Many atheists and agnostics have a negative reaction to prayers said for them, CNN reported Monday, so Christians should probably keep them to themselves to avoid offending others.
Citing a recent study, CNN said that “some atheists and agnostics would pay money” to avoid having prayers sent their way after suffering a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
Sending thoughts and prayers in the wake of disasters is “controversial,” said Linda Thunström, an economist at the University of Wyoming who co-authored the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study, based on interaction with some 400 residents in North Carolina following Hurricane Florence’s destruction in 2018, said that atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse” — willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers — and are especially against receiving thoughts and prayers “from Christians.”
Nonreligious people “were willing to pay about $1.66 to avoid a prayer from a priest and more than double that price at $3.54 to avoid one from a Christian stranger,” CNN stated.
“The last result is surprising because one might expect that atheists/agnostics would be indifferent to people praying for them — why care, if you don’t believe in the gesture?” said Thunström.
“But that is not what we find — atheists and agnostics are averse to prayers,” she said, and are willing to pay money in order “not to get a prayer from a Christian stranger.”
“Hence, it is important to think about who the target person is when sending thoughts and prayers in the wake of hardship,” she said.
Along with the emotional aversion that atheists and agnostics may experience to prayers said for the, critics also argue “that these gestures are meaningless and can reduce material help or structural reforms aimed at mitigating natural and social disasters,” the study said.
Some have included the phrase “I’ll pray for you” in lists of micro-aggressions, suggesting that this expression can “communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults toward people.”
One atheist said that being told “I’ll pray for you” with the claim it was a compliment “invokes the same feeling as equating sexually lewd comments with compliments.”