To the Christians Who Want to Know if Atheists Ever Pray to Their Preferred God

questions and answers

Many evangelical Christians are extremely fond of asking "gotcha" questions they get from their pastors because they believe such questions will open us heathens up to conversion. Strangely, these Christians must not think their "god" has the power to handle conversion on its own without their assistance. I don't know about you, but a supernatural being that requires human help and relies on trickery does not strike me as one worthy of the "god" label.

Anyway, one of the more common questions I see circulating on Twitter, from both Christians and atheists (or perhaps Christians posing as atheists), has to do with whether we atheists ever find ourselves tempted to pray to some sort of "god" when we are facing difficult circumstances. I have to admit that I've never understood what would possess anyone to ask such a question, but that's probably because I find it nonsensical. If I don't believe in gods, why would I pray to them? There wouldn't be any more point to doing so than there would be in praying to random superheroes or any other imaginary beings I might fancy, many of which seem an awful lot more interesting than most gods.

Whenever I see this question floating around on social media, I find myself tempted to respond by asking the presumed Christian evangelist a question of my own:

How often do you find yourself tempted to pray to Bigfoot [or whichever other fictional creature strikes me as most entertaining at the moment] in difficult situations?

Of course, the Christian would become indignant and claim that there would be no need for this because of their preferred god, missing the point that their preferred god is no more likely (and perhaps less likely) to exist than whichever creature I have named. But of course, even that isn't the real point. The real point is that it makes no sense to expect somebody to pray to something they don't think is real no matter how dire the situation they face might be.

But let's try to be as kind as possible to the Christian and suppose that this really did happen. Even so, the only thing it would show is that the atheist involved had been indoctrinated to the point that they temporarily regressed back to long-since-abandoned beliefs under extreme stress. So what? As much as the Christian might want to claim that means "they really believe," it doesn't mean that at all. Haven't you ever seen an adult regress to something like thumb-sucking or throwing a childlike tantrum under extreme stress? Aren't most of us capable of recognizing that for what it is? Is the Christian really so desperate to reaffirm their own beliefs that they need to pretend others share them when they so obviously don't? That seems like an awfully shaky sort of faith to which one might cling.

Yes, I suppose that last question was rhetorical. We have all encountered multiple Christians who claim "atheists don't exist" because they will not consider the possibility that someone else might not believe in gods. It doesn't matter how much evidence they are surrounded with or even that their own statements on the subject are almost always wildly inconsistent (e.g., blaming all the world's ills on atheism while simultaneously insisting that atheism doesn't exist). I suppose we can't all be thinkers.