Guest Post: God Cannot Help

Below is a guest post from Shanan W., who expresses frustration that many of us have felt. How do we handle these sorts of conversations with friends, frenemies and family on social media and in person? Should we ignore them? Point out inconsistencies?

Thank you for sharing, Shanan!
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I don’t typically get into arguments on the Internet, because honestly, I think they are rather pointless. However, when the Malaysian airliner was allegedly shot down on July 17th over the Ukraine, I couldn’t help but respond to one particular post. Snippets of the post were as follows:

(All but first initials redacted to protect those involved.)

K: (After several “God help us” posts, and this is a paraphrase, because the original post seemed to be removed): 1) God cannot help. 2) Deepest sympathies to the families of all of the victims. Please wait for all facts to be gathered before coming to conclusions about what really happened.

R: K that is your twisted opinion. You are misguided if you think God cannot help!

My Response to R: Whose God? Which one is going to help? Yours? Where was this God when the plane went down? Why is it God can help after the fact, but doesn’t get the blame for the act to begin with? Why is it “God works in mysterious ways” when bad happens, but then God is the first thing people look to if they need comfort. God: Created in the image of man.

KS: (different person from K): Why do these posts always end up with jerks insulting each other?
My gosh just get over yourselves! Not every one [sic] had the same views or opinions.
Shame on you Shanan Winters for insulting someone’s personal beliefs!!!

Now wait just a minute, here. I didn’t send that response to someone who offered up a sincere prayer. KS asserts that not everyone has the same views or opinions. That is correct. But R was the first one to insult someone’s opposing view (which, again, was not in response to anyone’s sincere prayer). Why is it that the non-believers are the “jerks” and why is it “shame on us?” This conversation went on for a few more rounds, and never once did I or any of the other non-believers who got involved stoop to name-calling or shaming. What kills me is the irony of the fact that KS didn’t realize that she called herself a jerk. In a follow-up, she asserted that she never once insulted someone based upon their views. Oh really? I guess “jerk” and “shame on you” are terms of endearment?

Let me state that I would never respond in a derogatory manner to someone’s heartfelt prayer for the victims or family members of a tragedy. I may roll my eyes quietly behind the scenes and then express sympathy in my own way, but I wouldn’t outright insult someone else’s sincere wishes. I wouldn’t have said anything at all, except that R decided to blast K for her assertion that God cannot help.

What it boils down to is this: It is acceptable in our society for strangers to “shame” us and insult us for our lack of belief. Yet, for the most part, non-believers assert that people can have their beliefs all they want. We just tend to get sick of sitting in the wings, listening to everyone go on and on about them, especially when they outright attack a non-believer verbally. But when one of us speaks up, it’s somehow shameful. But that’s ok… hypocrisy is hypocritical.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t reply unless you believe the same thing they do? Honestly, I’m kind of done with that thinking.

The fact is, this allegedly-shot-down aircraft is a horrific tragedy, and people reach for that which comforts them to ease the fear. In many cases, it’s a prayer to God. In our case, we simply feel saddened by the senseless loss of life, and wish there was more we could do to help.

My one wish for humanity is a growth of intellect, and that all people would reach for peace instead of violence. My main beef with the “God” argument is that it seems to cause more wars than it stops. It justifies retaliation and perpetuation of violence, as long as the other person’s “God” doesn’t match the aggressor’s. If religions preach peace, why don’t we have it? The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We’ve been trying religion for a long time now, and it’s not getting us very far. I’d love to see humanity evolve beyond superstition, learn how the natural world works, and realize our place within it.

I do hope that the investigators of this airline crash are able to pull together the pieces and figure out what happened. It doesn’t bring back the deceased, but it can offer a measure of closure for the impacted families. I hope that they can find peace in the days, months and years to come. I hope that the people involved, if it was an attack, can find better, more constructive, and less violent ways to resolve their conflicts.

And my sincerest wish is this: for those who would invoke the name of their God in this tragedy, please do so out of love and peace, and not as an act of wanted vengeance.

Was I wrong to reply? Maybe. It’s not the best forum to express this specific frustration. It might not be the optimal time or place. I just couldn’t help it.

(All comments on this thread, along with the original story, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/12news?hc_location=timeline under the post “BREAKING: Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in Ukraine with 295 people on board, Reports coming in that it was shot down.”)

The Devil is Good for Business

With the Pope and the devil in the news again, I thought I’d talk a bit about the two.

Political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that individuals and groups “…define their identity by differentiating themselves from and placing themselves in opposition to others. While wars at times may have a divisive effect on society, a common enemy can often help to promote identity and cohesion among people. The weakening or absence of a common enemy can do just the reverse.”

Enemies are important, especially strong ones. Good leaders realize, at least intuitively, that a common foe can provide cohesiveness and goals for a group of people. After 9/11, for example, Americans were uncharacteristically united against the forces of evil. Whether it’s al-Qaida, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or the Devil, the bad guy defines us through contrast. We are good and full of love; they represent evil and are full of hatred. We want harmony and peace; they want death and destruction.

It makes sense, then, that Pope Francis would reintroduce Satan as the Catholic Church’s grand cosmic antagonist. Given that the Church has been hobbled from decades of scandal, leaving it weakened and vulnerable, what better way to resuscitate an ailing institution than to identify the cause of its illness and to declare war against the universe’s oldest enemy?  The Pope has warned followers, “…there is no shadow of a doubt. A battle exists, a battle in which the eternal salvation of us all is at stake.” He has said that the devil wants to divide Christians, destroy the family and make love disappear. Satan doesn’t want people to be disciples of Christ nor does he want peace between nations.

Humans construct their identity by opposing and differentiating themselves from the undesirable other. This kind of black-and-white thinking underlies religion’s worldview. In order to know who you are, you also have to know who you are not.  If there is no evil “out there” threatening the Roman Catholic empire, what indeed does it mean to be a Catholic? Where do the sinful acts, the pedophiles, the abusers come from? Although this is a simplified worldview, the dichotomy makes it easier to deal with the ambiguity and unpredictability of complex human behavior. You’re either one or the other.

Lucifer not only provides a contrast to define what makes a good Christian, his perceived omnipresence and power invoke intense fear that keeps Catholics in check, that makes them stay the course in their faith. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Who will save them from the Prince of Darkness? God? No, God does not come to the rescue of possessed mortals. Only the Pontiff and his consort of exorcist priests can keep believers safe here on earth.  The devil is strong, but the Church, with its trained exorcists, is stronger. It keeps the great garden of faith weeded of evil and growing.

By referring repeatedly to Satan, the Pope is summoning and reinforcing an old narrative of good versus evil. He is rallying his troops and giving them focus. The Devil has been the reason for the winter of discontent. Now that the enemy is “out there” and in the holy sight, evil is no longer an intrinsic part of the Church but a separate, identifiable other. The war on Satan is how the Church is healing and redeeming itself. This is how it will reclaim its followers and its reputation.

The devil is good for the business of religion.

Do we have freedom from religion?

I don’t even know where to start. Yesterday’s ruling was a huge disappointment. By now, you all probably know that the SCOTUS opened the door for “people” (both living and nonliving) in positions of power to push their religious agenda on others. Hobby Lobby & friends are exempt from providing coverage for certain types of birth control they deem against god’s will. (You know, because they have a direct line to HIM or because they read HIS ever-so-accurate 2,000 year-old manuscript for living that he, without a doubt, authored or inspired or something like that.)

What I find even more appalling is, having contributed my two cents to the topic here yesterday, people actually said that we have freedom of religion but not freedom from religion. Crazy, I know. Then there are those who say, You’re a socialist! Buy a sex toy! Or some other asinine comment. (Yeah, people always take what you write personally, and they personally attack you in return.) They fail to see this is not about 1. Socialism or 2. The type of birth control women prefer. This is about religious employers making decisions for you based on their beliefs. This is about control and power and judgment. And what does god say about people who judge?

But the most appalling sentiment running through the comments is that people actually think that Hobby Lobby & friends have a right to decide what is best for you. The ACA was intended to be a fair and lawful solution to America’s healthcare woes. It was not mean to be a religious battle. In what should be a health decision made between you and your doctor and perhaps even your partner, your boss can now step in and say, “My god says it’s wrong, so it’s wrong for you, too.”

What’s next? Will corporations (and not just family owned) now claim insuring gays harms their religious sentiments? What about single moms? Will Hobby Lobby still pay for Viagra since the medication artificially induces an erection when god clearly does not want that? (Ummm…of course not.) What happens when a Muslim or Jew or devil worshipper decides to impose her beliefs on employees?

As Justice Ginsberg said, the Court has “ventured into a minefield.” This case was important not just to women but to all Americans, regardless of what they believe about god.

Right now, it’s apparent that we do not have freedom from our boss’ religion.

The Devil

A lot of us are ex-Catholics. I thought you might be interested in this piece I wrote for OnFaith about the devil.

Lucifer has been used as a tool since the beginning of Christianity. I’m always shocked to read that the majority of folks believe in Satan. I wonder if the Pope has pulled his old friend back out of the bag to slow attrition?

The devil was something my kids learned about early in school from their friends. Sometimes, they would come home frightened. My youngest kid was told that the devil lives in the ground and could reach up and grab children’s legs. I took him out back, and we dug in the ground in search of the devil. He asked questions like, “How would the devil breathe? Wouldn’t he be crushed? How does he move through all this dirt?”

This is how we help our kids learn to think critically and to overcome their fears. By asking questions. By reasoning.

Why don’t adults ask these same questions? Why does the devil seem so much like all the other evil characters we’ve created in books and movies?

Religious Kids are More Successful in Life

bibleI hope you guys are having a great summer so far. I’ve been busy with other projects. For those living in Texas, I recently wrote this piece on water conservation. Leave a comment or drop me a line and let me know what you all have been up to. I’ve missed chatting with everyone.

Now. Did you know that, “Research Shows Religious Teens Are More Successful in Life?” (Thanks LanceT for the link!)

I didn’t know this either. But before we help our kids find religion ASAP, let’s look at the facts. This is an important topic to discuss with our children: Does an article or claim hold up? What sorts of sources are used?

Of course, the first red flag is that this article can be found only on LDS websites and blogs. Another thing I like to check when I read these sorts of articles is the references. I’ll start with the first quoted source in the article.

I don’t even know where to start. If you click on the link, you’ll be directed to “familyfacts.org.” Scroll down and you’ll see that the website is owned by the Heritage Foundation (eye roll). Most of you are already familiar with the HF. The site claims as its goal: “FamilyFacts.org provides data on family and religious practice and analysis of their role in maintaining civil society in America.” Yes, they have an agenda—to promote religion in the secular sphere.

The “Longitudinal study” quoted in the article is a reference to on-going surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that were conducted in two batches, 1979 and 1997. There is no single “recent study of 14,000 youth.” The BLS data is “the collection of data on respondents’ labor force participation and investments in education and training. Other core topics are marital history, fertility, health, and income and assets.”

So I’m not sure how they came up with the “facts” that kids from intact religious families are less likely to do drugs, drink or have sex (gasp). And, certainly, there is no evidence that those kids do better in school. I’m pretty sure if we were to normalize the data from the very small population of kids being raised without religion with the very large population of kids being raised with religion, we wouldn’t find any difference in their academic performances. To my knowledge, there has not been a study of the educational success of children from religious vs. nonreligious homes.

But back to the Mormon article. There’s another study referenced as proof that religious kids do better in life. It’s not titled, but if you click on it, guess where it goes? It directs you to an article by Patrick Fagan, again on the Heritage Foundation’s site.

This article is just more propaganda on the benefits of religion. I guess when you’re used to living your life based on a book that is not supported by facts, it’s okay to write articles that are not supported by facts either.

My question is, Why are they trying so hard to convince everyone that religion makes better people? They doth insist too much, methinks.

Belief does not create two religions

Early in the morning, before anyone else is awake, before the birds are even stirring, I walk down to the edge of the stream behind my house. I kneel down and call to my water nymph. She answers.

Not everyone can see her. Not everyone believes I see her. But I worship her. I promise her that I will love and revere her above all others, above my parents, my spouse, my children, myself. I request her help, ask her to carry out acts of mischief on others. Find money and treasure for me. Help me attain my goals. She bends to my will. She exists through me, for me.

Those who don’t believe in my water nymph are a-nymphs. (Not to be confused with nymphos.) Their a-nymphism is a belief system, too, which, through contrast, helps validate my conviction.

This idea of belief and unbelief in nymphs is a little ridiculous, yes? Yet you and I often hear that atheism is a belief system or a religion.

No. It. Is. Not. Refusing to accept an outrageous story or idea as truth or true does not make our skepticism or doubt a “belief.”

No matter our religious affiliation or lack of, we all sift through and oftentimes reject what others believe. Here are some examples, which many of our grandparents believed and we now simply reject (we don’t become a-believers):

1. It’s bad luck to open an umbrella inside.
2. If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years of bad luck.
3. Rubbing a wart with a bean pod, and then burying the pod, will get rid of a wart.
4. High heart rates mean that your fetus is female.
5. Shaving makes your hair grow back thicker.
6. If you swallow chewing gum, it remains in your stomach for 7 years.
7. If you go outside with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold.

There was a time when it made sense to believe in these things. For example, before people understood that colds came from viruses, not from being “cold.” Now that we know better, we reject this belief our grandparents held, or we just consider it an “old wives tale.”

Many Christian apologists will insist that atheism is a “belief system” or a religion, too. This is simply an attempt to equalize the two, to bring unbelief on the opposite side of the equation from religion, which is a belief system. If, believers postulate, both sides are “beliefs” and if one is free to choose from two separate–but seemingly equal–systems, then it standardizes religion. Religion is now logical like math and science. Science and math now require a leap of faith. Belief and unbelief are simply one of two choices that any reasonable person can make.

No. No. No.

It is not logical to believe that breaking a mirror will bring you bad luck. It is not logical to believe in my water nymph, even if I tell you that your unbelief is a belief, too.

But what if all my neighbors and relatives say that they believe my story? What if I show you a book that I found, telling of the nymph’s fantastical journey from Planet Ooh? What if I tell you that everything I’ve asked my water nymph for has materialized?

Correlation, we know, does not imply causation. An observation of two variables does not mean that one causes the other or that they’re related.

There’s one more thing we need to address to put the nail in the coffin of atheism as religion or belief system.

Belief.

Yeah. I believe in science. But that is different from saying, “I believe in god.”

“I believe in science” means that I put faith in the people and institutions that are doing the work, that I have confidence in their methods. I could do the math or science my damn self, if I had the time. But you and I cannot specialize in everything. We cannot do all things. So we must trust that others are doing their jobs, the same jobs that we could do, using the same methods that we were all taught and have agreed are worthy of our trust and confidence. These things are provable and repeatable and verifiable across the scientific community.

“I believe in god,” as many philosophers have noted, is an existential claim that is made when the thing believed is unrealistic, unproven or highly unlikely. I believe that eating more burgers before conceiving will produce a boy baby. I believe that kissing a frog will produce a prince. I believe in the tooth fairy. Vampires. Leprechauns. Water nymphs. God.

So, no. Atheism and science are not beliefs or religions. And, yes. Belief in a deity or deities requires a leap of faith and is therefore not based in logic. If it were logical, we could all plug god into the equation and prove his or her existence. If it were logical, we could confirm the existence of god and heaven. We would not hear people say, “I know it doesn’t make sense, but I just believe. I just feel in my heart that god is real.” This is neither evidence nor grounds for a sound argument.

If believers are being intellectually honest, this is something they already know. Unfortunately, the idea of atheism as religion has been repeated so often that I now hear other unbelievers accept this as true. Don’t get pulled into accepting this mistaken notion that atheism is just another belief, another card in the deck of theism.

One person’s belief cannot create two religions.

Can the GOP survive without acknowledging God?

That’s a question asked in a newsletter I received. I suppose “The LINK” was mailed to my house because the sender assumes every Texan is a god-fearing, gun-toting Stepford Republican.

I learned that it’s my “God-given right” to carry the LINK letter into the polling booth so that I’ll know who to vote for, and I won’t even have to think. (Especially good for women, no doubt.) “We have NEVER supported a Democrat,” the publisher says. And I have to wonder, if you’ve never supported a Democrat, if you vote exactly as someone has told you, then you’re not really thinking for yourself, are you? You’re just buying into and reinforcing stereotypes.

This newsletter gives insights into how these folks think. And it’s pretty scary. Here’s a quote:

The gays are becoming the new “in” group. They say you and I are bigoted, racist, hateful homophobes if we speak out against the harmful lifestyle.

Not sure who “they” is, but I didn’t actually say that. However, I believe people speak the truth about themselves. So yes, I agree that this brand of conservatism is indeed bigoted, racist and homophobic. (Read Rachael’s great post about hatefulness.) Exactly who is suffering from this “harmful lifestyle”? The new “in” group? Really? If “gay is in” who is out?

Texas is the last stand for conservative values in America.

In other words, while the rest of the nation has grown more tolerant, a number of Texans–at least the ones with deep pockets and a soapbox–hold stubbornly to the belief that every person must be the same in color, religion, sexual orientation and political preference. (Yes, every person pictured in this glossy, 16-page newsletter is white.)

I’d like to say that it’s just religion that makes people bad, but like guns, religion is merely a weapon. It’s used to attack anyone standing outside the circle of power who might be a threat: “single” women, minorities, gays and people who’ve been marginalized. No, the GOP cannot survive as a “national force” without God because he’s the club wielded on anyone who doesn’t fit their narrow view of what is “right.” God told these folks that marriage is between one man and one woman. He puts babies into the bellies of female humans (not any other animal).  And he doesn’t want immigrants in America taking our jobs.

The rest of us have to stand up against these bullies. We can’t allow a handful of loud obnoxious yahoos work their way into our government with the intention of legislating who others love and what they do with their bodies.

So I am taking my LINK letter to the poll next week, and I’m voting against any candidate or incumbent who stands for intolerance and bigotry.

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On another note — for those of you who’ve asked about interviews, I had a great one a few nights ago with some funny atheists from the DFW area. (Yes! There’s more in Texas.) Check out the interview, as well as their other podcasts. (Just a warning, however. They’re fond of profanity!)

Forgiveness is Over-Rated

One of the disturbing aspects of Christianity is that babies are born sinners and need forgiveness right out of the chute. In the eyes of God, the innocent child requires and receives the same forgiveness and pardons as the jailhouse convert. Yet there is no sense of justice if a newborn and murderer can both reach heaven through God’s unconditional absolution, if forgiveness is doled out like little uniform candies in a Pez dispenser, no matter the crime or offense.

It seems to me that the Christian God and his followers exercise poor judgment in forgiving people this way. Indeed I do not think our children should forgive everyone of everything because it encourages them to be doormats and victims. Preachers who counsel battered wives to forgive and endure abusive marriages are not magnanimous Christians but are perpetrators, too, just like the abusers.

Perhaps it is better to teach our children that, when people show us who they are with their words and actions, we should listen. They are telling us what makes them tick, and it’s not personal. If a person causes us harm or hurls insults (Donald Sterling), it stems from a flaw or an insecurity within him or her. If necessary, retribution for crimes or hurts are made through fines, confinement and estrangement.

This idea guides my life. When someone has treated me or others badly, when I see that a person is abusive or unkind, I choose not to have a relationship with him or her. This doesn’t mean that I’ve been reciprocally unkind. On the contrary, I believe in being cordial and keeping the peace. But I do not have to share my time or resources or foster a relationship with anyone—relative, stranger, coworker or neighbor—who would bring dysfunction or cause harm to me or my family.  

I try to live so that I don’t need to give or receive forgiveness from myself or anyone else. There is peace this way. There is no anger, no sense of victimization, no need for revenge. It is simply making choices to do the right thing and to surround myself with people who bring no harm or deception. Sure, we all hurt each other sometimes, but small, occasional hurts can be tolerated and fixed.

What does forgiveness mean to you?

 

GUEST POST: Public displays of religion: Why history tells us ‘It’s just a phase.’

I am delighted to have a guest post by a reader on the east coast. Robert Partridge has an interesting perspective on religion and politics. I hope his unique insights spark an interesting discussion! Thanks for sharing, Rob!

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Public displays of religion: Why history tells us ‘It’s just a phase.’
By Robert Partridge – guest blogger (robpartridge@msn.com) May 8, 2014

In the re-energized debate regarding religion’s appropriate public role, as well as the Separation of Church and State, one need not be a religious or historical scholar to recognize what is going on but, to borrow from the old quip, “It helps.”

To begin this review it is important to note that at no time in the history of these United States did such lofty issues enjoy a consensus among the population – not even before the nation was formally established. Research which barely scratches the surface will reveal sources describing the Founders’ motivations as being driven by Colonial nationalism and financial self-interest, as often as suggesting they were driven by religious spirit or a belief in Divine intervention. An abundance of evidence exists indicating that those who left Europe to escape religious persecution – especially the Quakers – placed a high priority on the importance of not persecuting others, and not forcing their religious beliefs on the rest of society. Except for the French in Quebec and the Spanish in Florida, an institution as far-reaching as the Catholic Church did not have significant impact on the development of attitudes and laws in the United States until the major migrations to the U.S. of Germans, Irish, Italians and Poles took place from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.

Would you agree that concepts such as “In God We Trust” on coinage or “One Nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance are as enduring as the nation itself? Spoiler alert: that would be an improper assertion.

“In God We Trust” first appeared on U.S. coins in 1864 and the relevance of that date is critical. The Civil War was about to enter its fourth year, seemingly with no end in sight, and the desperate hope that God would favor one side over the other was an increasingly prevalent position of both the Union and the Confederacy. As for the Pledge of Allegiance, it was in 1954 with the global Communist threat at its height that President Dwight Eisenhower directed Congress to explore adding the words “under God,” modifying the existing pledge into the form that is recited today.

Have you spotted a trend? In each case, as an appeal to the Christian Supreme Being was made, threats to the existence of the nation were actually in play or perceived as quite real. The same is revealed in examples of the Founders drawing on the support of Providence in their quest to attain independence. Dr. Benjamin Franklin, not a particularly religious individual himself, nonetheless underscored the tensions and potential consequences of the time in his famous statement following the adoption of the Declaration of Independence: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Such life or death moments have tended to push societies toward their closest orbits with religion.

And so we have come full circle to the topic at hand. Why is the highly-visible reemergence of religion in public life being promoted by lawmakers, judges, political pundits and even some journalists, many of whom proclaim a fear for the very survival of our country at this particular moment? Let there be little uncertainty about the catalysts. The same perceptions of vulnerability and risk to our nation that were present during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s are once again taking hold.

Recent historical events such as the Iranian Revolution of 1977 and hostage-taking at the Tehran U.S. Embassy in 1979, bombings at the hands of Islamic radicals of U.S. troop barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and Saudi Arabia in 1996, and the Gulf War of 1991 in reaction to Saddam Hussein’s assault on Kuwait all helped disturb the American sense of balance in the world. The 9/11 attacks, followed by the invasion to rid Afghanistan of al Qaida and the Taliban (and the Weapons of Mass Destruction debacle that led to the second Iraq War in 2003) dramatically added to that sense of imbalance and furthered the ongoing military-religious conflict which underlies the real cause of our nation’s actions; Fear.

That is not fear defined in the cowardly sense. It is the fear generated in Thomas Hobbes’ State of Nature, when one entity senses it is cornered and left with no options. The human reaction to that fear is and has been predictable since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans: a preparation for and engagement in conflict, hand-in-hand with petitions to God (or to ‘the gods’, as was the case 2,500 years ago.)

Please do not compose angry letters accusing me of questioning the depth or sincerity of anyone’s faith. That is not at issue here and my intent is to insult no one. This piece serves merely to provide the historical perspective as to why societies and governments will always respond to collective anxiety by attempting to amplify public religious practices and symbolism.

So, for those who identify themselves as non-believers, do not wonder or worry about our neighbors’ increasingly aggressive and noisy position on public displays of religion. It’s mostly just fear at work – once again.

A Prayer From A Reader

I am always delighted to hear from readers. It’s good to know that there others out there like us, others who understand and who share similar struggles. 

As many of you know, today is National Day of Prayer.  The following “prayer” was sent to me by a reader, who has asked me to post this anonymously. You see, even though this is a day designated to express our (mis)understanding that this country was “birthed in prayer and reverence for god,” people like us still have to remain in the shadows out of concern that coming out might affect our relationships with friends, family and coworkers. Where is the freedom in that?

To the reader who shared this, thank you for these beautiful insights:

In honor of National Prayer Day, I pray for people to stop praying for god to solve their problems for them.  (Because it would take divine intervention to stop prayer.)

If it were up to me (If I were god), I’d want people to stop asking me to solve their problems for them. I’d want them to become responsible adults, solving their problems by drawing up on their knowledge, experience, and the help of other responsible adults. I’d want them to learn to face the world, their life, their problems, with courage and integrity. I’d want them to realize how pointless it is to petition me, as I never intervene on request. If I wanted anything to be different, it would be, independent of being asked. I wouldn’t care how many, or few, people believed in me. I’d want them to focus on creating a better world for everybody, regardless of their beliefs (or lack thereof). I wouldn’t want them to spend their time praising me.

I’d want them to spend it helping those less fortunate. And to show them the way, I’d create atheists.