"If you believe," he shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die." J. M. Barrie 1860–1937


The Tinkerbell Effect and the National Day of Prayer in my way of thinking are identical. When the Disney fairy is about to die, she speaks to Peter Pan and tells him that she could get well again if children believed in fairies. Peter immediately shouted out, "If you believe," he shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die." Like Peter Pan’s plea, the National Prayer Day is little more than wishful thinking or make-believe.

Sadly, despite claims to the contrary a prayer is little more than a fervent wish that makes as much sense as clapping to keep Tinkerbelle alive. No one would ever die, if prayer had any effect as most desire heaven, but few wish to die. Based on the amount of prayers that escape into the ether, it seems the hit-rate is less than a portion of a percent. The idea of praying to an all-knowing and all-benevolent God appears as little more than whining and asking for favors.

Even a quick glance at the omniscient God makes it clear that prayers don’t help. An all-knowing and all-benevolent God surely already knows what thoughts come and go in the minds of his creations, if he doesn’t, then, he doesn’t know everything. Granting omniscience makes all prayer superfluous as an all-benevolent and knowing God already knows what is best for us and has already provided what we need. Prayer says that God doesn’t know what is best. In fact, it says we know better as we seek to change what God already ordained.

The idea of praying to overcome the laws of nature or the circle of life smells of Hollywood movies depicting tribal communities running from the thunder or chanting to the various sky gods man invented over the ages. All claims to sophistication fall on the same ground as those who believed in Zeus, Quetzalcoatl or Odin and the hundreds of other gods created by man’s attempts to find explanations for life. No one in his or her right mind believes in any of the gods listed, but manages to find truth in a god called Yahweh.

A few months ago, religious conservatives took President Barack Obama to task because he didn’t set aside a special invocation for National Prayer Day, but as the leader of the country, he was right to keep religion out of what is literally politics. All the praying done every day in the United States since its founding didn’t stop World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, presidential assassinations, 911 or the latest recession.

However, at the same time as National Prayer Day, nonreligious, freethinkers, humanists, atheists and agnostics marked the day by donating blood. The difference in the two acts is significant. If only one pint of blood made it to the Blood Bank, it took more effort and action than a prayer. Taking physical action signals determination and commitment with a tangible result while prayer is a nothing more than pretending to do something with no visible results. A rain dance has a better chance for results as during a 365 day year it will eventually drizzle.

Praying to stop the tide of nature is begging at its lowest form and a form of self-induced blindness that is as dangerous as it is silly. Each year men, women and children die because of unanswered prayers. Medical treatment often comes too late as people pray their way into dire health and die when a trip to the doctor might change everything. Going into war, preachers preach and people pray, yet, the casualties continue unabated. The poor stay poor, the blind stay blind and the amputees of the world have yet to feel prayer’s healing powers.

At best, prayer is a psychological placebo of dubious nature. For some, prayer offers an outlet, a conduit for strong emotions and hard feelings, but it is still make-believe. Occasionally, a miracle cure takes place that even scientists don’t understand, but rest assured the “miracle” has its basis in science. Polio once savaged entire populations, but the Salk vaccine made it disappear. Everyday science reveals more about the way the world operates and there is nothing supernatural about it.

With the number of faith healers that appear on television, it makes sense that human diseases and catastrophe could end if they all worked together. Benny Hinn claims to heal hundreds at a time. Pat Robertson even prayed a hurricane away from a city. With that kind of power, we should all be praying. But, no matter who stands to deliver the prayer of the day, the invocation or the blessing, when it finally boils down, prayer doesn’t work any better than wishing. 

Views: 650


You need to be a member of Atheist Nexus to add comments!

Join Atheist Nexus

Comment by Michael Penn on September 13, 2013 at 7:01am

Ah, yes. Wonderful prayer. My Christian friend admits that he talks to God every day just like the two of them are in the room together. Why is it that this is OK if you are religious, but in other situations you are given meds and have to live in a special place?

"God, if it be your will, heal this man so I'll shut up and won't rattle on and on." Hey, what happened? The guy didn't get healed. Well, I guess it wasn't God's will.

Then we have the minister with that special power of discernment explaining why the boy is in a wheel chair and can't walk or talk. God is keeping him humble and in a prepared state so he will go to Heaven. God knows that with full faculties he would be a serial killer! "Hey, mister. How do you explain Adolf Hitler?"

"Yep. Earlier I felt a heart attack coming on, but I prayed to God and I'm alright now." Just who are you trying to convince? Maybe it was indigestion.

"Oh, Lord, bless this food for the nourishment of our bodies, etc., etc." Of course food will nourish your body. Now let's add the fact that you are lucky to have found that food and you hope it's not old enough to poison you. That's more on the order of what they meant in 50 A.D. with no refrigeration.

And then there is the "chicken little" prayer. "Oh, Lord. Don't let any space junk fall on me or my house today."

Comment by Donald R Barbera on September 11, 2013 at 8:54pm
Good discussion on one of my pet peeves. So many times I've bit my tongue trying not to run off friends that tell me they'll pray for me. I want so badly to tell them to look around and acknowledge that it doesn't work, and never has worked. I get too many posts talking about how wonderfully God is from people who have suffered life's blows and think it is punishment. It is sickening. We could save a ton of money on healthcare if Christians just trusted in their prayers and what the bible says to carry them through. Eureka! I just hit on an essay idea. Are Christians hedging their bets with health insurance. It seems to be direct disrespect for god.
Comment by Grinning Cat on September 11, 2013 at 8:05pm

Makes sense, as an assertion of being in the "in-group", however much they believe in it.

If Christians really believed in the power of prayer, they wouldn't bother with health insurance!

Then again, if Christians really believed that heaven exists, and is so wonderful, and good Christians make it there, the world would be very different...

The upshot: most people don't really believe heaven exists. They really hope it exists.

Comment by Ted Foureagles on September 11, 2013 at 12:24pm


"Shop talk" -- I like that.


Comment by Ted Foureagles on September 11, 2013 at 10:55am


Was it Dennett who talked about 'belief in belief'?  Or, as Joni Mitchell sang, 'We love our lovin'.  In that sense, submission (even feigned) to Sky Chief could be seen as self-serving pleasure seeking -- perhaps gaining a sense of righteousness or, for the more cynical, brownie points.  Only a few of the Christians that I know seem to actually believe that prayer will affect an outcome.  The hope of effect seems more aimed toward their relationships with peers.  I remind them that their original preacher man told tem to pray in private, but that's not a very popular message -- probably wasn't back then either.


Comment by Loren Miller on September 11, 2013 at 9:49am

Well, submission is what a lot of religion is about, including christianity.  "Not my will but thine be done" and all that.  The question is: what happens when you submit yourself to something that doesn't exist?  That rather reminds me of the driver who set his RV on cruise control, then went in the back to make a sandwich and...!

Comment by Ted Foureagles on September 11, 2013 at 9:35am

My religious friends say that prayer is an act of submission.  Ironically, they seem quite proud of that!


© 2019   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: The Nexus Group.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service