Subway Prayer

Matthew at Get Underground had an experience not unknown to many atheists: he had to listen to an older man talk about Jesus on a subway. It wasn’t something he asked for. He was just trying to read his newspaper, until the man started talking to him, and Matthew wanted to be polite so he indulged the older man in his dialogue:

Somehow the topic of the mostly one-way conversation turned towards history. “All history is, is HIS story. And that HIS is the Lord, Jesus Christ. You’ve heard of Jesus Christ?”

My heart sank. My wanting to humor a tipsy old man had ensnared me, and I was stuck listening to a religious lecture. Crap. But I continued to be polite and heard what the man had to say. His religious jive was not a hateful diatribe against sinners or the prediction of doom.

“Everything that is going to happen has been pre-ordained…”

It was standard pro-Jesus patter, complete with the effect that it had on his own life, though being an old drunk chatting up people like me on the subway doesn’t say much for Christ’s power.

But it was this that worried me:

“It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I discovered the truth in Jesus Christ. Up until my 40s I was an atheist, you see…”

I am an atheist, and I’ll be 40 in just over five years. Would I turn out like this man, pathetically pronouncing my faith to strangers on mass transit? Would I be able to withstand the trials and tribulations of life without running back into the comforting arms of religious faith?

With that, Matthew created an atheist prayer:

Lord, if you exist,
please grant me the strength
to continue to not believe in you.
And if I turn to religion in desperation,
please grant me the decency
not to harangue strangers
with pronouncements of my faith,
oh Lord who I do not believe in.
Amen.

Words to live by :)

He closes with the following:

Religion will always be with us because it fulfills two very basic human needs: it explains the world around us and provides a code of conduct. We don’t have to get those things from religion, but most people do.

People find what they are looking for in religion. Those that want to find inspiration and encouragement to being kind to people will be served by religion; those seeking justification for being hateful and judgmental will find what they are looking for as well.

But I’m looking for neither, just some piece and quiet on the A train. Wish me luck.

Good luck with that. Saying the Atheist Prayer may help…

Matthew says this guy in particular appeared drunk. Personally, on the Chicago L, I’ve always had the same experience. I’m only approached about religion by people under the influence, interrupting my crossword time. It’s never anyone sober… or cute, for that matter. On the other hand, when I’m at the Taste of Chicago over the summer, it’s always sober people trying to interrupt me while I’m eating with a group of friends.

I don’t recall going to churches when this practice of proselytizing-only-when-the-victim-is-in-the-middle-of-something was being taught. I wonder how they pick it up…


[tags]atheist, atheism, Get Underground, Jesus, Christ, Christian, Taste of Chicago[/tags]

  • TPK

    Reminds me of a similar true story that happened to me on the Chicago L many years ago. A very attractive lady took an empty seat in front of mine, and alas, during the agonizing five minutes or so of deliberation over what clever line I might come up with, her adjoining space was commandeered by another female, this one an evangelizing proselytiser.

    The interloper began a polite series of questions with the now hopeless object of my desire, each one politely deflected. “Have you accepted Christ?” “Would you like to come to our church?” etc. Finally after a momentary pause, questioner asks “Do you ever read the bible?”

    Gorgeous one replies, “Oh my, no, I’m Catholic.”

  • Mriana

    With that, Matthew created an atheist prayer:

    Lord, if you exist,
    please grant me the strength
    to continue to not believe in you.
    And if I turn to religion in desperation,
    please grant me the decency
    not to harangue strangers
    with pronouncements of my faith,
    oh Lord who I do not believe in.
    Amen.

    Words to live by

    (Proof reading and I do hope my question and explanation don’t come across as confrontational, but rather as inquiry to the prayer. :( )

    Hemant, if one does not believe, why bother to pray such a prayer? What I mean is, I have absolutely and totally no conception of most Christian’s anthropomorphic god- never have for that matter. I have a little more of a conception of Bishop Spong’s god, if you ever read anything by him, but the idea of “god” to me is something that has no form of any sort. You can only see it like you would the wind for it is very much like the wind and is in a human as that inner drive that keeps us going. It’s the drive that causes us to want to help someone in need or to better ourselves. It is that transcendence a new mother feels when she holds her baby for the first time and gazes into his/her eyes, which granted is a chemical reaction in the brain, but still VERY real and VERY natural.

    Of course some people don’t see that as a god and some see that as god. I have no label for it actually, except a part of nature and part of us, but it’s a completely and totally different conception that very few Christians can comprehend, just as I can not comprehend a vast majoorities’ anthropomorphic god.

    Therefore, I can’t comprehend how such a prayer is words to live by when there is no comprehension of what most people call god. So, could you explain to a non-theist why an atheist would think (or why you think maybe the more appropriate question, not sure) these are words to live by when such a god does not exist or is even conceptualized in some people’s minds?

    Then again, I maybe an atheist, instead of a non-theist and don’t even know it. lol Anyway, I hope my questions and explanation for the questions makes sense.

  • Mriana

    Then again, it maybe a joke that I have to stop looking to deeply into to understand it. lol

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Mriana– I think it is just a joke :) Of course saying a prayer isn’t going to change anything; I liked the way it was written, though.

  • Mriana

    That was my second thought after I posted my question. He could go into writing poetry.


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