Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Christian Website Encourages Believers to Adopt…

I just heard about this, though maybe it’s old news.  In 2008 a website was launched which was aimed at Christians.  This site challenged them to:
A.    Adopt a child in need
B.    Adopt a family in a third world country whom they feed for just pennies a day
C.    Adopt and promote a new trend – shaving cats to look like Jesus
D.    Adopt a terrorist to pray for.

It’s the terrorist one!  And the even crazier part of that WTF bomb is that compared to the praying for a terrorist option, the shaving cats thing seemed somehow kind of plausible.
From CNN:

At, Christians are asked to “adopt a terrorist for prayer.” A quote from the Bible on the site urges visitors to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Where is the Christian response to terrorism?” the site says. “If the struggle against violence done in the name of Islam is primarily spiritual, then defeating it requires a spiritual response.”

So shouldn’t the project be called Adopt an Islamic Terrorist For Prayer?  I mean seriously, no one can isolate a single group of people and say “yep – THOSE guys…they’re the terrorists.”  That’s absurd.  “Terrorist” isn’t some new term for Islamic extremists who do violent things, it applies to anyone who promotes or enacts terror in order to inflict psychological damage.  Islamic terrorism certainly exists, but it exists in tandem with Christian terrorism, tea party terrorism, atheist terrorism, ghost robot terrorism, and whatever other kinds of terrorism are out there.  If you take into account every culture from the point of view of every other culture, it’s like a freaking terrorist rainbow of diversity.

Just like I cringe when I hear anyone say or even insinuate that “all Christians are stupid” or “all atheists are angry with God”, it really peels my potatoes to see “terrorist” and “Islamic extremist”  interchangeably used like that.  But Thomas Bruce, a spokesman for ATFP, seems to think it makes sense that only Islamic terrorists are on the site:

He says while he’s considered adding Christian or even eco terrorists to the list, they “aren’t a big threat to national security, our way of life, or our freedom. We should pray for them too, but the movement doesn’t threaten existentially our existence the same way the Islamic terrorists do.”

Bruce has been intimately involved in the conflicts of the past decade. While he was toying with the idea of the site a few years ago, he was called up as a U.S. military reservist. His passions collided when he was sent to northern Iraq to work for one year as a chaplain.

So – from his experience – Islamic terrorists are the biggest threat, therefore Islamic terrorists are the biggest threat.

More to the point, the article talks about how there are currently 165 people on the site up for “adoption” while there are 603 people registered to pray.  So it seems as though there are a few earnest religious folk to spare, why not include other terrorists on the site?  It seems as though the people who visit the site pick whatever terrorist they’d like to pray for anyway, so why limit the amount of people up for spiritual grabs?

more importantly though – how can it be argued that Islamic terrorism is worse than any other act of terrorism?  Is one bad deed really any better or worse than another in the eyes of the Christian god?  If Crunchy Joe Granola ices a lab scientist in an animal rights raid or whatever the hell it is eco-terrorists do, how is that not at least just as prayer worthy as say Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab – the Detroit underwear bombing suspect? In fact, how exactly is the guy who murdered Dr. Tiller not a dangerous enough terrorist to pray for while a guy who failed to actually kill anyone has 8 people praying for him?

Of course, the group is pretty much, kind of, definitely maybe certain they’re actively implementing some sort of change:

“We’ve been fighting this for about 10 years with material means, and it hasn’t really changed the nature of it,” Bruce says. “By bringing spiritual perspective to it, and as the Lord answers some of those prayers, it could and should hopefully have a profound change on the viciousness of the conflict we’re in.”

I love the goal, but I really hate the proposed solution.  Namely because it isn’t a solution at all.

I think I might actually have a better one.  Not everyone prays, so I think a lot of potential wishful thinking isn’t being properly harnessed.  We need to employ the mystical happy thought power of something that is even more of a commonality between people.

Did somebody say “birthday wish“?

Why don’t we all just wish for terrorism to end on our birthday cake candles?  If we do it for a whole year and something  happens that can be interpreted as a change for the better, we can totally feel like we did something!  If nothing changes or things get worse – I guess birthday wishes sometimes work in ways we can’t see.

I’m doing it this year.  This will be the year that I really make a difference.

You’re welcome, America.  No – you’re welcome, world.

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Sam Mulvey

“doesn’t threaten existentially our existence”



Prayer is always useful for doing nothing but assuming you’re gonna smell like a champ for calling in favours with The Big Guy. I was furious to see people sending “prayers” (ie. thinking/muttering and/or genuflection) instead of what was actually needed & asked for (ie. money) during the Haiti earthquake disaster last year. Maybe it will “work” in the sense that it did in the prayer study by the Templeton Foundation (as discussed in _The God Delusion_), where people in hospital who knew they were being prayed for actually got worse? Do we really need a world full of worse… Read more »


I’m sorry, can we go back to SHAVING A CAT? And the fact that it’s on the same list with “adopt a child in need”?

JN Hudson

The 1st and 2nd suggestions are very good advice that anyone with the means to do so should follow. The 3rd, while rather amusing in theory, is pointless and cruel. But the 4th is sadly what I have come to expect from christians, a means to inflate their holier-than-thou ego by patting themselves on the back for doing absolutely nothing.

fred johnson

These people are living on another planet, would be funny to convince them to go love thy Taliban terrorist and see if they last longer than 5min with their heads on, after they start preaching. I bet 3 min


Hey people ,just watched ProfMTH new video on You Tube .It was incredible he knocked that one out of the park ! Stumbled on it at Mojoeys (Deep thoughts) You should check it out.

Prayer is good. It permits theists to feel a smug satisfaction about having “done their part” without actually doing anything or investing their resources other than a few seconds of their time.

Then they arrogantly believe that a god that ignores the 27,000 children dying of starvation and malnutrition will respond to their selfish wishes.

Yet, these same people will demand “respect” for their beliefs even though it has done nothing to deserve it. When one has to demand respect it reveals that you are aware that you don’t really deserve it.

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