Why saying “I’ll pray for you” is insulting to non-believers

Look, I know you mean well. I know that no insult is intended. But try to look at this objectively:

Saying “I’ll pray for you” because I don’t believe in the same thing you believe in has the same affect on me as if you said, “I’ll ask My Little Pony to give you sweet dreams and chocolate.” It’s meaningless to me.

The reason it’s insulting is because what it really says is, “I pity you because you don’t share my beliefs, and therefore since I am superior to you, I will grant you this boon, you poor unfortunate soul. Thanks to me praying for you, you may escape an internal torment in Hell, you evil person. You should thank me.”9459f74d551d0038ee0551450f4099b00b42a91ad1f7dfec24adf03c6cbbf2df
In other words, the only person such a statement serves in this context is you. While you mean well, it ignores my beliefs completely, telling me that you’re completely insensitive to them. 

Someone saying “I’ll pray for you” as soon they find out I’m a non-believer is equivalent to me saying “I hope you get smarter” when someone tells me they do believe. It’s condescending and insulting to your belief, because it completely discounts it and treats it as meaningless and beneath respect.

I will gladly debate religion with anyone, but let’s not start off by insulting each other for our beliefs. 

“I’ll pray for you” also depends on the context. If you’re saying that because I’m in the hospital, then I know it means “I am wishing you well” and I am happy to receive such thoughts. I take no offense, because it means you care. But when you say it in response to learning I don’t share your beliefs, it’s dismissive and insulting.


3 thoughts on “Why saying “I’ll pray for you” is insulting to non-believers

  1. What do you think about the response “And I’ll think for you.”? I haven’t used it, but it keeps echoing through my head when I read your posts on this subject. It is symmetric; implying your superiority and a lack on their part. Perhaps that symmetry can let them see their insult from the recipient’s point of view.


  2. Reblogged this on Agrayson12’s Weblog and commented:
    This is a spectacular wonderful article. I am Episcopal and my husband is Priest at a small church in South Alabama (IKR) and I literally come UNGLUED when I hear someone use the phrase “I’ll pray for you” as a conversation ending weapon. The phrase results in the EXACT scenario you described. This article it’s extremely helpful to us both. However, I do think the main problem is…. The intention. I’m sure there are some totally oblivious people say “I’ll pray for you” and completely don’t see that it is totally insulting to someone that has a completely different set of beliefs. Unfortunately, I think most times they’re totally aware of how insulting it is ….and they’re just being straight up a-holes. Thank you for this article.

    Liked by 1 person

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