One thing I regret since becoming active on twitter is that I didn’t keep track of the number of theists who have, usually after losing an argument, told me they would pray for me. Surely by now the number must be well into the hundreds. As I often point out to them, after all of these prayers- I’m still an atheist. So, either they’re praying for me to remain an atheist, or maybe, just maybe, prayer doesn’t work.
But let’s consider prayer for a moment. Why do Christians pray? When I was a Christian, I prayed for 3 reasons.
1) To thank God for something
2) To beg forgiveness for looking at a hot guy and allowing my raging teenaged hormones to plant dirty thoughts in my mind (or some other similarly ridiculous “sin”)
3) To ask for something
Typically, I only did #1 and #2 so I sounded like less of a dick when I asked for everything I wanted in #3. Now, I was never delusional enough to truly believe God was speaking back to me. In fact, this was one of the more frustrating things about my time as a Christian. I spent all that time praying and always got the feeling I was talking to myself. Which, of course, I was- but to a Christian who believed God was speaking to every OTHER Christian, but not to you, this was rather distressing.
Essentially, what we think about prayer is that God is able to hear you, either with actual words or telepathically as you “think” at him… but instead of responding directly, you need to interpret him through vague feelings intermixed with your own thoughts? Why does God not actually SPEAK back to us? Surely hearing a loud, booming voice actually answering your questions would lead to a lot less confusion about what God actually wants us to do. But, no, apparently your all powerful God prefers to leave his plan for your life, his instructions for you, and his answers to your concerns, up to your own vague interpretation. How does this make any sense whatsoever? Your God has some absolutely terrible ideas for an all-knowing, all-powerful being!
Christians will often tell me that they pray because they have a “relationship” with God, and like their other relationships, it needs to be nourished and sustained through this sort of interaction. I refrain from pointing out that their ACTUAL relationships are probably suffering because they waste so much time speaking to their invisible friend… but I digress. When I consider a “relationship” with God, a few things come to mind. The first is to be terribly embarrassed that any human could think that, if there WERE an all-powerful creator of the universe, that he would give a shit if you talk to him or not. It’s truly the height of arrogance for the religious to believe that God, who has created everything in the universe, and the universe itself, would be offended that YOU don’t want to talk to him. Or, that if such a being existed, he’d be at all interested in hearing how you really need a new car, or that you want me to become a Christian. The second is to wonder how exactly you consider it a “relationship” with God if you do all the talking and never get a concrete response? It’s a bit like my relationship with Ian Somerhalder. No matter how often I ask him to marry me, he just carries on ignoring me. Hardly a real “relationship”, as it is with Christians and their God. If any Christian tells you they have literally heard the voice of God, they are either lying to you, or require an immediate mental health intervention before this voice tells them to burn things.
Now, when considering the 3rd reason people pray, ie, “asking God for something”, there simply can be no debate. This is one of the most ridiculous concepts in all of Christianity, which is saying something considering this is the religion of virgin births and resurrections. Let’s consider for a moment what this really means in the context of what we “know” about God. For example, let’s say you’re asking God to help cure a loved one with cancer. From what we know of God, he is “all-knowing”. It was hammered into me again and again and AGAIN at bible camp that “God knows my heart”. So, of course, an all knowing God would already know exactly what you want and what you need- all of the deepest desires of your heart. So why ask him? Is God in Heaven right now, watching your loved one suffering with cancer, all the while knowing how much you’d like them to be cured, but just waiting for you to ASK him to help out? That’s a pretty douchey move by your all-loving God. If you believe that God sometimes DOES answer these prayers, that’s a whole different kind of beast. Whatever happened to God’s perfect plan? Not to worry about your life because God has a plan and we’re all a part of it? Are we REALLY so egotistical to think not only that we have a relationship with our all-knowing, all-loving creator, but that we can change his mind, and have him alter his “perfect plan”, simply by requesting it? This level of delusion is bordering on true insanity. It also brings up an even larger issue surrounding how God could possibly intervene in some cases, such as to cure your friend’s cancer, and not in other cases, such as to regrow an amputated limb, prevent children being raped, or to feed the hungry.
For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone can truly consider these things and still come to the conclusion that prayer is a useful exercise. This is what religion does to people- it takes every logical, rational thought you may possess and poisons it to the point that you no longer question anything you’re told. It honestly makes me sad that so many people are trapped in this ridiculous delusion. I’d love to sum this up with some sort of clever tag line, but I’ll never be able to do so better than The Onion has.