When Christians — and here I am speaking particularly of rightwing Christians who typically care nothing for the this-worldly condition of other people — offer thoughts and prayers following a disaster, what does it mean?
Are the freethinkers right, that it just means “I don’t really care about what happened to you and I am not going to do anything to help you, even if it is in my human power to do it”?
Yes, they are right. But there is more to it than that.
Notice that these stiff-necked Christians always offer their prayer to the others, never do they ask for prayers for themselves.
Several things are going on here. On the spiritual level — about which I care nothing — they are committing the sin of pride, the worst one.
On the worldly level, the first thing is that these people assume they are morally superior. Yes, I know what they say about this in their sermons. What I am talking about here is what people reveal about their genuine thinking in their thoughtless statements, and “thoughts and prayers” is a thoughtless statement if ever there is one.
Two, the intention is not to help the sufferers but to make the observer feel good about himself.
Although Christians, especially evangelical Christians, constantly participate in communal prayers, they almost never ask for prayers for themselves. They don’t genuinely think they need it.
Radio preachers always offer to pray for their listeners but they never ask their listeners to pray for them. From them, all they ask is money.
Among the prominenti, it is hard to think of examples of persons asking for prayer for themselves. The one example that comes to mind is Harry Truman, who after Roosevelt’s death begged his friends for prayers.
Never will you hear a Christian gun nut pray: Guide me, is it possible that my love for guns is greater than than love for my brothers and sisters? Did I contribute by my mistaken views to these deaths of innocents?
After the latest mass murder by a gun nut — this comes up in our decivilized country every 24 hours or so, on average — a relevant prayer for the humble Christian would be my favorite, Cromwell’s Prayer: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.