Archive for May, 2009

Prayer: The Tinkerbell Effect

May 19th, 2009 Comments off

Prayers: The Answer to Nothing

“If you believe,” he shouted to them, “clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.” J. M. Barrie 1860–1937

The Tinkerbell effect and the National Day of Prayer in my way of thinking are identical. When the Disney fairy is about to die, she speaks to Peter Pan and tells him that she could get well again if children believed in fairies. Peter immediately shouted out, “”If you believe,” he shouted to them, “clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.” The national day of prayer is little more than wishful thinking or make-believe.

Sadly, despite claims to the contrary a prayer is little more than a fervent wish that makes as much sense as clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive. No one would ever die, if prayer had any effect as most desire heaven, but few wish to die. Based on the amount of prayers that escape into the ether, it seems the hit-rate is less than a portion of a percent. The idea of praying to an all-knowing and all-benevolent God appears as little more than whining and asking for favors.

Even a quick glance at the omniscient God makes it clear that prayers don’t help. An all-knowing and all-benevolent God already surely knows what thoughts come and go in the minds of his creations, if he doesn’t, then, he doesn’t know everything. Granting omniscience makes all prayer superfluous as an all-benevolent and knowing God already knows what is best for us and has already provided what we need. Prayer says that God doesn’t know what is best. In fact, it says we know better as we seek to change what God already ordained.

The idea of praying to overcome the laws of nature or the circle of life smells of Hollywood movies depicting tribal communities running from the thunder or chanting to the various sky gods man invented over the ages. All claims to sophistication fall on the same ground as those who believed in Zeus, Quetzalcoatl or Odin and the hundreds of other gods created by man’s attempts to find explanations for life. No one in his or her right mind believes in any of the gods listed, but manages to find truth in a god called Yahweh.

Conservatives recently took President Barack Obama to task because he didn’t set aside a special invocation for National Prayer Day, but as the leader of the country, he was right to keep religion out of what is literally politics. All the praying done every day in the United States since its founding didn’t stop World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, presidential assassinations, 911 or the latest recession. At the same time as National Prayer Day, the nonreligious, freethinkers, humanists, atheists and agnostics donated blood.

The difference in the two acts is significant. If only a pint of blood made it to the Blood Bank, it took more effort and action than prayer. Taking physical action signals determination and commitment with a tangible result while prayer is a nothing more than pretending to do something with no visible results. A rain dance has a better chance for results as during a 365 day year it will eventually drizzle.

Praying to stop the tide of nature is begging at its lowest form and a form of self-induced blindness that is as dangerous as it is silly. Each year men, women and children die because of unanswered prayers. Medical treatment often comes too late as people pray their way into dire health and die when a trip to the doctor might change everything. Going into war, preachers preach and people pray. Yet, the casualties continue unabated. The poor stay poor, the blind stay blind and the amputees of the world have yet to feel prayer’s healing powers.

At best, prayer is a psychological placebo of dubious nature. For some, prayer offers an outlet, a conduit for strong emotions and hard feelings, but it is still make-believe. Occasionally, a miracle cure takes place that even scientists don’t understand, but rest assured the “miracle” has its basis in science. Polio once savaged entire populations, but the Salk vaccine made it disappear. Everyday science reveals more about the way the world operates and there is nothing supernatural about it.

With the number of faith healers that appear on television, it makes sense that human diseases and catastrophe could end if they all worked together. Benny Hinn claims to heal hundreds at a time. Pat Robertson even prayed a hurricane away from a city. With that kind of power, we should all be praying. No matter who stands to deliver the prayer of the day, the invocation or the blessing, when it finally boils down, prayer doesn’t work any better than wishing.

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