The "I'll pray for you" meme

I ... uhm... seem to have helped start something.

I had noticed something while reading the mail that Dr. Myers was getting over crackergate.

Most of this Christian email had two things in common. First is the dismissive language. There were a lot of people taking Dr. Myers to task for his actions. I have no idea how many people were interested in opening a real dialog, after all they're probably thinking there is no point. And there is an excellent chance that the email from more reasonable people is buried in the deluge that Dr. Myers is currently receiving.

But the other thing most of the displayed email had in common was a very dismissive version of "I'll pray for you".

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a geek from way back. I grew up reading JRR Tolkien's books - and even slogged my way through the Silmarillion. So it was no surprise (to me at least) that every time I read a dismissive version of the words, "I'll pray for you", I would hear them in the voice of Bilbo Baggins as he prepared for his 111st birthday. "No Thank You!" he would say when some new relative or well-wisher knocked on his door.

Or I would read the words, "I'll pray for you", and hear it in the voice of Willy Wonka (as portrayed by actor Gene Wilder) as he said, "You get nothing! You lose! Good day! I said good day!"

"I'll pray for you" is written by Christians, over and over and over again, in exactly this tone. It became annoying, and it was pretty obvious what the writers were implying ... and so I made this comment:
The more I read, the more I realize that "I will pray for you" is just a euphemism for, "Fuck you!"

It's always said in the same way, the same tone. And it usually ends the conversation.

Posted by: Calladus | July 11, 2008 8:02 PM
The commenter (and blogger) Blake Stacey found it funny, and riffed on it in a way that I personally think is inspired and hilarious. (Warning to Christians - if you find atheistic humor insulting, don't click on that!)

The rest of the thread, already unstable, started staggering as both Atheists and Christians started throwing "I'll pray for you" back and forth at each other like some sort of twisted game of "catch the javelin". Sentences like, "I'll pray for you all night long" took on a more sordid meaning.

Honestly, I thought it would die out.

But the meme seems to have legs. Days, and thousands of comments later, it's still happening.

I've been skimming through the responses to crackergate around the web, and I'm finding that religious people everywhere are still saying "I'll pray for you! (or I'll pray for them)" in the same dismissive tone. I see it in the comments of secular blogs, and in the entries of religious blogs. It seems to me that it is rarely said in a heartfelt manner.

"No, Thank You! I'll pray for you! Good DAY sir!"

It's no wonder that the meme hasn't died yet. Once you become sensitive to something, you can't help but notice it when it appears again - and in this case it is appearing over and over again, in the same exact way.


Blake Stacey said...

First, I'd like to thank you for linking to my site and boosting my nerd points. Much appreciated. Then, as to the matter at hand:

The essence of humor, according to some, is reversal, a turnabout or tumbling-down in between the premise and the conclusion. (See, e.g., Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.) I think the fall from the highfalutin, "spiritual" meaning of the verb to pray and the pornographic connotations which we've added to it is a remarkably deep drop-off indeed. Which, of course, is why it's such a tasty meme.

Robin Johnson said...

Reminds me of a RationalWiki saying about Conservapedia: "Godspeed" is Andrew Schlafly's personal jargon for "Go fuck yourself."

(The obvious response to "I'll pray for you" seems to be: "I'll think for you.")

Calladus said...

Yep. I'd read about the "Godspeed" sign-off on Conservapedia. It is definitely the same thing.

All such answers, no matter how politely phrased, are really a dismissive way of saying, "I'm done talking with you so I'm going to try to have the last word and then stop listening to you. Now go away."

I actually think my original assessment is incorrect. These are not euphemisms for "Fuck You", they are euphemisms for "Fuck Off."

And "I'll think for you" is also a euphemism for, "well, fuck you too." Useful for ending the conversation - but that might not be what you want.

If you are interested in keeping the conversation open, perhaps the right response to, "I'll pray for you" would be to ask, "Why?" Or maybe to ask what kind of prayer, exactly, would the supplicant send?

I think that knowing the text of such a prayer would be interesting, and revealing.