Monday, May 27, 2013

Ricky Gervais in trouble?

I don't get that "pray for Oklahoma" stuff. I can't imagine how that would make sense even if I believed in a god.

Isn't that just a way to do nothing, while making yourself feel good? At least if you send money, you're helping.

And it's not just that your god, supposedly, sent the tornado. At the very least, he didn't prevent it - or shield his believers from damage. So what are your prayers supposed to do now?

Will an uncaring god be persuaded to actually help people if he gets enough petitions from his worshipers? Are you going to change his mind by doing that? What about the 'divine plan'? What about your god's omniscience? He already knows what he's going to do, doesn't he? So how are you going to change his mind?

Prayer seems to be a leftover from earlier gods who weren't so nice. You had to keep your god happy, so he wouldn't do nasty things to you. And you had to petition him for favors, because he wouldn't be inclined to do them otherwise.

But the Christian god is supposed to be good. So why do you need to ask for favors. And, unlike those earlier gods, he's supposed to be omniscient. So you can't fool him with prayers, and you can't tempt him with sweet sacrifices. So how does praying for storm victims make any sense at all?

Plus, of course, it doesn't work. It might make you feel good, but independent research has shown no result from prayers. In fact, if prayer did work, we wouldn't have science, since the results of actions would be so arbitrary, depending on who prayed for what - or, at least, depending on what 'God' decided to do at any one time.

Anyway, if you want to do something worthwhile, you might look at the Humanist Charities' Rebecca Vitsmun Fund. Rebecca Vitsmun is the atheist in this video clip with Wolf Blitzer. Standing in front of the wreckage of her house, she clearly could use our help. And she was quite impressive in that clip, don't you think?

Note that I would not support atheist charities which would help only atheists (or humanist charities which would help only humanists). There are atheist and humanist charities which help anyone in need, though most atheists just give to the Red Cross (which, despite the name, is secular).

But this fund is just a matter of helping an individual who caught our attention. She's an atheist, yes, and that's one reason why atheists are wanting to help her. But it's not a matter of just helping any atheist, or refusing to help any believer.

Rebecca Vitsmun is an appealing person who needs our help. But feel free to give to the Red Cross, or any other disaster relief fund, instead, if you want to spread the help around. Or give to both. :)

Human beings are... fickle when it comes to charity. We tend to donate not when the need is greatest, necessarily, but when something or someone catches our attention. That's not a bad thing, it's just human nature. But it's one reason why we need the government to provide a social safety net.

Private charity, then, can be just a little extra help, when we want to feel good by doing good.


AJ said...

This is one of my brother's reply whenever anyone says "I'll pray for you" or her or whatever. "No thank you, why don't you try doing something useful."

Of course, he doesn't usually say this to little old ladies and such, but people his age or younger (55), most definitely.

jeff725 said...

"What about the 'divine plan?'" Well done, WCG. You remember your George Carlin.

Don't forget, Pat Robertson said the Oklahoma tornado happened because the victims didn't pray ENOUGH.

One more thing; what are your thoughts on the insurance industry referring to such natural disasters as an "act of God?" If you read you auto or homeowners policy, it's probably listed in there.

WCG said...

Your brother is absolutely right, Ann. But believe it or not, I'm not so eager to take offense in personal conversations. I usually figure they mean well, however ridiculous it seems to me.

And intent matters, I'd say. Admittedly, I might be giving some people too much credit. :)

WCG said...

Yup, I was thinking of George Carlin when I said that, Jeff. :)

Pat Robertson,... well, I'd say he's lost it, but as far as I can tell, he's always been that crazy. Of course, if contradictions bothered those people, they wouldn't be religious nuts in the first place.

Finally, what are my thoughts about the insurance industry? That's a broad topic. :) If you mean the term, "act of God," I accept it as a recognized legal fiction.

If you mean denying coverage for such events, that's a way for an insurance company to protect itself. It's understandable that they should want to do so, since their goal is to stay solvent (and usually to make a profit).

But if we let insurance companies off the hook in such cases, we need to have the government covering such disasters. This is not something the individual should just have to suffer. (That is, after all, the whole point of insurance - and maybe the whole point of the social contract.)