Tag Archives: prayer

Professionals Praying

For business news, Inc.com is usually a pretty reliable source of good information and insight. Kevin Daum’s recent article about “The Power of Prayer for Business” was quite the exception.

I have certainly witnessed on many occasions the following prayers by people I know:

• Praying to close that big deal.
• Praying to make payroll at the end of the month.
• Praying that your expensive new marketing campaign will work.
• Praying your employees will get it right this time.
• Praying your client won’t see the big mistake you made.
• Praying that something not so good happens to your competitors.

But real prayer is about focus and discipline, traits that have great relevance to daily business performance.

I know – Daum is trying to tell us what constitutes “real” prayer. Ironic, funny – but not fit for a serious business publication. But here’s the kicker – Daum encourages readers to “Be Thankful” and to “Be Humble,” but then floats this idea:

3. Be Hopeful

There is nothing wrong or selfish about asking the universe for good things to come your way. Prayer connects you with powerful forces to improve your life. But recognize that the universe is not Santa Claus. Ask for that which you are ready to be worthy and deserving.

So close, and yet so far. Prayer connects you with nothing but your own thoughts. And it seems like Daum is on the verge of recognizing this, but then he returns to this petty, self-important idea that the universe/God owes him something. Daum may feel he is worthy and deserving of some cosmic gift-giving, but the universe continues with indifference to his pleas and prayers.

Daum closes the article this way:

Just find 10 minutes a day by yourself to focus your soul and be at one with the universe.

Taking time each day to focus and center yourself is a good idea. But like virtually everything else in Daum’s vacuous article, it can be applied in a secular way. You don’t need to believe in nonsense to be humble, thankful, hopeful or mindful (and to be fair, Daum does acknowledge this). It just goes to show that the only good things ever produced by religion can be achieved in a completely secular way.

Dump the mystical fluff – it’s time to move forward.

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Sam Harris Responds to Critics

Sam Harris

Image credit: Wikipedia commons

Let me start by apologizing for my irregular posting as of late. This weekend I was at a conference in Albuquerque and had zero time for blogging; and as the semester (my final semester of college!) comes to a close, I’m finding myself with less and less time for blogging.

Be that as it may, I’m going to commit myself to making time to blog. I really love blogging (and communicating with you readers), so I can’t think of a worthy excuse for not engaging more consistently.

Today I mostly just want to direct you to read Sam Harris’ most recent blog post, which addresses the complaints of his critics. The post is outlandishly long, but necessarily so. Harris has been criticized for his views (or the views people attribute to him) on Islam, torture, war, airport profiling, and Buddhism – and he addresses each of these concerns comprehensively.

I have already formed my own opinion about his rebuttal, but I’m interested to hear how others have responded as well. Harris is undoubtedly an exceptional and entertaining writer, and I enjoy reading what he has to say whether or not I agree with it. He is a controversial figure in atheist discourse – this new post will do nothing to change that.

Please read what he has to say entirely, then leave your comments here if you so choose. I’m eager to hear the verdict.

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Forcing the Issue

Sarah Chantal Parro, blogger at Evangelical Outpost, has a solution for the inherit monotony of religion: Just force it.

Do you ever feel too tired, or too busy, or too lazy to pray? Do you sometimes feel like you’d rather sleep in than go to church? Or do you ever find that you’re in church, but your heart really isn’t? I am guilty on all counts. For whatever reason, my personal spirituality is the most difficult for me to maintain.

Might it be that deep down she sees the pointlessness of it all?

When it comes to most important things in life, I think “easy” is overrated; at least, I think it’s dangerous to believe that if something is right or worth doing it will always be easy.

What Parro doesn’t seem to realize is that religion is the easy path to take. Life is wrought with difficult questions – some that we may never be able to answer. Filling in those gaps with a convenient invisible solution is just plain lazy. If Parro isn’t finding fulfillment in the mundane routine of a religious life, I’d suggest thinking outside the church for answers.

Parro continues:

My husband once put it this way: “I have to remind myself that when I don’t want to pray, that’s the part of me that wants to go to hell.”

I think we’ve found the root of poor Parro’s problems. Nothing motivates a person to repeat that which they might otherwise question like the threat of physical torment. And that is precisely the service that the concept of Hell offers. “Sure, tithing and praying and attending church and fasting seems pretty silly to a rational adult, but remember that if you forget to do any of these things you will burn for eternity.”

I hope that one day Parro stops beating the dead horse of her faith, but such is the destiny of the person who refuses to think independently.

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God and Sports

It looks like God is a betting man. At least, this is the logical conclusion one might come to based on a recent survey that revealed how many Americans actually believe the almighty plays a role in the outcome of sporting events…

Asked if they believe God plays a role in who wins, 27% of Americans said yes.

And here I was worrying about the number who believe in creationism. These are people who literally believe some all-powerful being, master and creator of the universe, gives a very serious shit about which team wins a game on a spec of dust floating through the universe. It’s not just infuriating; it’s really telling about why this country has such a god problem.

I would really love (and by love I mean hate) to have a conversation with these people. I’d ask questions like: How does your lord pick a side? Why does he hate other teams? Why does he keep changing his mind? Is he a bandwagoner? Are you crazy?

Listen, I get it: if your god is omnipotent, obviously he has control over even the minutest of details, including whether the rather shady Ray Lewis gets a trophy in his final season.

And sure, a lot of Christians believe in a very personal god, one who interacts with and/or controls their petty lives. So perhaps this survey isn’t that revealing. But come on! Isn’t it just a bit silly to believe in any of that? Doesn’t it make more sense that the outcomes of games are determined not by some sky monster pulling strings but by some athletes outperforming others?

Finally, if this sports-loving god does exist, shouldn’t there be some outrage on behalf of the folks who have been swindled into worshipping him? If Kurt Warner’s success has somehow trumped the needs of the world’s desolate and despondent, shouldn’t believers be really pissed off at his priorities.

I don’t believe in any sort of entity that is responsible for the joy and despair of humans; but if I did, I’d be mad as hell.

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“Heaven Just Gained Another Angel”

Posting from my phone here, so I’ll make this one brief.

We see this saying a lot when people die (which has been painfully frequently as of late). To me it’s a curious statement…one I find desperately hypocritical.

Here’s the thing: in life, we are quick to pass judgement on our fellow humans. Nobody is ever good enough. This behavior is hyperactive in religion; especially in religions for which faith is the utmost of human virtues.

These religious people are constantly told (and telling each other) that nothing that they do is good enough. No amount of charity or goodwill can save them from the wrath of their god unless they truly believe.

Often, their criteria for belief is abnormally strict. You have to believe the right way. People of different faiths are eager to condemn those who don’t share their viewpoints, even when these people are their friends.

I’ve asked a few of my religious friends what they think will happen to me when I die. Many of them don’t shy away from responding that I’ll likely end up in Hell unless I redeem myself through faith. They also don’t balk at the idea of their friends of separate faiths spending eternity in the grips of Satan.

So why are they so sure that the recently deceased are in Heaven? After so much doubt and condemnation during the living hours, why are the religious so quick to confidently predict the whereabouts of the departed?

To me, this demonstrates the real purpose religion serves for most people. It’s a matter of comfort and convenience rather than a conviction of knowledge. Religious belief, like many beliefs concocted by our complex brains, serves to make sense of what is around us in a way our brains can manage.

Religion is not the result of divine inspiration or divine revelation; it is the trickery of our brains as they try to appease their foolish possessors.

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Why Do We Keep Offering Unanswered Prayers?

The following essay is a guest post from an atheist mother in response to the massacre in Connecticut on December 14, 2012.

“Some of God’s greatest gifts…are unanswered prayers…” sang country singer, Garth Brooks. It sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it?

Why do we keep praying to a god that obviously has no interest in us-or more accurately, probably does not exist at all? My theory is that we do it because we feel we have nothing else to offer. The danger being that we start to believe it and prayer is all we do. Prayer will not change the incidents of December 14 or the days before or the days to come. Action might. At least action has a fighting chance. Continue to pray if it helps you in some small way, but do not stop there. Unless you are so egotistical to believe that your desires are more important than others’ desires, that your prayers somehow deserve the attention of some deity that the other prayers obviously did not, DO SOMETHING MORE THAN PRAY.

Why do we offer prayers for the families whose children were murdered? Do we not, as parents, know that every god believer in the group had spent every day – no every moment – since the birth of their children praying for their well-being, just as each of us who are parents would have done? I know I did. I spent hours in conversation with a “god” in desperate plea that my children would be safe, happy, healthy, not to mention joyous and compassionate.

Why should your prayer for these parents be any more effective than all the prayers those parents made for all those years? Were they praying to the wrong god? Do you pray to the right one? Please do not even attempt to tell me that God loves each of us more than our own parents. BULL SHIT! Don’t even try to compare your god’s love with my parents’ love or the love I have for my children. I guarantee you that either of my parents, being in the building as God was supposedly, would have stopped that idiot shooter or died trying to save me or any other child. No force on earth could have stopped me from getting in between a shooter and one of my children…where was your god?

Do not tell me that we cannot know God’s will. God gets let off the hook time and time again using this ridiculous claim. If it was “God’s will” that those children were gunned down, then what the fuck are we doing worshipping such a god?

Then comes, “…but god gave man free-will…” You might be right- we might have free-will, but that makes any god ineffective, no longer omnipotent. What then is “god”? If you claim God is omnipresent, then I repeat, where was your god? Omniscient? Then God should have known not to give us freewill.

If you live in fear of eternal damnation, then when the time comes to decide to obey God on your appointment to hell, just use your all-powerful free will and choose not to accept.  In the meantime, continue to pray if you must, but do not stop there. It is dangerous to believe prayer is all we can do. Prayer will not change the incidents of yesterday or the days before or the days to come. Action might.

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