Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Prayer Requests: Desperation of the deluded

I stumbled across a website that encourages Christians to submit their prayer requests. They promise that the faithful will take up their cause and help them petition god for redress. On a whim I Googled “prayer requests” and found thousands of similar sites.

Picking a few of these sites at random I scrolled through the appeals for prayer requests from hundreds of sad and desperate people. Each story, each testimony was more pathetic than the one before it. Here are a few extracts:

  • “Lord, I am asking for a husband.”
  • “Dear Jesus, please make a miracle happen for my whole finances and income really soon ...”
  • “Please pray God will rid me of my doubt, fears, disobedience, and replace them with unwavering faith, courage, and willingness to obey God.”
  • “Please pray that my anxiety and panic will leave me. I suffer greatly when I am alone or travelling and I pray that God will make his presence felt… I also pray for a job closer to home to reduce the panic. I pray it is something I love instead of dreading getting up each morning.”
  • “I am falling back into a dpression [sic] again after losing my mom and husabnd [sic] i have met anew guy but i am unsure if he loves me Please pary [sic] to God he is the right one because my lomliness [sic] is unbearable.”

There are literally thousands of these cries for help on just this one site.

As I read these prayer requests I was met by three conflicting emotions. First, the realist in me caused my initial response to be one of scorn; that people could possibly believe their financial, relationship, and emotional problems will be solved by typing in appeals to an imaginary god on the internet and enlisting the prayers of fellow believers. After all, unless god is senile one prayer request should be sufficient to get its attention and prompt the necessary response. If they have prayed and haven’t gotten relief, why not just accept “No!” for an answer? Why would a quorum, a veritable petition of prayers, be necessary to get this loving and caring and all knowing god to react? Why not conclude the obvious, that there is nothing there listening?

But then the humanist in me replaced that dismissive scorn with genuine sadness and empathy. These are folks who, presumably, were indoctrinated into supernaturalism through no fault of their own. Whether from childhood, or as a result of weak minded susceptibility in later life, they have come to believe that they are but helpless pawns in a chess game of life where the pieces are moved by a great unseen spirit’s hand. That they are merely microscopic cogs in god’s great plan. That their own effort, self-determination, and choices are insufficient to influence their life for the better. That only through divine intervention can their life be salvaged. I sincerely pity these people.

Ultimately, my anti-theism flooded me with anger. Among the prayer sites I perused not one of them encouraged the prayerful to seek professional attention. Not one of them suggested getting psychiatric attention for depression or anxiety which through medications could give them almost certain relief. Not one of them offered secular readings that could give them self help guidance. Not one of them directed them to a marriage counselor, financial consultant, career counselor or grief counselor who could aid them in getting a grasp on their lives and make it a happier existence. .

Instead, by their very existence, these sites promote dependency on supernatural intervention which will never come. They discourage affirmative action and self-determination. They prolong the pain of these desperate deluded folks, some of whom will very likely destroy themselves when secular resources could have been their salvation. They are guilty of benign neglect of the very people they call their brothers and sisters in Christ.

And for every believer who comes back to testify to Jesus’ deliverance from their problem, and thank the site for their type written prayers, there are likely thousands who will quietly slip under the waves of hopelessness and drown in despair dragged down by the weight of religious ignorance -- all while the life jacket of secular reality bobs untouched on the surface.


NewEnglandBob said...

This is one of your most astute and powerful posts. You zeroed in on the vast, wasted efforts of religion to help many people, even though there are resources available.

I love the thought process that you developed to bring your thoughts along this journey.

I wonder what the owners of these web sites were thinking (if they had thoughts at all) in creating these sites. Did they really think they are helping people? Are there nefarious goals behind the sites, such as money received for clicking on ads? Do any of them realize the repercussions of their actions?

This post is yet another example to support Christopher Hitchens' subtitle to god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

Momma Moonbat said...

I have stumbled across that site myself. Like you I felt first scorn, then pity, then anger; and for the same reasons. I've said before that the juvenile delinquent in me refuses to grow up. I'd love to heckle the site operators and send in prayer requests asking for an enormous penis. I'm sure it would get promptly deleted. Then I'd have to post again and make a prayer request for skydaddy to smite the website operator for scoffing at my prayer for an enormous penis. This has potential.

Dromedary Hump said...

NE Bob, thanks for that.
I don't know if they have an ulterior motive. Instinctively I sense they believe they are really helping people, but then...who knows. Given the depth of hypocrisy and deception inherent in religion you may well be right in questioning their purpose.

Momma... LOL! I love it when you're bad !

Anonymous said...

I, too, feel strong emotion contemplating prayer. These are real people with real problems.

It angers me to realize that they try to muster up faith and love for a "father" who requires begging by them AND by as many others as they can get to help them beg. Is that what is required to get help from a loving father?

I don't think people think this through or even think about it at all. I recently posed this question on my facebook page-"Is prayer more effective if a lot of people pray or just a few or just one?" The one attempt at an answer was to say that one child begging for ice cream is not as effective as if all the kids ask.

I found this a weak answer, partly because people sure pray for more important things than "ice cream" blessings.

Prayer is the opposite of action. If people got real help or just got real mad, they'd summon up some energy to attack the problem themselves, insteading of forever "waiting on God."

Makes me angry too that people feel they don't deserve a better "father."

graaains! said...

Excellent post, Hump! I too have felt scorn and pity, but not anger, because I regard the operators of these prayer sites as equally weak-minded/deluded as the poor sods who post prayers there. But you make a very good point that they are missing the opportunity to steer the posters to some REAL help. It's amazing to me how so many people can still buy into these primitive superstitions. Me, I'm a Pastafarian. Let us pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Rastifan said...

This is a topic I have discussed with religious many times.

Pity and empathy you say! Alright. But as people pray for petty things like a new car, to win the lottery, to win the super bowl and so on, I always ask one question.

Do you know how many children that die of famine alone every day? They always say no. 26 000 children. As you believe so strongly in prayers, would they not be put to better use for these children? At this juncture I pay attention to their eyes. It is the same every time. Surprise, shame and then anger.

Sites like these sickens me. And I have no empathy for the people that use them. I am to much of a cynical bastard for that. I save my empathy for the children.

Anonymous said...

Hump, Your last sentence is poetic, profound, and sadly quite true.
So many of the deluded claim the "power" of prayer. When studies are done testing this so-called power on the sick, it turns out that prayer - even group prayer - is utterly ineffective and showed no differences in those that were prayed for and those that weren't. Occasionally, those that were prayed for got even more sick!
I should set up a drive-through prayer booth, charging one dollar per prayer request. There's money to be had from the gullible.

Anonymous said...

The reality is that these sites are guilty of medical malpractice. They would be stopped if people would sue when their prayers aren't answered. The same should go for the Bible itself, giving black and white medical advice to go see the elders for oils and prayer when they are sick. If YOU wrote a medical, or even non-medical book that gave that kind of advice, YOU WOULD BE SUED. Why can religions get away with malpractice? If the laws allow that, they are wrong.

Here is an example prayer from one site: "To You, dear God, I release any concern about my health. I trust Your healing love and Your life-giving presence to renew me." This is 100% medical malpractice to suggest this to someone with a true medical problem. If only people would see this and take action to bring these sites down for practicing medicine illegally. Oh what joy that would bring.

Great post, Hump.

Rastifan said...

I would like to add a story were a Norwegian paper called "VĂ¥rt Land" which has strong religious under currents had an article ALL OVER THE FIRST PAGE about a employee who prayed to god because he have gotten a pimple on his chin. The day after the other employees could behold the miracle. The pimple was hardly visible anymore. I wrote an response pointing out the above issue. I got banned from their forum list.

What is the bigger insult I asked. Praying for something that petty, or that god felt that curing this pimple would be a grander proof of his divined power that actually answering the desperate prayers from the thousands of starving children? Behold the idiot

Notice the adds they have for the poor around the world. It is sickening.

Dromedary Hump said...

[[The following is a post emailed to me by "Gene" and reposted here with his permission.]]

I can relate to your commentary, having had, and still having, similar thoughts. At first scorn, then pity. I am a volunteer tutor who works mostly with adults who wish to learn to read or to do basic math. These people are the ones we uncharitably, but realisticly call "no hopers". Ten out of ten of them are committed to frequent prayer. It really pains me to keep my mouth shut about their absurd and fruitless requests to god or JC. At some point in the past it became clear to me that to rob them of the only comfort they have would be cruel. So I let em pray, without interference, when they need to. I direct my anger at the preacher types who continously assure them that "prayer solves everything"

Rastifan said...

What Gene should do here is yanking them strait in to reality. If they are "no hopers", what is there to loose? It might even come some good out of it.

Religion and low self esteem have always been closely related.

Den!s said...

In Gene's case, while I can agree that prayer for these folks might seem like their only link to hope of some kind, it's still not fair to them to let them continue to believe their prayers will ever do anything at all. I suppose some might say that false hope is better than no hope at all, but I vehemently disagree on principal at least. What happens to these people if you take hope away, I don't know, it might be too catastrophic on them. Oh, but do blame and heap scorn upon the religiously inflicted who convinced them of hope through prayer to the mythical skydaddy. It's unforgivable in my opinion.

Great post Hump

Shaw Kenawe said...

Just want to remind us all of the most glaring conundrum that religionists cannot answer:

Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

I've heard stories about miraculous recoveries from all sorts of maladies from cancer to carbuncles, but never, never, never, never have I heard of a religionist regenerating a limb through the grace of a god. Never.

When I ask why that is, I get no answer, except the weak "God has his reasons" cop-out.

So much for prayer.

Dromedary Hump said...

Va Loans ...
Any hate expresssed here would be toward those organizations, websites, communities that encourage the fallacy of prayer instead of directing the desperate to real help.

It would be the same "hate" one feels toward a cult when said cult refuses a child the necessary medical help to save his life, and instead prays over him as he dies.

If that doesn't generate hate,along with disgust, then I don't know what to say.

Anonymous said...

Can't attach a personal emotion whether it is anger, empathy or ...

but what I noticed in reading their prayers (magic spells) is that each one of the prayers is "me, me, me" and nothing for the common good of mankind.

All seem rather narcissistic and extraordinarily petty.

longhorn believer said...

I agree with NEBob. This is a very powerful post. I've received a great deal of help for depression and anxiety problems from professional counselors. The one who helped me the most says that prayer is a coping mechanism. Since I'm from a very religious family, I know many people who do pray for others especially for others' illnesses. When the sick person has been to the doctor, and they are still ill or in the hospital, prayer actually helps the person praying deal with feelings of helplessness. I can handle that kind of prayer. The same holds true when people say they are praying for the loved one of someone who has died. It's just a way to cope with feelings of helplessness. I don't engage in such prayer, but I can tolerate it from others. And I can understand not wanting to take away a source of comfort for people especially if trying to convince them that prayer is useless is a waste of time. What I can't tolerate are prayers for things that people can change in their own lives. And I most especially hate prayer that's said before a meal! "Bless this food" Jesus Christ on a bicycle! Either the food is good for you or it isn't! If it isn't, don't eat it! And praying in a restaurant is really egregious. That's nothing more than wanting other people to see how pious you are! Sickening!