I was the victim of a slight by a friend a while back. I’m not naming names because it’s not important. I was told by that friend about the conversation between the friend and a stranger to us both. The friend was talking about me having MS and my struggles with it. I have no problem with that; I’m all for awareness and my having MS is not a private secret for that very reason. What bothered me is this part of the conversation the friend told me about:
Stanger: “Is she religious?”
Friend: “Well no, but I am.”
Stranger: “Then I’ll pray for your friend.”
There are a couple of things I find hurtful here. My friend is Christian. I am Unitarian Universalist. The main difference is that I believe that all prayers go to the same place no matter what the religion of the person praying or to what deity the prayer is addressed. The core of my beliefs is respect for all beliefs and compassion for all people, regardless of those beliefs. My immediate self-righteous thought is that it would be much easier to consider myself right and regard anyone who thinks different than me to be wrong, pray for those that agree and I’m done. I work hard within my beliefs and honestly, I’m offended when someone says “she’s not religious” because we don’t say the same prayers. And by the way, I was raised Catholic, so if I say a prayer, it’s likely a Christian prayer. Someone is not “not religious” just because their beliefs are different than yours.
The other hurtful thing is the stranger asking if I’m religious in the first place. When it’s so easy to say “I’ll pray for you” to someone if you find out they are an atheist as a jab at them why is it impossible to actually pray for a stranger unless you know they believe like you do? Isn’t your own belief enough to pray for someone? Even if my friend wasn’t a fellow Christian it doesn’t mean the stranger couldn’t pray for me.
That part of the conversation that was told to me never should have happened. The stranger should have just prayed without boasting about doing it. My beliefs never should have been questioned because they are irrelevant. If you believe in the power of prayer it doesn’t matter if the person for whom you’re praying does. My friend never should have made a judgement about my beliefs because they are different from theirs and offering that “they’ll sponsor me” by saying “no, but I am” is another judgment that I’m “not worthy” of being prayed for because we don’t have identical beliefs.
I’m not going to keep stewing about this now. I realize that the idea that no other beliefs could possibly be right is part of most religions. The fact that I view that as "necessary to fill the holy buildings on the holy days even if it causes more war than peace" is just me doing the same thing. I don’t think my friend or the stranger were hurting me on purpose but I needed to get it out of my head and air it in a pubic(ish) forum to get it to quit grating on me.
Thanks for reading and may God, or however you address the supreme power, bless you every day.