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Fun with church signs

Occasionally, I see a church sign that just begs to be addressed. A local church recently changed their sign to read:

Time well spent is time spent in prayer.

I know that the idea that a god listens to (and answers) prayers is something that is foundational to many peoples’ religious beliefs. Hearing the phrases “I’ll pray for you” or “You’ll be in my prayers” is an all-too-common occurrence. To an atheist, it sounds even worse when someone asks “Please pray for my friend” or “Your prayers would be appreciated.”

Prayer - How to do nothing and still think you're helping Not only do I feel that the person asking me to pray is engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking, but he’s asking me to participate in his do-nothing fantasy world as well… in the belief that clasping my hands together and wishing really, really hard is going to make any difference to his situation.

Prayer is contradictory to some pretty basic Christian beliefs, too. Another common phrase that is heard from religious folks is “God has a plan” or “God will show me the way.” Their god is supposedly all-powerful, as well… omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. So… wouldn’t he already know what they want? If that god has a plan, won’t his plan play out as he designed it… with our without their prayers?

Prayer is an attempt to change the will of a god. Doesn’t that seem a bit egotistical on the part of the person praying? On one hand, believers will say their god is mighty, loving, benevolent, and all-knowing… but they’ll turn around and try to tell him something, anyway… as if he doesn’t already know… as if they can change his mind.

I suppose some might simply pray their adoration for their god instead of asking for his assistance. That doesn’t seem to be quite as ego-centric, but it does seem to be just as irrelevant. And really, if some almighty god really gets off on his subjects repeatedly telling him how awesome he is, isn’t that just petty and vain?

I think prayer is one of the religious concepts that believers don’t think about very much. They just do it. Thinking about it would “break the spell,” as Daniel Dennett would say. If the practice is examined too closely, it falls apart into a chaotic pile of contradictions, pettiness, and wasted time.

I propose fixing the church sign by replacing “well spent” with “wasted.” It would be far more accurate and might actually encourage congregation members to raise their heads, get off their knees, unclasp their hands, and instead of simply wishing for a situation to improve (thereby doing nothing), take action to improve the situation.

Now that would be time well spent.

2 Comments

  1. Bob Carlson says:

    Amen. 🙂

  2. Joe Agnost says:

    Nice… I couldn’t agree more!

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