When your favorite tactic doesn’t work.

Ed Brayton posted a link to the FRC where they are encouraging their followers to pray that the SCOTUS judges make the “right” call in the two gay marriage cases they’re taking up this week.

May God guide us in praying for each member of the Supreme Court: for Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, Chief JusticeJohn Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas. May each Justice be governed by the fear of God and fidelity to the moral law and Constitution (2 Sam 23:3; Ps 9:17; 111:10; Pr 1:7; 9:10; Is 5:20).

May the attorneys defending traditional marriage (see ADF Prayer Guide) be given anointing, clarity, effectiveness, conviction and persuasiveness in presenting their arguments. May traditional marriage prevail in the minds of a strong majority of the justices, and may traditional marriage be reaffirmed as the law of the land (Pr 16:1, 11; 25; 18:17; 21:3; Is 9:7; Mt 19:4-6; 2 Cor 5:11).

May those arguing on behalf of same-sex “marriage” present their arguments in an inept, confusing and unconvincing way. May they fail to gain traction in the minds of the Justices. May the right of Californians to amend their state constitution to protect marriage be confirmed by the Court, and may the Defense of Marriage Act be ruled constitutional (Lev 20:all; 1 Sam 2:8-10; 2 Chr 14:11; 20:12-27; Pr 22:28; 24:21; Is 8:18-20; Dan 7:25-27; 2 Cor 2:5).

They don’t seem to get that if prayer worked the Prop 8 supporters wouldn’t have needed to appeal and we wouldn’t even be in the Supreme Court.  Similarly, prayer didn’t work for them during the Presidential election.  And if the SCOTUS judges reject the first century in favor of the twenty-first, you can bet that they’ll pray again next time as if it has any track record of working.  At what point do you accept that sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t, just like in a universe without any god stacking the deck in favor of a particular group?

This is why we love science: it works every time.  Airplanes fly, cell phones makes calls, etc.  Prayer does not.

Sure, sometimes you pray for your lost sock and you find it, but that’s not evidence that prayer works – it’s evidence that looking for it yourself works.  If you really want to test the power of prayer to move god to intervene, pray and don’t do anything.  Pray for your candidate to win and have faith that god’s going to make it happen, but don’t go out to vote.  By going out to vote, you’re acting like god can’t handle it and he needs you to use secular methods.  And when you want the SCOTUS to reach a certain decision, let them know you’re praying for them and don’t send a lawyer.  Otherwise you risk the results of human effort getting attributed to god.

Of course, hardly any religious person believes in prayer that much.  And when they do, their children have a tendency to die from neglect.  This is because prayer is useless and obviously so.

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.

  • tubi

    To be fair, sometimes planes don’t fly (or stop doing so), and your calls don’t go through. But, using science, we can usually figure out why not! This technique has a much better track record than simply praying that the next time I try to call the agency to get a new luggage bearer, I get a dial tone.

  • Charlie

    Prayer is something I have been spending a lot of time thinking about lately. Due to a recent family tragedy, many people tell me that me and mine are in their “thoughts and prayers”. I am leaning towards the idea that prayer actually does have a positive impact, it just isn’t on me. I am not advocating for a supernatural function of any kind, but rather taking time out of our day to focus on people dear to us. I think this cultivates our empathy. I am just as happy to hear that we are in their thoughts alone, but I admit to being guilty of not taking the time to stop and consider what people mean to me. I think that this is something that I will have to remedy. I guess prayer has a positive impact on people accidentally and not because of its intended purpose. It seems to me to be an externality. Please let me know if I have this wrong.

    • tubi

      I think that’s a fair premise, but this is a different kind of prayer. Reflective prayer can have positive effects on the person doing the praying. It can be just a way for someone to slow down and think about things for a while. Like meditation, perhaps.

      But prayer in which the person praying is asking God to provide a specific outcome, such as finding lost keys or scrambling the mind of Ted Olson, is not effective. The outcomes are no different than if no one had ever prayed one way or the other. I suppose it might make the person feel better inside, that they are “doing” something, but that’s pretty weak sauce.

  • Rain

    Lev 20:all; 1 Sam 2:8-10; 2 Chr 14:11; 20:12-27; Pr 22:28; 24:21; Is 8:18-20; Dan 7:25-27; 2 Cor 2:5

    I love how they cite Bible verses like they are pretend-citing their own private little legal precedents in their private little fantasy la-la court land in their heads.

    May the attorneys defending traditional marriage (see ADF Prayer Guide) be given anointing,

    I think I will now go “anoint” my car with soap and water. Fundy religion does not have a monopoly on “anointing”. It’s not their word. It belongs to everyone. Everybody start using “anointing” a lot so that it turns into a good word instead of the stupid word that fundies have turned it into. It’s time to take back all the cool words.

    • Charlie

      I think you have provided us with a new word for “shower” and the application of deodorant. I’ll try to use this from now on.

    • Jeff

      Oooh, we can go one further and turn “anoint” into a *dirty* word. It shouldn’t be too difficult; Wikipedia defines it as “…to pour or smear with perfumed oil, milk, water, melted butter or other substance”. So we’ve got rubbing and smearing, and some unnamed “other substances”.

      • Charlie

        I can’t think of it being used in a more filthy manner than what the religious people use it for currently. Maybe we should clean it up by using it for very involved and fun sex acts.

      • Randomfactor

        Careful, such anointing can lead to Santorum.

      • Jacob

        If we wanna start taking back words, ‘wicked’ would be another good one. Bring it back to common slang like it used to, maybe?

        • Stogoe

          That is a wicked idea. Though I hear it never went out of style in Baaahst’n, where everything is always wicked awesome.

      • Loqi

        May the right-wingers fail in their goal to annoint the courtroom with feces.

      • Raymond


  • Loqi

    I read their last paragraph as “may god override peoples’ free will.” I thought he didn’t do that sort of thing. Except those bits in the bible where he does.

  • stop2wonder

    In other words,

    “Dear God, please intervene on our behalf, by modifying your own plan and changing the Justices minds and tinkering with the lawyers’ abilities to present their cases naturally. We ask this while fully understanding that in doing so, you shall be violating one of your most sacred tenants of Free Will but we find that totally acceptable in this case. Amen.”