Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Point of Prayer?

A recent issue of Reader's Digest has a feature story (book excerpt?) about General Hugh Shelton who fell in his yard, and was initially told he would never walk again or even move his arms. Not far into the story, he gets all feel goody about how he prayed that if God would just give him a chance, something to work with, then he would give his all. And since it appears that he did indeed walk again, the implication is that his god answered his prayers. I'm sure that's what most people who read that story will take away from it. But what I'm taking away is that in that case, it means that his god hated Chris Reeve. Because let's face it. The whole world of movie-watching, Christian praying people prayed for Chris Reeve.

Don't get me wrong. I'm really glad that General Shelton managed to walk again. But I would totally have thrown him under the bus to see Superman get out of the wheelchair. In fact, that would have been a nice miracle for a god who wants people to believe and to worship him. The followers pray, and the insanely famous paraplegic gets up and walks. That would be a pretty conclusive miracle, especially if he'd sent some priest/pastor/minister or whatever as a miracle-conduit.  But no. What happens to Chris Reeve? He fights like hell for ten years, and then just dies. And within months, his non-smoker wife dies of lung cancer, orphaning their son. This is not showing me any evidence of a god who gave a crap that all those people were praying for him and his family.

Now is the time that apologists would get all "oh, well, it wasn't in God's plan." Oh, ok. So even though the whole world was asking, their god won't change his plan. Except for the General, whose initial diagnosis in the emergency room was likely from a doctor who wanted to prepare him for a worst case scenario. The rest of the doctors seem to have been less certain, because no one else ever said that to him, AFAICT. So this guy had a huge challenge, and he might well have spent the rest of his life in that chair. But it wasn't any kind of miracle that he healed and regained mobility. It was an experimental procedure, some great doctors and therapists at Walter Reed, and a whole lot of hard work on his part. Anyway, if this god won't change his plans no matter how many people ask, then what is the point in praying? It must have been his plan for the General to walk again, right? In fact, what was the point of him even trying hard? If it was part of his god's plan that he should walk again, couldn't he have just sat there watching TV and it would have happened anyway? For that matter, what is the point of anything if some god is just up there planning everything? And how the hell is that supposed to mesh with this "free will" thing he's supposed to have going on? Because if I can change the plan, shouldn't the god be able to change it? And if I can't, where's my free will?

Anyway, it seems to me that if the whole world can't pray Chris Reeve out of the chair, or even keep him alive long enough for technology to get him out, then one desperate Dear God letter isn't going to do anything. Furthermore, if the dude that created the universe really gave a crap about either of them, wouldn't he have kept Chris on the horse, and kept Gen. Shelton on the ladder in the tree? Or is that beyond him? I just... the more I think about it, the less sense religion makes.

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