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20 October 2006 @ 10:04 am
The Impotence of Prayer  
Inspired by faith-based Mets fans...

Okay. Does anyone else think that praying for a sports team to win is retarded?

Granted, I don't have a high opinion of prayer in general. In life, it's natural to feel afraid or uncertain about the world around you, or to want to do something to bring fortune to you and yours or avert a disaster (say, an incurable disease) that you otherwise have zero control over. The solution to this is to build a strong support network of friends and family who stand with you in thick or thin, and to do all you humanly can to prevent the curveballs life throws us from hurting you too badly (put away some money for a rainy day, take good care of yourself, etc.). The solution is not to sit on your ass and ask a nonexistent magical sky person to do all the work for you. You might as well ask your security blanket or childhood teddy bear to get rid of your problems- because, as James Randi once wrote, that's all a deity is: "a security blanket that children carry into adulthood."

You may say, "Well, I do all that I can, but I supplement that with prayer. God's not just going to give you a million dollars, but he might if you work hard enough." Well then, how do you know the prayer is doing anything? If you're taking care of things on your own, do you really need prayer? Do you think maybe it's just a superstition that you're afraid to shed? Are you really afraid to think that, just maybe, you're capable of tackling the world all by yourself? ;)

Okay, back to sports. Where your favorite sports team is concerned, there's not a lot you can personally do to help them, aside from financially. You can buy tickets and merchandise. At game time, there's even less you can do, unless you count rooting for them. You, personally, can't make someone a better catcher or runner or whatever. But that's okay! For those who can't accept that gracefully, there's always prayer!

Now, even when I was a little Christian in grade school, I never understood how asking God for your team to win worked. I knew that, as a fan of Team X, I and many other fans of Team X might be asking God for Team X to win. But, there were bound to be people asking God for opposing Team Y to win, too. So, supposing God exists and wants to bring happiness to all his followers, what is he supposed to do at that point? Count up votes? What sort of majority is needed, a simple one or two-thirds? If there's a tie, does he make the game end in a draw? What if it's a playoff game, where the game can't end in a draw?

If you pray to God for your team to win, you must believe that God exists, listens to prayers, acts based on those prayers, and has the ability to affect the outcome of the game. But lots of people are praying for Team X and Team Y. Only one team can win- let's say it's Team Y. The praying Team Y fans seem to have been vindicated, but what about the fans who prayed for Team X? What are they to conclude? That God doesn't love them as much as the Team Y fans? WTF?

It's not just sports. There are lots of situations where conflicting prayers are going out to the Almighty. I need go no further than Israel to prove that. That's probably the most fucked-up example of it, too. The Israelis and Palestinians pray to the same god, and you know not all of those prayers are pure. If I were God, I'd be banging my head against a wall by now, realizing that this prayer system just plain sucks. If he goes by majority prayer, it's unfair to the minority prayers. If he says "Fuck it!" and just makes his own decision about how things come out, then praying is completely irrelevant, isn't it?

Back to my initial assertion: prayer for sports, or for anything really, is retarded. Want to give thanks? Thank all the people who've made a difference in your life. Want to get through a tough time? Draw those people around you, stand strong, and do whatever is in your power to combat whatever hardship you're facing. Don't ask God to be there for a loved one in a hard time, be there for them yourself. I mean, what story warms your heart more- that fifty people prayed for an ailing cancer patient, or that fifty people raised money, made cards and gifts, and visited with an ailing cancer patient? People caring about people- that's a beautiful thing. God caring about someone- how can you ever prove it?

Above all, accept that random good and random bad happen in this world, and that you won't always be able to control or do anything about it. That's just how it is. There's no higher power or "plan" that all this falls into. It's just. How. Life. Is.
Brandonprice on October 20th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
So Brady looks at this huge black and gold house up on the hill decked out in Steeler's paraphanelia and asks St. Peter, "Why's Ben got the biggest house around?"

St. Peter chuckles and says, "No, no, that's _God's_ house."
Miusheri: steeler_dorkmiusheri on October 20th, 2006 02:41 pm (UTC)
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 03:02 pm (UTC)
I was just about to say that God is a Steelers fan....

God does not want one to sit on one's tush and pray for things to happen. And it's typically agreed that one should not pray for petty matters. Sports is, whether we like it or not, a petty matter. To pray for the strength you'll need to do something difficult, or for the safety of a loved one in danger, or someone you care about that is very sick... All of these are the things God would want you to pray for.

There's scripture that backs me up, but I can't find it off-hand.

There are some Christians out there that say, "Well, I prayed for this person so my obligation to them is done." They're not Christians. Sorry, they're not. A true Christian is dedicated to mission work, which means they are dedicated to good works. How else to spread the good news? A real Christian would say, "Wow, I prayed for my friend in mass and said a rosary for them, but I'm making sure I visit them in the hospital and I'll make sure that I'll donate to x-cancer society. I'll walk in x-cancer related fundraising event and work to promote awareness of the disease."

Is pray an important part of this? Absolutely. How else are you going to have a conversation with God if you don't talk to him? As silly as this sounds, prayer isn't just asking for things for yourself. Prayer is also asking what you can do to make the world better.

It just frustrates me that so many religious people are anything but. They give those with faith a bad name.

How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policyt3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
It just frustrates me that so many religious people are anything but

That's because there are no concrete facts. Religion is the source of all relativism (despite claims to the contrary!). With no established facts, those with lives dedicated to religion often lose any sort of compass or bearing.
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
Religion, as taken as complete fact with no understanding, is the source of all relativism. I fixed that for you.

You'll be hard pressed to find a Catholic that actually believes the world was created in seven days. Okay, there are some out there, but they're crazy. The Old Testiment, many Catholic scholars and Jewish scholars agree, is a mix of fact and fiction. And we do have ways to determine which. So you'll find that many an educated Catholic has no problem with believing God as creator and Big Bang as method of creation.

And you're right, many aspects of religious life cannot be proven as fact. We have no conclusive evidence that Christ rose from the dead. Of course, we have no conclusive evidence on aspects of string theory either. And yet, society is more ready to consider the man who believes in string theory more modern than the man who is a Christian.

However, the basic moral beliefs of religion is not relative. Yes, the religious laws get a bit relative, because no matter if you believe they were handed from God or a bunch of old Jewish men wrote them, many modern Catholics agree that they were written for the time. The Big Ten are constant and not relative at all.

But there ARE reglious people that don't follow the Ten Commandments. And that means they're not very good at practicing their faith. Jesus's commandment, "Love others as you love yourself" is non-negotiable. Yey Christians seem to think they can ignore the loving others part. Don't see what's relative at that.

Miusherimiusheri on October 20th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC)
Not trying to be a tool here, but I'd like to pose some questions, if you don't mind =)

The Old Testiment, many Catholic scholars and Jewish scholars agree, is a mix of fact and fiction.

Who decides what's true and what's false? Who decides which laws of the Bible should be followed and which shouldn't? There's a huge amount of relativity right there. And as Thomas Paine argued, if you have no basis by which to judge one fact or account in the Bible more true than the others, then how can you reasonably believe any of it?

You'll be hard pressed to find a Catholic that actually believes the world was created in seven days.

You'd be amazed how many Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, not only believe that (they call it Intelligent Design), but are also pushing to have it taught in science classes as an "alternative" to evolution.

And yet, society is more ready to consider the man who believes in string theory more modern than the man who is a Christian.

String theory is just a theory at this point- an idea. One or more people might like the idea, but it's far from scientific fact right now. In science, there is no degree of "belief." There are hypotheses, experiments based on those hypotheses, and conclusions made based on the data gathered from experimentation. If enough credible evidence exists to support an idea, then that idea is accepted as workable fact. If more evidence is gathered that coincides with it, then it's upheld. If not, it's reevaluated. It is always up to further refinement and rejection if new evidence presents itself- much like Newton's laws of motion are actually not the full picture. That is the main difference between religion and science. Science invites people to question and test and try and come up with something better. Religion discourages questions and tests- it demands your full and unquestioning belief.

The Big Ten are constant and not relative at all.
Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. - People argue whether even saying or writing "God" is taking his name in vain. Some people write "G-d" to be safe.
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. - Some people say the Sabbath is Saturday, others say it's Sunday.
Honor thy father and thy mother. - What is meant by "honor?" Isn't that different for everybody- i.e., relative?
Thou shalt not kill. - ...not kill anything? What about insects? Foods and plants we have to kill to eat?
Thou shalt not commit adultery. - Historically, this has arguably been treated as a far worse sin for a woman to commit than for a man to commit.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. - Translated "don't lie." Is a white lie bad, then? What about a lie that makes someone feel good ("Oh yes, Josie, your hair looks lovely today")?

The point is, many of them are far from absolutes that everyone agrees on... as for the Golden Rule, to what extent must you love others as yourself? Must you just be nice to them in polite conversation, or must you feed and clothe and house them as you house yourself? Is "your neighbor" everybody on Earth, or just the people you know? Again, a wide interpretation is possible.
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 05:34 pm (UTC)
It's okay. I think I'm just touchy. It's really not fun to see your friends knock down your religion. But I guess fair is fair since Christians knock down athiests.

1. We use archeology as the method. Historians and Biblical scholars look at archeology and other supporting or denying texts of the time to either say that a Biblical event happened or did not. Scholars will agree that some books of the Bible aren't history at all, but parable on how to live life. Or an explaination of why bad things happen to good people. I have books on this, if you'd like to read them. I would break lj explaining specifics of it.

2. You're talking to an Intelligent Design proponent. That the First Cause, whether the philosophical one or the religious one, cannot even be mentioned in a classroom in NY troubles me. Classes are set up as optional class for students to look at Intelligent Design from a scientific and philosophical ones and the ALCU jumps down these school districts' throats. That's not right. We can teach elective classes on comparative religion in high school, but we can't teach a philosophy class dedicated to looking at intelligent design? Sorry, that's hypocritical bullshit. We can teach what Muslims believe in schools so there's absolutely no misconception at what Islam teaches, but we can't look at what meany Christians and even a few scientists believe. To me, I'm sorry, but that's hypocritical bullshit.

3. The next time I'm taught string theory in a science class, I'm going to demand that it not be taught.

4. The Big Ten have some translation issues. Not taking the Lord's name in vain is up for some interpretation because we don't know whether we're not supposed to call God by His true name or we're not supposed to say "G damn". And since we don't have the original commandments, we'll never know. The Sabbath day is different for Muslims, Jews and Christians, but the day of the Sabbath doesn't matter. It must be kept and it must be kept holy. While each religion has a different Sabbath day, they are all expected to honor it. It's not "kill"; it's "murder". I wish people would stop reading the King James translation. It's not very good. As for how society judges the people who break those commandments, it's not God's fault. He gave those people free will. According to the commandment, it's the same for a woman or man. And actually, you've misinterpreted the last. Do not bear false witness against thy neighbor is more along the lines of "Don't say your neighbor is a Jew in Nazi Germany if he's not just because you want him to keep the music down at night".

Look, I'm sorry. I get a lil upset when people pull apart the religion I'm a part of. You don't see me saying "athiests are stupid". I wouldn't do that. Are there sucky Christians out there? Yes. Are there good ones? I think so. And what I was pointing out was that the arguement you stated really ignored the good Christians out there.
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policyt3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC)
Well, to be fair, one might want to choose a religion that's not so easy to knock down.

1) Archeology can't answer the questions of "Which biblical laws are REAL, and which ones aren't?" There's a great deal of research into the verifiable facts- Jericho was in an entirely different location, and never fell, Scientifically verifiable dating verifies that Adam and Eve are unlikely to have been the FIRST people, etc. What archeology can't answer, is which parts of the bible are a reasonable moral code, which are not.

2) There is no scientific evidence for a "First Cause". If we taught philosophy in public schools (which I strongly support), then there'd be a place to discuss "First Cause". Without evidence, it doesn't belong in Science. Islam is taught as part of "Global Studies", as a tool for knowing about another region of the world- as is Taoism, Hinduism, etc. Since the US is a predominantly Christian nation, one could easily argue that we already know much of the history of Christianity. Of course, that doesn't stop it from being covered in "Global Studies"- although in less detail.

3) Nice try, but Minna's incorrect. String Theory is not just a theory any more than Evolution is just a theory. String Theory does tie together many facts, and most of its claims are experimentally verifiable. However, some very crucial claims (10 dimensions of space) have yet to be confirmed. No one teaches it as fact.

4) No translation will ever be accurate. Language intimately shapes the thought processes which makes it very difficult- in many cases impossible, to accurately render the author's intent- especially four thousand years later.

No one is saying you are stupid. Religion is stupid- any religion. Except maybe Zoroastrianism. I think I saw Ahriman last week actually. Anyway, religion makes claims, offers no evidence. "First Cause" arguments are attempts to prove the unprovable and are logically invalid.

For my personal two-cents, there is obviously differently-abled entities that seem more powerful than humans. Start with the Earth, the Sun. The Laws of Physics in general. Perhaps space aliens, perhaps trans-dimensional beings. Perhaps an invisible sky man. My first three examples can all be proven, understood, and worked into a single coherent framework without any of my second three examples- and the second three examples have no evidence to recommend them.
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
I'm not going to say anything more than I give up. Because I might say something hurtful.

Look Remy, I don't pick apart your beliefs. I don't say your beliefs are easy to knock down. Thank you for being so understanding.
How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policyt3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
I don't have any beliefs. I have facts, and from those facts, I develop inductive and deductive conclusions. If I "believe" something, that means it might not be true- in which case, I wouldn't at all be offended if someone picked it apart, because it would allow me to draw better conclusions from my given facts.
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
Some of those inductive conclusions are full of crap. But when presented with a compelling arguements based from fact, you shrugged it off and did not develop a better conclusion.

Again, thank you for being an understanding friend. In the future I will behave in the same way.
(no subject) - t3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ellie on October 20th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - t3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ellie on October 20th, 2006 10:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - t3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ellie on October 20th, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - t3knomanser on October 20th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Beloved Brightdulcinbradbury on October 23rd, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
Religion discourages questions and tests- it demands your full and unquestioning belief.

Jumping in *very* late here, but, that's the complete opposite of the opinion of every religious leader I've ever respected. Completely the opposite of what I was taught in Catholic school (though I'm not Catholic).

A lot of these get into *very* big questions that I'd advise talking to a Priest, minister or religious official about, if you really want to learn about that faith. Because, provided they aren't super-conservative, fundamentalists, they will be the first to acknowledge that there are imperfections on how to interpret them. Rules are black & white -- morality is grey.
Miusherimiusheri on October 20th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
If you see prayer as a dialogue with God and a supplement to caring/working for yourself and others, that's cool, but it seems to be a sadly one-sided conversation. Unless you take the events and happenings in your life as his replies- but that seems to be a total crapshoot. Whether you pray or not, good and bad things happen to everyone. I stopped praying many years ago, and I wouldn't say my life has decreased in quality (granted, my personal experience is anecdotal evidence).
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying that people's lives are lacking if they don't pray. My sister doesn't pray, and she's very happy.

Maybe I'm one of those crazy Christians, but when I pray, I feel a connection with something. Maybe it's a chemical reaction, but I like to think that it's God.
Miusherimiusheri on October 20th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
Nah, I wouldn't call you a crazy. You're happy in your belief, you're able to have a discussion about it without flying off the handle, and you don't force anyone to conform to anything they don't want to. That, I respect. =)

And if praying makes you happy, go for it! I just worry about those who a) think that they have to pray- that if they accidentally forget one night, God's going to be pissed at them or something; b) think that prayer is the answer to everything, and don't do anything else to help or get the help they need.