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May 23, 2011


Praying for Joplin is a Pointless Waste of Time

by juju2112

If you are praying for Joplin, you are wasting your time. Those that lost their lives are not coming back. The buildings are not going to magically reassemble. The devastation has happened. We cannot turn back the clock. Saying “I’m sending out prayers to Joplin” is as good as doing nothing at all. Actually, it’s worse, because it makes you feel like you’ve done something when you actually haven’t. Any assistance the affected families receive will be because of what we in the community do to help them.

Lots of churches have been using their organizational muscle to form relief efforts. Taking food donations, offering shelter, etc. I applaud this effort. Helping our neighbors is a big part of what our community is all about. But why bother praying if you’re just going to go and fix it yourself? If prayer really worked, shouldn’t you just be able to sit on the couch and fix the problems with your magic? The church communities will also doubtless credit God for the disaster relief they are participating in, even though they are the ones that did it. Why would you think that God is helping in the relief effort? If he really wanted to help, couldn’t he have just stopped the tornadoes in the first place?

We need to have a clear view of what works and what doesn’t. Prayer does not help in the slightest. Donating food does help. Donating money helps. Volunteering helps. Stop talking to yourself, and start taking action. And if you do both, start taking credit for the things you do.

I’ve listed below some criticisms I would expect to hear from people.


  • It does too work!!!

You’re praying for things that might or might not happen. If it happens, you chalk it up to “the power of prayer”, even though there’s a good chance it probably would have happened whether you had prayed or not. If it doesn’t happen, you rationalize that God must not want it to happen, and don’t even give it a second thought. It’s called confirmation bias. Trying praying for something that’s absolutely impossible, like turning a rock into a chicken or teleporting to Japan.

Whenever a double-blind study is put together in order to remove the confirmation bias effect, it shows that prayer has no more effect than random chance. No doubt there will be rationalizations for why this is wrong. They are just that: rationalizations. That’s why the scientific method is important. It’s specifically designed to take human bias out of the equation.

  • Is this really the best time for this argument?

When people take ineffective measures to remedy real-life problems, I think that’s the perfect time to point out the mistake. What better time could there be? When there’s no danger? When no one is listening? Perhaps what you really mean by this is that you don’t want me criticizing it at all.

  • People need prayer because it makes them feel better.

You know what makes me feel better? Having an accurate view of reality. The security of knowing I don’t live in a fantasy land. Knowing that it was me who donated goods and money, not some magical being.

Does Neil Beagley feel better because his parents prayed for him? No, he doesn’t, because he’s fucking dead. Last year, his parents prayed instead of taking him to the hospital. Why? Because the magical power of prayer will heal our son! Because there weren’t doctors there to help him, he died. Because his parents were religious nutjobs, he died.

Now, most religious parents would take their kid to the doctor and pray for them. It’s the doctors that are helping them, not the prayer. I think the above story demonstrates this. Stop wasting your time and snap back to reality.

  • It’s not right to criticize other’s beliefs. You’re just being negative!!

Is making the world a better place by shattering delusions a negative thing? I don’t think so. I think these delusions are harmful to society. It certainly does make people angry when their false hope is questioned. That’s not my goal. I’m trying to show people what’s real and what’s not.

Our actions during a disaster matter. Doing something that has no effect while thinking it’s having an effect is what’s negative. Pointing it out when someone does it is called enlightenment.

  • No one actually prays and does nothing else. They take action, too! You should pray and donate money or volunteer!

What’s the point of the prayer, then? You’re taking action in the world yourself to rectify it. Your own actions will have an effect and the prayer will not. Let’s stop glorifying magic and start crediting our own actions.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Randall "Doc" Fleck
    May 24 2011

    “Saying “I’m sending out prayers to Joplin” is as good as doing nothing at all. Actually, it’s worse, because it makes you feel like you’ve done something when you actually haven’t.”

    You are so very, very right about this, Donald.


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