The current corona pandemic worsens, claiming more victims and forcing countless millions to self-isolate. As of writing this, the World Health Organization reports just short of 2 million confirmed cases and over 123.000 deaths worldwide. The race is on to find a cure or a vaccine and governments the world over struggle to find ways to cope. Economies have ground to a halt and many people are out of a job and out of money. A global recession seems unavoidable. In the middle of all this calamity, people turn their eyes towards heaven in the hope of relief or a miracle. As an atheist though, I am forced to ask: has religion ever been less relevant?

It’s probably an unpopular question to ask at the best of times and many people may think I am trying to rob people of hope. But even to the deeply religious, there must be this tiny voice at the back of their minds that goes: all these prayers aren’t working.

Unanswered prayers

For me, unanswered prayers were one of the things that caused me to doubt and finally drove me away from religion. Since the start of the pandemic, how many prayers do you estimate were said? By how many millions of people? And how many people became ill and died, regardless of those prayers?

Science is our only real hope during this pandemic
We will in the end, but it won’t be easy and it won’t be because of any prayers

I could go on listing initiatives but I think I have made my point. It should be painfully obvious that none of these initiatives, however well meant, made an iota of difference. The situation is worse than ever and corona is still here. A vaccine may be a 12 to 18 months away. If there’s a god listening, it is clear that it either doesn’t care or is unable to do anything for us.

Has religion ever been less relevant?

Which brings me to my original question: has religion ever been less relevant? Before we had a germ theory of disease, people could be forgiven to think that there were forces at work that they might beseech with prayer and ritual. But in these modern times, clinging to religion seems a false hope at best. How many more prayers do the heavens need before they do something? And how many more scam artists claiming to know the will of god must we suffer before we all see through the charade?

For better or for worse, we are alone in this crisis. While it doesn’t hurt to say individual prayers to a supreme being of your choice, gathering for worship and wasted effort to organize days of prayer isn’t helping, it’s making matters worse.

I think Jim Morrison said it best when he shouted: “You can not petition the Lord with prayer“. That’s because there’s either no one listening or no one willing or able to help.

“You can not petition the Lord with prayer!”

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  1. Straight and to the point. Prayer isn’t going to make the coronavirus go away. Prayer isn’t going to keep anyone from getting it. Prayer isn’t going to keep anyone from dying from it. Prayer isn’t going to help scientists and epidemiologists develop a vaccine in a week or find a “miracle” cure. Besides, if one believes that praying to god will end the pandemic, they should be thinking about who they are praying to – the guy who “made” the virus in the first place. If he made it (because god created everything according to religion), then why would he care whether someone prayed to him to take back what he made? If anything, praying to him to take away the virus, which he apparently explicitly made to infect humans, make them sick, and make some of them die – is going to anger him more than anything – how dare you pray to me to destroy my own creation? For that, I’m going to make it worse on you. I’m going to make the virus more potent, more deadly.

    If anything, religious people ought to be praying for common sense to do the proper things to limit their chances of catching the virus so they don’t spread it to their family, friends, and others. But then again, religion isn’t necessary to have common sense about what to do to reduce one’s risk of getting sick. Instead of wasting time praying, might it be more prudent to listen to the scientists who know a great deal more than most of us do about viruses, disease, and pandemics? Might it be more prudent to follow the rules of social distancing? Might it be more prudent to wash your hands often, avoid gatherings, keep yourself healthy, etc.

    Praying didn’t keep anyone from dying when the trade center towers were attacked. Praying didn’t help anyone who was in one of the towers and had to make the decision to either burn to death or jump from 100 stories up. Praying didn’t help anyone who did jump, and I would bet some people did pray as gravity pulled them to their deaths. Not one person who jumped from the towers lived. Not one of them miraculously landed on a giant mattress that appeared out of nowhere because they were praying for god to save them. And if there was a time for god to answer prayers – that might have been a good one. Put out the fires. Stabilize the buildings. Make sure anyone who jumped or fell landed on something soft (very, very, very soft) to make sure they would live to see their families and friends again.

    People pray to keep our soldiers from harm when they are fighting to protect America. Despite those prayers, soldiers are wounded, some gravely, and many die. So what did praying do for the soldiers that were wounded or died? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. History is full of unanswered prayers. Those who pray to god for whatever purpose ought to take some time to look into how useful prayer has been over the centuries. Not much if anything at all. If prayer meant anything, the pandemic the world is facing now would never have occurred. But it did occur, and no amount of praying is going to make it disappear.

    1. Thank you for your well thought out and lengthy reply, Jim! My sentiments exactly.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and respond, appreciate it.

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