Over the last few months as natural disasters have ripped through the south and the midwest and as I have personally dealt with the death of one of my best friends, I've seen, more than ever it seems, appeals for people to pray for them. During a calamity all of my social networking sites are clogged with people petitioning for prayer.
I simply don't understand it. Even when I was an evangelical Christian devoted to the teaching of the Bible I found it ineffective and slightly embarrassing to ask people to pray for me. As a progressive believer (meaning a believer more or less in touch with observable reality) I had relegated prayer to some abstract form of faith exercising. In my dialogues on the below essay's I've even heard some of you say this very thing. You pray because it changes you in an abstract sense, not because it actually changes reality.
And that brings us to my point. Here are some logical questions I have in response to people using social media to ask for prayers in the wake of an approaching thunder storm:
1. Is your god capricious enough to reserve help simply because not enough people prayed for it?
2. Don't you believe that god is in control of everything? Doesn't this include the very storm on it's way to potentially destroy your life? What is the goal of prayer here? To honor your god's will or to thwart it?
3. How do you explain the fact that there are people in this world who probably pray harder and better than you and who are still susceptible to the same natural disasters as yourself?
One Christian, who is fairly well known as a musician in a successful Christian band, had this to say in response to making it through a storm that others were destroyed by:
"We were *blessed* this line arrived after sunset. Avoided a tornadic outbreak. Feels good to get a reminder of Who is in charge."
I pointed out that this was incredibly offensive to those who were devastated by the storms and, according to this logic, "unblessed" by the Big Man in charge. He responded by saying he didn't consider it offensive to be thankful not to get hit by a tornado.
Do you see the cognitive dualism here, folks? It's like missing a flight that ends up crashing and thanking god for his goodness and his blessings while hundreds of lives were lost and thousands destroyed.
This is nonsense. If you want to pray to gods or to Elvis or to your dead loved ones then by all means, I want you to have the freedom to do that. But when you start publicly petitioning for prayer and thanking your god for sparing you while thousands of others are picking up the pieces then you deserve some social criticism.
Prayer quite obviously is a complete denial of reality. It is the ostrich burying it's head in the sand. It is childish and it is time to grow up, folks. What we need in a time of crisis is human solidarity and tangible resources. We don't need to waste our time praying to an invisible being who, whether that being exists or not, isn't going to do a damn thing for us. We don't need to proliferate wish thinking as a viable method of coping with tragedy.
We must use the tools of reality to face reality. Together.