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dahlia

Prayers for a Dead Athiest

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Just a few minutes before I was headed out to the temple, I found out that an online friend I'd known for about 4 years suddenly passed away. She was a science grad student, an avowed atheist, who had scathing posts about the religious students she had the misfortune to work within the lab. Maybe she thought she was safe saying these things on anonymous board and didn't say them out loud to anyone, but they didn't speak well of her - atheists in academe have to put up with the religious and the religious have to put up with the atheists. We try to leave religion out of it - especially when dealing with students, no one wants a law suit - and just get to work.

Well, this poor young woman was found dead, we don't know why yet. In the many posts commenting on her death, some said they were praying for her, while others said it was wrong to do so since she was an atheist and wouldn't want their prayers.

I put her name on the prayer roll and prayed for her at the temple. Tough. She can thank me later. :lol: That said, what would you have done? I only read the 'don't pray for her' posts after I'd returned from Nauvoo, but it got me thinking - do we do what we feel is right or do what the dead person would want? I kept thinking of her, younger than my son, dying alone, and really felt she needed my prayers. And yeah, I felt I needed to pray for her,so I did.

So, what do you do with dead atheists?

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I never (or very rarely) pray for dead people. They are no longer the concern of the living, except for the matter of proxy temple ordinances. It would never have occurred to me either to pray for her or to put her name on a temple role. The practice of praying for dead people strikes me as distinctly Catholic. On the other hand, I would certainly not refuse to do temple work for her (or, for that matter, pray for her) based on the fact that she was an atheist.

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So, what do you do with dead atheists?

Bury them?

Sorry, I needed a little levity.

I agree with Vort, though -- when national tragedies happen, I don't understand the idea of praying for the victims. Take Sandy Hook, for example. I didn't pray for the children who died -- they were with their Savior in Paradise...why would I pray for them? What benefit could they possibly gain from my prayers? I did, however, pray for the families that lost children, and the community as a whole, as they began the long road to recovery.

I also understand where you're coming from, Dahlia, when you said that you prayed for your friend because you felt that you needed to. Sometimes our prayers are really just for our own comfort, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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Well their spirits still exist and presumably will be ministered to in Spirit Prison. My husband's granddaddy was a staunch atheist. I don't know that we ever specifically prayed it aloud, but when he died we held on to hope that he would be open to the Gospel if he were being taught there. So I guess that means I don't see anything wrong or unusual about praying for someone who has passed. They still exist, just in a different place.

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This is surprising. With the work we do for the dead, I never thought it would be remiss to pray for someone who's just passed away.

Do you really mean that LDS don't pray for their dead loved ones, other than to do their proxy work? Maybe this is a Catholic holdover that is so deeply ingrained I never even thought of it as Catholic.

You mean you guys don't pray for your dead parents, even? Wow.

Well, I'm praying anyway.

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I never (or very rarely) pray for dead people. They are no longer the concern of the living, except for the matter of proxy temple ordinances. It would never have occurred to me either to pray for her or to put her name on a temple role. The practice of praying for dead people strikes me as distinctly Catholic. On the other hand, I would certainly not refuse to do temple work for her (or, for that matter, pray for her) based on the fact that she was an atheist.

I pray for my deceased daughter. Just as I pray for my living children, I pray for her too. I pray for her progression beyond the grave. I pray that she may know of her son's trials and triumphs, and that she may be involved (on a spiritual basis) with her family here on earth. When I am missing her and grieving for her, I pray that she may know of my love. Just because she has passed beyond this veil, doesn't mean she isn't an integral part of my family. She is my daughter, whether living or dead. I still feel the need to pray for her.

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More to the point, this is the best time to include "and family" when putting someone on the prayer rolls. Regardless of where the dead one is, others still here are having to deal with the loss.

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To clarify: I don't see anything wrong with praying for the deceased. I just haven't wrapped my head around the idea personally. I've never heard any teaching about it in church. I just don't get it, for me.

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I've even prayed that Heavenly Father would give my dad a hug for me. Whether it's appropriate or not..it gave me comfort and I don't think Heavenly Father would think it bad of me to ask it either.

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This is surprising. With the work we do for the dead, I never thought it would be remiss to pray for someone who's just passed away. [...] You mean you guys don't pray for your dead parents, even? Wow.

My Dad died a bit over two years ago. I will not absolutely guarantee that I've never prayed for him in that time, especially soon after his death, but I don't remember ever doing so. I assume he is in a position of much greater light and knowledge than I am, and I don't see how my prayers in his behalf could be of any use. I would not even know what to pray for, given that I do not understand the nature of postmortal life in any detail. My prayers would be essentially a plea to bless my father with God's blessings -- which is sort of obvious, and which I assume my Dad is in a much better situation to secure than any meaningless generalities I might offer in prayer.

I pray for my deceased daughter. Just as I pray for my living children, I pray for her too.

Excellent point. God forbid that I lose a child, but if I did, I assume I would continue to pray for that child's eternal welfare. My generalities may have been too broad.

My point was not that praying in behalf of the dead was absolutely wrong or even inappropriate in all cases. Rather, the idea strikes me as very strange and somewhat Catholic. This life is the time to prepare to meet God. I suppose that might well extend to the postmortal realm. But in general, I don't know how we offer efficacious prayers in behalf of dead people. We do not know their specific needs or situation, unless given us by revelation.

And if our righteous parents or other dear ones die, our (at least my) assumption is that they are actually in a superior position to us regarding many spiritual things. What would I say in behalf of my father if I were to pray for his welfare? "Dear Lord, please bless Dad that he will be able to...do...whatever it is that he's doing...well." That doesn't seem like any kind of real prayer to me.

In the Catholic worldview (as I understand it), it makes sense to pray for dead folks, because prayers actually count on a sort of tally sheet and directly benefit the prayed-for person. LDS theology is much different on that matter; we don't believe that God keeps count in that way or weighs good vs. bad deeds and works such as prayers of the individual or others on his/her behalf, so such reasoning does not apply in an LDS mindset.

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Dahlia, I am sorry about your friend, and her family's loss.

I pray for my atheist friend that is still alive. She doesn't know, and if she did she would likely just think it is fantasy on my part. If she died, yes, I would pray for her.

I enjoyed reading this thread and pondering it because I hadn't really thought much about the idea before either. I sometimes pray and ask Heavenly Father to let my Grandmother know I am thinking of her. I don't pray for the children of Sandy Hook because being so young we know they will return to God. But my atheist friend, who is ex-LDS, yes, I would be praying for her. We do work for the dead, and hope that they will accept it, so why not pray for them? On the other hand, it is not something I do routinely, even for my own family that has passed.

So yeah, pray for your friend. I'm guessing she's not atheist anymore. :eek:

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I went over the last posts of the person because others had mentioned that she'd posted about not feeling well and I wanted to see what was going on.

I thought it was interesting, and a little funny, that the very last post of this atheist was "Black smoke over the Sistine chapel." There's no escaping the Catholic Church, even for atheists. : )

(It's a joke; I haven't apostatized.)

Edited by dahlia
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My Dad died a bit over two years ago. I will not absolutely guarantee that I've never prayed for him in that time, especially soon after his death, but I don't remember ever doing so. I assume he is in a position of much greater light and knowledge than I am, and I don't see how my prayers in his behalf could be of any use. I would not even know what to pray for, given that I do not understand the nature of postmortal life in any detail. My prayers would be essentially a plea to bless my father with God's blessings -- which is sort of obvious, and which I assume my Dad is in a much better situation to secure than any meaningless generalities I might offer in prayer.

This sums up my thoughts on the matter perfectly, though I couldn't articulate them as well or as accurately. Thanks, Vort.

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I guess you could always pray that when the Atheist gets over his/her shock at having been so wrong for all their life, they will have a desire to accept the Gospel in the Spirit World. Personally, I can't remember praying for a person who has passed on from this life. Generally my prayers are for the survivors who continue to live on in their absence.

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I guess you could always pray that when the Atheist gets over his/her shock at having been so wrong for all their life, they will have a desire to accept the Gospel in the Spirit World. Personally, I can't remember praying for a person who has passed on from this life. Generally my prayers are for the survivors who continue to live on in their absence.

We think of survival of the spirit into a postmortal life as definitive proof of theism, but an atheist pointed out to me that it is not really any such thing. The fact that we have a part of our minds that survives death does not necessarily imply the existence of God, at least not to the atheist mind. So perhaps there are atheists in the next life, too -- though my understanding of the process and "interviews" that take place directly after death would seem to suggest that might not be the case.

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A softening of heart is about the only thing I could think to pray for in that sort of situation. As Vort points out we don't really have much in the way of an idea of what they might need.

We think of survival of the spirit into a postmortal life as definitive proof of theism, but an atheist pointed out to me that it is not really any such thing. The fact that we have a part of our minds that survives death does not necessarily imply the existence of God, at least not to the atheist mind. So perhaps there are atheists in the next life, too -- though my understanding of the process and "interviews" that take place directly after death would seem to suggest that might not be the case.

I think delusion or misunderstanding is still possible. As members doing proxy work we tend to think, "Who wouldn't accept the gospel in the next life?" But my take on Alma 34:34 is that if we reject truth* in this life I don't think it is a given that we we'll accept it with open arms in the next. Once the veil is lifted I don't think atheism can really be a tenable position, the rejection of God? Yes. True atheism? No. Before that point though the idea that someone would continue to hold on to those views and ideas they held tightly to in mortality doesn't make me pause.

*Truth defined as that communicated by the spirit, not necessarily what has fallen upon physical ears.

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I don't want to keep beating a dead horse here, but I've just spent my post-church lunch & relaxation time browsing through the threads to see wassup. All through the fora there are requests for prayers - help me decide about being a missionary, pray for my sick relative, pray for me to get a job, etc.

If you are going to pray for everything, why would you not pray for the souls of your departed friends and loved ones? You pray that they find the peace that may have eluded them in life, that God watch over them, that they accept the Gospel...are these things not worth a prayer?

I may be making a connection that isn't there, but if you don't pray for your dead relatives, does that mean you don't think of them? It seems from the responses that once a person has passed on, it's like out of sight, out of mind to an LDS.

Can someone explain to me the theology behind the attitudes expressed in this tread? Seriously. I mean if it's not LDS to pray for the dead, then I want to do the right thing, but I need to have some theological reason why we would, in my mind, treat our dead loved ones as if they never existed, by not remembering them in our prayers.

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If you are going to pray for everything, why would you not pray for the souls of your departed friends and loved ones? You pray that they find the peace that may have eluded them in life, that God watch over them, that they accept the Gospel...are these things not worth a prayer?

I believe these all good reasons to offer a prayer in behalf of a deceased loved one.

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I may be making a connection that isn't there, but if you don't pray for your dead relatives, does that mean you don't think of them?

Nope. I think a lot of it is based on a general assumption of it being a better place and condition than this life. If we're talking about faithful family members, the image is not of someone who is struggling for peace but someone who is consuming themselves in the Lord's work. Obviously this is something more applicable to those we thought of as faithful in life, or young children, than say an atheist friend, but it can even apply to them if you tend to assume their eyes will be opened and they will accept the gospel as a matter of course.

Can someone explain to me the theology behind the attitudes expressed in this tread? Seriously. I mean if it's not LDS to pray for the dead, then I want to do the right thing, but I need to have some theological reason why we would, in my mind, treat our dead loved ones as if they never existed, by not remembering them in our prayers.

I don't think there is anything doctrinally incorrect in praying that someone's heart is softened compared to life, or that they quickly find the peace they couldn't in life. Just because members tend not to do something doesn't mean it is wrong to do so. Take the cross for instance, a lot of members wouldn't be comfortable wearing a cross necklace but it isn't wrong for one to do so.

Edited by Dravin

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This is surprising. With the work we do for the dead, I never thought it would be remiss to pray for someone who's just passed away.

Do you really mean that LDS don't pray for their dead loved ones, other than to do their proxy work? Maybe this is a Catholic holdover that is so deeply ingrained I never even thought of it as Catholic.

You mean you guys don't pray for your dead parents, even? Wow.

Well, I'm praying anyway.

Growing up LDS, I think we tended to think they were praying for us After all, they have completed their Earthly journey and we are still in it.

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My point was not that praying in behalf of the dead was absolutely wrong or even inappropriate in all cases. Rather, the idea strikes me as very strange and somewhat Catholic.

Just because it is somewhat Catholic does not mean it is not LDS. Praying for the dead is very Christian just as Jesus Christ prayed for the dead Lazarus and asked the Father for intercession. Yes, we may not have the power to ask God to raise the dead, but the dead is not DEAD. Their life continues on and asking God to bless and keep them in his mercy is not just for Catholics.

This life is the time to prepare to meet God. I suppose that might well extend to the postmortal realm. But in general, I don't know how we offer efficacious prayers in behalf of dead people. We do not know their specific needs or situation, unless given us by revelation.

A dead atheist... we know what he needs - that he may find truth in the afterlife. But even if we don't know anything specific, we really do not need specificity to be able to ask God to keep those in the spirit world in the path closer to Him.

And if our righteous parents or other dear ones die, our (at least my) assumption is that they are actually in a superior position to us regarding many spiritual things. What would I say in behalf of my father if I were to pray for his welfare? "Dear Lord, please bless Dad that he will be able to...do...whatever it is that he's doing...well." That doesn't seem like any kind of real prayer to me.

Just this morning, I gave this prayer, "Dear Lord, please bless Thomas S. Monson that he will be able to do what you ask him to do whatever that is.".

I can guarantee you that Thomas S. Monson is in a more superior position regarding me in all spiritual things.

In the Catholic worldview (as I understand it), it makes sense to pray for dead folks, because prayers actually count on a sort of tally sheet and directly benefit the prayed-for person. LDS theology is much different on that matter; we don't believe that God keeps count in that way or weighs good vs. bad deeds and works such as prayers of the individual or others on his/her behalf, so such reasoning does not apply in an LDS mindset.

Yes, you don't understand Catholic worldview and you are actually wrong on that count. There is nothing different about Catholic prayer versus LDS prayer except that Catholics use prayer to communicate not only with God but also with canonized Saints. There's no "tally sheet" - whatever that means.

Just like we believe that the "righteous spirits" work to help those in spirit prison to teach and lead and bring them on the path to the plan of salvation, so do the Catholics believe that the "Saints" (who are nothing more than officially recognized righteous spirits) work to help those who are in "purgatory" (yes, this is the same concept as spirit prison) climb up the ladder to heaven. Therefore, Catholic prayers for the dead address these Saints specifically like this: "Dear Saint Francis Xavier, we know that you are one of God's great missionaries and work tirelessly for the conversion of souls. Please help my deceased ___whoever____ that he may get to heaven."

Besides praying directly to Saint Francis, there's nothing really different in purpose about that Catholic prayer to an LDS prayer. Oh, and yes, it does not end with in the name of Christ, Amen.

Edited by anatess

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some said they were praying for her, while others said it was wrong to do so since she was an atheist and wouldn't want their prayers.

I put her name on the prayer roll and prayed for her at the temple. Tough. She can thank me later. :lol: That said, what would you have done? I only read the 'don't pray for her' posts after I'd returned from Nauvoo, but it got me thinking - do we do what we feel is right or do what the dead person would want? I kept thinking of her, younger than my son, dying alone, and really felt she needed my prayers. And yeah, I felt I needed to pray for her,so I did.

So, what do you do with dead atheists?

Coming into this late! Quite possiy repeating, as my phone loads at glacial speeds.

If my catholic family wants to hold a mass for me when I pass, I cheer them on.

- God knows their hearts.

- Any form of constructive (as opposed to self destructive) grieving, that brings them closer to their Heavenly Father ... How can I begrudge them that?

My truly atheist friends feel roughly the same way. If I want to pray to MHF, or a blue ball of yarn, they want ME to be happy. They don't believe in God, but they're not militant about it. Its not a religion for them (the branch of atheists who have so much face in proving a negative they possess more Faith than many devout practitioners should really have a different name). The faith-based athiests I know? Its like the two doors wgere one always tells the truth and one always lies. The answer is the same. If they're right then they aren't around to know better, and if Im right they're faith has just been proven wrong and they could REALLY use the spiritual hug. So, neither way is disrespectful.

Just my opinion.

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Just because it is somewhat Catholic does not mean it is not LDS.

Did you read my post you're responding to?

Praying for the dead is very Christian just as Jesus Christ prayed for the dead Lazarus and asked the Father for intercession.

Jesus prayed for the dead Lazarus? Where is this recorded?

Yes, we may not have the power to ask God to raise the dead,

Sure we do. We have the power to ask God anything we want to.

Their life continues on

By definition, this is untrue.

Yes, you don't understand Catholic worldview and you are actually wrong on that count.

Quite possibly, although your bare assertion to the contrary is not very convincing.

There is nothing different about Catholic prayer versus LDS prayer except that Catholics use prayer to communicate not only with God but also with canonized Saints.

Demostrably untrue. Consider this excerpt from Michael Palaeologus at the Second Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1459:

If the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice [instituta] of the Church." (Denzinger, Enchiridion, n. 588)

There's no "tally sheet" - whatever that means.

If you don't know what it means, how do you know it isn't part of the theology?

those who are in "purgatory" (yes, this is the same concept as spirit prison)

It is not at all the same concept.

Besides praying directly to Saint Francis, there's nothing really different in purpose about that Catholic prayer to an LDS prayer.

The quote I provided above suggests otherwise, as does my mission time serving in Italy, where I heard numerous Catholics discuss and expound on the necessity of set, memorized prayer (such as the ave Maria and the Pater noster) to satisfy the demands of God. These are very unlike LDS prayers.

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Did you read my post you're responding to?

Jesus prayed for the dead Lazarus? Where is this recorded?

Sure we do. We have the power to ask God anything we want to.

By definition, this is untrue.

Quite possibly, although your bare assertion to the contrary is not very convincing.

Demostrably untrue. Consider this excerpt from Michael Palaeologus at the Second Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1459:

If the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice [instituta] of the Church." (Denzinger, Enchiridion, n. 588)

If you don't know what it means, how do you know it isn't part of the theology?

It is not at all the same concept.

The quote I provided above suggests otherwise, as does my mission time serving in Italy, where I heard numerous Catholics discuss and expound on the necessity of set, memorized prayer (such as the ave Maria and the Pater noster) to satisfy the demands of God. These are very unlike LDS prayers.

You're arguing with someone who was a devout faithful Catholic about Catholic doctrine and practice. It's like a Baptist arguing to a Mormon about Mormon doctrine stating completely misundertood things like Mormons and their many wives because, gasp, the Baptist live in Utah, therefore, he must know.

It's not worth the effort of responding.

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