Human solutions for human problems

Prayer, at best, can be an effective placebo. It helps believers feel they are doing something positive, and prayers might even “cure” some psychosomatic disorders.

Now let’s look at the prayers of politicians. Several presidential candidates asked God whether they should run, and God said “yes.” Funny how God’s plan always seems to be the same as that of the politician who asks for guidance. God even told Tim Scott, my congressman, that he should oppose the Boehner Bill to raise the debt ceiling. ( Who would have thought that the infallible ruler of the universe would be such a micro-manager?

When the Rev. Bailey Smith was head of the Southern Baptist Convention, he said, “God does not hear the prayers of a Jew.” ( As an atheist, I agree with the reverend. It would also appear that God does not hear the prayers of Texas Governor Rick Perry. After Perry officially declared three days of prayer for rain in the state of Texas, (, the drought continued. That didn’t deter Perry from trying to do for the nation what he tried to do for his state. Throw up his hands (literally) and ask God to solve the nation’s problems.

A more effective way to solve problems would be to seek guidance from another book with talking animals, Aesop’s Fables. In one fable, the wheels of a wagon get stuck in the mud and the driver gets on his knees to pray. Hercules appears to him and says, “Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help them that help themselves.” ( Ben Franklin also made this statement a number of centuries later, but with a singular God. In other words, only humans can solve human problems.

If Governor Perry should become President Perry (which might happen if God tells him to run), perhaps he will recommend as the next justice for the Supreme Court someone from the legal team of the American Family Association, sponsor of the national prayer event. This “pro-family” Christian group claims that only Christians have freedom of religion. ( It’s bad enough when constitutionally-ignorant politicians go around spouting, “We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.” The natural next step might be, “We have freedom of Christianity, not freedom from Christianity.” Welcome to the Dark Ages.

Our secular government must be governed by secular principles. Our political leaders work best when they examine relevant evidence and look for the best available solutions to a problem. Politics is the art of negotiation and compromise, while religious fundamentalism espouses an uncompromising and absolutist worldview. There is lots of blame to go around for the current fiscal crisis that put our wheels in the mud, but neither prayers nor uncompromising principles will get us out. Humans need to find solutions.

About Herb Silverman

Herb Silverman is Founder and President of the Secular Coalition for America, and founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, South Carolina. He was founder and faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student Atheist/Humanist Alliance. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association as well as a Humanist Celebrant, advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance, and member of the Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He has served on the boards of the Atheist Alliance and the Humanist Institute. He has written for "On Faith" at the Washington Post and for the Huffington Post. He has spoken at a number of conferences and written articles for many freethought publications. He has appeared in a number of debates on topics like: Can we be moral without God? Does God exist? Is America a Christian nation? He has also debated at the Oxford Union in Oxford, England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values? Here is information on his recent book, Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt