The Agnostic's Prayer

Wasn’t really sure where to put this, but I figure if it comes under the header of religion, this is probably the place. MEB can’t get too mad at me if I’m wrong, because at least my title is descriptive.

The following is a paragraph from Roger Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness. It’s quite famous in some circles and commonly known as “The Agnostic’s Prayer.” I believe my reproduction of here falls under fair use. To set the stage, this paragraph falls under the category of last rights read to a dying man by an “agnostic” priest.

My questions are directed at atheists.

Would you object to this prayer being said on your behalf on your death bed?

Would you want it?


Would you be willing to say it, or something like it for somebody else?


To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if someone said that, or something like it on my deathbed, as long as the person saying it was saying it because they thought it would comfort me, and not because they felt that they ought to.

I think wouldn’t want it, because I’m not too big on public prayer, but let’s see what I say when I’m actually dying (ideally, I won’t know this for a while).

I’d do almost anything for somebody who was dying, if it would ease their mind. If they wanted me to pray, then sure, I would. I’d even say a Christian prayer (although I’d probably mess up the words).

If I’m dead, you can dance the hootchi-kootch naked on my chest if you want.

I prefer one that was cited by Prof. Eugen Miller in his excellent PBS series on western civilization. He used it in the discourse on the Dieists.

"Oh God, if there is one, save my soul, if I have one.

As a lifelong agnostic and post-September-11th believer in the theory that if there is a God, then fuck him, still I wouldn’t object to anyone praying for me in any way on my deathbed, as long as they weren’t getting in the way of the guy with the shock paddles.

I would not particularly care for it. If there is a deity, it is my responsibility to make any amends that might be required, not for others to do on my behalf. However, if anyone wishes to pray for me out of concern, I will take it in the spirit that it is offered (well, I will try to; it would be difficult to be whole-heartedly grateful for the “O God, please save this person who is so foolish as to not believe in you, and please do not throw them into the lake of firey eternal torment that they so richly deserve”). I would say the prayer for someone else if they wished it; if I did not know their wishes I would probably abstain. Any God who would allow one jot less bliss or one tittle more torment for someone else based on what I pray is a pretty piss-poor excuse for a God, anyway, IMHO. I may as well sacrifice a goat to Huytyvnbvtr.

Would you object to this prayer being said on your behalf on your death bed?
Not really, but I wouldn’t object to any positively-intended prayer said on my behalf.

Would you want it?
I don’t believe so… that is, I wouldn’t request it.

Well, mainly because I don’t see that it would accomplish anything for me. So I wouldn’t request it. But I wouldn’t object to it, because then it is for those who are mourning.

Would you be willing to say it, or something like it for somebody else?
Sure. They are relatively nice—if not excessively nondescript—words, and so I can see no real motivation for denying to say them at someone’s request.

I’d rather they didn’t- how whiny and legalistic and (worst of all) horribly written!
It encapsulates everything I find weak and meaningless in religion- the idea of the existence of a series of specific, yet not clearly defined rote behavior which are absolutely required for some reward which is constantly being revised and reinterpreted (and I would say reinvented) by a bunch of people who all disagree but insist that it must be true because they wish* it to be.
Basically that argument seems to be that the compelling reason to believe in god is because we get something out of it. The whole “there has got to be more to life than this brief one” argument (which I actually heard proposed by a radio evangelist as being his preferred argument to convert the heathens.) My only reaction is -why does there got to be?
I’m perfectly willing to believe in the possibility of God existing without any afterlife.

“Praise” prayers are much more meaningful to me.
I’m an agnostic who is constantly overwhelmed with how beautiful the world is, how amazing people can be… and I really wish that there is an afterlife, because this one is so cool. But I don’t see any really reason to believe it.
And honestly, most churches are the least spiritual places I’ve been in. Put me in the woods at about 6 oclock in the morning instead with the sun full in my face, and I’m saying "God, how beautiful this all is’. No disclaimer needed- God knows he/she exists, or God is so different from what we can possibly conceive that any of out concepts of what God would “know” are meaningless, or I’m an animal among the animals being amazed by all the other brief lives growing/dying around me while I do the same, etc etc…
“My candle burns at both ends/It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends/It gives a lovely light” -Edna St. Vincent Millay
(Not to imply that this poems is about agnosticism or religion, or that I know anthing about the author’s religious beliefs, just like the imagery in this context.)

When someone wants to pray they might as well pray something meaningful to them- While I don’t particularly believe in the efficacy of prayer, I consider it a loving gesture from someone who does and appreciate it in that spirit.

How could a christian believe that particular prayer (or any prayer alone, considering my heathen unsaved/unbaptized state) could help anyway? If that’s all it takes I’m sure we’ve all gotten that sort of prayer covered at some point on ou Religion is nothing if not specific. Why bother if it’s meaningless to all involved?

*substitute “believe” if you’re personally convinced. I’m just calling it how I see it, I’m not saying it’s how anyone else should.

Would you object to this prayer being said on your behalf on your death bed?

Yes. I’ve lived as an athiest since I was 10, to try and hedge my bets at the end would make those years of athiesm a lie.

Would you want it?



Same as above.

Would you be willing to say it, or something like it for somebody else?

To comfort a dying person, I’d sing the Barney song in Donald Duck voice - but only if they asked for it.

If an agnostic doesn’t know and an athiest does not believe, what would the term be for someone who does not care? I’ve wondered about this since reading Douglas Coupland’s Life After God.
<end hijack>

An apathetic?

I won’t want a prayer like that.

Suppose that there is a Supreme Being. If I were that Supreme Being, I will be rather upset at anybody’s last ditch attempt in converting, particularly when that somebody doesn’t know who I am in the first place, with such a silly shotgyn approach, even though that I may not be mad at him not recognising my existence, since I didn’t leave sufficient clues for them.

No offense to Roger Zelazny’s writing prowess, which no dobt is much greater than my own, but that is one lame prayer.

If I have have any concerns about dying, I’d like to take care of them now while I’m alive. That way, when I’m dead, I can rest assured I’ll be remembered in a positive light by those I left behind. No more, no less.

As to what they actually say at my funeral, I won’t be in a position to care one way or another.

Although a simple “There lies a good man, may he rest in peace” seems like a much better choice than all that other dribble in the OP’s ‘prayer’…just in case any of my relatives are reading this :wink:

No, I did not take the nice young man up on his offer to go fetch somebody.

I am an atheist, have been as long as I can remember, and intend to die an atheist.

I would resent anyone ‘interceding on my behalf’ with ANY diety, let alone in the mealy-mouth manner of THAT dreck.

If I ‘find’ one or more dieties, I will address them as I see fit.

and, should I be unable to address said dieties at the time of my death, I don’t expect them to hold it against me.

yes, I know, I’m going to go to Hell. or not.

IANAAtheist, but I hoped nobody would mind if I just popped in to say that I can’t imagine anybody saying a prayer like that as anything other than a joke.

I mind, but only because I was about to make that point myself. It’s got parody written all over it.

It’s satirical, not that you’d know that from the way I presented it, though.

Agree 100%.


No, I wouldn’t really want anyone to say that “prayer” for me–there are very few of my loved ones who would get it, anyway. They probably would take it as a serious last-ditch attempt to jump through religion’s hoops.

That was my initial response…laughter. It IS hilarious, isn’t it? Jeez, I hope my sense of humor isn’t THAT far off.

I don’t really know if I qualify as an atheist, because I consider atheism to be a faith. I do not like labels, they restrict individual freedom.
1- Would not object to this, if it would make the person saying it happier.
2-Would not ask for it, because I have one that suits me better.
3-See above
4-I would say anything to make a friends passing easier, whatever their religion. Compassion counts!
My favorite is “Song of the wage-slave” by Robert W. Service. I find it very accurate in my case.