I firmly believe people are well intentioned. We really want to be good and do the right thing. One thing that helps to guide us through life are our beliefs: Who is in charge? What does this all mean? Why are we here?
It is a faith in our own answers to these questions that guides us through decisions in what to do with our life. It also acts as a filter on our experiences that colors our perception of those experiences. We’re stubborn creatures, and we’re particularly good at attributing the cause of an event to make it fit within our personal faith structure.
- "Haitians made a pact with the devil, therefore there was a giant earthquake there."
- "You insulted a man last month so Karma is paying you back with financial woes."
- "I helped an old woman cross the street, so God is rewarding me with this job promotion."
- "We prayed that the police would find that girl, and they did. Prayer works!"
A particularly interesting faith-based behavior I’ve taken note of lately is that of the last example – prayer. I can fully get behind the “let’s stay on the righteous path” or “rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub” kind of prayer, but I have issues with prayer whose intent is to actually affect change in the world. This hits the point of the title of this post – do practitioners of this type of prayer really think that God is a democracy?
For example, I have a friend who was traveling. She asked her friends on Facebook to pray for a safe flight.
Really? So without your friends begging for your safe passage over the Pacific, God would smoteth that 757 deep into thine salty waters in a ball of hellfire? Do rational people actually believe that this is how their all powerful God works?
Another example is praying for a diseased person to be well again. I’m all for lending support to people or families going through difficult times, and donating to organizations who are advancing the science of wellness. But again – without your votes of prayer, God will decide that not enough people care about this sick person’s well being and let them wither away in a hospital bed? Or that now more than ten people have gathered in a circle in a church basement, joined hands, and asked for the sick to be healed (visual: blue beams of light emanating from each person’s head rising to the heavens in a majestic column of Want), so he is now obligated to banish the tumor from the sick person’s brain. Really?
If there is an all powerful supreme being sitting on a cloud somewhere with angels brushing his golden beard, I think the last thing he will do is to run his universe as an episode of American Idol, with only the most voted-on causes moving on to the next round and everything else getting booted from the show.