Tuesday, January 12, 2010
God Help Us
As appalling as this is, I'll ignore the idiocy (milk???) and the lies and the imminent, probably inevitable, prospects of theocracy for this country. I'll not comment on the implications of such people actually gaining (re-gaining, really: although Bush was more of a player than a user) control of what's left of our country. I'll refrain from reiterating the argument that separation of church and state does more to protect religion (at least the religion of everyone but these guys) than any other option. Not that they care. Nor will I point out, while they decry the godlessness of the US, that numbers of people who claim belief has risen over the years, and that the US has a higher percentage of believers, more houses of worship per populous than any Western nation. All that, I'll disregard. Rather, let's talk about what kind of trouble we're in if we're indeed ruled by a god who answers prayer.
In brief: if god answers prayer, then by definition and by looking around, we are at the mercy of a capricious, nasty and/or incompetent deity. It should scare the bejesus out of us (of course, living in mortal fear is exactly what many religions, particularly the evangelical forms of Christianity, want.) Really, if one can step back and just think about it (the opposite of religious posture), there's no other conclusion.
First: the people most likely to resort to prayer are those that also believe god has a plan for us all. So how does prayer fit into that idea? If he has a plan (if, as some believe, god knows you and has it all worked out before you're even born), how can prayer be needed? Does their god change his mind? If so, was his plan flawed? Does it take your prayer to point out his error? What does that say about your imperfection, compared to his? Or is it just that he's willing to let bad things happen to you if you don't -- regardless of your means or knowledge -- stroke him first. On the other hand, didn't he know if you were going to pray or not? Omniscient is he.
Second: what good do "prayer circles" (or whatever you call what those leaders of ours were doing) do? If the likelihood of prayers being answered is dependent on the number of people praying, what about the poor soul praying like hell in the loneliness of a solitary life? Why should prayer need amplification? Is there some sort of divine punch-card? And what about the people starving around the world? Is their starvation part of a plan, or is it because they don't have enough people praying for them? Either way, it bespeaks a pretty heartless overlord, doesn't it? Sorry, man, a piddling number of prayers just don't cut it with me. And what is the magic number? Ten? Three? A hundred? If numbers matter, aren't we all potentially screwed if, in our hour of need, we can't grab a gang of grovelers? If you've fallen and you can't get up, and you don't have that little beeper thing, aren't you wasting your time? The guy likes groups.
Third: doesn't the idea of god answering prayer completely eliminate the possibility that we have free will? If god chooses to answer a certain prayer, it follows that he chooses NOT to answer the ones that, clearly, aren't being answered, by the millions, hourly. So, whether you pray or not, god is choosing the direction of every event, everywhere, at all times. Unless he's fallible, imperfect, unable to hear the prayers of everyone, or unable to control events. In which case, he falls way short of the perfection attributed to him by those doing the praying. Logically, god controls everything, or he controls nothing. There's can't be an in-between. Everything that happens is his will, or nothing is. If he CAN act, then, in all cases, he DID act. Unless he's either not there at all, or is completely hands off. In which case...
It helps to remember that George Bush told us god doesn't hear the prayers of Jews. (Wait, if he can't hear them, then he's not perfect. It must be that he hears them and says "screw you." That's better.) So I guess the correct thought is that god ignores the prayers of those that don't follow certain guidelines. (Careful, all you believers: when was the last time you stoned your son to death for insubordination? Or sacrificed a heifer, for that matter?) Which certainly explains the starving children, birth defects, school bus crashes. Bunch o' miscreants, deserved what they got. But if god knows us before we're born and has our lives mapped out, then aren't those starvations, and other miserable deaths and deformities part of his plan? In his perfection he must know each kid who's born, know their faith or lack of it, must have planned it all in advance. So their lack of proper faith was part of the plan. And that means, this god wants people to starve by the millions, die painful deaths, be born into crushing poverty, get acne and halitosis. Not to mention be Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, Muslims.
If god is perfect -- all powerful and all knowing -- then it simply can't be that prayer works. It would mean his plans are changeable or incomplete. It means you, the prayer, think you know more than the prayee. If prayer works, god is fallible. Anyone who changes his mind is, by definition, not perfect. It's only if prayer DOESN'T work that we can (sort of) maintain the concepts of perfection, omniscience, omnipotence, infallibility.
Well, it's said, god has his reasons. We can't question why the child dies of cancer, slowly, painfully. God knows all and it's all his will. We must trust in him. Okay, makes sense.
Then why the hell are we praying?
[Addendum, 1/13: Right on schedule, that despicable self-important sub-human, Pat Robertson, weighs in on Haiti. Turns out they made a pact with the devil, and that's why the earthquake happened. But he's gonna pray for them. What? A god who gets off killing 100,000 people who had nothing to do with the "pact," lots of babies and children among them -- that sort of god is going to be influenced by prayer? But you know damn well there are thousands of people -- right wing voters, all -- nodding in agreement with the (at best) illogical and (actually) evil message. Pact with the devil. Amazing. Wonder where it was, who attended, and what hors-d'-oeuvres were served.]