Repost: The Power of Christ Compels You

[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from June 2006.]

Atheists are not actually afraid of this.

Earlier tonight I received a highly amusing e-mail whose author seemed confident that I would cease to be an atheist if I performed a magical ritual of their devising. I don’t normally post feedback e-mail in full, but since this one was sent to me anonymously, I have no qualms in doing so:

From: Anonymous <anonymous@anonymous.net>
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 20:23:12 -0400
Subject: Want To Prove that You are a Real Atheist? TAKE THIS TEST!!!!!!!

Want to prove that you are a real atheist?
Say this out loud

If you are a real a real atheist, say this prayer out loud three times
right now:
If there is no God, then these prayers will have no effect on you, but if
there is a God, they will. Remember, you have to say these out loud 3x each,
in a row.

I bet you you will change once you says these prayers. Say them by
yourself, you don’t have to do it in front of anyone. If you are reading this when
there is someone around, you can close it and print it out and say it then.

Say this out loud 3x:

OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME.
THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE, AS IN HEAVEN SO ON EARTH.
GIVE US DAY BY DAY OUR DAILY BREAD.
AND FORGIVE US OUR SINS;
FOR WE ALSO FORGIVE EVERY ONE THAT IS INDEBTED TO US.
AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION; BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL.
FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER
IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST,
AMEN

Then say this out loud 3x:

SPEAK OUTLOUD
SATAN, IN THE NAME OF JESUS, I COMMAND YOU TO LEAVE MY MIND, BODY, LIFE,
AND SOUL TODAY IN THE NAME OF JESUS!
YOU HAVE NO DOMINION OVER MY LIFE!
I SUBMIT MY BODY, LIFE, AND SOUL TO GOD, IN THE NAME OF JESUS!
THE BLOOD OF JESUS! THE BLOOD OF JESUS! THE BLOOD OF JESUS AGAINST YOU
SATAN!
I APPLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS OVER MY LIFE!
I APPLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS OVER WHERE I LIVE AT!
I APPLY THE BLOOD OF JESUS OVER MY FAMILY!
I DO IT ALL IN THE NAME OF JESUS
THE BLOOD OF JESUS! THE BLOOD OF JESUS! THE BLOOD OF JESUS AGAINST YOU
SATAN! IN JESUS NAME I CALL IT DONE! AMEN AND AMEN!
IN JESUS CHRIST’S HOLY NAME I PRAY, AMEN!

DO NOT DELETE THIS EMAIL UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE THIS.
AFTER YOU HAVE CHANGED, PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FELLOW NON-BELIEVERS IN
CHRIST.

ONCE AGAIN, IF YOU WANT TO PROVE THAT YOU ARE A REAL ATHEIST, FOLLOW THESE
INSTRUCTIONS.

-YOUR FRIEND,
ANONYMOUS

Since the sender of this e-mail chose to remain anonymous, I was unable to write a letter in reply. I’ll respond here, instead.

First of all, I have neither the desire nor the need to “prove that I am a real atheist”. I am an atheist, and I’ll say so to anyone who wants to know. If someone chooses not to believe me, that’s their problem, not mine. I don’t believe in any gods, and that’s the only requirement to be an atheist; I don’t have to do anything else to make my atheism “real”, nor am I obligated to jump through hoops at another’s bidding to prove it. I know the state of my own mind, and that’s good enough for me. I assume the writer of this letter was trying to goad me into acting as they desire, but it did not work.

Second, I’m curious about the author’s insistence that I must say this prayer three times for it to be effective. I can’t help wondering why they thought that was necessary. Shouldn’t once be enough for a deity that hears and knows all? Does God usually ignore the first two repetitions of a prayer, so that a third is necessary to get his attention? Though the writer of this e-mail seems to be a Christian, apparently I know the Bible better than they do: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).

And finally, to the author, whoever you are: No, I’m not going to perform this superstitious ritual you’ve devised. If that makes you crow in triumph, so be it. I know from experience that if I announced I had said the prayer and was still an atheist, you’d say that I hadn’t done it sincerely enough, or that I have to do it in a church, or in the presence of another Christian, or that I have to attend six months of Bible study first, or otherwise come up with some excuse that involves retroactively tacking new conditions onto the original challenge. I know this because I have said versions of the “sinner’s prayer” before, at the request of other Christians, and when it did absolutely nothing, those are the excuses they inevitably provide. As James Randi has said, those who are determined to be irrational are like “unsinkable rubber ducks”: push them down and they pop right back up, always with some new contrived explanation for why their particular brand of magic does not work.

I say magic because what this misguided believer proposes I do is magic, no different than any other superstitious ceremony that entails speaking the proper incantation to produce the desired effect. All varieties of magical thinking are fundamentally alike in their belief that words and symbols control reality, if arranged properly, and Christian-themed magical thinking is just like every other kind in that respect. To whoever it is that bravely chose to remain anonymous, I have a counter-challenge for you: stop hiding behind anonymous proxies, step out and reveal your identity, and I’ll debate the truth of Christianity with you in an open forum of your choice. (If you want to prove that you’re a real Christian, you’ll do it. See how that feels?) If Christianity is true, then the facts will inevitably bear that out, and if it is not true, all the vain repetitions in the world will not make it otherwise. Will you show yourself, or will you remain hidden and persist in the foolish and futile delusion that your magic words can control reality?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Ick. SO MUCH BLOOD.

  • B-Lar

    and Jesus said “Yea, those who do not offend my fathers eyes will surely inherit the kingdom, but those who abuse the mighty capslock key will be cast from his sight. They will not inherit the kingdom, and will flail, weeping in the pit, for verily they have committed the sin of non-discernment. Though they seek me they will never find me, for even though their message and intentions be pure, it be forever poisoned with the appearance of whackjobbery and my father doth despise being made to look thus by his children. Cut it the fuck out.”

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    Tibetan Buddhists spin prayer wheels in the belief that each rotation of the wheel is equivalent to an utterance of the prayer printed on its side. In some towns, they line these things up along the road, so that every pedestrian can do their part in keeping the wheels spinning as they pass. I think it’s interesting when magical thinking combines with practical thinking. The only real difference between the wheel-spinning Buddhists and the God-spamming Christians is that the Buddhists are more efficient.

  • Todd

    Why would I want someone’s blood over me and my family?

  • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

    I’m curious about the author’s insistence that I must say this prayer three times for it to be effective.

    Maybe he’s confusing Jesus with Beetlejuice?

  • smrnda

    If someone told me to do something like this, I’d probably do it, and then watch the magic incantations fail miserably at changing my mind.

    I might draw the line somewhere though; I did an experiment of attending a church and kept a low profile since I was there to observe and not to do anything. Deciding to go up for prayer of any kind made one into a very, very public spectacle, and that was going too far for me to be willing to do something just to prove it didn’t work.

  • Errant Endeavour

    For a laugh, I followed the instructions to the letter … and then my arm caught fire.

    Mainly because I was leaning too close to the cooker at the time.

  • busterggi

    Nothing happened when I said “Shazam” out loud three times and that’s at least as powerful magic.

  • cipher

    I know from experience that if I announced I had said the prayer and was
    still an atheist, you’d say that I hadn’t done it sincerely enough…

    Yep, there’s always a rationalization. Always. This had nothing to do with helping you. It was about reinforcing his/her belief system.

  • tfkreference

    It would be even more efficient if they hooked the prayer wheels up to generators.

  • http://newyorkleftist.blogspot.com misha_trotsky

    Mr. Lee: It did not work because you left out the most important part:

    While you say these prayers three times, you have to eat three bowls of pasta.

    Try that, and let me know what happens.

  • evodevo

    Turn around 3 (no more and no less – what is that Monty Python routine?) times, put your finger on your nose (no, wait, that’s Santa up the chimney, sorry …) … how about the magic number 7 times … no wait, that’s Revelation….. you’re confusing me …
    LOL, I get junk like this all the time from my fundie acquaintances – the sad part is that they really DO believe there’s a being named Satan, and that atheists are under his power (why “he”, I wonder) or acknowledge his power, or something, I forget. They don’t seem to pick up on the idea that an atheist believes in NO supernatural beings, good or bad. They just can’t wrap their heads around that one.

  • Russell Wain Glasser

    First off: I have done stuff like this before. More than once. It hasn’t worked. Of course, the fact that I didn’t say this one SPECIFIC (ridiculously long) prayer, or say the magic words three times and click my heels, always leaves some kind of “out” for the challenger.

    That’s why when I am presented with an “experiment” like this — which I am, frequently — I always ask for a commitment of falsifiability from the asker. I tell them: “If this is somehow proof of God, then if it doesn’t work it must be evidence against God. So I will take your challenge, right here in front of you, as long as you explain to me how much time must pass with nothing happening before we conclude that it didn’t work. And if it doesn’t work, I want you to agree to acknowledge, out loud and publicly, that this is a point of evidence against your God.”

    Nobody has ever followed through on this counter-challenge.

  • JohnH2

    There is a problem with someone having experience with God admitting your experience is evidence contrary to God as doing so is contradictory: your hypothesis and experience contradicts with their hypothesis and experience. Since no one can actually hold contradictory views then it is necessary to amend the hypothesis to include the negative data point: Atheists generally do this by claiming theists are irrational idiots (or something equivalent) and theists often by claiming the other is an insincere sinner. The alternative would be for both to assume that their idea and view of God may be flawed.

    So, I am willing to admit that my understanding of God may be flawed based on your experience if you are willing to admit that your insistence of the non-existence of God is flawed based on my experience.

  • RedGreenInBlue

    “The alternative would be for both to assume that their idea and view of God may be flawed.”

    Or to accept that there are many reasons apart from idiocy (and far more common) why people hold onto beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary: desire to conform, fear, confirmation bias, wishful thinking, logical errors, the misunderstanding of probability theory, etc. Atheists are subject to these same flaws in thinking.

    It does not follow, however, that therefore both hypotheses are equally flawed. From the existence of multiple incompatible religions to controlled studies demonstrating the lack of efficacy of prayer, and from the problem of evil to the overwhelming hostility of the universe to life, the evidence for the non-existence of gods goes far beyond our own personal subjective experience.

  • GCT

    So, I am willing to admit that my understanding of God may be flawed based on your experience if you are willing to admit that your insistence of the non-existence of God is flawed based on my experience.

    I’m more than willing to admit that I may be wrong about the non-existence of god (are you similarly willing to say that god may not exist?) The problem, however, is that you’re going to have to bring some evidence if you want me to move over to the theist side. (We happen to have a stark lack of evidence for god(s)). And, no, your subjective reports do not count as evidence (especially since I can’t tell whether I should accept your accounts or the accounts of Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, etc). The burden of proof lies upon you to supply evidence, else the supported and rational position is disbelief.


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