Prayer as an either/or.

I’m often told by the people trying to assure me that prayer works that god doesn’t like to be tested (which makes prayer seem silly in the first place).  This is a roundabout way, in my eyes, of saying you can’t just pray and let god fix our problems.  You have to pray while actually trying to fix them and, voila, sometimes they get fixed.  The credit then is supposed to be shared with (or relinquished entirely to) god, as if the believer had forgotten all about the human hands that toiled.

It seems to me that every single human innovation is a testament to the uselessness of prayer.  Praying to cure people of appendicitis didn’t work, so we came up with medicine and surgery.  That worked.  So anybody who tells you that, given the choice between prayer and medicine, they’d choose prayer, they’re simply lying (or one hell of a masochist).  So what I think I’m going to start doing with these people is presenting prayer vs. human endeavor as an either/or proposition.

For instance, take keeping schools safe from mass shootings.  If you could have people praying for the kids or have security guards in the schools, which would you take?  If the answer was security guards, that means we have one more thing that works better than prayer.

Or how about finding your keys in the morning?  If you had the option between sitting in your easy chair and praying for them to turn up or actually looking for them because you needed to leave the house five minutes ago, which would it be?  Is there a single person who, when in that situation, would even consider choosing prayer?

Maybe I’ll even walk them back a little further.  If you had to choose between praying for the floor to be warm or putting on socks, something that insignificant, what would you do?  On something that insignificant, would you even rely on prayer then?

I imagine most believers, if they had to choose, would admit via their actions that actually doing shit works while prayer doesn’t.  Yet, when they fix things themselves and pray, suddenly it’s a team effort with the same god who lacks the power to make the floor warm.

If god really existed, he could earn the credit for making things better himself, rather than needing his followers to steal the credit for human work wherever and whenever they can.  Yet it’s obvious that we protect our children ourselves, we find our keys, we put on warm socks, and we feed the starving, because god won’t move the world the way we would.  In fact, if god exists, then he has clearly moved it in the opposite direction of human interest, otherwise we would be having to figure out how to feed children on the brink of starvation.

And we’d never lose our keys.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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