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Prayer Isn’t As Harmless As You Think

When I was a kid, my family moved halfway across the world and I found myself knee-deep in a strange culture where the locals spoke a language I had never even heard before. It was by far the most defining time in my life, but also the most difficult. It’s in moments like that where I found myself under the open sky, shouting at the heavens, cursing a God I had never believed in. Some days, I was too tired to yell. Instead I would plead on my hands and knees for an explanation. A sign. Some reassurance that I had not truly lost everything that would ever matter to me. It was exhausting. That’s when I started to think that maybe prayer wasn’t as harmless as I’d thought.

Prayer is to man what dolls are to children. They are not without use and comfort, but it’s not easy to take them very seriously.

Samuel Butler

I wanted to believe that there was a reason for all of this happening. I wanted nothing more than for God to step down from the heavens and put his hand on my shoulder. He’d tell me it’s going to be alright. Maybe he would send me home, where I felt I belonged.

monk holding prayer beads across mountain
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God Never Answered When I Called Out to Him

Looking back, I can recognise the feeling of entitlement. I really felt like the world was unfairly stacked against me. When you’re young, your whole world consists of your hometown, your family and your friends. Losing any part of that can feel like a fate worse than death.

God began to take shape in my mind as a scapegoat for all my misery and confusion. Some christians might say I never truly believed, or I never accepted Jesus Christ into my heart, and that’s why God never answered my prayers. Others point out that I myself claim to be happier now that I don’t live in the U.S. anymore. ‘It was God’s plan all along.’

I absolutely hate this sentiment. I pleaded to God in a moment of desperation. But God never answered when I called out to him. It was me, taking responsibility for my own happiness, that pushed me through those early years. God didn’t teach me the language, or help me overcome my fears. God didn’t console me when I was overwhelmed with the world. The idea that that’s somehow my fault for not believing in him is infuriating.

Worship is Anything but Harmless

Worship is by nature an act of submission. But it’s even worse than that. Worship in a God is submission to something that one has no good reason to believe exists. One’s belief in a God may truly be harmless in a sense, but devoting your life to a non-existant cause is an exercise in futility.

What the mind doesn’t understand, it worships or fears.

Alice Walker

We know not to worship kings or cult leaders or celebrities because they’re only human. God’s exemption from this judgment relies on him being more than human. But you can’t attribute the source of morality to a God and then expect people to praise him for being so moral. By the very definition of God, he is moral no matter what he does. But if that’s the case, what good do prayer and worship do? Inflate the infallable God’s ego? Put us in our place? I don’t know. Theists don’t seem to care. Somewhere along the line, they were forced to make a decision. A choice between what they really want in life and what their God apparently wants for them – but the truth is, if you really believe in a God, then you might feel like you don’t have a choice at all.

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