Life Advice



Ask Amy: Atheist worries about ‘thoughts and prayers’

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Atheist: My point of view is that the “thoughts and prayers” phrase has been overused, misused, and sarcastically used so often that it has become a meme and therefore free of any specific meaning – regardless of the faith stance of the person using or receiving the phrase.

The personal phrases you use instead are thoughtful and sincere.

You seem to understand that “prayers” are more valuable to the recipient than your personal thoughts or healing hopes, but I would argue that you can’t really know what people actually hear or receive when they are suffering or under duress.

The most important thing is that you care and are offering yourself up as a concerned and supportive witness to someone else’s grief. This – is an extremely powerful expression of your humanity.

If someone specifically asks you to pray for them, you might be able to do so using the broader definition of the word, which is an “earnest wish.”

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for more than 20 years. Whenever we are invited to family gatherings, his siblings do not mind their own children. This can lead to situations, including the youngsters wandering unattended by the lake, riding bikes into busy roads and oncoming traffic, and hitting the family dogs.


The family would rather sit around, visit and drink while their children run amok, damaging property, and being out of control.

For years, I have stepped up to keep an eye on the children as I felt it was irresponsible to leave young ones unattended.

As new children are born into the family, it is always the same.

I, at 40+ years old, don't get a chance to visit with adult family, as I am chasing the littles around to *literally* put out fires.


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