Why? I can understand what it means to ask an atheist to deliver a straight and calm prayer, but sincere? It is also not at all clear to me why we should expect an atheist to be straight and calm doing something that must be, must feel, pretty ridiculous.My reply is as follows:
When I say 'sincere', I mean only in terms of how it sounds. Not throwing in snide or angry remarks during it. Nothing especially passionate, or fantastic acting skills. In fact, going over the top would just feed into the lack of sincerity. I'm talking a pretty simple, calm prayer.
And, I think if an atheist feels ridiculous at offering up a prayer to the point that they can't do what I'm asking, it indicates a problem - that there's something going on beyond mere 'lack of God belief' or 'belief that God probably doesn't exist'. It's almost but not quite like a superstition test. If someone claims that the Bloody Mary ritual is complete bunk, but they can't bring themselves to so much as complete it (it's a very simple gimmick) and can think of all kinds of excuses why it's just SO stupid that they never, ever want to do it? Well, call me skeptical of their claims.
I'd add, it's not as if I'm demanding an atheist perform every ritual under the sun - just as I wouldn't bombard a claimed non-superstitious person with demands to do this, that and a million other ritual acts. But someone who can't pull off a plain and simple prayer - or who can't pull it off without serious distress - probably has some issues they need to sort out.