You hear it all the time, whenever something bad happens somewhere in the world. The religious send their prayers. Both regular and high profile people alike, are in solidarity in their prayers. And its not just for big events. People pray for friends and relatives for all sorts of reasons. In my travels around internet religious debates as an atheist, I have been told “I will pray for you” more times then I can count. And im sure most people have had similar experiences.
For the longest of time, I looked at it as just a kind gesture. Somewhat silly, but none the less harmless.
But is prayer REALLY harmless? Yes. And No.
There is nothing harmful about saying a prayer for personal comfort. The action in itself is not destructive.
But the problem comes in the mindset of the people who make the prayer. It is very easy to become reliant on an answered prayer, or to put to much faith in a prayers usefulness. And of course, there is the issue of the arrogance one can show with their prayers.
First of all, for prospective, I think prayer is a useless and silly gesture. Just to be clear.
When it comes to the “arrogance” aspect, I reflect back to my forum cruising days. Theists telling me that I was in their prayers, I used to think of as a nice gesture. But later , I begun to find this as somewhat arrogant, and of course, useless.
Lets consider the reasoning for the prayer.
I live in the western world, I do not have all that many trials and troubles that I can speak of. I have more mental and emotional baggage then an Air Canada flight to Hawaii, but I am not starving or living life in fear. So apparently, I am just worthy because of my NON faith.
Millions in the world, have much bigger problems, in the NOW. People home and abroad are starving, growing up in bad conditions, or otherwise living lives of personal hell. Do they not seem more worthy of prayer?
Which brings me to the next point, praying for the sick/poor/homeless/victims of a disaster or other disadvantaged people. The common practice is to send prayers out, put faith in the almighty one of there choosing to help the people in need. I can understand this more when it comes to the less fortunate (both because they have less money to give, and they tend to be undereducated or otherwise know nothing else), but not so much for more high stature names. Royals, celebrities, athletes. People that you know rake in the millions and billions.
Though I am not against the act of praying, I raise an eyebrow when that is the ONLY action taken from the said individual. Granted, it does depend on how much disposable income you have. But if you have the means, and you want to REALLY help whatever your chosen cause is, don’t just pray.
Prayer does not feed, dress or put the homeless into affordable housing. Prayer does not feed starving people and children, nor does it solve the many injustices perpetrated all over the world. And it certainly WILL NOT solve many of humanity’s big impending problems (climate change, resource depletion in an overpopulated world ect).
It is for this reason, that I do not condone prayer. The act in itself is relatively harmless, assuming it is out of genuine concern (and not arrogance). But the last thing we need as a species right now, is a reliance on an answered prayer to solve all of our problems. Because the only answer we will get, is extinction.
Prayers and thoughts may be comforting, but its actions that move mountains.