Hemant Mehta is a Gnu activist who tries to sell himself as the “friendly” (wink, wink) atheist. Yet, on the NYT website, the Friendly Atheist recently argued that prayer is a delusion:
I have no problem with “prayer” as an act of meditation. In fact, many atheists can tell you the benefit of silent self-reflection. The delusion occurs when you think someone else is hearing your thoughts and acting on them.
I’m not sure how the Gnu gknowes this, but of course, it’s not just a delusion – it’s a harmful delusion:
This is not harmless. There’s a very real downside to praying. It lulls believers into a false sense of accomplishment. We cannot solve our problems – much less the world’s – through prayer. We often see people with good intentions praying for victims in the wake of a tragedy, but prayer is useless without action, and those actions make the prayers irrelevant. To paraphrase the great Robert Green Ingersoll, hands that help are far better than lips that pray.
Hmmm. The Friendly Atheist does not support his claims of “a very real downside” with very real evidence. Instead, we get clichés and a quote from an old “great” atheist. Standard operating procedure for New Atheists, as they never seem to practice what they preach.
Has it ever occurred to Mehta that people who spend more time praying might be the same people who spend more time acting?
Putnam and Campbell unveiled some of their research at a recent conference in Key West, Fla., hosted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The scholars say their studies found that religious people are three to four times more likely to be involved in their community. They are more apt than nonreligious Americans to work on community projects, belong to voluntary associations, attend public meetings, vote in local elections, attend protest demonstrations and political rallies, and donate time and money to causes — including secular ones. At the same time, Putnam and Campbell say their data show that religious people are just “nicer”: they carry packages for people, don’t mind folks cutting ahead in line and give money to panhandlers. The scholars say the link between religion and civic activism is causal, since they observed that people who hadn’t attended church became more engaged after they did. – Pewforum.org
Oh well, I suppose evidence like that does not fit into the dark picture the “Friendly” Atheist is trying to peddle to the masses. Stick with a quote from an old, dead Gnu.
What’s more, I don’t think the Friendly Atheist understands the essence of prayer. Found this in the comments section of that NYT article:
Prayer isn’t a vain attempt to feel in control. Rather, prayer is a tacit admission that one isn’t in control.
Yep. Prayer is a time when someone actually tries to become honest with himself. Maybe one of the reasons so many atheists can become so consistently obnoxious is that they never take the time to be honest with themselves. I guess that’s the “very real downside” to not praying.