A grieving person of another religion asks you to pray with them. Do you do it?

For purposes of this thread, let’s pretend that atheism and agnosticism qualify as religions. Before anyone has a cow, I am perfectly aware that they do not, but I wanted to phrase the question so that it could be asked of both believers & non-believers and would still fit in the subject line. Anyone wishing to argue that atheism is a religion is invited to open their own thread --preferably in the Pit, for ease of pointing, laughing, and rotten-egg-hurling.

Also for purposes if this poll: agnostics are persons who call themselves that; likewise atheists; likewise believers. Close relative means spouse, sibling, parent, or child (and yes, that includes steps & halves). If you don’t know what friend means, you should probably log off and go to the nearest park or pub.

Okay, housekeeping’s done. To the poll scenario we go.

You are in the company of a person of a different metaphysical opinion than yourself. That person gets news of the unexpected death of a beloved; the news is entirely unexpected and reduces the person to hysterical, grief-stricken weeping. Desperate for comfort, the person asks you to clasp hands and pray.

Do you do it? Does your answer change if the person is a close family member versus a friend? A friend versus a casual acquaintance? Acquaintance versus stranger? If so, why? Does it matter what faith the other person belongs to? If you refuse entirely, why?

Public poll, multiple answers allowed, no set closing date because I can’t be arsed to fill in that last box.

I’m mostly agnostic, but yes, I would pray with them. Comforting a family member/friend is more important than getting up on a soapbox. ETA: Forgot the rest of the questions - I would be less comfortable praying with casual acquaintances - I’d probably just bow my head and look for a quick escape.

Yes, with anyone who asked sincerely. Why not? Presumably comforts them, doesn’t hurt me.

I’m a big believer in “when in Rome …”. If you are with folks who have a certain belief system, it is perfectly respectible to challenge that, in the right time and place. When they are grieving isn’t the right time; that’s a time to offer whatever comfort you can.

Agnostic. Refuse. To anyone. But nice about it. Attempt sincere non-religious comfort.

Why? Participation would be disingenuous on my part and I would feel like I was just humoring them, because I would be. I feel it would almost be insulting to them to do so.

I would, even with a perfect stranger. It’s the kind thing to do. However…

I wouldn’t really be doing much/any actual praying. I’d clasp hands and sit quietly with bowed head while the other person prayed and I might think good thoughts for them, but I’m not going to make an actual entreaty to a god I don’t believe in. Which would make my praying a white lie of sorts, something which I think in this circumstance would be justified. If asked to say a word, I’d try to say something both comforting and carefully neutral or just politely decline to say anything at all.

None of the above flows from any distaste for praying, as I have none, really. But as an atheist it would be just as false to think/speak about the intercession of god/gods as it would be to just go throw the apparent motions. And I think that while refusing to do either might be the more intellectually honest thing to do, in a case such as you describe it would be the wrong note emotionally. People in immediate distress need comfort and support more than they need brutal honesty.

I would not pray because the act of praying in meaningless to me. However, when I go to someone’s church, I kneel when they kneel, etc., out of respect. I would help someone else pray if they wanted that.

Well, I am Catholic but only sometimes believe in god. So I answered as a believer because it seemed closest to what you were trying to get at.

In the situation described, I would rub blue mud into my bellybutton and make a sincere attempt to call down the moon if necessary. Comfort should be delivered in the language in which it is understood by the bereaved.

Am I asked to do this in front of them? Or am I about to depart their company and they say something like “Oh, CS, keep me in your prayers! Please please pray for me!”

If the former, then…maybe. If the latter, then definitely not.

You forgot the “I would pretend to pray…” option. Not that I would; the only people I’d even pretend to pray with are my family members, who don’t so that sort of communal praying.

You didn’t list pretending to pray with them as an option. In some rare circumstances, I might bow my head with them to comfort them, but I’d never actually pray for real. I’m incapable of it.

No I didn’t. I’m using the word “pray” to mean “go through the visible motions of prayer, regardless of one’s private thoughts, which frankly are inaccessible to the griever unless she’s a Vulcan, and a Vulcan wouldn’t being weeping in public or asking for comfort anyway,as that is not what Vulcan means, except of course for Sybok from Star Trek V, and we don’t currently admit that movie happened anyway, and anyhow the person just wants to be joined in his or her ritual, as everybody not a Vulcan surely knows.”

(You can see why I wrote in shorthand.)

Lapsed Catholic here and I would pray with someone if they asked. If they wanted me to just think of them, I’d do that. If they asked me to wish them luck, I’d do that too. Who does it hurt? And what’s the point in being a jerk to someone in need or pain? “You found out you have cancer? Man, that’s too bad. Huh? You want me to pray for you? What a joke! There’s no such thing as God so why should I pray? When you die you don’t go to heaven, you become worm food!”

From the OP:

Unless your name is Reed Richards or Eel O’Brian, clasping hands rather implies being face-to-face with the other person.

In this situation, as others have said, I’d hold their hand and attempt to be comforting while they pray, but I wouldn’t join in or even try to make them believe that I was praying. (I’m an atheist.)

This reminds me of a story :)…

My husband’s a PT and had a patient whose husband brought her to her appointments. During the course of her treatment, the husband was diagnosed with a very severe and quick-moving cancer and had to stop accompanying her. The patient was VERY religious and, because of conversations they’d had, knew that my husband is an atheist. When her husband became ill, she asked my husband to pray for him. My husband said that he would definitely hold him in his thoughts and hope the best for them and their family (in hindsight, he thinks he should have just lied at this point).
Flash forward a year. My husband and I were in the grocery store and he saw the former patient in the produce aisle. He approached her, introduced me, and asked her how things were. She WENT OFF at him about how her husband had died a horrible death and it was all my husband’s fault because he refused to pray. She went on and on, pretty loudly. It was just a bit uncomfortable. Anyway, I think I can safely say that in the situation posed by the OP, my husband would be on his knees, supplicating with the best of them.

For the purposes of prayer, my beliefs are closest to agnostic. I can’t see any reason to withold comfort from someone who is grieving, though I do tend to say that I’m keeping them in my thoughts as opposed to using the word prayer. But I see no point in not kneeling down in church and saying what ever everyone else is saying; such refusal seems crass to me, as if caring about some idle piece of speculation is more important than offering comfort to the bereaved.

I’ve actually done this, though I was more a believer at the time. When a relative was slowly dying, I’d sometimes leave the room and go to the hospital’s chapel to calm down, away from the machines and tense, worried people. Once, a woman came in and asked me to pray with her for the soul of a relative. I don’t remember the nature of her loss, but she seemed to be less burdened for having a kid pray with her. It helped me as well, being able to do something for someone, however slight.

Upon further reflection, I don’t think I could even pretend to pray. It would be dishonest and patronizing. I’d put an arm around them, hug them, let them blubber, but I wouldn’t join in any religious pretense. I think I’d be likely to try to gloss it by saying something like, “go ahead and pray. I’ll stay right here.”

Okay here’s the thing: it may “not be hurting anyone” as some have written, but it’s still disingenuous and against my beliefs. Frankly I find it quite insulting that people think that it’s okay to ignore the beliefs of those whose beliefs are not organized and codified.

Let’s reverse the situation. Let’s say I’m agnostic(which I am), and someone important to me just died suddenly. Let’s say some of my friends are Jewish or Muslim, and an important part of grieving and comfort for me in accordance to my beliefs is eating pork and drinking whiskey(yes, I realize that’s ludicrous, but just humor me). Would I be a dick to ask them to partake in that and then get mad at them when they respectfully refuse? Of course I would! I wouldn’t ask them to do that, that would not be right, it would be insulting both to them and myself. Why is the opposite situation different? Why are my beliefs considered situationally flexible, that they can just be ignored when it suits others?

I answered as an agnostic, and that I would with anyone who wasn’t a complete stranger. However, the grieving is important; if that’s the situation, I’m doing it to help give them comfort, not to placate their social mores. I don’t do, for instance, big prayer circles before dinner or anything like that. And I’m not holding hands unless someone died.

Eh… as someone already said, it does you no harm to humor a friend/relative, providing that you don’t have to recite scripture aloud.

My beliefs are pretty flexible, in the face of someone elses’ grief.