Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Power Of Prayer?

"Prayer works," said Paul Ryan today, his blue eyes rimmed with red as if he has been praying without cease since the Texas church shooting.

I had a dream last night wherein I was talking to a believer about faith and their god and I think I ended up saying, "There is not one scintilla of evidence that prayer has ever done anything at all for anyone."
Of course I also dreamed about an orgy (not as much fun as you'd think) so there is that.
And of course, prayer has done much for many people in that it calms them, it gives them hope, relief, and peace. In that, some forms of prayer are much like meditation, I suppose. Taking some time to focus quietly on something important, to try and take oneself out of the equation for a moment, to be mindful that some things are beyond our own control and that we need to accept that.
But with prayer, one often assumes that there is a benevolent, all-knowing god who will lift the burden and make things right.
I guess. Not like I'm an expert.

BUT, to offer the ubiquitous thoughts and prayers to those who are suffering after another gun-related tragedy has become nothing but a joke, a useless, meaningless mantra of ridiculousness offered up by those who could, in fact, actually do something about gun violence but who choose not to.

I've always said the patriotism gene and the religious gene have to be related.
And I got neither.
To me, it is so obvious that wrapping oneself in the flag while holding up a Bible is nothing but a taking of props to play a part convincingly enough for others to withhold criticism, to put up a curtain to hide the man behind it as he manipulates the smoke and mirrors with which to gain his own ends be they political or financial or some other selfish purpose he needs to conceal from those he wishes to use for those ends.

The best scams always involve asking for money either for veterans or for some religious organization. Always.

But back to prayer- WHY do people believe in it? Is it a sort of random reward effect in that sometimes the things people pray for actually do happen? Is it a way to deal with the vast and horrible uncertainty of life? With meaningless suffering and pain and tragedy? The pastor of the church where his daughter was among the 26 people murdered said, "I don't understand, but I know my God does."
What sort of a god would allow this to happen? To assign any sort of positive meaning to the killing of children?
A fucking malevolent one, that's for sure.
It's always seemed to me that either
(a) God is not all powerful, or
(b) God is not a benevolent and loving god at all.
I am not saying that it is ridiculous for this pastor to lean on his god. He desperately needs some sort of succor right now and if believing that there is some sense to what happened and that a loving god knew what he was doing to allow that to happen, well then- let him take comfort where comfort can be found.
Which has nothing to do with our politicians offering their thoughts and prayers for...what?
Comfort for the survivors? For magical intervention which will somehow not piss off the NRA and yet, will somehow prevent another senseless gun tragedy to occur? Because that's worked so well in the past.

Sometimes I read a few blogs by women who have deep, deep faith in various Christian religions and their take on prayer is always very similar which is that their god has their best interests at heart, no matter what happens and that god answers their prayers although rarely in the way they think they want which explains why they so often feel as if their prayers are going unanswered.
Eventually, they claim, their prayers always will be answered but their god knows what they really need and that is what he will give them in his own time frame. Which of course eliminates the need for proof that prayer works because obviously, it always works, just not in the way we think it should. And also implies that oh, we silly little humans, we think we know what we need and want but we don't. We are children and god is like a father who knows all, sees all, and hands out his favors and his magical works in wondrous ways, his miracles to perform.
So, in some sort of twisted and contrived way, god not answering prayers is proof that god answers prayers and if we don't believe that, we are failing to show faith and displeasing god.

Well. Okay. Whatever.

Yes. Sometimes beautiful things spring forth from tragedy. And often, tragedy is nothing but tragedy and there is no coming back from it.

Sometimes humans do learn from tragedy and solutions are found to prevent similar ones from happening. This is not unheard of. We are capable of learning and making things better but almost always, science and education are involved as well as innovation and creative thinking.
Work. Hard work. People in labs and in classrooms and in the field and goddammit- people in power who create laws and make policy. People who are brave and who are brilliant and who are merely doing their jobs the best they can for reasons having nothing to do with fame or fortune or political advancement.

Not people wrapped in flags and holding up Bibles that they've never read.
Not people who proclaim that instead of changing gun laws, we need to pray.

Well, that's what I'm thinking tonight.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. yep and more. I abhor 'thoughts and prayers'. if their god was truly a loving and compassionate god and existed then surely he could not have ignored the torrents of prayer that must have gone up during the holocaust. what kind of a benevolent god lets you suffer...cancer, torture, molestation, hunger, drawn out and excruciating death, mass shootings...'for your own good'? fuck that and fuck him. don't want a god so insecure that he demands worship or you will burn in eternity. really? that so makes me want to believe. I read a sci-fi book once about power and gods and the premise was that the more people you could get to pray to you through a 'prayer stick', a device that channeled that mental power to the person being prayed to, the more powerful and godlike you became. There was some inter-dimensional stuff going on, the so called gods weren't human. regardless, it was an interesting concept that resonated in me. Thought is energy and power. the more thought one puts into an idea, the more people that put thought into that idea, the more energy, the more likely it is to happen. in that way we create our own reality, individually and communally. these blogs you mention. it's easy to surmise that they live in an environment that endorses and reinforces their reality. no way to argue with that.

  2. Wow. Your powerful post and then Ellen's thought-provoking comment. Just wow.

  3. "Is it a way to deal with the vast and horrible uncertainty of life?"

    Yes, that. Certainly.

    But these teachings also say that prayer without deeds is empty, useless, so Paul Ryan with his red eyed platitudes can go fuck himself. I'll never forget how, two weeks after the Pulse nightclub shooting, he refused to even call a vote on two gun safety measures. So fuck him.

    I know a woman who endured the worst tragedy life has to give, and she has come up with reasons that help her go on. It's really a very intricate mythology, this story she believes, and she uses it for good, so who am I to say that what her mind and heart perceive, is otherwise? More power to her. May her beliefs always scaffold her.

    I do pray. I imagine, if the universe is plastic and moveable, our collective thoughts have the power to nudge the atoms, or something like that. For me, God is Love. It sounds trite, but it is not. It sounds simple and it is. But that's just me. We all decide what makes sense for us. We don't all have to agree.

    I love you, woman.

  4. Oh, Mary. I don’t know. I really don’t. This topic consumes my days. So much of my depression is around my faith or lack of it. I live daily in fear that I am going to hell. Or that my family is. Or that you are. Or my neighbor. If I do go to heaven how can I ever be happy knowing one soul is on hell? Even the most evil have a story of why they became evil. It’s soul destroying. My own hell on earth.
    And yet, I do believe in love. I was born with a huge heart and have a lot of love to give. So I will give it. I will practice compassion. Because that’s all I have. I will continue to let this topic rule my life and I wil continue to keep me in depression and anxious.

    1. Birdie, I think that your soul was abused when you were young if you, of all people, fear hell. Yes, you are right- are in hell now, worrying about it. I look at it like this (for you, at least)- if there is a hell, you aren't going there and if there isn't, you aren't going there. Don't worry about everyone else. I know. Easy for me to say. But darlin', you are as good as they come. And you do your part every day with the love you share with family and your patients. You are an example of how to be.

  5. I pray sometimes, but it is for me. Not for some magic I think is going to happen. So sort of the meditation you mentioned. I've had it with the thoughts and prayers and no change or action. And today as I drove home from work and saw all of the flags at half mast I was pissed. Like just STOP it. Leave the damn flags up and DO SOMETHING about this shit. I'm still pissed.

  6. Replies
    1. Thank YOU for nailing this so beautifully, my only wish is that everyone in the country read this..I can dream can't I?

  7. I feel your horror and helplessness, Ms Moon.

    Last night on a TV documentary they showed the aftermath of the 1996 shooter massacre at Port Arthur in Tasmania where following public outrage, guns were confiscated, people handed in their guns (legal) and stricter gun laws were introduced to prevent civilians from being able to buy assault rifles. This followed the example of stricter gun laws introduced after a horrendous shooting massacre in Dunblane, Scotland. That put an end (so far) to mass murder with a deadly weapon. Banning guns works.

    South Africa's biggest problem is illegal possession of guns and that has impacted on our high crime rates. On the other hand, men found guilty of domestic violence against women and children are seen as capable of extreme anti-social behaviour, have to surrender any guns in their possession and are put on a national data base for close surveillance.

    Talk of prayer is completely beside the point, as you point out. Where is the public outcry that would force the govt to act against the NRA and introduce stricter laws on access to certain deadly weapons? This spiral of violence won't stop until it is stopped.

    1. Your comment is full of facts and sense. I thank you for your experience with crime and gun laws. And yes- the part about domestic violence makes me so ashamed of my country where I swear, I think we still have this subconscious belief that domestic violence isn't really violence and nothing could be farther from the truth. When someone is violent towards the people he or she supposedly loves, that can only mean that they are, as you point out, capable of extreme anti-social behavior. And I don't know what it's going to take. As a friend of mine said today, if we're okay with children being murdered, it's all over. The gun nuts have won.
      Again, I am so ashamed of my country.
      Thank you.

    2. Oh Ms Moon, my homeland Zimbabwe and my adopted country South Africa have broken my heart more times than I can begin to mention. We're all interdependent in the global community and there are things in American history and resistance that move and inspire me. On the other hand, the word 'prayer' has been made bankrupt by a long dreadful history of Christian abuse. Gun laws are simply about common sense, aren't they?

  8. Beautifully said.

    1. Thank you. I feel so clunky in my writing these days.

  9. "Thoughts and prayers" is just an easy way for people to feel like they're doing something when in fact they're not.

    It's become a bad joke, a punchline. I was watching the dark comedy show "Bojack Horseman" (which I love) the other day and the episode included references to several fictional mass shootings, after which the characters all said "thoughts and prayers" in completely insincere ways and then schemed about how to continue making a profit. And this show was made months ago, before any of the recent shootings. It's frightening how accurate it was at capturing the absurdity of our national approach to guns.

    I can understand prayer in the meditative sense, as you said. But I can't understand people who rely on praying to make a material change in the world.

    1. Not just to let people feel like they're doing something but to pretend that they're doing something. I think that a good many of the people who spout off about thoughts and prayers don't believe in it at all.
      And I can't understand people expecting material change to come from prayer either. I mean- it seems to me that when people get what they pray for, it's often the result of medicine or something like that.

  10. Beautifully written, as always. During the period when assault weapons were banned, 1994 - 2004, there was no hurt to gun owners. No one needs a weapon like this. I think the mental illness people like to say is the cause of these shootings, is actually the mental illness that makes people think they need these guns. I don't see it ever changing, it wasn't enough to shoot a congress person, or a room full of children, it will never be enough.

    1. Exactly, Allison. Especially that last sentence and I do believe that you are on to something about mental illness making people think they need these guns. And as everyone seems to be pointing out recently- more women than men suffer from mental illness and yet these shooters are almost exclusively men.

  11. I don't exactly 'not believe' in prayer, in that the value of concerted, directed positive intention seems to me to be... something. But in terms of directing pleas at a supposedly benevolent omnipotent patriarch in the sky who cares about *me* in particular, that is certainly not anything that makes sense to me. And I find it hard to understand how adults continue on with the naive childhood comfort to be found in 'Jesus Loves Me' - ME? Mee? In particular? It's epitomised beautifully in the idea of two football teams each praying concertedly to their one God, petitioning him to pick them, for His Glory! Pfft.

    I like a suggestion I saw on Twitter about bringing in gun regulation and offering thoughts and prayers to the people who were sad about it. Thoughts and prayers to Sad Paul Ryan. There ya go, Paul, feelin' better?

    1. Absolutely, Jo! I think what convinced me that prayer for divine intervention was a horrible idea was the realization that mothers pray for their ill children all of the time and still, they often die. Does the child who survives have a mother who is a better prayer? Hell no. And yeah- it makes me laugh when people win awards and the first thing they say is, "I thank God for this." Or Jesus. How insane to believe that a god wants a certain person to win an Oscar over another.

  12. Gun laws sure need to be changed. I have never understood why anyone opposes them, except that I'm sure it is for some reason that has nothing to do with disturbed folk killing the innocent.

    1. I don't understand either, Jenny, and it is one of our nation's greatest shames.

  13. I woke up this morning thinking of the Moon family, and have been checking back all day. My 'feeling' may be true....has King Richard made his blessed arrival???

    1. No, Catrina, he is still dancing around inside his mama. I'll let you know! Don't worry! Thank you for checking and thank you for caring.

  14. About as far as I am prepared to go is to say that I think there is some kind of intelligence at work in the universe and that almost everything in life comes down to good luck or bad luck. I simply cannot believe in a personified god who gives a shit about answering individual prayers. I always say I'll keep a good thought for someone. I don't say I'll pray for somebody. Maybe the energy of positive thought helps alter the quantum field, who the fuck knows? Maybe Jesus.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.