Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Problem(s) With Prayer

I have issues with prayer. First of all, I don't believe prayer works. Second, I believe that even if prayer were a valid form of communication or intercessory action it causes certain problems for the one receiving the prayers. Let's examine these problems:

Prayer is Confusing!

Imagine you're a god and your followers communicate with you via prayer –– that is to say, telepathic means by either speaking out loud or thinking specific things. Your task is to listen to every single one of these prayers and answer them according to some method of prioritization and feasibility. It probably wouldn't be too difficult if you had one or two followers or maybe even 10. But what if you had a million or a billion followers? With each follower asking for different things (some of which are bound to be in direct conflict with each other) how do you even keep them straight?

Prayer is Favoritism!

Once you've gotten all of these prayers your task is answering them all. You can answer them with a "Yes," "No," or "Wait." The ones you answer with a "Yes" are obviously more feasible or have a higher priority than the others. But what makes one prayer more feasible than others?

If little Billy asks for snow in July because his friend is dying of cancer and wants to be able to sled before he dies, why wouldn't it be within your power to make that happen? Billy's heart is obviously in the right place and when he says this prayer I'm certain he means it earnestly. Somehow these types of prayers always seem to be answered with a "No."

If Martha can't find her keys and prays for help (and you know she'll eventually find them anyway, once she calms down and thinks about it) why would you choose to answer that one over Billy's? It doesn't make any sense, but this is what we see happening all the time. Does this mean you like Martha more than Billy or his dying friend? It kind of seems that way.

How do you, as a deity, get around showing favoritism when it's perfectly clear you'll never be able to please everybody?

Prayer is Contradiction!

In the following verses Jesus said some variant of, "Whatever you ask in my name it shall be given to you."

  • Matthew 21:22
  • Mark 11:24
  • John 14:13-14
  • John 15:7
  • John 15:16
  • John 16:23-24

Having said this, did Jesus realize that people would be asking for things that directly contradict either (a) god's will (b) the laws of nature (c) other prayers or (d) anything that would actually be beneficial to humanity? If he knew any of these do you think he would have said it? And if he knew that people would ask for things that are never fulfilled would he have been so cavalier in making such a promise? I think not.

Prayer is Showmanship!

All of the supernatural points aside, praying has become an art form for many a religious person. Instead of doing it quietly and humbly as a personal conversation between you and your god, you insist on doing it out loud using the most eloquent words you can think up, hurling praises and flattering your deity for everyone to hear. You think it makes you pious. I think it makes you look ridiculous. Do you honestly think your god is impressed with the flapping of your arms or the wavering of your voice?

Prayer is Inaction!

Have you ever stopped to think that the time you spend praying could be put to better use actually doing something? Sure, praying for somebody makes you feel like you're helping them but has anybody ever averted a real, tangible crisis by praying instead of acting on it? If you can think of a single instance I'd love to hear about it.

Prayer is Short-Sighted!

Think of all the things about which you've prayed. How many of those things benefited more people than just you? How many of those things benefited more than just the people you know? How about more than just your community? Or your country?

Why don't the people who really believe prayer works pray for world peace? I mean really put your heads together and earnestly ask your god to bring about a change in people's hearts and minds so that we see the end of war, hatred and violence? Honestly, do you think that's a worthwhile goal? If not, why not?

Let's start thinking, people. Please.

No comments: