Prayer: It’s Almost Like Doing Something March 26, 2011

Prayer: It’s Almost Like Doing Something

Jonathan Rosenberg‘s Scenes From a Multiverse gets it just right when discussing just how useless prayer is in times of need:

Damn Cornpocalypses. They ruin everything.

Meanwhile, Foundation Beyond Belief is actually doing something to help the victims of the Japanese Tsunami/Earthquake. We’re raising money for the Japanese Red Cross and you can help by making a donation. So far we’ve collected over $18,000 from members and visitors! I can’t tell you how amazed our board and staff is about the outpouring of support from atheists everywhere. It’s incredible. Not unexpected — we knew atheists would give — but this much, this quickly? Wow.

Let’s keep increasing the amount. Prayers might make Christians feel good about themselves, but your donations will actually help the victims of the tragedy.

(Thanks to Aaron for the link!)

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  • Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    Why do you keep calling yourself “The Friendly Atheist”?

    By your own admission “The Friendly Atheist” no longer exists.

    If he ever did.

  • Melissa

    I have met him in person, and he is pretty gosh darn friendly. 🙂

    This animated depiction is right on, I have to say. I am all for people ACTUALLY doing something to help Japan!!

  • ash

    Yeah, Bertram’s totally right, how dare you call prayer useless when studies have shown it to be merely ambiguous to downright harmful? It makes people feel better! Next thing you’ll be asking alcoholics to sober up!

    How is it remotely friendly to suggest donating actual money to help people is a good thing? And that atheists are capable of charity? The horrors!

    What’s next? Are you going to disrespect that flat earthers and suggest there is no edge of the world for them to fall off? How dare you, you git…[/sarcasm]

  • Don Rose

    It’s almost like doing something… That’s great.

  • Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    So speak against prayer and religion and call names all you want.

    But don’t keep callig yourself “The Friendly Atheist”.

    Its dishonest and you know it.

  • Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    And to whom it may concern, Mr. Mehta has already admitted some time ago that the name “The Friendly Atheist” is no longer really appropriate.

    Ask him.

    I want to see him deny it.

  • Last year, Christian blogger Jon Acuff raised $32250 in 24 hours to purchase mosquito nets for central Uganda. The goal was $10K. That was reached in the first two hours. This wasn’t for a group that proselytizes or has anything to do with faith — it was just about helping folks be safer from the threat of malaria.

    Certainly you can argue about the effectiveness of prayer, but to say that Christians only pray while allowing tragedy to unfold around them without doing something more substantial is demonstrably false.

  • ash

    Yes Bertram, the name ‘The Friendly (to most people [not everyone all the time since I’m only human], but not to their beliefs when they’re demonstrably wrong or have absolutely no evidence for their position or their form of religious logic leads them to do horrible things) Atheist’ would probably be more precise, but it’s just not as catchy really, is it?

  • mkb

    Yes, to be fair Christians do both. They pray and they raise money. Only the latter does the victims of the tragedy any good but maybe the former has some benefit for the person who prays. Whether or not it does, the contrast of atheists giving and Christians praying is false.

  • Brad Tankersley

    Your brain is never as oxygen depleted as the first time you learn to meditate. Brain damage is bliss.

  • Certainly you can argue about the effectiveness of prayer, but to say that Christians only pray while allowing tragedy to unfold around them without doing something more substantial is demonstrably false.

    @Alise — Totally agree. But I think you’re making my point for me. The Christians in that case *did* something by making donations. They weren’t just praying that mosquito nets would arrive.

  • Emanuel Goldsein

    Bertram, how about if he changes the name to…

    The Unfriendly Atheist, or, even better…

    The Fiendly Atheist? Bahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Alex

    By your own admission “The Friendly Atheist” no longer exists.

    A true friend is honest with you and calls you out when you are feeding him a line of bull.

  • Christians may do good things for others, but quite a few of them do it for the wrong reasons or have ulterior motives.


    * Churches that require homeless to sit through a prayer session and express belief in god/jebus before being giving a free meal

    * Going to a third world country with food/medical care, then requiring that the native population rive up their religion and submit to jebus. Turning away and letting those that don’t submit die.

    * Donating to a mega church thinking that some of that money will actually be used to help others, instead of being used for maintaining the lush green grasses and big screen LCD TVs in the worship hall.

    I could go on for hours, but I won’t. Its the actions AND the motives behind the actions that are important.

    If you are using your help/assistance/support as a way to reinforce your religion/superiority, then you _aren’t_ a good person.

  • ACN

    oh yay the Bertram squeaky toy is back!

  • Bargain

    @Bertram Cabot, Jr.

    I agree with you that this blog is anything but friendly, but you can’t get mad at someone who has no moral reason to be friendly.

  • suzanne

    The contrast of praying and giving is useless. The contrast of giving and not giving would be fine. But anyone praying *instead of* giving probably wouldn’t be giving even if they didn’t pray. I’m not sure what the point of this post is. Unless it’s just to belittle people you feel superior to.

  • Last weekend my sister-in-law was telling us how they’ve been working on the weekends to raise money for their Baptist church. The purpose? To send all the local kids on their annual week long Christian (indoctrination) Bible Camp. Apparently many of the local families can’t afford the $300 it costs to reinforce the biblical indoctrination in their kids each summer, so the church raises money to cover the costs of these kids’ indoctrination. She then went on to say that on Saturday a local woman donated $5,000 to the church for this purpose, and how relieved she was that they now had the money for their summer camp.

    I asked if they (their church) had raised any money to help the people of Japan. She not only said no, but “I don’t think anyone thought of that, but they’ve been in my prayers.” I suggested the $5,000, plus whatever they made raising money these past couple weekends would do a lot more good buying food, water, blankets and medicine for the Japanese earthquake survivors than sending a bunch of local kids to bible camp. She disagreed…

    I gotta get out of the buy-bull belt before I go insane.

  • Vanessa

    @Alex …. right on!

  • Sarah M

    I think this is a pretty cheap shot. Are you really arguing that religious people, as a general rule, pray *instead* of doing something? If so, where’s your evidence for that assumption?

    It angers me to see you or anyone else use the tragedy of the Japanese people’s suffering as an excuse to attack a strawman caricature of people who don’t share your worldview.

    Also, how is $18,000 so impressive? FBB and its donors are doing a great thing for the people who’ve been affected, to be sure, but that’s a paltry amount compared to the total donations that have gone to Japan from people of *all* worldviews. Why make such a big deal out of it?

  • Forrest

    I think the contributions to were probably greater — that’s one place I donated. They have more visibility and just seemed to me to have it more together.

    However, there are no donation figures from Richard Dawkins’ group. Perhaps you could ask?

  • Isn’t it funny how attacking prayer as an unproductive activity is interpreted as a personal attack on all Christians, whether or not they also do more constructive things. Especially by posters who attribute quotes to people without citations. Quotes which I can find no evidence of (at least in the first couple of pages of Google results on relevant terms). There’s a lot of putting words in people’s mouths going on here.

  • The Christians in that case *did* something by making donations. They weren’t just praying that mosquito nets would arrive.

    My experience has been that when there’s a large scale problem, most Christians respond both with prayer and with action. Which is why I think the comic is faulty. I’m sure there are some who just pray, but I don’t think it’s the majority by any stretch.

    That said, if the comic was about a smaller thing? Like a family who was tired and just needed someone to babysit their kids for a few hours? Or was lonely and needed a friend to grab coffee? That prayer thing sounds pretty empty in those instances. And I would say that happens far more often.

  • believers can be so obscene sometimes. get a grip, you crybabies; it’s not about you. millions of people in Japan just had their entire world rearranged violently and all you can do is whine about comments you don’t like/understand on an internet thread? shut up and open your wallets. it’s fascinating to see which threads bring scum like you out. so many of you lack the tiniest bit of human compassion.

    no, i’m not “friendly.” Hemant is, and you need to get over yourselves.

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