Having known about my brain tumour for over a week, and being a member of a family and circle of friends full to the brim with fervent religious practitioners, I have recently been on the receiving end of numerous offers for prayer. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I really wish people would think about what their proffers of prayer imply to someone like me.
Like one of my great intellectual heroes, Daniel Dennett, I will refrain from asking the obvious question in this situation: “will you also slaughter a goat?” However, I shall make this accusation: your offer of prayer implies that I am at least partly responsible for my situation.
“How?” I hear your ask. Well, for starters, you are implying that your God has some sort of control over my condition. Secondly, as my condition is under his control, he must either be directly responsible for it, or have decided against intervening in my case. Thirdly, by claiming that my health can be restored through an appeal to favour, you are implying that I am out of favour. And finally, an aspect of all major religions (and especially all the ones practiced by people who have thus far offered their prayer services) is that the onus of earning God’s favour is on the individual. In other words: I am sick either because I have earned God’s ire, or because I am out of favour. I am in the situation I am in because of something I have done/failed to do. It is not an unfortunate situation. It is my fault.
I understand that these proffers of prayer are extended with the best of intentions, and I do truly appreciate the thoughts behind them. I also fully admit that in this situation I am overly sensitive. However, people do need to realise these sorts of issues have different implications to different people.