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When I was a Christian it was easy to do things to help others in a way that felt very monumental; after all, I was doing God’s work. Believing yourself to be a direct conduit between God and others is pretty major.

I walked in, what Christians like to call, “authority.” I had the authority of God with me. What I did, what I said, it was greater than myself, it was done with a believed God-given authority.

The belief that I was part of something bigger, that I had a “calling,” and that I was doing “God’s work,” gave me the confidence, or the imagined authority, to get involved in situations and in people’s lives that could seem, and does seem to me now, to be intrusive.

One thing I realized many years ago, when I first became an atheist, was how Christians use the idea of prayer as a free ticket to pry into people’s lives, and make assumptions.

I was taught to “pray with authority,” even though you know that you can’t tell God what to do. Part of being a responsible pray-er was to be as specific as possible. Therefore, it was important to know specific details about people’s lives and struggles, in order to pray for what was needed with more authority.

One thing that has not changed for me since becoming an atheist, is my love and care for people. I still want to do what I can to help those around me live their best lives. I like helping and supporting people. I like being able to celebrate with them, or be there when they need a helping hand. But, this is much harder to do without this sense of “authority” behind me, without a feeling that I’m doing God’s work, and therefore am infallible.

I know better. I know and have witnessed how much harm can be done by those who try to help, but are not professionally equipped or trained to do so. I have experienced how “the power of God” has been an insufficient tool to deal effectively with complicated situations. The truth is, the “authority” under which Christians operate is dangerous because it gives the believer a sense of entitlement as well as a false idea of ones ability.

But, as I was trying to drift off to sleep tonight, I was missing this feeling of authority and wondering how things might be different if I still felt as though I had authority. Could I find somewhere else from which a sense of authority could be plucked? Can the authority to assume I have the answers to someone’s problem, or am a solution to their struggles be found in my humanity? Separated from a celestial being or deity?

As I finish up, I will be drifting off to sleep thinking about this: Can I conjure a similar feeling or level authority from the idea that who I am as a human gives me the authority needed to help who you are as a person, not because some God exists and says so, but because my humanity can reach out to yours and find common ground?