This headline at TheBlaze caught my attention this morning:

Famed Atheist Richard Dawkins Suffers Stroke — and Now a Debate Over Praying for Him Is Lighting up Twitter

At first I rolled my eyes. Does it really matter whether or not he’s an atheist? If somebody wants to pray for him, it’s not skin off his back.

Then, I got a bit perturbed. Why in the world is this even an issue?

But it is an issue and it’s an issue because people can be quite passionate about their beliefs – whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or whatever. Yes, even atheist.

They have a right to that passion, and we have to respect that. Yet, we shouldn’t stifle ours because of theirs, if you get my drift. The fact that folks are suggesting that people not pray for Richard Dawkins because he is an atheist really bugs me.

Of course, those of us who are Christian would like nothing more than to bring the entire world to Christ. Jesus was quite clear when he commissioned the Apostles (and through them, us) after his Resurrection:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mk 16:14-15)

On the one hand, we’re called to preach the gospel to all. On the other hand, we’re not called to cram it down their throats.

We have to have balance.

I have a relative who is an atheist, and pretty stubborn about it. But I still pray for him, and he knows it. I don’t purposely NOT pray for him because he doesn’t believe in God. I pray for him because I believe in God, and he knows that. He has a right to his beliefs and I have a right to mine.

That’s why this whole don’t-pray-for-Richard-Dawkins thing is so ridiculous.

Who cares whether he’s an atheist? Pray for him (or not) because of your own beliefs, not his.

True story:

Someone once told me that she couldn’t pray to Mary for a non-Catholic friend because the friend was Evangelical and didn’t believe in venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Seriously. There are people who actually think that way, and it grieves me.

Mary is my mother. I go to her with every joy and sorrow in my life. I pray to her, asking her intercession, for the issues and people in my life that I care about, including my atheist relative.

My prayer is my business. It’s my personal conversation with God – or Mary, or the saints, as the case may be. I pray to them because it’s my way of expressing my faith. I don’t dole out the prayers or without them depending on the beliefs of the person for whom I am praying.

It’s the same for you as well. Do you want to pray to Mary for a non-Catholic? You can do that. Do you want to pray to Jesus for a Jewish friend? Go ahead. Do you want to pray to God for Richard Dawkins? That’s your right.

Your prayer is an expression of your faith. As long as you don’t use it as part of an intimidation tactic to get someone to convert or as a lever to provoke guilt, you’re fine.

The question isn’t who they believe in, but who you believe in.