1. kevin says

    I claim the petty annoying nothing that is, unfortunately, rampant amoungst our blogs and makes trival all portent discourse.

  2. Azkyroth says

    Ah, maybe we shouldn’t pick on ’em too much. It’s cruel to taunt the handicapped.

    (UM students and alumni should feel free to defend the honor of their school in this thread.)

    And everyone should feel free to defend the (genuinely) handicapped.

    Shame on you, PZ!

  3. Ichthyic says

    I claim the petty annoying nothing

    you go, girl!

    from the article:

    Christian groups unite in effort to show power of communal prayer

    idiots! they should have applied for a grant from the Templeton Foundation before proceeding.

  4. says

    kevin, you weren’t supposed to smoke it all at once.

    Back to the topic at hand.

    If some prayer is all it takes to solve the world’s ills, then I hereby indict every religious person who believes in prayer on multiple counts of murder, since they’ve clearly allowed millions to die needless deaths through their inaction.

    These brave kids should get medals and Nobel Prizes for having the courage to actually sit down and do what no religious person has ever done before, despite all their preaching.

    Those who are about to pray, I salut you.

  5. Anon says

    40 days of prayer.

    Never let it be said that Michigan didn’t do the least they could do…

    Who was it that said it? Two hands working do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

  6. qedpro says

    they need to pray that no child be raped and/or murdered. and while they’re at it they need to pray that their god stop using their children to test their faith. and since they’re on their knees doing nothing, they need to pray for a god with morals worthy of him being called a god.

  7. qedpro says

    Oh wait lets discuss how prayer works so that everyone is on the same page.

    there is a cancer that kills 9 out 10 people that get it.
    they do a study.
    10 atheist/agnostics get the cancer – 9 people die.
    10 random people get the cancer and people pray remotely – 9 people die.
    10 evangelical christians get the cancer, everyone and their brother prays night and day – 9 people die.
    The 10th person says god saved him.

  8. Lledowynn says

    It’s stories like these that make me fear for the future. Instead of doing something productive to either improve themselves or others, they get on their knees and do nothing but invoke some invisible sky king that will solve all their problems. Making things worse, this is happening in a supposed school of higher learning (and two engineering students are organizers *cries*).

  9. qedpro says

    they should know better anyway, don’t they all pray for the football team to win and look at how that turns out.

  10. Math Maniac says

    I’m sure it’s more like 40,000 who have been praying for better football seasons…and, overall, that only mildly worked at the very best.

  11. Ichthyic says

    While they’re at it they also need to make sure that everyone, everywhere has a pony.

    er, don’t forget someway to clean up after 6 billion ponies while yer at it.

    we have enough bullshit from all the fundies themselves, without having to add copious amounts of horseshit to it as well.

  12. Karley says

    Alright, a pony and a dung beetle for everyone, everywhere.

    A giant dung beetle.

    Y’know what? Screw the ponies, just give everyone, everywhere a giant dung beetle.

  13. Oilboy says

    I came in a bit late. What does blog #2 mean ? (kevin: I claim the petty annoying …..) Can someone translate that ?


  14. Ichthyic says

    Y’know what? Screw the ponies, just give everyone, everywhere a giant dung beetle.

    you might in fact be the very first person to suggest that as a prayer.

    I like it.

  15. says

    If an infinite number of Christians say an infinite number of prayers, they’ll eventually manifest divinely all the great works of literature?

    no that can’t be it.

    … they’ll eventually fail out of university due to lack of study?


    For sure a handful of Christians saying prayers for 40 days will manifest divinely all the great works of ridicule.

  16. DiscGrace says

    As an alumna of Michigan State, rather than University of Michigan, I would like to take this moment to laugh long – long and mockingly. =b

  17. Karley says

    you might in fact be the very first person to suggest that as a prayer.

    I like it.

    That settles it. Everybody put aside your nonreligious nature and get cracking. I want these things on our doorsteps in 40 days time.

  18. tybowen says

    So the miracle is that he found a drunk chick on a college campus? Going to CU Boulder must be more miraculous the Mecca then.

  19. says

    You know, it would be a great natural experiment if they would just let some science types design the controls. Hypothesis: if you did have a significant number of folk committed to prayer for 40 days and nights, people would overall report feeling better about their community, but there would be little objective indicators of impact. I’d like to take a shot at falsifying that one.

  20. Oilboy says

    I wonder what the university chancellor (or whatever its called in the US) thinks. Arent they embarrased ?

  21. Ichthyic says

    That settles it. Everybody put aside your nonreligious nature and get cracking. I want these things on our doorsteps in 40 days time.

    I’m gonna name mine “Jamie”.

  22. merkin j. pus-tart says

    His name is Vicars . . . Is that “ridiculous coincidence . . . embarrassing” enough?

  23. Karen says

    I want these things on our doorsteps in 40 days time.

    Could I possibly have more than one? I’m thinking they’ll come in handy with my multi-cat litter box. Just how large is a “giant” dung beetle, anyway?

  24. Ichthyic says


    did you catch the study funded by templeton year before last showing a significant NEGATIVE correlation between intercessionary prayer and recovery rates in surgery patients?

    turns out, there is absolutely no effect of prayer…

    unless the person being prayed for KNOWS they are being prayed for, and then the result is negative instead of positive.


    I could probably find the reference for you if you wish to add it to your collection.

  25. frodon says

    “Student groups kick off 40 days of prayer”.

    They should have been praying all along anyway, jeeez…

  26. Avekid says


    Would you mind dredging up a reference for that one? I vaguely recall the Templeton study and was, very recently, trying to convince someone of the possible (likely?) negative effects of prayer.

    Cheers, mate!

  27. CanadianChick says

    I will be mightily disappointed if I don’t get that giant dung beetle now…

    I will hug him and squeeze him and pet him and call him George.

  28. Ichthyic says

    this was the initial news article pointing out the negative results that attracted me, but I still can’t find the review:

    also, there have been other recent studies in different fields demonstrating no effect like this one:

    It’s obvious at this point that even studies done “rigorously” by researchers barely attempting to hide that they were looking for positive results clearly indicate at best that intercessionary prayer, as would be expected, has no effect on anything.

  29. qedpro says

    I second the motion – A dung beetle in every pot.
    Mine’s going to be called mohammed. Do you think anyone would get upset?

  30. AlanWCan says

    I will hug him and squeeze him and pet him and call him George.
    I think that already happened; right now he’s in the middle east trying to convince everyone that a couple of guys in a dinghy are a WMD so it’s time to nuke Iran…but I digress. I was actually going to say that you’d be better barbecuing on an open fire — that wasn’t the first time in Thailand (these ones were dug out of pig piles of elephant poop) I invoked my Vegetarian Get-Out-of-Eating-Weird-Stuff Free card.

  31. alsakawolf says

    @ comment #10

    No, not even 41 days will do. Obviously, exactly 42 days of prayer are needed.

  32. Peter Ashby says

    Y’know what? Screw the ponies, just give everyone, everywhere a giant dung beetle.

    you might in fact be the very first person to suggest that as a prayer.

    Actually I think you might be wrong. You see back when they started ranching in Australia they soon ran into a large and smelly problem, no native coprophiliac invertebrates. So they shipped in some scarab beetles from Egypt. Now I can bet that somewhere along the process leading to the dissemination of said Sacred Dung Beetles, someone prayed for them to arrive.


  33. sgp says

    First let me say I am a Michigan graduate (Ph.D. Evolutionary Biolgy) and second that while there, I found the campus to stimulating intellectually, even though like most places I’ve been to, I met many people doing many stupid things, myself included.

    Since, this is a science blog it would be much more informative to get some scientific insight into why (and how neuologically) the prayers actually think that their prayers are in some way likely to influence “God” (“Gods”, or whatever/whomever that is that they are praying to) to actually do something on their behalf.

    While any scientist can likely design an experiment to show that prayer has no particular effect on anything (ie demonstrate that things likely to go on stochastically as they would without prayer), it would be interesting if science better understood why people believe in the “power of prayer” in the absence of evidence in the affirmative and abundant evidence in the negative.

    I reamin curious about the possible neurological, sociobiological, and evolutionary explanations and wonder whether such insights could help make “enlightment” stimulate an interest in science as opposed to blind faith.

    Is faith similar physiolgically to holding onto a cherished scientific hypothesis, such as that of the molecular clock, even in the presence of specific evidence that shows, at least at times, that it doesn’t do a good job of keeping time? Or is the the process quite different at the molecular level? I am reminded of the joke about why one always reads stories about fortuntellers in the popular press, yet never any stories about the statistically excessive numbers of psychics who have won lotteries.

    Anyone have a PET scanner that they could offer to set up an altar in and design a set of suitable experiments? Given all the obstacles facing humanity these days it would seem that a serious scientific effort to get at these questions would be more than worthwhile, particularly when so many are advocating prayer as a legitimate answer to a variety of pressing issues such as human violence and crime, overpopulation, global warming, etc.

  34. truth machine says

    I’m gonna name mine “Jamie”.

    Ok, dammit, you get my OM vote just for invoking thoughts of what sort of apoplectic response that would have produced were he still with us.

  35. Peter Ashby says

    sgp religion is simply superstition writ large and since false positive behaviour in pigeons that looks remarkably like human superstition has been demonstrated it seems likely that the old false positive fallacy is in action.

    Children get inculcated into this by being urged to pray for things that are bound to happen anyway and adults carry on with the reinforcement of the occasional apparent ‘hit’. You see the same thing with gamblers.

    You are probably aware of the evolutionary advantages of being prone to false positives. Jumping at shadows in the long grass is good if occasionally the long grass conceals tigers (insert danger of your choice here if tigers don’t do it for you). Or sticks and snakes. There are no negative effects of prayer beyond wishful thinking and time wasting and the believers have all sorts of trite excuses when it doesn’t work.

  36. truth machine says

    Gulf of Tonkin, anybody?

    Nero burned Rome to blame the Christans A.D. 64
    US provoked Mexican-American war 1846
    USS Maine sinking 1898
    Lusitania sinking 1915
    Reichstag fire 1933
    Hitler’s staged attack on the Gleiwitz radio station 1939
    Bay of Pigs 1961
    Operation Northwoods 1962
    Gulf of Tonkin 1964
    Kuwaiti baby incubator hoax 1991
    9/11, yellow cake and WMD -> invade Iraq 2003

  37. bernarda says

    Do these engineering students and the others think that Gawd is just not paying attention all the other times that they are not praying? Why is it necessary to get its attention?

    Maybe Gawd has Attention Deficit Disorder:

    “A syndrome, usually diagnosed in childhood, characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness, a short attention span, and often hyperactivity, and interfering especially with academic, occupational, and social performance.”

    It might even be combined with Bi-Polar Disorder:

    “Bipolar, or manic-depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings, from manic highs to depressive lows. The majority of bipolar individuals experience alternating episodes of mania and depression.”

  38. Jon says

    Woe for the state of Michigan. As an alumni of UM-Flint (sister school from Ann Arbor) I ran into this all the time I’m afraid. The sad thing is that these kids would be standing in a hallway with a handful of tracts and almost violently shaking due to fear. The problem is that with our economy so bad right now people have lost hope and when that happens they look anywhere for direction. It scares me because I know that the christian fundies target places like this because it makes for easy recruiting. In short, for now we’re screwed

  39. AllanW says

    What the hell are students doing nowadays? Maybe I’m turning into Victor Meldrew but I can’t find any report of what the normal, non-God-bothering students are doing to have fun out of this situation (as they would undoubtedly have done when I was at college in the UK).

    No drunken clouds of jocks doing a similar counter-vigil of ridicule and mockery? (evenings only of course, no need for round-the-clock silliness).

    No sarcastic calls in posters or the college rag to include in their prayers wishes for the following; lower beer prices in the Refec., the removal of particularly sadistic turors or demands for more mixed-sex halls or residence.

    No ironic and withering handouts from the political extremist groups decrying the time and effort spent in bothering God when the urgent demands of *Nicaraguan revolutionaries/Palestinian refugees/Sudanese poor (delete as appropriate) are far more pressing and need your ACTION NOW!

    No polite but detailed expressions of hurt from other religions that they are not afforded the grants/college support/infrastructure to conduct their own inane vigils and how discriminated against they feel as a result.

    But then again we have a tradition over the last few hundred years of doing this kind of thing that has resulted in religion not being taken very seriously here, I suppose.

  40. negentropyeater says

    Some of the comments on the Blog that goes with the prayer marathon (are they attempting a Guiness record?) are quite symptomatic :

    “So I do not have time for much, but going to share this with you: the friday before our kickoff, some of the leaders fasted and prayed all day wherever we were on campus. As I was partaking in this, God revealed a couple of things to me: 1) history will be made and 2) the world will be changed

    I was consumed in this and held on to it. One glimpse of that came this week as I helped lead a girl to Christ that we had been praying for for a while. The other cool thing for me personally was that I realize that God is using me and then I am trying to adapt a Paul mentality- nothing, absolutely nothing is matters in comparison with knowing Christ.”

    Wow, God revealed that history will be made and the world will be changed ! That’s something really new and unexpected.

  41. Fernando Magyar says

    “The goal of 40 Days of Prayer is to see Christian groups from all over the campus uniting as we petition God to do big things on our campus,” he said.

    You know before you can run you should try taking some baby steps and prove you can walk. I propose a simple test of the power of prayer, before the students bring it on line to do the “BIG THINGS”.
    Why don’t the students disconnect the electricity and heat in the church and pray that god provide the light and heat to it for a few days.

  42. Mr. B says

    How do you find Michigan from Ohio?

    Go west until you smell it, then north until you step in it!

    Yet another reason why Woody Hayes wouldn’t call the state up north by its name.

    Go Bucks!

  43. charley says

    OT and I haven’t read the thread, but do any of you biologists have any idea how a huge dung beetle could have gotten into my cubicle?

  44. Tulse says

    I think that a bunch of Christians getting together to pray is a fine idea. I really wish they did it a lot more. While they are praying they are too busy to do things like push legislative change and institute education policy and run for public office and promote intolerance.

    Go pray, Christians! Leave the rest of us alone.

  45. JoeyJoJoJr says

    qedpro wrote:
    “they should know better anyway, don’t they all pray for the football team to win and look at how that turns out.”

    As a UofM alum and Wolverine football fan, I couldn’t let this pass. Let’s take a look at how it has turned out for the team:

    “The Michigan Wolverines football program represents the University of Michigan. They have the most all-time wins and highest all-time winning percentage in NCAA Division I-A history.”

    Seems like it’s turned out OK, doesn’t it qedpro?

  46. True Bob says

    If prayer works, and we all get our Giant Dung Beetles, can we hold Giant Dung Beetle Harness Racing*?

    *no gambling, please

    PS, as a degreed engineer, I apologize, again, for those engineers/engineering students with hollow echo chambers mounted atop their necks. ~sigh~ [mutter] what’s wrong with kids these days? [/mutter]

  47. says

    As a Michigan graduate I decided to post, so here are my comment and the response:

    Originally posted by
    Jack McCullough
    As a U-M graduate (Law, 1979) I have to wonder about the weak-minded students that will attempt such a thing. Do you imagine that your god, who by your theory has the power to remedy any problems that anyone might have, is unaware of the problems until you call them to his attention by praying? Or that the person on whose behalf you are praying are less worthy of divine intervention if you don’t pray for them?

    Sir, with all due respect, if we students are weak-minded, then you are too because you graduated from here as well.

  48. Moses says

    the weak-minded students that will attempt such a thing.

    REPLY: Sir, with all due respect, if we students are weak-minded, then you are too because you graduated from here as well.

    Ha, ha, ha… Typical. They fail to see they’re just a subset, a superstitious subset, of all Michigan students. And while your description of them may be quite accurate, their description does not apply to all potential UM graduate hecklers, of which you are one.

  49. Bob Dowling says

    If you want to have fun with students praying on campus hit them with the paperwork!

    Do you believe your prayers will have any effect on the sick? If so, then you need to apply to the Medical Ethics Committee.

    Do you believe your deity will turn his attention specifically on the campus? If so, given his smiting tendencies, you need to fill out a Risk Assessment.

    Please also confirm that your god has been notified in writing that the turning of water into wine on campus breaches our alcoholic drinks licence. Please include a photocopy of your god’s confirmation of receipt.

  50. savagemickey says

    I hope they’re getting all squinty-eyed when they pray. Studies have shown that to be the most effective way to ask the big daddy for something.

    I also like how they say that praying is a humbling experience. What is so humbling about believing that the laws of the natural universe can be altered to serve your own interests if only you can keep some nut in a chapel for a certain amount of time mouthing words to themselves.

  51. SpotWeld says

    Another UofM grad here (Aero Eng, ’00)
    In so much as this prayer event is means for students to come together as a community I think it is a good thing. Eliminating the isolation that comes about in a large university like U of M (small fish in a huge pond) can certainly prevent a lot of the more stressful issues that come about during college life. Arguable if Vicars was not engaged with the church event he would not have been in the right place at the right time to offer assistance. (To me it’s more of a “luck favoring the prepared” sort of situation rather than divine intervention.) I guess what I’m trying to say is that this event primes students to be engaged with the community so that they can be available to help others. So I do read this so much as “prayer” making good things happen, but “community involvement” making good things happen. I’m focusing on the “united” part of “united prayer”. (Even the article notes: Organizers of the event said 40 Days of Prayer serves to bring otherwise segregated groups closer together to work for a common goal.)

    Admittedly there is no reason that a non-religious event can’t achieve this effect (and I suspect they probably do, U of M has pretty much a club, team, or association for any interest.)

    I just don’t get the impression that the 40 days of prayer is the cure, but the comming together as community certainly helps.

  52. NJ says


    Seems like it’s turned out OK, doesn’t it qedpro?

    I’ll ask around campus here…Appalachian State University.

  53. Peter says

    Actually, if you check the michigandaily link at the top of this post, you’ll see enough healthy scepticism expressed (see what “Dustin” wrote) to restore your faith in the students of Michigan university.

    As for #57, my Christian upbringing still has sufficient clout with me that I find the idea of God answering prayers for someone’s football team utterly revolting.


  54. Boosterz says

    I guess they didn’t read the study that demonstrated that at best prayer does nothing and if it involves praying for a sick person you might actually make them worse if you tell them you are praying for them.

  55. Boosterz says

    I should have read the rest of the comments before posting being as how a dozen different people brought up that study before I did. That’s what I get for being late to the party.

  56. negentropyeater says


    that students on a big campus want to find ways to come together to perform good charitable deeds is one thing. That prayer might help them in finding strength and motivation to do so, is another thing.
    But when I hear that they feel the need to lie to themselves and others by assuring that it is a mean to achieve a “personal relationship” with God, and that as a reward for their devotion God will answer their prayers and do the good deeds for them, I cannot stop thinking that this is another one of those ridicule Evangelical delusions that seems to have spread so efficiently on your side of the Atlantic.
    Aren’t students of an American university supposed to have at the very least some critical thinking ability ?

    This is exactly the kind of mass delusion that is pushing me away from Christianity. I just get an alergic reaction to people who pretend having a personal relationship with God.

  57. says

    I wonder if they know that the repeated biblical use of the number 40 merely refers to a long period of time, and not an exact count. As someone above mentioned, they might need 41 instead of 40. I suggest they all remain on their knees until we all receive our dung beetles, ponies for those that want them, a replacement for oil, world peace, winning lottery tickets for me, and rainbows with pots of gold. And of course, while they are on their knees, I’m sure we can think of other things for them to do.

  58. bernarda says

    – palau # 70, that weevil rather looks like a wolverine.

    As to wolverine, “A solitary, burrowing carnivorous mammal (Gulo gulo) of northern forest regions, related to the weasel and having a heavyset body, short legs, dark fur, and a bushy tail. Also called carcajou, glutton; Also called skunk bear.”

    From another definition of “wolverine”: “The anal glands secrete an unpleasant-smelling fluid.”

    Similar to the badger in that way. Hello UW.

    – Of course prayer is nothing new to UM.

    “If you’re going to take anything from this, it is that you should wear your seatbelt at all times. No one in the car was wearing their seatbelt, and you have to imagine that lives could have been saved if seatbelts were worn. Regardless of that, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Mealer and Richer (his girlfriend) family and anyone affected by this tragedy. Stay strong, Elliott.”

    Well, why didn’t Gawd remind them to put on their friggin seatbelts?

  59. SpotWeld says


    I’ll certainly agree that delusion is never a good think. But I’d only want to point out that within any large group there is a pretty large range of thought on the topic. I just wanted to highlight that not all attendees are looking for boons granted to them by the will of god. Some are simply looking for a community and means though which to do good acts. (There is the goals for which the event was organized, and the individual message the attentees take away. Two seperate things certainly.)

    I’d also like to suggest that by focusing on the extreme ends of the views of this community we risk isolating them from the larger commmunity. And though isloation we risk allowing only the extremem message to propigate.

    I think it is certainly possible to agree with the community aspects of this event and even endorse it in that light without supporting those who wish to reduce it all to a message of pure evengelization.

    Without meaning to be too snarky let me post this hypothetical. If a report of a Manchester United event includes a few quotes by some attendees that state they see the event as a good excuse to “go out, get sloshed and be rowdy”, does that mean you don’t agree with Club Supporters in general? (I do realize I’m creating a bit of a stretch with the analogy, but no more than suggesting that students of American Universities are all lacking in critical thinking skills.)

  60. chris rattis says

    I would try to defend my former school, but some how I just can’t find anything good to say about it. Other than they finally got rid of Carr.

  61. says

    “Ridiculous coincidences started happening that got to a point where it was embarrassing to call them coincidences,”

    You have how ever many hundreds people praying for over 10% of a year, it is obvious some crazy coincidences will happen to a fair few people in that time.
    What you need to do is a statistical analysis on the number of crazy things with an equally big control group of people not praying.
    Also it would be a good idea to collect data on bad events too.
    Also you have the problem of people lying.
    How about we get two groups to monitor how their lives are going, one group is being prayed for by the Christians, the other isn’t. But they don’t know which group they are in, then we do the analysis?
    I think I am thinking about this too much.

  62. mothra says

    The Dung beetle prayer
    (with apologies to Robert Heinlein)

    I pray for one last landing,
    on the poop that gave me birth,
    warmish pies, fallen from the thighs,
    of elephantine girth.

  63. bernarda says

    As football is the most important subject at UM, well at many other major universities as well – just look at coaches’ salaries compared to professors salaries – here is how it ends up.

    “Feely’s epiphany occurred Jan. 1, 1998, in Pasadena, Calif., just hours after his college football team, the University of Michigan Wolverines, defeated Washington State 21-16 to win the Rose Bowl, capping a perfect 12-0 national championship season.

    The raucous post-game celebration at the team’s hotel that New Year’s Day was just a noisy backdrop for Feely’s encounter with a 10-year-old boy who was dying of a brain tumor. The boy’s mother had brought him to meet Feely after the game.”

    – Of course he didn’t ask why Gawd gave the boy a brain tumor. Not at all.

    “”He knew he was very ill,” Feely told the Catholic Advocate, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., recalling his impromptu meeting with the boy. “I told him God had a purpose for him; that God has a plan for everyone.””

    – Yeah, Gawd had a purpose in murdering a 10-year-old boy. The boy was just part of Gawd’s Plan.

    “The kicker and the boy connected, albeit briefly, amid the hoopla in the hotel lobby. Feely recalled seeing a visible, remarkable difference in the boy’s appearance and expression – evidence that Feely’s words somehow had touched a chord.

    “I think about the impact I had on that little boy,” said Feely, who was second in the NFL last season with 148 points, sitting in the locker room of Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. “That was my moment of clarity. It solidified my faith. That was when I understood my life as a man, how I could use football to affect people’s lives in a positive way. God gives us different gifts.””

    – Yeah, I bet they connected briefly. Mainly because
    Gawd killed the kid.

    The article has other asswipes like Feely in it.

  64. says

    From the article:

    Vicars attributes his ability to safely return the girl to her residence hall to the power of united prayer.

    Can someone explain to me what the heck kind of logic this is and how the person who came up with it made it to be a senior in an engineering program?

    I wonder if he answers questions like this on his exams. “The pressure inside the reactor was held to 25 psig by the power of united prayer.”


  65. Chris says

    Re: #10 “40 days won’t get you squat.
    It has to be 41!”

    Everyone knows the answer is 42!

  66. charley says


    The community aspect of this group is insidious, not worthy of endorsement as you claim. Bible-believing churches lure the lonely or well-meaning with friendliness and an appealing message. Then they gradually indoctrinate with bullshit. The views of the so-called “extreme” members are the only ones actually consistent with the beliefs promoted by the sponsoring churches.

    Students should seek instead a community which promotes positive action, not delusion and thought control.

  67. says

    Obligatory comment on the power of prayer: for generations, millions of Britons have prayed “God save the Queen/King” – look how well it’s worked.

  68. Julie Stahlhut says

    Vicars attributes his ability to safely return the girl to her residence hall to the power of united prayer.

    Hmmmm. More than once when I lived in a large city, I dialed 911 to get help for people who were passed out on the ground — and on at least two occasions, in snowbanks. Since I hadn’t been praying recently and all of these people were unconscious at the time, I guess someone else must have been praying really hard.

    Or maybe some of us just don’t like to see sick or intoxicated people freezing to death, because it violates our ethics to ignore someone who is in obvious danger. I wonder if any of the people who walked by the unconscious guy I saw lying on a crowded sidewalk ever pray.

  69. Inky says

    The room’s walls are covered with paper for students to write down both current and answered prayers. Participants often connect their answered prayers to the original prayer with a string.

    Vicars, who helped organize the event, was leaving the prayer room late at night last year when he was able to assist the girl. “Lots of little stories like that were what impacted people,” Vicars said of the incident.

    … He was praying to meet a drunk girl?
    And–how much string have they used so far?

  70. pinky says

    Ceiling Cat Prayer

    Dis is found in teh Book of Matthew 6 an in teh Book of Luke 11, srsly. Dis beez teh Ceiling Cat Prayer.

    Praise Ceiling Cat, who be watchin yu, may him has a cheezburger.
    Wut yu want, yu gets, srsly.
    Giv us dis day our dalee cheezburger.
    And furgiv us for makin yu a cookie, but eateding it.
    An leed us not into teh showa, but deliver us from teh wawter.
    Ceiling Cat watches all. Him watches teh ceiling an flor an walls too. Kthxbai.

    Retrieved from “”

  71. Inky says

    Re: “coincidences”, you know, amazingly coincidental things happen all the time that probably don’t register in our consciousness.

    For example, the New York Times has been reporting on all things military ever since 9/11, but it wasn’t until I had my heart broken by a Marine (What can I say? Life can be really weird sometimes.) that my headline-skimming-eye would focus on articles related to Marines, soldiers, etc.

    If a big event happens to you, or if there’s something that you want to focus on, then your perspective changes and what you filter into your head from the infinite signals from the environment will also change.

    My realization that I would subconsciously look for military stories in the news made me think of born-again people, or people that just endured traumatic events, who claimed that thereafter they would see God everywhere.

    If your brain is dedicated to looking for something, you’ll find it, even if it’s Jesus on your potato chip.

  72. Darby says

    Is there any way to get out the Islamic students, and the worshippers of Thor we had here recently, and the Wiccans (do wiccans pray?) to come down and join in? It would be interesting to make the organizing group tacitly atate, “Um, no, only we’re allowed to pray for the 40 days.”

    And is it related that many “scientists” pushing ID and creationism are really engineers? Is there some weird entrance exam to Michigan’s engineering program?

  73. says

    Cue “We prevented a school shooting!” in three, two, one…

    The press will never report how God replied, in His wisdom, by TP-ing these kids’ dorm rooms.

  74. says

    Dear PZ,

    I am currently a student attending the University of Michigan and I have to say that I found this “40 Days of Prayer” just as disgusting as you did. In fact my organization, The Secular Students Alliance” has written up a small editorial that we will be publishing in Wednesdays Michigan Daily. It reads as follows:

    We write in response to the January 14th article describing the kick-off of 40 Days of Prayer, an event organized by ten on-campus Christian organizations. We challenge the premise that prayer is an effective way to solve problems, and further believe the focus should not be on our own campus but rather on some of the more destitute regions of the world. The University of Michigan Secular Student Alliance (SSA) is donating one dollar per day for the next forty days to Oxfam International, a secular charity organization dedicated to alleviating poverty, combating disease, and providing relief from war, natural disasters, and other humanitarian crises. We will call this period 40 Days of Action.
    A 2006 study in the American Heart Journal not only determined that prayer for patients in hospitals undergoing bypass surgery did not help their chances of successful recovery, but actually found that those certain they were being prayed for were as†much as 8% more likely to suffer from complications than those who were not. Many other studies claiming to observe medical or other benefits as a result of intercessory prayer have clearly identifiable methodological flaws and are rejected by the mainstream scientific community. While we acknowledge that meditation can be beneficial to one’s own mental health, there is no reason to believe that prayer makes any difference in other peoples’ lives.
    The SSA is an MSA-registered student organization, affiliated with the LSA Philosophy department. We are dedicated to the anti-defamation of the atheist, and the promotion of a society in which the ideals of critical and scientific inquiry, secularism, reason, and humanistic ethics flourish. We reject the notion that prayer does anything for the “moral backbone” of this campus, and posit that our small donations will prove far more effective in “lifting up our hurting world and the welfare of the people in it,” the stated intention of these forty days of prayer as written on the “Pray UM” website.
    As Frederick Douglass put it, “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
    The Secular Student Alliance holds weekly meetings Mondays at 7pm at 2271 Angell Hall, and can be contacted at or visited online at

    We are the single Atheist/Freethought/Humanist group on the U of M campus and have less than ten members (and are not listed on the UM “Maize Pages”). If there are any other students at the university reading this please contact us, or simply attend one of our meetings.

    We are not ALL ignorant zealots.

    Thank You,

    Steven Sabo

  75. Inky says



    I’m a Michigan State Univ. alumni, and I had been sniggering at the Wolverines today, but I salute you.

  76. Kristin says

    Man, when I was there (Poli Sci, 1996), the only crazy we had to worry about was Preacher Mike. Things have gone downhill.

  77. says

    Steven Sabo,

    An idea…

    Could you please organize a 40 day marathon of video game playing or pornography watching. Then publicly attribute every good thing that happens in that time span to your efforts.

    BTW, Nice work on 40 days of action! At least something is getting done in those 40 day. I wonder if the godbots will simply take credit for your good work, you know….because god gave you this idea.

  78. Ian says

    “Y’know what? Screw the ponies,…”


    “…just give everyone, everywhere a giant dung beetle.’

    Do dung beetles take care of their own dung? if not, what happens to it? Who’s praying for the dung beetles? And why 40 days?

    Is anyone praying for me to stop my head exploding after all this…dung?

  79. dorris says

    “Vicars attributed his ability to get the girl safely back to her dorm to the power of prayer…” What a load of shit. Did he mean that he needs a god to tell him to help someone in need – otherwise he would have walked right by her? Either this guy is a complete douchebag, or the article is poorly written (probably both). I tried to comment on the site, but got this message that I wasn’t logged in. There’s no mention of logging in on the comments section prior to posting, so my guess is they’re just screening out all negative or critical comments.

    And I wasn’t even rude, just logical. I guess that was just too glaring a contrast to the Jesus-drunk tone of the other comments.

  80. longstreet63 says

    What I’ve never understood about this kind of thing is: Why the repetition? He’s supposed to be freakin’ Omniscient! What’s the point of repeating yourself for six weeks? Is Heaven like your congressman’s office, where the mail is opened by interns who just count the pro’s and cons? Or perhaps like an online radio station poll with results that can be skewed with a little effort?

    Surely a single post-it note would be enough if you have to bring it to His attention at all. Is God only going to knuckle under and sidetrack his Eternal Holy Plan if you badger him at length, like noisy kids in the back seat?

    Why antagonize someone with a free pass to Hell at his fingertips? Especially someone with an obvious borderline personality and a history of violence?

    Of course, the truth is that these prayers aren’t doing it for God, anyway. They’re doing it to be seen as righteous by each other. If they believe in any benefit to the activity, it is personal benefit they’re hoping for.

    Steve “I heard you already!” James

  81. Prazzie says

    Hehe, I always have a chuckle at these public prayer thingies. It directly contravenes what their Jesus told them in Matthew 6:6, where he instructs people to pray in secret and in their closets. He said that those who don’t are hypocrites.

    I think that is the one thing in the Bible that I agree with wholeheartedly.

  82. Ben says

    I know UM has a pretty solid history of progressivism and social activism, but with around 40,000 students, there are sure to be a lot deluded people.

    Re: Steven Sabo
    Awesome, I’ll have to check out the next meeting.

    -ashamed UM Ph.D student (Beh. Neuroscience)