The futility of prayer … and certain radio interviews

The futility of prayer … and certain radio interviews February 12, 2016

I had hoped that, having been asked by BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester to comment this morning on the daft Just Pray hoardings erected at Hereford railway station, I would get the chance to discuss a number of issues concerning prayer, but that was not too be. By my reckoning I got a less than a minute’s airtime, and could not expand on any of the points I’d intended to raise.

My irritation was compounded by a factor of at least 100 when I later learned that Christians had started using Twitter to pray for Richard Dawkins, 74, who is recovering from a minor stroke he suffered on Saturday.
It also annoyed non-Christians atheists, who posted messages such as these:
• Wishing (not praying) @RichardDawkins a speedy recovery. Hope to see you in Oz soon!
• Gave me a shock: @RichardDawkins has stroke (but getting better already) (do not pray for him please).
• @RichardDawkins I’m not praying you make a swift recovery, which I hope you’ll appreciate.
I really wanted to shoehorn into the interview two controversial issues: imprecatory prayers asking God to smite godless heathens like me, and the harm praying can do to the children of parents who put faith above medical treatments.
I would have said that if the Just Pray mob were to be honest, they would surely make public their support for imprecatory prayers, defined by Delve into Jesus thus:

If we are seeking for God to be glorified, then we may be right to ask for God’s righteous punishment. In particular, when someone is doing something unholy such as worshiping the devil or persecuting Christians, then it is right that we should ask God to punish that person so He would be glorified.
It might be right and even loving to ask God to harm the person in order to get their attention and stop what they’re doing. We are not asking for our own gain, only that justice would be done and God would be rightly worshiped and obeyed.

Psalm 109:8 is one imprecatory prayer. The words of  the psalm are:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office … Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

This psalm used a few years back, without any noticeable effect, against President Obama when droves of right wing Christian websites began selling a variety of “Pray for Obama” items – t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, and even teddy bears with emblazoned with Psalm 109. It even appeared on church noticeboards.
These two points alone would, I believe, would have sparked a lively debate on Radio Hereford and Worcester, but I guess, having alerted the presenters ahead of the interview that I intended tackling the subject with all guns blazing, they decided that in in-depth interview would be too hot to handle and instead wasted time on asking train passengers whether they were able to recite “Our father who art in heaven … blah, blah.”

Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Dawkins report)

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  • John

    My parents listen to BBC H&W every morning. It’s a shame you didn’t get the chance to give them a little shock. They’re baptists. Heh.

  • AgentCormac

    Sorry to hear they didn’t give your voice a proper chance to be heard, Barry. But maybe no surprises as I guess this is the same corpoartion that allows Chris Evans his repugnant, god-botherers-only ‘Pause for the Day’ slot each and every morning, refuses to allow anyone of no faith to speak on Broga’s much-loved TFTD feature and has appointed ‘young-earth’ creationist Dan Walker to front its BBC Breakfast show. Is there a link to the spot so we can listen to what you were actually allowed to say?–but-hes-entitled-to-his-beliefs

  • Barry Duke

    Sorry AgentCormac, can’t find a link, but the gist of what I said was that I had no objection to the hoardings, as they were not in violation of ASA rules, but that I agreed with the cinema ban as people in cinemas are effectively captive audiences who should not be subjected to religious propaganda.

  • Angela_K

    I’m not surprised by this Barry, we all know of the BBC’s fawning deference to religion and they can’t have people like you stating facts that show the absurdity of religion on the airwaves.
    On Radio ‘phone ins, you always get to speak to a “researcher” first to hear what you want to say and then conveniently for the BBC you get a “sorry we haven’t time for your call to be included on air” A similar thing happens with emails to Radio shows, even a brief email is edited to remove anything honest about religion.

  • L.Long

    Using the buyBull and basic xtian beliefs shows that jesus LIED in matthew about granting wishes, and prayer is essentially useless, and that is using their BS right back at them.

  • Ellis-e-yum

    Emo says…….

  • Steve

    I’ve actually had interviews to be part of a BBC training scheme, and one of the things they ask you is whether you think there are any groups in the UK who are underrepresented by the BBC. Thinking I was in a room of people asking a genuine question, I replied and told them that I felt the BBC deference to religious groups often made it seem that there was nothing directed at the unreligious, or the anti-religious.
    The response I got was “Oh, we don’t like to cover things like that.We prefer to keep spiritual shows non-controversial”. (paraphrased)
    I think the mistake. You made was forewarning them of your planned talking points. The BBC definitely doesn’t handle religious controversy very well.

  • Ivan

    See “If God Answered Prayers” on the excellent “Dark Matter” YouTube channel:
    Basically, it would be a logical nightmare.
    Well worth checking out his other videos and subscribing.

  • Ellis-e-yum

    Fawning deference … Yes. This morning bbc r4 covered the stomach churning kiss between patriarch Kiril and pope Francis at their Cuban love fest. However, it did not mention if tongues were used or for how long the snog lasted. Nor did it mention who held who’s staff. Or if they kissed each other’s rings. They signed some agreement or other and decided that the muslims really ought to stop killing christians an smashing churches. Yeah … right… That should do it. There is now probably a fatwa declaring the pope and patriarch to have homosexual tendencies and therefore have forfeit the right to live.

  • Ellis-e-yum

    Here is the bbc web news article …
    Note that Kirill has the bigger helmet.

  • Ellis-e-yum

    The above article contains this …
    “Back home the Patriarch has to overcome the anger of conservatives who still consider Catholicism a deviation from true Christianity. Clearly, this is a criticism he feels safe to ignore now.”
    Yes because if anybody complains about Kirill his best mate Putin sends in a hit man.

  • Ellis-e-yum

    And this….which shows that religions have a very very bad record of deadly competition and distrust even when they fawn to the same God. The hate and division and divine permissions to do awful things is rooted in the past but are still there today and guarantee that there will be no peace as long as the pious are allowed to strut and swagger humbly around the world. Keep religion … Consign humanity back to the dark ages.
    Uneasy relations
    Key dates:
    1054 – Mutual excommunications by Western Church leader in Rome, Pope Leo IX, and Eastern Church leader in Constantinople, Patriarch Cerularius, lead to Great Schism
    1274 and 1439 – Attempts to re-unite the two Churches at Councils of Lyon and Florence fail
    1997 – Planned meeting between Pope John Paul II and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II cancelled
    Why Cuba?
    Reportedly chosen because it is far from Rome, Istanbul and Moscow with all their historical baggage of schism
    Two leaders can focus on main issue: how to protect Christians – both Catholic and Orthodox – in Middle East and North Africa from persecution
    Thorny issue
    Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in western Ukraine, which follows Eastern Church rites but answers to Vatican
    Russian Orthodox Church sees western Ukraine as its traditional territory, resenting papal influence

  • tonye

    100% Ineffectual.
    100% Of the time.

  • Laura Roberts

    I’ve been interviewed by local newspapers on a couple of occasions and I’ve been disgusted by their dishonest editorial filtering. Partly it was my fault for not understanding their sound-bite mentality; I should have condensed my thoughts into pithy quotes instead of putting real thought into it.

  • barriejohn

    Laura et al: Provincial newspapers (and some national ones!) tend to be absolutely awful. I once sent a letter to our local rag in Swindon, and great chunks of it were simply left out with no indication that any editing had taken place. I never repeated that mistake!
    A pity to learn of the demise of the print edition of the Independent. Murdoch and co must be pissing themselves!

  • lucy1

    I was once interviewed on local radio. I was very anxious as it was to do with a highly controversial thing I was working on, in the field of data protection and children. Explosive!. It went fine, until the interviewer said at the end something like ‘So ring in and tell us what you think about this development! or ring in and let us have your views on our previous news item…’ the previous ‘news’ item was about someone who had received a gas bill for a penny, or some such nonsense. So I went home humbly accepting that my work was as important to local radio as novelty utility bills.

  • Being shouted down sometimes speaks volumes. A frustrating interview but point made.
    Nothing fails like prayer.

  • Rob Andrews

    If I say a prayer to Tingmasartok (Eskimo god), for something, most people will think I’m nuts. But change ONE WORD, to Christ and people will accept this.
    Any attempt to alter reality by words or rituals is defined as “sympathetic majic” by anthropologists.
    I’ve pointed both of the above to theists of one sort or another. But they can’t understand the change of names makes no difference in effectivness of the prayer. And can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea of sympathyetic majic. This astounds me.

  • barriejohn

    You can listen to an audio report by Prof Dawkins on Jerry’s blog:
    Let’s hope that he makes a full recovery.

  • barriejohn

    Oh, dear – now we’re being nasty about the Church of England:
    Still, they’re going to say now that their prayers “worked”, aren’t they? Pity they’re not “working” for all the Syrian children being maimed by Russian and Turkish bombs.
    I love this quote:”The doctors asked me whether I had been suffering from stress, and I had to say, ‘Yes, I had’. They keep advising me not to get involved in controversy, and I’m afraid I had to tell them that not getting involved in controversy was one of those things I was not particularly talented at.”

  • George Broadhead

    Re provincial newspapers, Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists has an arrangement with the Courier Series published in Warwickshire to provide a monthly ‘Humanist Opinion’ column which often takes religion to task. But I daresay this is exceptional.

  • Broga

    I think God will look kindly on Richard Dawkins as someone who used his God given intelligence to expose the nonsense of religion. God must be appalled at the use the religious make of their intelligence.
    Richard is headed straight for heaven but I think, and hope, that will be a long way ahead. We need him here. He is irreplaceable.

  • Peter Sykes

    This came to mind…
    “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei