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National Prayer Day

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) --

My letter-to-the-editor, printed below, was published in a local weekly on May 5th. A useful lesson here is that an editor may print a pretty harsh letter, if it is leavened with a bit of humor. It worked this time, anyway.

National Prayer Day

Well it’s nearly that time again. Thursday, May 6, is National Prayer Day and I have to make that decision again about which god to pray to. Sure, you can laugh, but it isn’t an easy decision. There is a web site which lists over 8,000 major and minor gods that man has prayed to through the ages, though most are long forgotten now. But I think I may go with a more modern god this year, or maybe just a prophet or a saint.

According to the May 2010 National Geographic magazine, a number of new saints are garnering large followings in Mexico, and among Hispanics in the US. La Santa Muerte, or “Holy Death,” is perhaps the most popular. She resembles medieval representations of the grim reaper, generally taking the form of a cloaked skeleton. Actually, there are at least several dozen different gods and saints worshiped in America today. There are just way too many choices.

I don’t really understand why my government wants me to pray, anyway. If we Americans are praying to several dozen different gods and saints, it is a dead certainty that most (or all) of them aren’t real. So how many of those prayers are merely someone talking to himself?

Perhaps more importantly, there is some impressive scientific evidence that prayer doesn’t work. The best known recent study, the Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP), was conducted under the auspices of Harvard Medical School (2006). It was a carefully designed double-blind experiment which showed no positive benefit from prayer. That was four years ago, doesn’t the government know about it yet?

Hopefully, this will be the last time I have to make this decision. Last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic. And this part was kind of funny; “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.” If religion wasn’t so privileged in this country, the government would have figured that out long ago.

In her decision, however, Judge Crabb allowed Prayer Day to continue until all appeals are exhausted. That’s why we’re having it again this year.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll just skip it this time. It does seem a bit presumptuous to think my little prayer would be answered when all those children’s prayers couldn’t stop their clergy abusers.