August 11, 2007

Pray For The Miners

The Utah mine collapse is all over the news. Several broadcasts show local residents displaying large banners that say something like "pray for the miners." When I see such signs, a question never fails to pop into my mind: Why? Of course, we're all hoping that they'll find the miners unharmed, but why would anyone call for prayer when there is clear evidence that intercessory prayer is ineffective?

Of course, many believers find evidence completely irrelevant. They believe because their parents believed, and they've never really questioned it. They believe because they are rewarded by their communities for doing so. Most of all, they believe based on faith, precluding the use of reason or evidence.

If I had a loved one who had either died or was trapped underground in the Utah mine collapse, I would not want to see any of these signs. I'd rather see my neighbors doing anything that would have a reasonable probability of actually helping. And when it became clear that there was nothing that they could do to help my loved one, I'd appreciate their emotional support.

Some day prayer will go the way of the evil eye (at least in industrialized nations). Until that day, I'll just try to pity those holding the signs for knowing no more appropriate way to express themselves. I'll also continue to hope that this story has a happy ending. What I won't do is participate in the delusion that some spirit is involved here.

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