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Remember All The Prayers That Didn’t Work

Barack Obama, rather than respecting the Constitution, has gone ahead and issued a proclamation declaring today to be a religious holiday. Religions, apparently, cannot manage to survive on their own without the help of big government. Their supernatural deities seem to be too weak to get along without a little welfare.

But, if today is going to be a National Day of Prayer, then we ought not merely to engage in shallow cheerleading for prayer. Instead, let’s take note of some of the negative of the aspects of prayer, too.

Let’s note that the supposedly national day is only for a minority, even of religious Americans. In a recent survey, 68.4 of religious Americans said that prayer is not part of their form of religious observance.

Let’s take note of the way that, in his proclamation, President Obama has ignored the wisdom of Mark Twain’s story, The War Prayer, instructing Americans to “pray for the safety and success of those who have left home to serve in our Armed Forces”. Safety is one thing, but “success” includes an awful lot of bombs and bullets.

Let’s also take note of the profound, repeated failure of prayer.

– A prayer by John Adams didn’t bring the “virtuous liberty” he prayed for.
– Governor Sonny Perdue’s prayers didn’t bring needed rain for Georgia.
Prayer didn’t help medical patients in a scientific study – the prayed for actually had worse outcomes than those who were left alone.

And for a recent failure of prayer reminder, we need only look to the first days of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, when the big news channels were full of stories about how people were praying to help the missing 11 workers from the exploded oil rig. Prayer didn’t save those 11 workers, did it?

To those who will pray today because of the National Day of Prayer: Go ahead. It’s your right to pray. Do whatever religious rituals you want. However, when you use your religion’s political power to coerce the government into propping up your ritual of prayer, then you ought to expect an especially harsh form of scrutiny. Why don’t you pray on that some?

9 thoughts on “Remember All The Prayers That Didn’t Work”

  1. Jacob says:

    I will be praying for those that write at IT today. Thanks for letting me hang out with you for the past couple of years

    1. Peregrin Wood says:

      I’ll be brushing my hair for you today, Jacob, and I think it’ll have about the same impact. But, thanks for being around. It’s good to hear ideas from different perspectives.

      1. ramone says:

        i think of prayer as a form of meditating. while it may not bring about direct change, it seems ease the burden.
        as far as the motive behind obama’s decision to declare a “national day of prayer’, he may have been guided by his own sense of what prayer should be. i do not think christians have a copyright on the term, it could be considered secular, multi-cultural and of all religions.

        1. ramone says:

          of course it could have been a blatantly political move to suck up to the right wing bible-bangers, that’s always a possibility.

        2. Peregrin Wood says:

          First, how on earth can prayer be considered secular?

          Second, not all religious traditions have prayer as part of them. Third, many who started with prayerful religious systems have gone to something else (see the 68 percent in the article above). The government should not be in the business of advocating for any form of religious prayer. What’s next? The National Day of Animal Sacrifice? The National Day of Not Eating Pork?

          As for this being for all religions equally, can you tell me when Congress has passed a law establishing a holy day for Buddhists? When has Congress ever established a National Day of Meditation?

          1. ramone says:

            i may take a broader meaning of the word prayer. most definitions imply the spiritual aspect of prayer and its connection with god (although definitely not just the christian god). so, secular maybe a stretch. however, i did find one definition with no mention of god, only that it be an earnest and sincere entreaty or supplication. so, it could be secular, you could be praying to yourself and not to ‘herbie the cosmic iguana’, just be sincere about it.
            to your second point; no; we do not need separate days for sacrificial lambers or pork haters, they can pray under the same all inclusive day of prayer set aside for everyone else. same for buddists meditating monks and all on the way to nirvana.

          2. Peregrin Wood says:

            But Ramone, how come everybody else has to go crowd under the Judeo-Christian umbrella, instead of vice versa? What makes it the right choice to have a National Day of Prayer, in which Buddhists, pagans, and everyone else has to adjust their thinking to fit the Judeo-Christian concept of “prayer”, instead of having a National Day of Prayer, in which Jews and Christians are pressured into redefining prayer as a form of meditation? The approach of the National Day of Prayer places the Judeo-Christian approach in a place of priority and superiority, as others contort their own traditions in order to participate, or are left out completely.

            Besides, your approach still doesn’t recognize that the vast majority of religious Americans DON’T pray. It’s not part of the way that they practice their religion. What makes it the job of the government to endorse this specific form of worship, which the majority clearly doesn’t want to take part?

            Your particular redefinition of the word “prayer” makes it mean little more than earnestly beseeching. So, why don’t we just have a National Day of Beseeching? You know the answer – it’s because Christian evangelists want to use the government to push their religion on everyone else.

    2. ramone says:

      jacob, i hope you are not so offended that you would deny us your insights. i think you bring a lot to the discussions at IT.
      pagans (such as myself) need all the help they can get and prayers too (even if they don’t deliver us from evil).

      1. Jacob says:

        Dont worry about being offensive. It takes a lot to offend me. To be honest, in about 2 years here the only thing that ever got to me was Herbie the Cosmic Iguauana, but that was short lived. It was more my issue then those at IT

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