We understand the concept

As we saw, Jordan Sekulow complained that

Whether it’s Governor Rick Perry calling for prayer for our nation, Congresswoman Bachmann discussing her “calling” to run for elected office, or Governor Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, it is now acceptable for many in the media to ridicule the religious beliefs of one particular group of Americans – conservatives.

Let’s have a look at that first link. It’s Jordan Sekulow himself saying what a good thing prayer is.

Prayer is essential. Faith is powerful. Non-believers and skeptics cannot comprehend the concept of literally asking God for His guidance and blessing. This is not surprising nor is it, in itself, offensive. When the lack of understanding turns into sneers and insults, usually coupled with a lack of basic knowledge about the evangelical Christian faith, we have a duty to respond.

But that’s quite wrong – of course we can comprehend the concept – but we think it’s wrong about reality. We can understand it, but we think it’s as effective and useful as asking a water faucet for its guidance and blessing, or a tree, or a galaxy, or a hurricane. We think it’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding. We think there is no “God” to ask for “His” guidance and blessing.

Many of us also think that adults ought to be able to understand that, and thus at least keep their practice of “asking God for His guidance and blessing” private, in the knowledge that it’s not something that all reasonable grown-ups think is sensible. Adults don’t talk to ghosts or fairies in public, mostly (apart from people like Sylvia Browne, that is), and for the same reasons they ought not to talk to “God” in public either.

That’s how the sneers and insults get in. It would be the same if adults were talking to fairies and ghosts, and Sekulow is wrong to think his “God” is fundamentally different.


  1. F says


    back in the day, I thought Reagan was scary enough. But when I found out he consulted an astrology on policy decisions, I nearly shat a brick. Just how juvenile are you? Wow.

    I expect conservatives might get called out more often, oh, because they bring it up constantly? It isn’t often that I hear of a liberal polly describing how they were asking gawd for guidance unless trying to appear contrite about something. Conservatives yammer on about it as a matter of course, and as a matter of core policy.

    Whether they believe or not, it’s all theater, which is what governance is nearly all about. I’m not sure if religion or security theater is most popular, but it is all really ruining old-school theater of the absurd.

    Up next: Forcing Santa Claus to obey U.S. airspace regulations. Does that guy even have a license?

  2. Great American Satan says

    *sigh* If I said this sort of thing at work, I’d be fired in a minute. It’s nice to hear. I wish my heartfelt belief that religion should be mocked into extinction was viewed as a thing to be protected from insult, the way any stripe of faith is.

    I hate walking on eggshells with pretty much everyone I work with. I think I need to evangelize my point of view on a Seattle street corner to get it off my chest. Like 3rd and Pine by the $cientology center and the JW pamphleteers.

  3. Stewart says

    “… it is now acceptable for many in the media to ridicule the religious beliefs of one particular group of Americans – conservatives.”

    Right. Wasn’t it conservatives that 54% said they could never vote for?

  4. says

    Actually, I *don’t* understand the concept, at least for people who believe in an all-knowing all-loving God with a perfect plan for all of us. What’s the point of asking Her anything then? Get Her to change the plan?! It’s perfect already, you idiots! Or maybe call Her attention to some fact She missed… Nope, all-knowing!

    I don’t get it. Oh, I get it historically: Prayer was already an integral part of religion before this all-loving innovation was tacked on, and you can’t just get rid of it. But how people reconcile this on an individual level, I’m just not sure. I guess they just don’t think about it. I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask the question respectfully, so maybe I can get an answer from theist friends. But I really don’t get it.

  5. lordshipmayhem says

    Personally, I don’t mock conservative religious beliefs.

    I mock religious beliefs, period. Doesn’t matter if the people claiming to hold onto belief in invisible friends claim to be conservative or progressive or prog-rock or Progresso soup in a can. They’re all mixed nuts.

  6. Kevin says

    Prayer is powerful?

    OK. Let’s look at the results, then.

    Rick Perry prayed for rain — he got fire.

    If I were a conservative voter, that’s the last man I would support.

    The more a politician brings prayer into the public arena, the more he/she is open to the criticism that that individual politician’s prayers don’t seem to have an effect.

    I would make prayer a part of the campaign strategy (a stealth strategy, to be sure, but a part of it). Has Bachmann prayed for an end to our economic woes? How’s that working out for you, Michelle? Did Sarah Palin pray to be something other than bag-of-hammers stupid? So sorry, Sarah, you’re still stump-dumb.

    And, of course, there is always Matthew 6:5-6. If Christians can’t see that Perry and Bachmann are exactly the sort type of hypocrite spoken of here … well, there truly is no hope for our country. At least Romney has the good sense to not wear his religion on his sleeve. (Of course, that’s probably because it’s not politically expedient for him to do so.)

  7. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Non-believers and skeptics cannot comprehend the concept of literally asking God for His guidance and blessing.

    This non- believer and skeptic understands it quite well. What Sekulow doesn’t understand is that many non- believers and skeptics were once believers.

    I remember the overwhelming sense of comfort that I had as a child when I prayed to god for something. I remember the surety I had that it would happen because I asked god.

    I also remember the game of mental hop- scotch I had to play when what ever I asked god for didn’t happen so that it didn’t end up as god not holding up his end of the bargain. I remember quite well the feelings of deficiency and inadequacy I had that I just simply wasn’t worth god’s attention. I remember feeling responsible for things that were way beyond my, or anyone else’s, control.

    Sorry Sekulow, I understand the concept very well. It is this understanding that has lead me to realize that it is not just bunk but also detrimental on levels both personal and societal.

  8. says

    Right you are, Ophelia. Gnus can understand it quite well (too well for it to even make sense as James Sweet points out) and some of us also used to do it. I could even do it right now; the difference is that, like you said, I know now that gods are not real, that thoughts don’t emanate magically from somewhere in our heads, and that praying to God is as fruitful and stupid as praying to a tree in the backyard or to Lord Voldemort (as Jeremy Shaffer points out). That little group of facts isn’t something one can just shake off or set aside any more than one can set aside the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t really the Terminator.

    Of course, there is sometimes a useful social aspect of praying in theistic cultures where one is able to convey unity of thought or shared purpose, welcome guests, or give thanks through the act, but that doesn’t stop praying itself from being a form of pretend. Prayer is make-believe and I’d be happy if more people learned about that and did the grown up thing and stopped pretending like they actually have the ability to solicit a sky deity for favors.

  9. coffeehound says

    it is now acceptable for many in the media to ridicule the religious beliefs of one particular group of Americans – conservatives.

    No, that group would be fundamentalists, you straw-spinning dimwit.
    The fact that most fundamentalists are conservative is just an added bonus.

  10. Deepak Shetty says

    of course we can comprehend the concept – but we think it’s wrong about reality.

    Yes that’s what a lot of religious people just don’t get.
    We understand it , some of us have been there , have prayed.
    Though I think in a lot of cases prayer is selfish – It’s just used because it makes you feel better. When my grandmother was ill I remember praying every day (there wasn’t much else I could do at that age) – and feeling good because I was actually doing something(or so I believed) and I was being so selfless (It didn’t work).
    Years later, my aunt had cancer, but my belief in prayer had vanished and I didn’t have the same comfort. But sure I can understand why people would pray.

    Would I(or other non believers) go and insult other people if they were praying for someone to be healed – No, not if they are actually pursuing all the correct medical options.

    We sneer when people like Jordan make their idiotic comments.

  11. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    How exactly does The Big Guy In The Sky react to prayers? Does TBGITS work an eight hour day, five day week? On Wednesday afternoons does he go golfing with Jebus? Do prayers sit in his in-basket until he gets around to them? Does he listen to a prayer then roll some dice: “She got a 2, that’s another heart attack”?

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