Greetings. You may have noticed that things have slowed down around here. I missed last week's Fallacy Friday, and I believe we'll skip the coming one as well. No, I'm not going away...the theists haven't won yet! Things have gotten a little off-balance around home and work, but I will try to post at least every week or so. As I alluded to in my first post, I can't always be certain when I'll get the time to rant about the idiocies and atrocities of religion, but I'll do my best.
Tis the season for the "holy-days" (Halloween having past, Thanksgiving and Christmas coming soon), and while I'll be taking more time off for friends and family, I will attempt to provide appropriate posts on these and other festivities as the need arises. If I can't, be sure to check my friends on the blogroll to the right. I'm sure they'll have some great things for the holiday season.
With all that out of the way, let's get down to business. As usual, something in my personal life will spur the need to rant, and so is the case for this post. Time to bitch about the efficacy of prayer!
Better authors (and scientific researchers) than I have refuted the idea, process, and need for prayer, and I'm almost not sure how to best go about it. But this isn't a book or a news article; it's a weblog about what it's like being the one fish in the pond who does not believe as the other fish do. So I won't spend time rehashing their books; I'll focus this blurb on family prayer, particularly that which arises around holiday gatherings and the saying of "grace".
Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Cornbread
If you've ever gone over to a relative's house and gotten into a situation where you had to hold hands in a circle while someone said a prayer, what did you do? If you're a nonbeliever like me, you might agree to hold the hands of the people next to you, depending on how close you are with your kinfolks and the level of "outness" you may have with them. I'm often respectful of my kin and elders--not necessarily their ideas--but just placating for the time.
I don't close my eyes or pray. Instead, I usually find myself looking around at the other people in the circle, their eyes squeezed shut as they nod in agreement with the redundant utterings of the group leader. My thoughts are concentrated on the goings on at the present time; I could chose to think of whatever I want (focus on the food we're about to eat, think about the last episode of Heroes I watched, or ponder the thought processes of the ant scurrying across the floor). But I find myself being respectful in thought as well. That doesn't mean I think about how wonderful Jesus is for letting us buy a ham, or praise the Great Spirit of the pig that gave up its life so that we may eat of it.
No, I think about the people in the circle. I study their actions, the language of their body, and the words they use as they talk to themselves. It's more of a people-watching exercise; I get to study humans in the act of worship. Of course I'll often think of something amusing, and I'll have to try to keep from laughing out loud. Sometimes it's because of what the leader says, sometimes it's the blatant fallacy they use, or the general idea of it. I don't say 'Amen' after the sweaty cousin finally lets go of my left hand, and I don't feel a sense of pride of being part of a family that prays together.
So why do I even do it? Why don't I just speak up and call out the ridiculousness of the whole thing, or just refuse to participate in the first place? My answer can only be: family. I'm at someone else's house, at a private gathering that I was invited to, someone whom I care about to some degree or another, someone who is taking their time to spend with me, wish me well, and feed me. I'm not petty enough to get tied down by a recitation of grace before I eat the meal that this person spent money and hours on. It frankly doesn't mean that much to me. Sure it pains me to hear this person whom I love say such mind-numbingly stupid things, and if the situation warrants it, I may make my thoughts known. But this person is doing what they believe to be something good and wholesome for the ones they love, and that includes me. It's almost like visiting a native tribe in a far-off jungle, and joining in their rituals of celebration. I also think of it as just a tradition. True, a bad one, but one that I grew up with, and most likely the relative I'm visiting did too. It's like when we carve pumpkins or color eggs. It doesn't "mean" anything, it's just a family thing. I don't think its doing anything supernatural, its the natural things I focus on.
Still, it would be nice not to have to put up with such bullshit. It'd make more time for family.