I don’t think that religion is a mass delusion at all, but I’ve come to the conclusion that prayer can be… particularly as a way to “fix” something or to get what you want.
Not that there’s anything wrong with it, in an of itself. I’ll never turn down someone’s prayers. By all means, the more people who pray for what I need or want, the better. But I do think it’s dangerous for Christians to preach that prayer works, and that God answers us. I just don’t think that’s the case, and the pretense that it does work is only going to lead to disappointment, doubt, and self-loathing in poor unfortunate souls all over the world.
It’s true that miracles happen every day. Cancer disappears, accidents are survived, lost pets come home, and the weather clears up just in time for someone’s birthday party at the pool.
On the flip side, cancer kills, accidents destroy lives, pets die, and the storm ruins your party.
The kicker for me, of course, is that these things happen to people regardless of whether or not you prayed for it, and regardless of faith. They happen to Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, and Atheists. I wish we’d think twice before telling people to turn to prayer to solve their problems. How then do we explain when things go wrong?
What is the little girl praying for her lost dog going to think when he never comes home? What is the person praying his cancer is healed going to think when the cynic next to him is healed, but he is not?
They’re going to think they did something wrong. That God maybe doesn’t love them as much. That perhaps their prayers aren’t good enough, or that they are not Christian enough. In a way, it’s a form of victim-blaming to tell a person that their prayers or thought philosophies (like the famed Secret) will cure them, or prevent harm from coming their way.
We all know there are countless factors that go into why or why not something happens – and countless more that will forever remain a mystery. We aren’t meant to know why things happen, but I understand that’s a tough concept for people to embrace.
I pray all the time. I chat with God, vent to God, and yes, I ask God to help me. But I certainly don’t expect Him to. And who can blame him? Life isn’t supposed to be sunshine and roses. But every time someone tells me (or a vulnerable congregation) to surrender my problems to the Lord and pray them away, I cringe. I’ve never been a fan of the Church building up false expectations in people… but then again, I tend to have a “prepare for the worst” mentality these days…