Looks Like Prayer and Fasting Failed Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Back in June, on the brink of economic disaster, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania mayor Linda Thompson unveiled her brilliant plan to rescue the city:

Thompson and a host of other religious leaders are about to embark on a three-day fast and prayer campaign to cure the city’s daunting money woes.

“Things that are above and beyond my control, I need God,” Thompson told WHTM TV, the region’s ABC news affiliate. “I depend on Him for guidance. Spiritual guidance. That’s why it’s really no struggle for me to join this fast and prayer.”

So how did that work out?

In one of the largest municipality bankruptcy filings ever, the Harrisburg city council decided to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection due to “overwhelming debt,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

The filing lists about $458 million in creditors and claims, and says Harrisburg is in “imminent jeopardy” from six pending actions due to its project revamping the city’s incinerator. The decision to petition for bankruptcy comes as the state has been considering a bill that would lead to the eventual state takeover of Harrisburg.

Just another nail in the coffin to show that prayer is completely ineffective in combatting real world problems. Mayor Thompson would’ve been better off dropping the prayers and following advice from experts who actually knew how to fix the situation or stop it from happening in the first place.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://churchofthecasualchristian.blogspot.com Pryopizm

    Man, and here I was in the “that’s just crazy enough to work!” camp.

    It’s an awfully sad camp.

  • Mrs. B.

    No, it would have worked, but god is punishing them for allowing gays to live and breathe among them and loose women to… oh crap, I can’t even continue the snark.

    • Bob Becker

      Well, it’s not really snark.  “We were not worthy!” is a common explanation of those who appeal to prayer or the judgment of god for their cause, and it fails. “Had we only been more worthy, our prayers would have been answered.”   ["If only we had clapped harder, Tinkerbell would have lived!"]

      For example, many in the seceding states appealed to the god of battles to justify their cause with victory in the Civil War.   And how did they deal with the fact that they lost?  By concluding  they were indeed fighting on the side god favored, but they had not been sufficiently worthy and pious and right-living, for  had they been, the god of battles would have granted them victory.

      It sounds like snark only to the sane. 

  • http://bit.ly/breeden Andy Breeden

    Nothing fails like prayer.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    Reminds me of a joke:

    A businessman was in a great deal of trouble. His business was failing,
    he had put everything he had into the business, he owed everybody. It
    was so bad he was even contemplating suicide. As a last resort he went
    to a priest and poured out his story of tears and woe.

    When he had finished, the priest said, “Here’s what I want you to do: Put a
    beach chair and your Bible in your car and drive down to the beach. Take
    the beach chair and the Bible to the water’s edge, sit down in the beach chair, and put the Bible in your lap. Open the Bible; the wind will rifle the pages, but finally the open Bible will come to rest on a page. Look down at the page and read the first thing you see. That will be your answer, that will tell you what to do.”

    A year later the businessman went back to the priest and brought his wife and children with him. The man was in a new custom-tailored suit, his wife in a mink coat, the children shining. The businessman pulled an envelope stuffed with money out of his pocket, gave it to the priest as a donation in thanks for his advice.

    The priest recognized the benefactor, and was curious. “You did as I suggested?” he asked.

    “Absolutely,” replied the businessman.

    “You went to the beach?”

    “Absolutely.”

    “You sat in a beach chair with the Bible in your lap?”

    “Absolutely.”

    “You let the pages rifle until they stopped?”

    “Absolutely.”

    “And what were the first words you saw?”

    “Chapter 11.”

    • Erik

      I don’t get it.

      • Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Chapter 11 is a form of bankruptucy.

      • Sulris Campbell

        chapter 11 is another way to say brankruptcy

    • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

      …and here I was thinking the punchline was going to be something about becoming a pastor of a mega-church…

  • Burt Likko

    To be fair, I doubt that even the best financial money managers and public administration experts could have saved Harrisburg from bankrutpcy.

  • http://twitter.com/PeteHullah Peter Hullah

    Abraham was right. Mayor Thomson should’ve sacrificed her first-born son.

    Just as she was raising the knife above his head, some old goat (yes you, Rick Perry) would’ve stuck his head out from under a (George H.W.) Bush and said “I said no more taxes!”

  • Martha

    The bankruptcy probably is not valid.  In Pennsylvania the law requires state approval of a municipal bankruptcy and the state has not approved it.  The filing is posturing by the city as the state moves to take over the city’s finances. 

  • Anonymous

    One pair of hands working accomplishes more than a million pair praying.

  • http://www.bellybillboard.com Gutmeister

    Prayer is as effective as hoping and wishing and sending “good vibes”.  Life just completely doesn’t give a damn about your religion or beliefs (or lack thereof).  It’s sad that high ranking public officials who are entrusted with the public’s well-being rely so heavily on what basically amounts to magic and fairy dust, when taking what’s left in the coffers and going to Atlantic City to let it all ride on one hand of Black Jack would give you the exact same odds.

    • Anne Sauer

      I’m actually pretty sure that betting on one hand of black jack has BETTER odds of succeeding.

  • Dhmckinnon

    God has been so removed from the United States from morons that feel “offended”. It is clearly stated in Gospel of Luke.

    Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
    (Luke 13:35 ESV) 

    • Matt Schuh

      They say that all the time.  Hell, these people spent 3 days doing that.  Too bad it didn’t actually work.

    • Heidi

      God was never in the United States until the paranoid fascists stuffed him in there in the 1950s.

      “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man
      & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship,
      that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not
      opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American
      people which declared that their legislature should “make no law
      respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
      thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
      [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive
      authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even
      those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of
      another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious
      exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective
      sect.]”
      -Thomas Jefferson Jan 1, 1802

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    “Things that are above and beyond my control, I need God,”No, what she needs is to be OUT.  Period.  She just admitted that she doesn’t know how to do her job.  What more do people need?!  I so love hearing about my state’s capital going bankrupt.

  • Sinfanti

    Linda might want to save her remaining prayers for the next election.  Hopefully with similar results.

  • Poolio

    And this right on the heels of Rick Perry’s wildly successful Day of Prayer and Fasting.  Texas is still experiencing “Exceptional” drought months later.

    I hope these events get plenty of exposure.  If reason (and the Constitution itself) can’t persuade people that prayer has no place in government, maybe the deaf ear of God will.  

  • TiltedHorizon

    What?!? How could prayer fail? I guess god don’t like Harrisburg.

  • Sulris Campbell

    if you read the bible the way to prove the existance of god is apparently to have a prayer off in which both sides try to use prayers to light a bonfire (priests of baal vs elijah its in the bible)  i dont know why al the different abrahamic religions havnt decided to give this a whirl to see who interpreted their books the best.

  • http://silveroutlinedwindow.wordpress.com/ Shannon

    What happened to “God helps those who help themselves”?

    This Day of Prayer crap is getting really nauseating. 

    • Anonymous

      That’s not even in the Bible.  Contrary to the opinion of many Christians.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty simple to solve financial problems by raising taxes… but no politician will do that, they’re scared that they won’t get re-elected. It’s not an exclusively Republican trait, but more of them feel that way than most Democrats.
    But all of them will pray in public… because they won’t get re-elected if they don’t.

  • Anonymous

    At the next election the opponents of Thompson really should make a big deal about this.  Framing prayer in place of economic sense as a stupid idea would do wonders to change the political landscape of the USA.

  • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

    Anyone–but especially politicians–suggesting that prayer is the way to resolve real world problems is but one step removed from suggesting that, in order to ensure a bountiful harvest, a few virgins must be sacrificed.

  • Matt Schuh

    So, if the typical cry is  “We’re not worthy!”  Would it be wrong to drive along with a bullhorn trying to sound like a deep voice James Earl Jones God replying “No, you’re not.”

  • Rexx Winkuski

    NOTHING fails like prayer. When are people ever going to learn? Probably just as soon as they pull their noses out of Bronze Age propaganda.


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