The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

In response to the request for prayers from the family of the 9-year-old who tragically shot her instructor in Arizona, I posted this, which I think many of you will understand:

Dear God: 

As a compassionate American, I was asked to pray for the family of a shooting victim and well as the children affected by the accident. I’m not sure what the hell you’re supposed to do about this, God, or what it even means to pray, but first, a little background.  (Read the rest here.)

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24 responses to “The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

  1. Debbie, I just left a comment on CNN but here’d I’d like to add: You got balls, girl!!:) Bravo! I think it takes real courage to speak as boldly as you did. Thicken your skin and change your address. I was so appalled to read comments on the New York Times where readers wrote in regard to the 9-year-olds “accident” about the thrill of shooting an automatic weapon. This just flabbergasts me. These guns have NO purpose other than to kill. It makes as much sense as if everyday people started becoming knife throwers “for fun.” Yes, we use knifes for cooking in the kitchen. But always with that cautionary “be careful, don’t cut yourself.” We can understand that, but a gun? A weapon that can mow down crowds of people in seconds? Oh, I wanna play with that!!! NOT.

    • Trishia – I just read your comment on CNN and you make excellent points. Guns are portrayed as sexy-even websites that promote gun ownership or open carry have attractive women “embracing” guns. It’s cool. It’s sexy. It’s empowering. These are the messages that we are sending to our youth, many if who spend hours and hours playing these violent games.

      I haven’t seen the NYTimes article but I will look for it.

  2. You said it well. I’d have lost my temper. I’m so sick of the BS being dished out by gun activists trying to defend something as awful as this, along with so many other incidents that, but for guns, would have been entirely preventable. They like to say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Do they really believe that little girl could have killed her instructor without that Uzi in her hands?

    • Apparently not, PiedType. Gun owners are willing to put their desire to own any and as many guns as they want above the safety of their own children. I wonder how much cajoling/convincing it took to get the girl interested in shooting a gun to begin with.

  3. The majority of comments on CNN were so predictable that it is not even funny. OTOH one could not expect much more from a nation that sells kids pink “my first rifles”.
    The irony was also so lost on these folks – the tolerant pious were up in arms against your benign wish.

  4. Reblogged this on Durango Skeptics and Atheists and commented:
    A perfect commentary on the matter:

  5. While not directly affiliated with the praying, an interesting story altogether. As we´ve discussed before, it is nothing short of amazing how hated minority the rational people seem to be in the US.

    The comments are quite funny – everyone seems to want to dodge the question and instead tell that Hitler was not a xian 🙂

    http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/31/opinion/moreno-atheists-unelectable-congress/index.html?hpt=hp_t5

  6. Unfortunately I am currently using a browser and network that won’ t let me see the comments on CNN. Thus, I am not certain if my response is exactly on target… so to speak.

    I am of two minds on this topic, so I will start with the first. Fuck prayer! Get that little girl to a good child therapist who can help her deal with the trauma she is and will suffer over this horrific incident. The instructor was being a prat in the first place for thinking a 9-year old can control an Uzi. If they are going to pray to Sky Daddy, why don’t they ask him to stop these senseless acts in the first place?

    Now, my other mind rests in the position as an owner of firearms (two handguns and a rifle). I was raised around firearms and learned to respect them from an early age. Just last week I was at the range practicing my skills at killing a paper circle bearing no likeness to a human being whatsoever. My guns, when not in use at a range, always — ALWAYS — have trigger locks on them, and I don’t even have kids. My nephew has begged me to take him to the range, even with his father’s blessing, and I adamantly refuse until he turns 18. I am not a member of the NRA and personally find that organization repulsive. I earnestly believe, and there is evidence to support my belief, that personal firearms ownership has done some good in this country (albeit a very costly mixed good).

    With that on the record let me say it was absolutely wrong to allow that girl to handle that weapon. It is intended, as others pointed out, solely for killing human beings. I think most adults should be barred from handling weapons like that without proof of proper training and extreme safeguards in place. Moreover, of all weapons, sub-machine guns are very tricky to handle in the first place and require a practiced hand. It was morally and ethically wrong to place that girl into that situation.

    Now, most of the gun owners I know tend to agree with me, and I live in a state a rabidly gun happy as Texas (hint: the NRA headquarters are located here). I would estimate probably a third of the adult population are gun owners. Nearly all who I know are sane, sensible people who view the incident with the Uzi with utter disbelief and real horror. Most would condemn the range instructor who allowed himself to be killed by his own stupidity for his actions. In the words of the late Ben Parker who was killed with a firearm: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Firearms are a form of great power. The responsibility should be of the first order.

    • Derrick. Well, we agree on a lot. First, a therapist for the kid. Most definitely.

      Second, what you lay out is sensible gun ownership. While I am (obviously) not a fan of fire arms (because their sole purpose is to maim or kill), I respect what you are saying. We can’t reasonably expect to get rid of guns in the US, so the next best thing is 1. strong gun laws (no assault weapons for citizens) and 2. gun owners who take a responsible approach as you do. If more people did, there wouldn’t be kids who accidentally shoot adults and other children.

      For many people, it all comes down to what you said here: “Firearms are a form of great power.”

  7. Fantastic article, Debbie. I can’t even bring myself to read the comments on CNN, though. I have no doubt they will just piss me off.

  8. As I said on CNN, well said, well said.

  9. I don’t understand why you would write a prayer to someone whom you don’t believe exists. That makes no sense to me. I don’t believe praying is meant to be a solution to the gun issue, but rather to deal with the aftermath of a tragic event, and for wisdom for those who will deal with the greater issue. Prayer is not meant to be a copout of one’s responsibility.

    • @thesilver. If you don’t think prayer is a solution, then why pray? Wisdom? How do get this from praying?

      • When we believe that the One prayed to is able to give us wisdom, as well as peace and comfort in difficult situations. I pray, or talk to God, about many things and trust Him to care for my needs and others.

        • @thesilver. I understand what you are saying. I grew up Catholic, so I know that prayer is important in the lives of many. My point in writing the essay is that we cannot “trust Him to care for” humanity’s needs. We must do it ourselves. I don’t say this out of meanness but only to make a point: was “God” taking care of the needs of the 9-year-old and Mr. Vacca? If God were giving the families “peace and comfort” then why allow the “accident” to happen? Isn’t God all-powerful and all-knowing? If god doesn’t get involved in human affairs, then he can’t give comfort or take away pain, right? Again, why pray then?

          I think that we must watch out for each other, and we must care for our friends, neighbors and fellow humans.

      • As to the gun issue, I don’t believe children should be allowed to fire assault weapons. I don’t understand parents thinking that is okay, and I should think that girl would be scarred terribly from this incident. Although in some countries there are children her age fighting as soldiers. I appreciate your responding to my comment, Deborah.

  10. I’m with you all the way. Prayer does not equate to taking action to stop preventable gun violence tragedies, that’s why the religious angle is so important here. I just posted a comment on CNN is underscore that connection. Thank you for doing what you do and doing it so well!

    • Great comment, Chris A. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I especially liked what you wrote here: “Those who choose to believe in an imaginary higher being are free to do so, but if this belief then is used an excuse to ignore the real problems we face, then they do us all a disservice in the name of their religious belief. ” I’ve heard others say that people offer prayers when they actually need help (from living beings) in other ways. Prayer only really helps ease the conscience of the person saying the prayer….

  11. Some pretty snarky comments over there by those who think you’re ‘wrongfully’ dismissive of their invisible buddy.

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