The Power of Prayer
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Various random thoughts on God, atheism, and related topics. What can I say, I gave up my agnostic ways a few weeks back, and have been mentally exploring some of the issues surrounding God, prayer, atheism, religion, etc. since then. It’s kind of a mixed bag, but there are a number of points I wanted to mention and none of them is really enough for a complete blog post. OK, it’s a very mixed bag. Or can of worms. Or plate-o-shrimp. I’ll stop now.
Point one, prayer. I don’t have a problem with people praying for me or anyone, “I’ll pray for you.” is the equivalent of “I care about you and hope things work out for you.” If someone is offended by that, they need to lighten up. However, I noticed recently that when someone says “I’ll pray for you” to an atheist merely because the atheist doesn’t believe in any Gods, it sounds kinda patronizing and condescending. And it kinda is, because the implication is that there’s something “wrong” with the atheist. No, there’s nothing wrong with using the brain God (supposedly) gave us to live our lives according to reason and compassion.
Granted prayer is an irrational belief, or more accurately, believing that there is some supernatural being somewhere who is listening to prayers and granting some of them is an irrational belief. No, there have been no studies showing that prayer works. There have been biased “studies” by people trying to prove prayer works, those are no more science than creationism is science. Not to mention that as I type right now innocent children are dying the world over for want of a few dollars of food or medicine … despite the fervent prayers of their parents and loved ones. Still, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with believing in the power of prayer, as long as one makes rational decisions otherwise and doesn’t rely on prayer to cure their sick child.
Speaking of prayer, something that has always annoyed me is how some people claim that the Supreme Court banished prayer from schools in the USA. They did nothing of the kind. For starters, if a person is conscious they can silently pray anytime anywhere, so it’s beyond the Supreme Court’s power to ban prayer in school or anywhere else. However, the Supreme Court didn’t ban prayer, what the Supreme Court did was ban organized prayer from school. That’s becasue organized prayer is a religious service, and religious services have no place in public schools. Don’t like it? Send your kid to a private religious school, they’ll be glad to have him or her. The taxpayer pays for public school, not for religious services.
And worse than annoying is how the anti-science religious crowd is still trying to get religious instruction in public schools: The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools. Sigh, at the risk of repeating myself: You want your kids to learn your religion’s myths and fables, send em to Sunday School. Evolution is about as scientifically controversial as the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun, just the fact that Creationists try to dress their fables up in scientific garb shows that they have already lost the high ground. If God exists, he used evolution and the Big Bang to create us, deal with it.
Lastly, to be fair, one thing a lot of atheists do that annoys me is give religion too much credit. I’ve again and again seen atheists claim that 9/11 was “caused by religion.” No, it wasn’t, 9/11 was blowback from American foreign policy in the Middle East. Osama Bin Laden took up arms against the USA because of US violation of Saudi soil, US support for dictators in the Middle East, and America’s collaboration and support for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, Osama is a religious man (in as much as any mass murderer can be considered a religious man,) and his supporters are motivated by religion, but their cause is secular. Which is why the Bush administration went bananas blaming Islam and the whole “they hate us for our freedoms” thing. I mean, wouldn’t want the American public to know that American foreign policy was about enriching the rich and who cares how many people it screws over and inspires to take up arms against us, right?
That however is a topic for another blog, as wikileaks has just revealed to the world how much the US is screwing them over. And if they did hate us for our freedoms, why are they taking to the streets by the million us to get more freedom? In fact if they hated us for our freedoms, why, didn’t we install and arm the dictators who were responsible for taking away their freedoms? Anywise, my point is that when an atheist blithely says “9/11 was caused by religion” they are simply repeating US propaganda, because unless they also state a few other massacres by followers of other religions, they are just repeating the “Muslims are violent” propaganda. The very sort of religious propaganda that religious people have used to inspire their followers to violence throughout history. Old habits die hard.
Finally, just in case there is any confusion in the matter, atheism is not a belief. Neither is science for that matter, and it’s tiresome that some people of faith don’t or won’t understand that. Religion is a belief in some irrational doctrine, atheism is merely the understanding that there is no logical or empirical reason to believe in any supernatural being. I have decided to live my life guided by reason and compassion, not the dictates of Bronze Age mystics.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is found all over the web. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but will gladly do so if so informed. I just thought it was funny and, well, accurate. If this post generates any interesting comments, there will be follow up posts. If not, well, back to Libyan street fighters.)