After my miscarriage I wrote about the power of prayer as a non-believer. About how I still completely value and appreciate when people offer to pray for me or people I love.
But this week, I’ve been thinking about that in reverse.
If you have a faith of the religious variety, how do you feel when people like me say to you, “You’re in my thoughts!”
There’s someone facing huge struggles here locally. The family is very religious and all of the message on their Facebook page contain beautiful religious sentiments accompanied by bible verses. I don’t know these people well enough to approach them, I’m just following their story, but it did get me thinking: Would my words be more offensive than encouraging?
Here’s my fear…someone like me, an open non-believer, says “You and your family are in my thoughts.” Of course I’m sincere, but does it carry a hidden message that could be upsetting? I mean, religious people rely on their faith in times of trouble, do they want someone like me basically saying, “I don’t believe in the system you’re placing your faith in, and I’m going to remind you of that by saying I’m just going to do my own thing over here instead of praying for your family, like you asked.”
See? That sounds SUPER SHITTY of me.
But then I thought more about it, if a Jewish friend said, “I’m praying for you,” it wouldn’t be the same faith system, right? But they’d still appreciate it, right?
OR WOULD THEY?
BAH! I don’t know! I know that I totally over analyze things like this. Religion is such a personal thing and it is always a huge fear that my atheism could offend people I love. Or people I’m trying to help. What is the right thing to do? LIE? Say, “You’re in my prayers,” if they’re someone who doesn’t know any better? And if they are aware of my own lack of religious faith, then what? Do I just avoid saying anything? But, what if we’re face to face and I want to send them with parting words? Just keep it practical? Offer meals and hugs?
So – I come to you to seek counsel. If you know I’m a non-believer, how would you like me to express my sympathy, condolences or support? Is it okay to say, “You’re in my thoughts!” or does that sound condescending? Or should I just let them know I’m there if they need anything?
And most importantly – how much am I over-reacting? On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being “Not at All!” and 10 being, “TAKE A XANAX LADY!” – where do I fall?