When I started questioning my cultural beliefs (Christianity), something started to happened. It was as though my brain was thawing out — as though a fog was lifting. There’s a neurological explanation for this: a reactivation of neural circuitry associated with critical assessment. Deactivation of this specific circuitry is associated with attachment.
Reality slapped me in the face. For quite sometime I felt ashamed. Why?
I’ll elaborate shortly.
Having experience the impact of several major hurricanes, I know the agony of waiting 3 weeks before getting word that my siblings and mother survived a category 5 hurricane. I know what it’s like to evacuate with a baby — what it’s like to go without power for weeks (with a baby) — what death smells like in unrelenting 95 degree (35 Celsius) heat — what it’s like when a hurricane obliterates your hometown — not just once, but twice.
The point of mentioning this is to inform readers that in times of overwhelming uncertainty — in times of crisis, I understand why people find ways to cope and cling to hope. The world can be frightening sometimes.
Aside from offering comfort, prayer is often seen as virtuous. Let’s remove the sugar-coating.
Prayer is self-comforting and ritualistic talisman-wielding
Disasters often bring out the best in humanity, but they can also bring out the worst. The internet was plagued with wealthy evangelical
charlatans leaders claiming that Hurricanes’ Harvey and Irma were the result of their god’s judgement.
Others were so
full of themselves confident in the power of their prayers that dozens gathered on the beach in Jacksonville, FL to command Hurricane Irma to go back out to sea.
“We’re gonna put this storm to sea — no fear”
“The prayer service was complete with hymns and Bible passages. Participants made sure that social media shared the message with the entire city.” Source
Florida Gov. Rick Scott: ‘The biggest thing right now is pray for us.”
What was especially disappointing was when seemingly caring believers failed to see how insensitive they were to others not so fortunate.
Hurricane Irma decimated several islands in the Caribbean, and also did significant damage across 3 U.S. states. The storm took at least 68 lives, and around 200 people are still missing. The situation has become dire in parts of the Caribbean. The cost of the storm will be astronomical.
“The damage is complete,” says Ambassador Ronald Sanders, who has served as Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S. since 2015. “For the first time in 300 years, there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.” Source
In the midst of great suffering, social media was slathered in comments like this:
“It seems to us humbler to defer to the laws of nature and work within them than to try pulling strings to change them when we really want something.
Besides if what you pray for really is virtuous and God, working in mysterious ways, was ultimately beneficent, it seems pretty arrogant to feel like you have to give his omniscience a heads up on an opportunity to do the right thing.
If God is benevolent, does He need you to say “God, please make good things happen.”?