Stop telling me god answered your prayers.

To each and every Christian emailing me, or telling me in person, how god answered your prayers: stop it.  The god who answers the prayers of those who have plenty because they have the right faith, while ignoring the prayers of those who suffer in want because they have the wrong faith, is a god who prioritizes groveling over need. That god is a dick.  I wouldn’t worship that god even if it did exist, and I think less of you for sacrificing your sense of justice in exchange for a presumably answered prayer.

That is all.

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.

  • Glodson

    See Also: Selection Bias.

    • sqlrob

      Don’t forget Confirmation Bias

      • Glodson

        Oh yes. But I was just thinking that when people say “oh look what prayer has done,” they always ignore all the instances when prayer didn’t do a thing. Of course this goes hand in hand with confirmation bias.

        The worst thing is that prayer is a way of wishing people well while feeling you really did something for them. I feel guilty when I can’t help other than sending best wishes for someone. Before, I could say that I would pray for them. By telling my imaginary friend, I gained a feeling that I really helped when I didn’t do a damn thing.

        • sqlrob

          I wasn’t reading your selection bias post that way. I was reading it as “you’re only getting the mail from the ones that think it works”

          • Glodson

            Ah, I see.

            Yea, I guess I could have been more clear. My bad.

  • sqlrob

    The god who answers the prayers of those who have plenty because they have the right faith, while ignoring the prayers of those who suffer in want because they have the wrong faith, is a god who prioritizes groveling over need.

    A good chunk of Africa is Christian. A good chunk of Africa is starving. He’s too busy answering prayers of the people with plenty to answer those without. So he’s still a dick to believers.

    I’m with you JT. Even if he existed, he’s worth opposing.

    • UsingReason

      To be fair, deciding the winners in US college football keeps him pretty busy. And High school adds another layer of need that sucks up a lot of his time. And professional sports as well; I mean fuck them starving people, he has important decisions to make.

      • kagekiri

        Yeah, and don’t forget those parking spaces! Man, if God wasn’t constantly intervening to make people leave shopping centers and malls, we’d be sitting in parking lots for HOURS. Thanks, Christians!

        I mean, shoot, it’s not like people just happen to leave parking lots as others arrive, it’s OBVIOUSLY divine intervention, and that stuff’s tiring.

        And Jesus was pretty clear about this whole “screw starving people” if you read him correctly.

        He said he cares for his people far more than he cares for sparrows and lilies of the field, which sounds nice at first. But, considering the number of lilies and sparrows that die due to predators, disease, starvation, and incidental death underfoot with no apparent divine assistance (in fact, it seems like they feed and clothe themselves by expending resources…it’s almost as if God DOESN’T care for them at all!!), it’s not much of a promise of any provision.

        • Kela

          God?!?! I thought that was the Parking Lot Fairy. Damn, I have been sacrificing to the wrong non-existent being this whole time.

  • Chimako

    yep, so tired of this on my fb and email

  • Art Vandelay

    Maybe the biggest of all my peeves. Not sure if any of you have heard “Thank You God” by Tim Minchin but if you get 6 minutes, do yourself a favor. It’s amazing and nails the narcissism of prayer like nothing I’ve ever heard…

    • kagekiri

      One of my favorite Minchin songs, for sure.

      “He’s largely undiverted by the starving masses,
      or the inequalities between the various classes,
      he gives out strictly limited passes,
      redeemable for surgery or 2 for 1 glasses.”
      That’s a fun line.

      And one of the best parts:
      “Fuck me Sam, what are the odds,
      that of history’s endless parade of gods,
      the one you just happened to be taught to believe in,
      is the actual God, and he digs on healing?
      But not the AIDS-ridden African nations,
      or the victims of the plague, or the flood-addled Asians,
      but healthy, privately insured Australians,
      with common and cure-able corneal degeneration.”

      Of course, as a former Christian, I know a solid way to defuse this (hopefully) obvious cognitive dissonance for Christians is to say “well, we don’t naturally deserve ANYTHING better than hell, so we’re just being shown more grace than others”, but, again from personal experience, the consequences of that thinking, taken to its logical conclusion, is years of self-hatred and suicidal depression even after you’ve renounced the fucking poisonous religion.

    • Yoav

      This song started playing in my head the second I read the post.

    • Heidi

      Thanks for sharing that. It made my day.

  • Jasper

    It’s not as thought there’s a billion ways that prayer can appear to work without it actually working, or anything.

  • eric

    Spot on. Even assuming he answers prayers, its still a jerk move to answer only the prayers of believers. If some guy is drowning and calling for help, you don’t wait for him to specifically ask for your help by name, you just throw him a life preserver – because helping him is just the right thing to do. You shouldn’t need him, the drowning guy, to acknowledge you, the guy with the preserver, before you help. That’s extroadinarily selfish.
    The Christian God, OTOH, waits until humans address any request to him specifically. Address your plea to anyone else? Then no life preserver for you.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    God always answer prayer. But sometimes the answer is “Fuck off, I’m busy picking the winner of the Super Bowl.”

  • Adam

    Come on JT, it’s all just part of God’s plan.

  • TheMiller

    recent FB conversation between two of my Christian friends
    A: Lost my phone today.
    B: Praying it is found.
    A: thank you. All things work out for good to those who love Him. (Jesus)
    A: God does answer prayers. A lady found my phone and is going to return it tomorrow. I am so greatful [sic].
    B: You are tremendously blessed, A.
    A: Thank you B. My phone is back in my hands. Thank you Lord. I’m so relieved.

    Your post ran through my head as they were posting this.

    • Glodson

      And because god was too busy looking for this guy’s phone, children died of cancer.

      • sqlrob

        But he saved A from cancer since he couldn’t use the cellphone as much*!

        (*) No, I don’t believe that, but I’ll bet that goes around the same circles.

      • kagekiri

        No, no, no, Glodson!

        God has infinite time and power, and he’s sovereign over the universe!

        God didn’t get distracted: he watched those children die after knowingly putting them in situations where they’d get cancer, just like he made people he knew would suffer forever due to how he made them, and it was all part of his plan to make people worship him and pleasure him in the way he wants!

        The logical conclusion of God’s claimed character and plan for the universe is just about the most horrible thing I can think of.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Isn’t it a fabulous thing that the person who found the phone was forced by God to decide willingly to give it back. Wait, no, that eliminates free will.

      Maybe their free will was such that they decided to give it back… No, wait, that doesn’t leave any room for God.

      How about, God magically chose to have someone who He knew would have the free-will to invariably give it back to be the one to find it? No, wait, free will doesn’t work that way.

      Reconciling free will and omnipotence is hard!

    • Andrew Kohler

      I hope that A in the conversation above thanked the nice woman who found his phone and went through the trouble to get it back to him, in addition to thanking his deity. This episode shows the rewards of going out of one’s way to help people; I once found someone’s wallet and when I contacted her (we were students at the same university so it was easy to find her email) she was very grateful, and I felt very happy to have relieved someone’s stress with only minimal effort. While we’re all here on this planet for a very brief period of time in the history of the universe, it is preferable to make the experience enjoyable (and I require no more reason to be good).

      At least that’s all what I thought. But, maybe I wasn’t being a nice person doing my part to make the world a better place, and maybe she prayed and I was God’s agent in answering her? I trust I’m not the only person here who thinks that would devalue our lives (ALL of our lives, not just mine and hers).

      P.S. I got the sense that the young woman who lost her wallet did not pray to get it back, but I didn’t ask (and didn’t even think to do so).

      • Andrew Kohler

        PPS. I just realized I assumed A was a man, but in fact there is no indication of the person’s gender.

  • vini

    Classic and relevant:

  • Makoto

    But, but, how else were my keys *lost*, and then *found*? Obviously prayer was the trick, rather than my subconscious giving a clue that I couldn’t articulate about where I’d left them, or that I searched all of my usual key hiding places.

    (I seriously want to start praying to a multiverse type existence. That way, my keys were already found by an alternate me and spontaneously swap into my hand instead. Be so much easier than checking the drawer, then the table, then the counter, then the table again, then finding them in my other pants.)

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  • Carina De Almeida

    A Miracle…my husband came through his kidneystone procedure today and we did not pray…Oh no, sorry my bad. It’s because we trusted the urologist that treated him. Thanks Doctor! (Too many people thank an imaginary entity instead of the Dr who actually did all the work)

  • iknklast

    A woman I know was regaling us all with the story of how god saved her life when she was born, because her mother had eclampsia and only about 1/3 survive (see? No chance at all it could have been a natural event!) She even knows why he saved her: so she could use her god-given gift as a writer. What does she write? Romance. Not to diss those who like romance, but is she really trying to suggest that god foresaw the extreme shortage of romance writers in 2012, and knew she would be needed? Wait, there isn’t a shortage of romance writers; there’s a glut of romance writers. So she has selfishly attributed god’s will to what she wants to do – write. Meanwhile, she had a long career as a nurse, where she actually helped people. If she insists god saved her, couldn’t he at least saved her for that calling? No, it had to be the writing.

    The day I read this exchange on my list-serv, I had just taken a break from inserting statistics on death from malaria and starvation in the third world into my lecture. The sheer arrogance of it all took my breath away. How many children died, in many cases miserable and frightening deaths, while god was saving her to write romance novels? And isn’t the implication that she was worthy of being saved the equivalent of saying that all of those others weren’t worthy? They would have accomplished nothing worthwhile? What about all her anti-abortion rants about the young Mozarts and Shakespeare’s being aborted? If we need more Mozarts and Shakespeares, why did god waste his time saving a woman who writes formulaic romance for a commercial market?

    Sorry for the rant. I’m still furious about it, and she’s in a position where I can’t say it to her. Thanks for listening.

    • Amyc

      When my mom confronted me about being an atheist she pulled out the “but your survival as a baby was a miracle!” I had many medical problems as an infant, and growing up my mom had always told me it was a miracle that I survived. This time she used the meningitis I had as evidence of a miracle. She claimed that because my meningitis was viral, the doctors could do nothing and they had to just watch me suffer (something tells me the doctors were doing more than that). I don’t know the accuracy of that claim, but I do know that as of today the mortality rate for neonatal meningitis is about 20%, so with medical intervention (which I got) I had a pretty good chance of surviving. She claims that after calling the pastor of her church and having me anointed in the hospital and prayed over, I started getting better, and that’s why I survived.

      I asked her, what about the 20% of babies who do die? What about the 50% who are left with disabilities if they survive? Does god not care about them? Why are you focusing on my survival and not on the babies who don’t survive? Is every survival of meningitis a miracle? Or was it just my survival.

      She told me I was the one being arrogant for refusing to accept the miracle god gave me. I told her she was being arrogant for assuming that the all-powerful creator of the universe decided to save my life, but didn’t decide to save the lives of the 20% of babies who do die from this condition.

  • Anonymous

    Man. You people sure are angry.

    • Jennifer

      Not angry, frustrated.

      We are constantly surrounded by the “thank god” meme. “Thank you jesus for helping me find my keys.” “Praise the lord, we won the football game.” It’s frustrating to see people just assume their right to the attention of a higher power (for absolutely frivolous reasons), when there are so many people in dire (such as life and death) situations. It’s truly sickening to people with a basic sense. Sometimes we just need to rant!

    • Glodson

      Oh, why should we be angry when the toxic beliefs of religion harm people but are given a free pass to such a point when something as pointless and useless as prayer is treated like magic?

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      I know, it’s almost as though we live in a society which, by and large, shares a delusion that causes the strangest and most counterproductive actions for reasons we do not accept as valid.

      If that comes across as anger, well, to a certain extent that is correct.

      Yet there’s no hate here, or relatively little anyway, and we try to correct or marginalize those who do hate. Compare that to the screaming, spitting, pissing hate that characterizes a lot of fundies. A little anger is a lot better than a lot of hate.

    • John Horstman
  • David Johnson

    For tens of thousands of years, mankind has been praying for an end to war, an end to famine, an end to disease, and that it’s children grow up happy and healthy.

    And for tens of thousands of years, there have continued to be wars, starvation, epidemics, and mothers crying over the graves of their children.

    How many thousands of years of Fail do people *need* before they’ll admit prayer does nothing?

    • Glodson

      I guess a comprehensive double blind study should clear it all up.

      Shit! There seems to be a higher rate of complications for the groups that knew they received prayers!

  • David Johnson

    My comment has always been any deity worthy of being worshiped would not want it.