“i feel as though we should move right in to the religious material”Tom Waits, from Way Down in the Hole

hello folks. today i want to talk about Prayer, and praying… and what those things mean.

in the days following the tragedies in Japan, we have heard a lot about praying. praying for japan, praying for those lost, praying for those who died, praying for the survivors, praying that more devastation doesn’t come. well i, for one, won’t be praying.

UNLESS.. you don’t actually mean “pray”. because i truly do hope that nothing else bad happens, and that people find lost loved ones alive. i feel compassion for the survivors and hope that they can get through all of this the best that they can. and i really do have the whole country in my thoughts.

similarly, when a friend says “my grandpa is sick, please keep us in your prayers”, or “my husband’s unit has been shipped to Violenceville, please pray for him”.. i won’t be praying either. however, i’ll hope for the best for those folks in need, and do what i can to help and support those folks that are having a hard time. you people and your loved ones will be in my thoughts.

and i think that’s what a lot of people mean by “pray”.

but then there’s the prayer that is most associated with the word. now in the above examples, are some of you actually asking god to “help” these people?, to perform some divine intervention? do you go so far as to kneel at your bedside, and clasp your hands?.. be aware, i’m not making fun, or judging, i really want to know what the ritual is, if there is one. do you think it works? does it work better if a whole bunch of people ask god for the same thing?…. better yet if a bunch of people ask god for the same thing at the same time? if the answer to any of the previous questions is “yes”, then all i can say is “prove it”. which you can’t.

in fact there have been a bunch of scientific studies on the power of prayer, and not one showed any evidence that it did anything. sure there were flaws in the experiments, but remember, it’s tough to test things that are made up….but my point is, folks have tried to see if it works, and it hasn’t.

also, i have a problem with how the whole actual process of praying works in the first place. i read somewhere a while ago a thing about this, and the author kind of broke it down like this: when you pray, you can get 1 of 3 possible responses..YES, NO, or WAIT. ok so lets say i pray to god that he helps me find my car keys (just an example, use “heal my brother” if you want), and i find them. well then that’s a YES. but if i don’t find them, then that’s a NO…… unless it’s a WAIT. as you can see, NO and WAIT look very much alike here. so lets say 4 days later i find my car keys.. that NO has immediately went to a WAIT/YES. see when i thought it was a NO it was really a WAIT, but i didn’t know it was a WAIT until it became a YES. see the flaw in the logic here? sure i could never find my keys, and i guess that’d be a solid NO, but it could be a WAIT, right?.. but you see my point. just to add a bit more to the mix, some NO ‘s can be twisted into YES’s as well :” please god,stop my sick grandpa from dying.” then grandpa dies. is that a NO?.. maybe, but it also could be a YES.. as in “i stopped him from dying, stopped his suffering, and brought him to heaven with me”.. so i guess that’s a YES…. and there was probably a WAIT in there somewhere too..

okokokok.. so maybe you’re saying “hey, infidel, god doesn’t work that way!” or “he works in mysterious ways” or whatever. my answer to that , other than the obvious “how the fuck would you know how god works”, is -then why pray?.. god’s gonna do shit or not do shit. right? is our little ceiling whispers really changing the will of the omnipotent, omniscient god?

so go ahead and pray if it makes you feel good… i’m all about people feeling good. i suppose it can be comforting to verbalize one’s thoughts and hopes, especially if you believe that someone is listening…. and even if not, sometimes just saying stuff out loud helps. but know that it’s not doing anything. positive thoughts are great, help and support of friends are essential,  good charities and the kindness of strangers change lives, and modern science is frankly MIND BLOWING. those are the things that’ll get you through. that’s the stuff that’ll make a difference. there’s your miracle.

but one more thing bothers me, what about those who really believe, and do not have the opportunity to make up their own minds? like children who have been brought up to believe this nonsense to be fact? i find forcing religious beliefs on children is a form of child abuse, and makes me physically ill, but that’s another rant. but consider this child that has been brought up believing in prayer from day one. now lets say this god loving child is being raped or abused by someone… what in the fuck do you think that kid is doing while this terrible thing is happening?… he’s fucking praying. he’s praying his little heart out. he’s asking god to make it stop.. because god is good and he will help me and i pray to him and i go to church so please god make it stop, i pray to you!


you’re welcome



About eric

professional rabble-rouser
This entry was posted in religion. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I think Jim Morrison screeched it best: “You cannot petition the lord with prayer!”
    Then he died in a bathtub. Coincidence?

  2. manick says:


    Prayer is an act of those whose heart has accepted that they are powerless against the mechanism of the world, but whose mind is arrogantly hoping that the cosmos will deliver their own desired result.

    All of science (empirical, not hypothetical, and the sort of science that trickles down to this lowly carpenter) recognizes a system of harmony. Motion is balanced by resistance, light is balaced by dark, etc. For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    For every prayer, there is a reason contrary to that prayer. Some might be able to surmise that it is best not to impart a will into the world so that that will doesn’t need to be counteracted.

    Positivity of spirit CAN foster improvement of a dire circumstance, but the result is due to the acts and actions towards that end, not simply the will of someone to wish for the positive ending.

    If prayer is meditative, it has potential to grant the pray-er inner peace and resolve. But when it is proposed simply to ask God to satisfy the desire (even the most noble) of one element of an unfathomably complex system, it falls on deaf ears.

    Let’s say you’re scratching a lottery ticket. One you play every week. Some people pray as if they’re hoping that scratch ‘n win ticket will bring them a dollar instead of the jackpot. Because greater is their need to feel that God and/or the universe will respond to their own self-interested aspirations. They pray based on the odds of their prayer being answered.

    A lot of people are “praying for those affected”. Do they have any idea what that homeless, hungry, injured, lonely, sad, scared, fragile person really and truly NEEDS?

    Probably not.

    Religion has a long, documented and terrifying history of brutalizing those who they presume to care for all in the name of prayer.

    Well done, Eric. Nod to the ‘ceiling whispers’ bit.

  3. Ellen McGahey says:

    I find in exceptionally ironic that the ad listed at the bottom of your post was this one:Ads by Google
    Catholic Benedictine Monk
    Following God through work, prayer and community at Saint John’s Abbey
    Sorry, just an amusing observation!

  4. Charlie Goddard says:

    For another view of the argument, let us just imagine there is a god, (if you can possibly bring yourselves to) a higher power capable of granting our wildest desires if it so wished. How does it decide which to to yes to, and which to decline? It certainly cannot grant the wishes of every being that prays to it, or even the wishes of all those it deems “pure of heart”. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? All those wishes that counteracted each other, or won them the lottery…is there enough gold in the world to possibly make every one rich? Can every grandmother live forever because a grandchild prays she doesn’t die? Can a man be forced to fall in love with a woman, because she prays that he would?

    If there is a higher power out there, it is wise not to answer our prayers. No being could ever handle it fairly, or responsibly.

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