Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Dangers of Prayer

Hey friends, neighbors, and anyone else so daring to read my drivel! Recently a friend let me know that my name has popped up in several prayer chains. Apparently, some of my old acquaintances have been interested it trying to get me back to Jesus by using a prayer chain. Hmmmm . . . silly people. I have some thoughts on prayer chains, but even more on prayer in general. First and foremost, prayer chains, or prayer committees, or other prayer type groups are little more than gossip groups under the guise of prayer. As a veteran of one, I know how these things work. People pass on "prayer" requests to the chain. Then all of the people are supposed to add these requests in their own prayers. (As if God did not actually hear it the first time ... seems a tad redundant to me.) However, it was always the case the the more juicy or salacious the prayer request was (i.e. pray for Norma's daughter, Alice, who at the age of 14 became pregnant) the faster it moved through the chain. Basically, this allowed the gossip to be spread around the church without people feeling like they were engaging in gossip.

I could go on and on about the efficacy rates of prayer (no better than without prayer) but that is a topic that has been discussed many times. Rather, I want to discuss why prayer actually creates harm in society. Yes, prayer actually creates HARM in society. What prayer does is actually convince people that they are doing something about a situation when they actually are not doing anything at all. For example, I recently saw a church bulletin which requested that people in the church pray for fellow church-goers who were facing foreclosure. You know, see if you can get God to open up his heavenly piggy bank. Really! So, people prayed and prayed, but fellow church-goers almost certainly lost their homes anyway. (Maybe God does not care.) What would have actually done some good is if the church asked for donations which they could then distribute to those who needed help with their mortgages. The difference here is that prayer takes no effort, no money, and no other real resources other than a tiny bit of time. Actually doing something to help others can take many different resources. When people are tricked into thinking that prayer works, they are also duped out of doing any tangible thing for the person. After all, if it is God's will, it will be taken care of. So, if those fellow church goers lose their homes, then it must have been God's will because we all prayed for them not to lose their homes.

Atheists and other freethinkers, who are not wasting their time praying, tend to actually do something about issues. When you look at many different types of social justice causes, philanthropy, and other places where action is required, you will also find many, many atheists who are actively participating. We're not waiting for God to take care of it -- we're going to pool our resources and get things done. Of course, there are many religious groups who participate in community events. That is great and it does make a difference. But rest assured, their motivations are very different. Their first priority is to curry favor with God. If people are helped along the way, so be it. Atheists, however, actually have the priority of helping others through their charitable actions. It is a big difference. We're not kowtowing to some jealous sky God; instead, we look to find ways to better our community through actual, positive actions.

Praying that God will help others is not only a colossal waste of time, it is detrimental to society. Those who tend to pray for God to intervene are far less likely to actually intervene on their own. Thus, society is harmed by prayer. I encourage all of you to get off your knees and get busy actually helping cure social or other ills. I know as a fact that God will do absolutely nothing to help us. We're on our own on this Earth and we have to help each other out.

Catch you all later!

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