Crackpot Chronicle Staff Writer
What makes people fool themselves into thinking they’re helping when they can’t be bothered to lift a finger? What is supposed to be a symbol of devotion but gets used as a verbal weapon? What causes the death of people, old and young alike, because of misguided faith?
Yes, prayer; the most useless of endeavors when trying to affect change upon the world. Prayer takes many forms, but what I will be touching on regarding it are a couple of uses of the phrase, “I’ll pray for you,” and the danger that faith in prayer poses.
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“I’ll pray for you.”
That is such a simple, but loaded, phrase. Sure, it can be stated in such a way as to offer condolences and give the impression that you want to help. Of course, in the latter situation it also gives the impression that, unless it is regarding something that literally no one else can help with, that you can’t be bothered to actually help.
Your neighbor says their dog is missing, and rather than canvassing the neighborhood with “Missing Dog” posters you say, “I’ll pray for your dog’s safe return.”
A co-workers house burns down, and instead of helping them clear the debris or get things back in order, you simply pray for them.
A natural disaster strikes in a foreign land, devastating thousands of lives, and rather than donate money, you simply pray for them.
Only praying for someone in situations in which you could actually help them does nothing but showcase your own selfishness and complete lack of desire to provide assistance. Prayer doesn’t work. Atheists and skeptics know this. I’d even go so far as to say you (the believer) know this, but can’t handle the idea of your beliefs being incorrect and so simply ignore the reality of prayer being useless in helping others.
If you do think prayer works, then ask yourself this; why won’t God heal amputees?
In instances in which saying a variation of, “I’ll pray for you,” is intended as nothing more than an empathetic or sympathetic statement, as no actual help can be offered, it is still not a good method of showing concern. Some might argue that it is no different from saying, “I’ll keep you in my thoughts,” though I disagree.
How do the two phrases differ? By stating you will pray for someone, you are expressing a delusion you hold as true to others. You are stating that you will ask an invisible force, that no one has any legitimate evidence of it even existing, to alter the course of reality and probability in order to change something for someone. It might be a nice thought, but it is no different from saying, “I’ll ask Mickey Mouse to destroy your cancer!”
At most, prayer makes the one praying feel better. Whether it is for a situation they truly cannot help (and so it fights off a sense of helplessness), or a situation in which they really don’t care but delude themselves into thinking they do. Basically, prayer is nothing more than meditation; it might make you feel better, but it won’t alter reality.
Another meaning behind, “I’ll pray for you,” is one atheists know very well. They are on the receiving end of it fairly frequently, after all. In this way it is used as a threat or verbal attack. It’s a way of condemning another person’s beliefs, world views, or behavior.
If you’re the type who would tell someone, “I’ll pray for you,” after they’ve revealed they aren’t part of your cult, or they’ve done something completely innocent yet you still find it morally reprehensible because some primitive desert dweller said it was immoral thousands of years ago, understand this; it makes you look like a jerk, to put it politely. Oh, I’m fairly sure you don’t understand how your statement of prayer-intention is a bad thing, so I’ll explain it to you.
In such a situation, “I’ll pray for you” is neither empathetic nor sympathetic; it is simply arrogant and condescending. By using it, you are stating that you know better than the target of your statement in what they need in their life. You are claiming you are better than they are, and you will ask the above mentioned Mickey Mouse to change their entire being so that their beliefs match yours. It is a narrow-minded statement steeped in intolerance, so if you do use it, don’t be surprised if you receive a less than friendly response.
The last thing I’d like to touch on is the danger of prayer. “What? Prayer isn’t dangerous!” I can hear some apologists already saying, when the fact of the matter is, prayer kills. Well, faith in prayer does, and therein lays the danger. Many people believe so very strongly in the power of prayer that they forgo things that they need to recover from an ailment or injury, such as medicine or various medical procedures.
If an adult is so misguided they disregard medical help and then die because they believed prayer would fix them right up instead, well, that’s rather sad due to the ignorance it displays. Regardless, it remains their choice. When children die because of their parents’ delusions, however, that is tragic. And it is way too common.
What’s that? You’ve been sick, prayed, and got better, you say?
Sure, some people are prayed for and they have sudden remissions; that does not mean prayer worked. This is shown by the fact that sudden remissions occur for non-believers and people who weren’t prayed for, never mind all the people who are prayed for and never recover. The fact that coincidences happen is not a valid reason to ignore major health problems.
So which would you rather have when in need of healing or recovery, prayer and its complete lack of verifiable successes or modern medicine with its well-documented record of success?