"I will pray for you"

I casually posted a meme about the complete lack of efficacy of prayer.

A Christian promptly commented, "I will pray for you."  When I averred that I hoped he was joking, he told me, "You DO realize Athiests are just as passionate about their Lack of a God as We are about Our God. No? Well, I do and it's hillarious." (spelling and grammar as in the original)

At this point, I just had to turn on the sarcasm a bit, to thank him for informing me of what I think and what I believe.  As an atheist, I am mostly ignorant about atheism.  So I was glad that he wandered by to inform me it is just like belief in God (except different, but only a little), and so that he could explain it all from his position of expertise thereon....  And then I ran out of sarcasm.

OK, OK, none of you believes that.  But I really wanted to assume he was basically a person of good will.  So I set out to  explain some of what he did to inspire such a response.

First of all, I asked him to try and summon some of the empathy that religion hadn't beaten out of him.  Because, yes, religiosity damages humans' normal capacity for empathy.  It imposes a non-discretionary framework where there are very clearly defined Tribesmen and Others.  Aside from the extent to which Others might be candidates for recruitment, the amount of empathy Tribesmen feel for them is reduced.

I asked him imagine how patronizing and insulting, "I will pray for you" is to someone who has just stated his position that prayer has no value.  This is how the conversation went in the space of a few minutes: I said, "Prayer is worthless."  He immediately replied "I will do for you that thing you think is worthless."  He might as well have offered -- in the most grandiosely generous tones he could manage -- to pee in my koi pond.

I also asked him if I had expressed any need or unfulfilled desire?  Because, I had not.  So his offer to pray for me presumed a need I did not have, which makes it more insulting.

On the other hand, had I in fact expressed a need, it would not have been for his prayers on my behalf.  So, say I need $20, and he hands me a wooden nickel -- now it's just mocking, pure and simple.

This #1 of a series covering the top ten goofy things religious people say to atheists.