National Day of Prayer

zomg teh powarz of prayer

I’ll be honest.  To me, prayer in general seems pretty masturbatory, especially when compared to people, y’know, doing things.  So I popped over to the NDOP web site to see how others perceive the day.

It opens with a Thomas Jefferson quote, which I thought was pretty ironic.

“Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it”  ~ Thomas ‘bad to the bone’ Jefferson

Makes sense to me.  The whole thing about prayer is in the hands of religious people alone – the constitution is clear about this.  I’m fine with that.  The hang up is that our president is all hung up on advocating this day of verbal masturbation as a representative of the federal government, even though such an act has been deemed illegal.

The Jefferson quote is taken from a letter to Reverend Samuel Miller in 1808, which concludes with…

“Be this as it may, everyone must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U.S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

I know, I know…it would be political suicide for Obama to do anything else, but we should at least know the facts about the situation.

Moving on.

The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage.

Part of our heritage? Sure.  But I see you used the word ‘vital’…I don’t think it means what you think it means.  Funny wigs and discrimination against African Americans are part of our heritage, but they are not vital just by virtue of being there.  I cannot think of one problem facing our nation that has been solved by prayer.  I can think of plenty of times when prayer has been used to gain political capitol for naaaaaaaasty things (War in Iraq, discriminatory practices against women, blacks, gays, etc.), but I cannot think of any time it has solved a problem.  Human innovation, on the other hand, has solved all of our problems that have been solved thus far, so far as I can tell.

Their first example to support the vitality of prayer is…

Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history…

This is vital?  Look, prayers for wisdom clearly are no indicator that wisdom will be produced.  Oodles of mistakes by our founding fathers were later corrected by, once again, good ol’ human intellect.  That whole slavery thing?  Yeah, prayers for wisdom didn’t keep that out of our founding documents.

Speaking of slavery, if ever you needed a mound of evidence that prayers do not produce wisdom, you could take it from Frederick Douglas in 1846, over a hundred years before the political right lost their battle for segregation.

“I have all my days been accustomed to prayer, in connection with slavery: my master was a praying man; the man who claims to own these hands, and who has bound himself almost with the solemnity of an oath, that if ever again I set my feet on the American soil I shall be a slave, that man prays, at morning, noon, and nights; and I have seen him tie up by the hands a female cousin of my own, and lash her with a cow-skin, till the warm blood trickled at her feet, and all the while say, “the slave that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes”—(shame). I have seen my master’s brother trample my own brother to the ground, and stamp on him with his boot, till the blood gushed from his nose. I have seen these things in the midst of prayer.”

Prayer doesn’t make anybody better, but it does convince people they have divine backing for their opinions whether those opinions are malicious or beneficent.

The web site continues…

…including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863.

And they say Christians don’t know how to have a good time.

This is how you choose to sell us on a day of prayer?  Fasting?  Fasting sucks!  Food is awesome, and it seems that religious people know this.

Yes, all you pious, praying Americans, tell me how much you enjoy fasting.  And yes, these are the same people who accuse atheists of being tubbier.

And humiliation?  Who the hell asks for that?  I can see some high-ranking Republicans getting off on humiliation (though not in the same ‘vein’), but for the rest of us, and for our country, humiliation is something to be avoided.

Alright, two and a half paragraphs into this site and I’m freshly motivated to head into work and do my job as a professional atheist – because, as Sam Singleton might say, god damn this shit is silly.  I will close with a challenge to religious people that I will post to my faceboook.  Before work, I’m going to leave a penny on my back porch.  I’d like every Christian available to pray that at 6:30pm EST that penny elevates off the ground.  For those who say that faith can move mountains, this shouldn’t be much of a challenge.  Can all the prayers in the world move something as little as a penny?  I think we all, both atheist and believer alike, know the answer.

However, at 6:35pm, assuming the penny has not been moved, I will reach a single human hand down to the ground, grasp the penny with a mere two fingers, and with the most minimal, single effort, I will do what all the prayers in the world cannot.  Let this be a lesson whenever religious people try to co-opt human effort, which is clearly the true salvation of humankind, for their masturbatory and meaningless prayers.

WWJTD?  I’d institute an actual National Day of Masturbation.  It’s more enjoyable than prayer, inclusive of more people, more honest about what it accomplishes, psychologically healthy, and has plenty potential for humiliation if you live with your parents/roommates.

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