Posted by: allenrachel | April 13, 2009

For those who do not believe in God:

During the Holy Week liturgies at my parish over the past few days, there were many things that are unique from regular services. The Good Friday liturgy, the only day of the year where mass is not celebrated, includes petitions like any other liturgy. There are many specific intentions, from ‘For the unity of all Christians’ to ‘For the Jewish People,’ and everything in between. What struck me most was one near the end, ‘For those who do not believe in God.’

Here’s how it went: “Let us pray for those who do not believe in God, that they may find Him by sincerely following all that is right. [Pause for silent prayer] Almighty and eternal God, you created mankind so that all might long to find You and have peace when You are found. Grant that, in spite of the hurtful things that stand in their way, they may recognize in the lives of Christians the tokens of Your love and mercy, and gladly acknowledge You as the one true God and Father of us all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

A few things strike me about this: we were encouraged to think of engaging with the New Atheists as a kind of interreligious dialogue, and the most fruitful interreligious dialogue must include prayer. I’ve also found that one of the New Atheist’s favorite arguments against God’s existence is the way in which religious traditions are responsible for so much evil in the world. In the second half of this prayer, the Church recognizes all the ‘hurtful things that stand in their way,’ and prays for grace to help us all move on from that.

This prayer also speaks of the longing in the hearts of all people to find God, which is one of the major themes I’m working on in my paper. There is a universal longing in the human soul for ‘the more,’ something that calls to us to seek God and is satisfied only when God is found. This is a major theme in most world religions, Christian and otherwise, whether ‘the more’ is named God or something else. There is also a call in this prayer to Christians to be signs of God’s love and mercy in the world. That’s perhaps the most important part of this petition – we Christians must live in such a way to combat the hurtful things that have been done in the name of Christianity.

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Responses

  1. Rachel,

    I could not be happier with the Good Friday petition that you recounted for us. To me, it highlights something important that I have not previously thought about but is made blatantly obvious here. This semester, I began my studies of the New Atheism with respect, willing to approach the New Atheists with an open mind. However, sometime after reading Dawkins and Harris, I lost my previous respect for the New Atheists because of what I saw as a lack of respect on their parts, logical inconsistencies, and rhetorical flaws. Thus, my studies took on an us (believers) vs. them (atheists) mentality. However, the petition that you share brought me back to the real point. Atheists and believers are much more similar than not. We are all looking for the same happiness, fulfillment, and understanding. For me, the take-home message of this semester and for the remainder of our lives is one of a search for unity and dialogue rather than of difference and alienation. May we all work toward some civility in the face of disagreements, realizing that one answer to the God question will not be sufficient for all people, and together work toward solving other humanitarian and social issues of our time which have definite solutions.


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