Life Advice



Ask Amy: Atheist worries about ‘thoughts and prayers’

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I am an atheist and am keeping my spiritual beliefs close to my heart as they would offend most family members and friends who all, to various degrees, identify as believers (Christians or otherwise).

When a friend or a family member goes through seriously rough times or health issues (divorce, cancer etc.), and also in case of a friends' or family member's loved one's passing, I still offer up the expected "thoughts and prayers," as they don't know that I'm an atheist.

I think it is the right sentiment to express support and comfort.

Yet every time I write or verbally express "thoughts and prayers," I feel like a fraud. It feels completely empty to me.

In cards, I have expressed "My heart goes out to you,” "You are in my heart and in my thoughts,” "I feel your pain and wished I could lift it," etc., and these were heartfelt sentiments.

Unfortunately, for me these sentiments just do not seem to have the same effect and impact as "prayers.”


"Prayers" is what people seem to react to, need, and ultimately thank me for.

Should I keep offering "prayers" although ultimately it's an empty phrase to me, or express my feelings in other, more personal ways which do not mean quite as much to the concerned persons?

Your point of view is greatly appreciated.

– Wondering Atheist


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