When god is not there: Faith and prayer are meaningless in the face of tragedy

I’ve been absent from the Atheist Papers for a little over two weeks, my longest stretch without making a post yet. Without getting into too many personal details, I’ll sum up the story like this: On 30 May 2014 my family and I suffered a tragedy of such great proportions that we might be correct to label it as a PTSD-inducing event. Actually, it’s better defined as TSD, because the tragic event is still occurring, and it will for at least two more weeks. Thus far, there is no post-trauma; it’s straight up trauma. I’m withholding almost all the details because the person who did this to us did so out of misguided anger. And I forgive them because they don’t understand sufficiently how damaging their actions can be. Also at some point there will be a lawsuit, so I think it would be inappropriate to get into the details before we’ve even been able to go to trial. Thanks for not asking questions about what is happening. Anyway, moving on.

Throughout this ordeal I’ve heard many prayers and insistence that god has a reason for either A) letting all of this happen to us or B) making all of this happen to us. That’s right. I met with a pastor after he insisted (he didn’t know I’m atheist, but I told him, and he was polite enough not to try to convert me). He said, “God is testing you.” In other words, he believes that god forced another person by ending their free will to traumatize me and my family in order to test our faith. Oh right, Job. I forgot. The pastor actually believes that god had a hand in making my family suffer.

Family members and friends have turned to prayer to help us through this. I’m here to tell you all that prayer is meaningless right now. (It’s actually always meaningless). Right now my family and I need two things: 1) tangible items that show people care, even something as small as a fruit basket or as big as a meal at a fancy restaurant. And 2) a shoulder to lean on. Praying to an invisible unknowable god does absolutely nothing to help me, my family, or a few friends who’ve been impacted by this. When someone says “I’ll pray you’ll get through this,” I want to smack them in the face and say, “So help us get through it!” Prayer doesn’t help at all.

My mother is fairly devout in her faith in Jesus. She believes her faith in god will not only guide her through this, but that it will actually make the traumatic event magically disappear, as if it never happened. I’ve called her out as well. Do something about it, don’t pray! Nothing gets fixed if all we do is talk to ourselves about it.

What this has shown me is that most people (those with faith) are largely unwilling to lend a hand when we need it most. Instead they believe that prayer and faith in the lord will mend us our broken hearts. But the cold, hard, and brutal truth is that when tragedy strikes, it doesn’t matter how much faith you have or how much you pray; nothing will make things better for you without getting your hands dirty. It takes hard work, not religion.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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11 Responses to When god is not there: Faith and prayer are meaningless in the face of tragedy

  1. I sympathize with you. I’ve often faced tragedy and gotten this same reaction. It amazes me that people think muttering to a supernatural entity is more useful than actually helping.

    Sorry you’re facing troubles. I hope they’re resolved in the near future.

  2. Ruth says:

    You have my sympathies for whatever it is you’re going through. I know that doesn’t mean a whole lot, really. If there is some tangible way a person on the internet can help, let us know.

    The prayer thing just gets under the skin, doesn’t it? When I was a Christian that’s what I said when there was seemingly nothing else left.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      Thanks 🙂 Yeah, there’s not much I can expect my Internet friends to do. So I hope no one takes this as an insult against them. It’s aimed at people I see face to face.

  3. robinobishop says:

    You may be seeing the consequence referring to Post-Traumatic Growth Theory as it applies to complex trauma.

  4. Pingback: When god is not there: Faith and prayer are meaningless in the face of tragedy | Christians Anonymous

  5. I’m going through a similar situation right now…glad to know I’m not alone!

  6. Cerberus Black says:

    I… I don’t know what to say.

    I don’t even know you, yet, I consider you as one of my best friends. I know that may sound silly, but, I that is the way I feel…

    …I’m very sorry that anther has caused some kind of tragedy in your life, and if I can help in any way possible, I will.

    My best wishes are for your recovery my friend.

  7. MissMe says:

    When my child was dying, my good christian extended family prayed and prayed. They did so knowing I & my child were naturalists. No dinners, no shoulders to cry on, no quiet walks in the park holding my hand. Just loads of useless prayers. After his death, more prayers. I too am at the point when someone offers me a prayer in lieu of practical support I want to rip their big stupid insensitive head off. If they can’t respect my philosophy on religion, and can’t be compassionate without bringing god into it, they probably should stay away from me. This is why so many mothers of dead children, atheist and religious, suffer alone, and often wind up committing suicide. Support arrives in the form of “he/she is an angel now.” End support. How people cannot see this as religious harm I cannot fathom.

    • Cerberus Black says:

      I couldn’t agree more, MissMe. There was a time when I tried suicide, and if it wasn’t for my brother, I wouldn’t be typing this. But I have children now, and they are the only thing I live for.

      Have a nice day

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