American Atheists pointing billboard at Super Bowl viewers.

American Atheists is at it again.  This time they’re putting up a billboard telling the plain and obvious truth to Super Bowl fans.

According to the press release in my inbox:

On Wednesday, American Atheists launched a new billboard near Metlife Stadium that appeals to football fans with a dig at prayer. It is believed to be the first-ever atheist-sponsored ad aimed at a Super Bowl audience. The billboard features a priest cradling a football with text reading, “A ‘Hail Mary’ only works in football. Enjoy the game!” The billboard will run through Super Bowl Sunday.

The billboard invites fans to visit the organization’s National Convention website at atheists.org/convention2014. The convention will feature keynote speaker Chris Kluwe, a former NFL punter and noted LGBT activist. The convention takes place April 17-20 in Salt Lake City.

“Prayer is superstition, plain and simple,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “It trivializes the dedication of the players and takes away from their achievements. A third of football fans pray in hopes of helping their team. These are adults we’re talking about—people with children, people with careers, people who vote. It’s 2014; it’s time to stop believing that prayer works. Give credit where credit is due and celebrate what this is really about—coming together to cheer on hard-working athletes doing what they do best.”

Dave is right.  Not only does prayer trivialize the accomplishments of the athletes, it trivializes human suffering elsewhere.  If you really think god will fulfill your prayer to have your team win the Super Bowl (making the game unfair, despite the skill level and dedication of the players) while ignoring children the world over who are using their little remaining energy after weeks of starvation to pray that god feeds them, then your priorities are fucked and you worship a god who cannot, in any sense, be called compassionate.

But he’s wrong about one thing: even in football a Hail Mary doesn’t work – at least no better than chance.  And, if left only to god and absent the secular efforts of athletes training themselves to be the best in the world, it would never work.

I know, I know, Mr./Mrs. Christian: god answers prayers.  God answered your prayer when grandma’s cancer went into remission – yet somehow he didn’t answer the prayers of all the people praying for their cancer-infested loved ones who died.  I guess they just weren’t as special as your grandma.  And the atheist whose cancer went into remission?  Well, that’s just luck.  But when it happens to a Christian?  Then it’s god being merciful (the same god who conceived of cancer when creating the universe).

Ditch prayer.  It doesn’t make sense and it causes people to rely on a god who isn’t there instead of fixing shit themselves (see parents who don’t take their sick kids to the doctor).  When people need results, almost all of them quickly become atheists in practice.  Oh, you’re sick?  Yeah, god’s great and all, but you take your sick ass to the closest mortal with a stethoscope.  Oh, you lost your keys?  Time spent praying is time spent not looking them.  I dream of what humanity could be if for all the time we spent relying on an absentee god we instead relied on ourselves.

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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