I ran across a couple of stories today that deal with the folly and the uselessness of prayer. One is fairly silly and at least won't get anybody hurt. The other is deadly serious and shows the damage that can be done when people get too wrapped up in the idea that some unforeseen sky king is taking their personal calls.
The silly one comes from - where else? - San Francisco, where a minister has organized a prayer service for cheaper gas (via DftCW):
Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.And why has it come to this?
Twyman - a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs - staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.
'God is the only one we can turn to at this point,' said Twyman, 59. 'Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring.'Gee, if I didn't know better, I'd say Twyman sounds a little "bitter" and that he's "clinging" to his religion as a result. But I don't want to sound elitist, or anything!
Twyman's stunt will probably be about as effective as the Atlanta prayer circle for rain last year (i.e., not at all), but at least it isn't likely to get anyone hurt, unless is distracts a passing driver.
On the other hand, what Dale and Leilani Neuman did with their prayer strategy was to get a young girl killed (via Pharyngula):
Even as her 11-year-old daughter lay dying on a mattress on the floor of the family dining room on Easter Sunday, Leilani Neumann never wavered in her belief in the power of prayer.The Neumans have been charged with 2nd degree reckless homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in Wisconsin. It certainly sounds like they deserve it:
'We just thought it was a spiritual attack and we prayed for her,' Neumann said, according to a police report. 'My husband, Dale, was crying and mentioned taking Kara to the doctor, and I said the Lord's going to heal her and we continued to pray.'
Prayer didn't save Madeline Kara Neumann, who died of untreated diabetes March 23.
Prosecutors said they looked at the 'progression of the illness' as they weighed charges in the case.Even the parents' description of events is incriminating:
'By that Saturday (the day before the girl's death) you had an 11-year-old child who wasn't eating, so she wasn't getting any nourishment, she wasn't taking in any fluids, she wasn't walking, she was struggling to get to the bathroom,' Falstad said. 'She really was very vulnerable and helpless. And it seemed apparent that everybody knew that. As her illness progressed to the next morning being comatose . . . it just is very, very surprising, shocking that she wasn't allowed medical prevention (attention).
'She had a disease that was treatable and her death could have been prevented,' Falstad said.
Dale Neumann said on the Friday before his daughter died he noticed she was 'a little more tired,' but that she ate a McDonald's meal without any problems. By Saturday he noted the girl 'seemed to act like she had a fever' while her breathing seemed a little labored.You know, if I couldn't get me laptop out of "sleep mode," I'd call the fucking Geek Squad, not sit around like Pooh and think really hard about it! What's even more chilling is that Dale doesn't appear to get it:
Meanwhile, Leilani Neumann told police that by Saturday, 'Kara was laying on the couch. Her legs looked skinny and blue. I didn't realize how skinny she was. We took her to my bed where I got her warm. I thought it was a spiritual attack. We stayed by her side nonstop and we prayed.
'I asked Kara if she loved Jesus and she shook her head yes.'
Later Saturday, 'Kara got up to go to the bathroom and fell off the toilet,' Leilani Neumann told police.
Dale Neumann told police he thought his daughter was getting better on Sunday but that at one point he tried to sit her up but she was unable to remain up.
The investigator said he used the term 'unconscious' to describe the girl's condition, according to the report, while Dale Neumann 'preferred to say that she was 'in sleep mode.' '
Dale Neumann told investigators that 'given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,' according to the interview statement.Thankfully, the Neumans' other three children no longer live with them. The article raises the possibility that Wisconsin law might provide some sort of religious exemption to child abuse charges. I'd be willing to be that's not the case, at least if the Supreme Court has anything to say about it:
The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death [. . .] Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.In other words - you adults are welcome to your own deluded dogma, but don't mess up your kids in the process.
Last week, in a comment to this big religion post over at jedi jawa's place, Red said:
You can't honestly tell me that you believe that not eating meat on Friday is akin to forcing a girl to marry at age 12.My response (basically) was that what's important in comparing the two isn't the end result, but why you get to that result (i.e., 'cause God said so). Similarly, it's tempting to look at these two examples of prayer gone wild and say they're not comparable. And, when it comes to result, they're not. But in intent, they're exactly the same. They both call upon a unseen nonexistent force to intervene in your life. There's no proof it works and demonstrative proof that it doesn't work (i.e., your daughter dies a slow horrible death), yet it doesn't change your opinion of its efficacy.
If I had an imaginary friend that I asked to do things for me over and over again without any return, I'd be committed. But if I call him "God," it's all OK. Well, it's not OK, especially when people get hurt as a result.