The Atlantic

The Case for 'Thoughts and Prayers'—Even If You Don't Believe in God

After a tragedy like a mass shooting, prayer is not an indulgent retreat from reality, but a responsible reaction to it.
Source: Chris Wattie / Reuters

Many Americans seem eager this week to see the phrase “thoughts and prayers” die a good platitude’s death. After the worst mass shooting in U.S. history took the lives of 59 Las Vegas concertgoers Sunday night, a sentiment meant to express solidarity sounded to some like cold comfort. When by elected officials who could feasibly pass tighter gun-control laws, the phrase struck people as not only irritating, but also potentially dangerous: What if uttering this hollow but nice-sounding sentiment allows legislators to bypass the “real” work of passing better laws? What if it allows all of us to avoid the concrete political work of pressuring them to

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
The Best Athlete Americans Have Never Heard Of
American pro athletes face pressure to stick to sports. Australia’s David Pocock has a different idea.
The Atlantic3 min read
Alone In The Dark In The Bay Area
Earlier this week, Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents to mitigate the risk of fires. The city of Berkeley put out some vital information for those who might be affected: “If you are power-dependent for med
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The NBA-China Disaster Is a Stress Test for Capitalism
On August 19, the definition of a company in America changed. The Business Roundtable, a U.S. lobbying group that represents nearly 200 companies, issued a statement proclaiming that the “purpose” of a business in 2019 was no longer to look out merel