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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.
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
I will admit, I'm a little defensive of my religion and I find I'm constantly pointing out to my friends that all Christians aren't nutballs. Even in television, prime time likes to make us look crazy. I feel like I need to wear a t-shirt that separates me from the crazies. And the sad thing is that its becoming vogue to mock religious people. People are considered enlightened in the blue-state of NY if they act like they don't like religion. They're considered enlightened and intelligent and modern people.

The good priests can't treat the bad priests like scum, because while it does happen, it doesn't happen often and he's not in contact with you know tons of priests. The good priests are out there doing a good job in helping out humanity. Maybe I come from a strange place, but there are active Catholic and Christian charities. Our parish is actively working to integrate several Mexican families into the community. Should priests that molest children be excommunicated, absolutely. And if more Christians expressed shock on the matter, they would be.

There are still a lot of stupid people out there, and a large percentage of them are Christians.

I'm not trying to push my religion on anyone. I'm very comfortable that my sister is going to covert to become a Jew. I'd rather someone have faith in something - whether it be general goodness of a diety - than nothing.

I'm just saying there are two types of Christians and the good ones are getting lambasted along side the bad ones. We go out of our way to separate the fundie Muslims from the moderate ones, but we as a society makes no bones about lumping all Christians together.
steelerbabe777steelerbabe777 on October 20th, 2006 05:22 pm (UTC)
I really do understand what you're saying. This all comes back to MSM, too. I mean, do we ever hear about really good things the Priests and good Christians are doing? Nope. All we know is what the news exposes to us. Of course, the sex scandals, lies, corruption, etc...all of the bad gets reported because that's what sells.

If we heard more stories of good (when do we ever get to hear about the different church groups that travel around the world to feed the hungry, build schools, churches, etc...stuff that has a great impact on other societies?), then I'm sure a lot of people's opinions would be different. Unfortunately, the molestation/rape stuff is really the only thing we get, which is why so many have such poorly based biases on religion and Christians in general.
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
I think part of the reason we hear more about the bad because if it bleeds, it leads. My college did a fantasic fundraiser after 9/11. We raised over 50,000 dollars and two Red Cross trucks full of blood. BTW, this was a community college with less than 2000 students. Did it lead? No. We were pushed to the weekend arts and leisure section. Not that we did it to be front page news, but a little recognition would have been nice. When a college kid blows a point 2-0 and kills himself drunk driving it's front page.

And the second part of it is that the priests aren't going good things to get in the news. They're doing it because it's the right thing to do.
steelerbabe777steelerbabe777 on October 20th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)
That's horrible. I mean, maybe it'd restore people's faith in humanity if we did get to hear about more good things people are doing as opposed to the stupid stuff that sells.

And I certainly didn't mean Priests do good things just to get into the news--what I meant is that it's sad that these good things aren't run as often as the scandals. If it was, then people might not have such strong opinions on Christians as a whole. No one should be categorized as a whole, let alone people of faith. I mean, would it be correct to say "all Muslims are terrorists?" Of course not! I would never generalize like that.

Ohh, and most importantly--I certainly am not trying to hurt your feelings or offend you in any way, shape, or form. You know that, right? Unfortunately, there are certain subjects (religion, politics) that are very very touchy. I sure hope I didn't hurt you over any of this...
Ellieellie on October 20th, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
I know that you, Minna and Remy are not trying to hurt my feelings. (We'll forget that Remy's comments that religion is stupid and one should pick a religion that isn't so easily knocked down. Those struck me as rude, arrogant and borderline offensive.) It's just that I'm the only one of my friends that is religious and it's become vogue as of late to pick faith apart and mock it a little bit. And I'm sorry, but that sort of hurts. But I live in a blue state. There aren't many people my age who are Christian and are not crazy. So I get into arguements to defend my religion because I'm sorry, I really do believe. I am a Catholic. It's not you, it's more of everyone I know does this over-load sort of thing.
Beloved Brightdulcinbradbury on October 23rd, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
I'm late coming into the conversation, but, I can sympathize with some of your feelings regarding the way some people react to any sort of spirituality. (I'm not Catholic, but I am spiritual.) And, if you're Christian & not crazy, I'm fine with that.

I think we *may* have met once a long time ago, but, I'm not sure. I'm Amanda -- one of Remy's ex's.
Ellieellie on October 23rd, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
If we did meet it was in a brief passing. I'm Ellie, I went to high school with Remy.
Beloved Brightdulcinbradbury on October 23rd, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
I remember him talking about you. That's part of the reason I thought we may have met at one point.
Ellieellie on October 23rd, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)
Hrm... ever take a trip to Kingston? Because I've only been in Albany for two years.
Beloved Brightdulcinbradbury on October 23rd, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
Didn't know you were in Albany. Yep, took many trips to Kingston. Spent more time with his male friends though -- Tim, Apples, etc.