Why I will not pray for Paris

Article published on Nov. 19, 2015
Article published on Nov. 19, 2015

Following the attacks in Paris last Friday the 13th of November, but especially after the hashtag #PrayForParis flooded social networks. Here, a French national expresses his disagreement with the initiative, as well as his resentment towards the use of religion in the wake of the attacks.

Since Friday evening and the attacks in Paris, I have been shocked, shaken and distraught, like nearly everybody else. But I will not be praying for Paris.

First off because, in my opinion, prayers are inseparable from religion and the belief in a god. Since I don't believe in any god or supernatural force, I do not see myself praying.

It's also because I believe religion is partly — even just a little bit — responsible for what happened on Friday. Spirituality is a personal journey which should be respected, but everyone has the right to choose their own path, to believe (or not believe) in Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha or anyone other god.

But religion is a different matter. In all the major world religions, there are scriptures that one cannot call into question since they are deemed to be the word of God. That has inevitably led, at one moment or another, to violence and intolerance. The more power a religion has in a country, the more intolerant they are towards those who don't follow their precepts. I want to believe in the sincerity of Muslim, Christian or Jewish dignitaries who explain to us that religion is not like this, but I simply don't agree.

No gentlemen, religion also encompasses this: those people who protest against marriage for all, and abortion, yet also advocate Christianity, and have even been known to kill doctors practising abortions. The damaged terrorists who think they're following Islam. The Jewish colonists refusing to divide ground with their Arab neighbours. Burmese Buddhists persecuting the Muslim minority. Initially, all great religions preach love for one's neighbour but they eventually impose conditions on it. Millions of people around the world follow the spirit of their sacred texts and use them to do much good, but there will always be morons wanting to follow them to the letter.

Moreover, following the attacks in Paris in January, these same religious dignitaries shouted their indignation towards those odious acts, calling for prayer for the victims. However, they also repeatedly said how blasphemy could hurt the practitioners of their respective religions. Somewhere along the way, the 'heretics' at Charlie Hebdo had taken risks...

I don't know if anything I believe in is true, I doubt it. But in general those who doubt, unlike those who believe, don't take up arms to defend those doubts.

So I cry for Paris, I think of Paris and I would like to be able to embrace the families of the victims with as much empathy and tenderness that I am capable of giving. But I will not pray. No, I will not pray.