me, and will reward me after death; my current beliefs, drawn from scripture, will remain the best statement of the truth until the end of the world; everyone who disagrees with me will spend eternity in hell…An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse–and there have been some extraordinarily arrogant scientists.
In the passage you quote, Harris shows a basic misunderstanding of arrogance. If a religious believer thought that God had a unique interest in him- or herself, then that would certainly be arrogant. But I know of no Christian, or any theist for that matter, who believes that. Rather, most Christians—and theists generally—maintain that God is interested in and deeply loves ALL human beings. Far from being arrogant, given the natural human inclination toward selfishness, that is actually very humbling. And this is to say nothing of the profoundly humbling biblical doctrine of sin which Harris also conveniently ignores in this context.
I think you’re conflating selfishness with arrogance. The arrogance Harris speaks of is epistemological in nature. Christians claim to know that the creator of the universe takes an interest in them, approves of them, loves them, will reward them after death, and their beliefs, drawn from scripture, will remain the best statement of the truth until the end of the world. Moreover, contrary to your claim, there are a number of theists who do not maintain that God loves everyone, such as Calvinists. According to this Reformed Christian apologist, Jim, you are a “deadbeat, unregenerate humanist” for claiming that God loves all human beings. To him, the fact that God loves anyone at all rather than noone is cause for thanksgiving and worship. Now THAT’S a profoundly humbling biblical doctine of sin.
Hello. I hope you (and the others) don’t mind if I make a late entrance into the discussion . . .
. . . but when comparing the overall worldviews of the theist and non-theist I think it becomes clear which is more arrogant in terms of its overall truth claims.
It seems to me that there needn’t be a correlation (of the sort you suggested) between arrogance and truth claims. That is, there doesn’t appear to be a correlation simpliciter between one’s level of arrogance and one’s truth claims. To my mind, some further qualification is probably needed before such a correlation can be justifiably established.
We generally regard a person as arrogant when her truth claims reflect an unwarranted perception or exaggerated opinion of herself. (E.g., “I clearly deserve that position, as I’m the only applicant to have received a Ph.D. from [prestigious university]. And we also generally regard a person as arrogant when he issues truth claims in a certain dogmatic fashion or with an attitude exhibiting an utter lack of epistemic humility. (E.g., “The resurrection is so obviously and indisputably a historical fact that only a frightfully unintelligent person could doubt it.”) With respect to the theist’s worldview truth claims, especially as compared to the non-theist’s, it’s not obvious that the theist is guilty in either of the above fashions simply by virtue of being a theist.
The arrogance Harris speaks of is epistemological in nature. Christians claim to know that the creator of the universe takes an interest in them, approves of them, loves them, will reward them after death, and their beliefs, drawn from scripture, will remain the best statement of the truth until the end of the world.
In my judgment, the epistemological arrogance with which Harris indicts theism (or theists) doesn’t appear to be legitimately applied. If a theist believes she has good reasons to think that theism is plausible, then certain theistic commitments will seem plausibly supported or implied by those reasons. So, if the theist is within her epistemic rights in affirming theism, then it would seem she’s also within her epistemic rights in affirming certain theistic commitments. Unless Harris thinks that these commitments reduce the plausibility of theism’s being true, it might be unavailing to make these commitments the object of his criticisms.
devastating storms have just killed over 200 people in several southern states. maybe the god of the Spiegels is angry about something and has unleashed her wrath on the bible belt.
so listen. here is my problem with this.
it’s clearly not about the “privacy of your own home.”
you made a facebook page for it, and like the pharisees or whoever they were who prayed on the street for all the world to see, it ISN’T just about your prayers. it’s about making a point. which is pretty lame.
and it IS disrespectful to tell an atheist you’ll “pray for them.” just because from “your worldview” it’s a sign of love and care, from their worldview it’s completely denying that their position has any validity or that they have a right to their own beliefs. an atheist believes they have no NEED for prayers, so the desire to foist your unwanted, unbelieved in, and patronizing prayers down their throat is incredibly offensive.