Recently he blogged about a friend, a believer, whose daughter joined a competing Christian denomination that has a theology she finds a bit extreme, causing a rift in their relationship. She asked the agnostic ex-pastor blogger to pray for her daughter to come to her senses and return to the fold or at least not to abandon her familial relationships in favor of this Christian “cult.” This presents an obvious dilemma to the blogger who no longer believes in a deity or prayer.
One of his readers posted this advice: "I’ve never seen any verifiable miracle answers to prayer, I would pray for her and her daughter simply because she asked me to. If she believes in prayer, then I would believe in it too for her sake. This is what friends do with or without all the theology."
I don’t know what to make of this. It seems the commenter is a self-described “Christ-Centric- Deist.” Presumably this means he holds Jesus in reverence but without imbuing him with god qualities while believing in a Creator of the universe who no longer is involved with his creations’ daily lives (Jefferson and Adams, and Franklin could be described similarly.) With an absent Creator, prayer is viewed as meaningless. But what ever his belief the statement has the unmistakable stench of religionist hypocrisy.
So let me ask: If a friend of yours practiced witchcraft that put faith in the sacrifice of a chicken, would you sacrifice a chicken on his behalf if he asked you to? And could you “believe” in its efficacy for his sake, because that is what friends do "with or without" sharing the same delusional theology?
If a friend was Pentecostal and asked you to pray over her dying child who could easily be saved by modern medicine, would you pray with her or convince her to take the child for medical help? If she refused, would you “accept her belief” or notify the authorities, even if it was painful for your friend?
How does practicing a superstitious ritual, with no scientific basis or evidence for efficacy, one that you do not imbue with credibility, genuinely benefit the person making the request? Doesn't doing that violate ones principles? Isn't it tantamount to hypocrisy / a deception? Doesn't it lend credence to / reinforce a superstition that has no validity but gives false hope of a positive result to the superstitiously afflicted?
Wouldn’t we be simply placating someone with a condescending gesture by masquerading as a like believer for their short term / immediate sense of relief and hope when we know it yields no possibility of real long term relief or resolution? Isn’t it saying: “Reality is ok for me, but you lack the ability to deal with reality; so I’ll come down to your level and pretend to make you feel better for the moment. Aren’t I magnanimous?”
Wouldn't a friend who is honest, has integrity, and is true to their own position say
"I can't deceive you and participate in a gratuitous ritual in which I hold no belief; I respect you too much for that. But I love you and will help you in real and meaningful ways."?
Religious belief is already based on an irrational lie. A real friend doesn’t heap one irrational lie on another… no matter how one tries to justify/rationalize it. Maybe this kind of deception of self and others is something theists have trained themselves to do. Frankly, I could never prostitute my intellect, integrity or honesty to legitimize a person’s feel good delusion.