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Don’t Pray For Japan

by irreligiously on March 12th, 2011

Yesterday, as the world reeled from the news coming out of Japan the hashtag #prayforjapan started to trend on Twitter. All over the world, people thought they were helping the situation by telling their imaginary friend what was going on.

Of course, they weren’t helping the situation at all. They were just making themselves feel better.

There are two ways to look at this. We can take a scientific approach or the religious approach. Let’s disconnect our brains for a while and take the religious route.

The first thing to realise is that this disaster is, of course, an Act of God. So sending up a quick prayer to tell him about it is a complete waste of time. He already knows. He did it. It’s one of his Mysterious Ways. Ok, perhaps you don’t believe that. Perhaps you think disasters like this are the work of the devil and perhaps God couldn’t prevent it (but what about omnipotence?) But even if he didn’t cause it, do you really think that he hasn’t spotted it by now? Is your prayer really going to be the one that makes him think, “Oh, better do something about that”.

No, you’re going to have to accept that the earthquake either happened because God wanted it to or, at the very least, he knows it has happened and nothing you can do it going to make him more aware of it.

The scientific approach is a bit simpler. We know that prayer is completely ineffectual. And we don’t just know that because, well, it’s obvious after a moments thought that talking to a non-existent entity is never going to achieve anything useful. No, we also know it because people have actually taken the time to investigate prayer scientifically. Time and time again experiments on  the effect of prayer have clearly demonstrated that it does nothing.

So having established that prayer won’t actually do anything useful for Japan at this point there are two other possible effects that prayer might have. It might have a beneficial effect on either the person praying or the person who is being prayed for. Let’s take those in reverse order.

Clearly for the person be prayed for to be affected in any way, he or she needs to know that the prayer exists. And in Japan at the moment the people most in need of help are probably not keeping up with Twitter as much as we’d like them to. Therefore they don’t know that the prayers are taking place and the prayers can’t do them any good whatsoever.

All of which leads us, inevitably, to the conclusion that the only person guaranteed to benefit from  the prayer is the person doing the praying. By praying for someone, you’re obviously showing concern for their plight. But that’s all you’re doing. You’re not doing anything constructive at all. You can have exactly the same effect by saying “I’m thinking of them”. No need to involve any imaginary friends. People say “but it’s better than doing nothing”. But it’s not. It’s exactly the same as doing nothing.

As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve seen that the Red Cross have started to collect funds for a Japan Tsumani Appeal. Rather than wasting time and effort praying, put your hand in your wallet and give them what they need. Give them some money.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pray if it makes you feel better. But realise that’s all it does. And do something useful as well.

From → Prayer

One Comment
  1. Tommie permalink

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