But recently I've begun to reconsider that position, even if my friends' Facebook updates and comments too often make me truly wonder about my ability to pick friends.
More and more, I've begun to see Facebook as a rather fascinating sociological and psychological resource, giving me hitherto unprecedented access to my Facebook friends' often irrational beliefs, thoughts, and actions, which currently tend to intrigue, bemuse, and frequently amuse me more often than frighten or irritate me.
Today's example: Through Facebook, I've learned that my very religious Catholic friend Jeannie is "attending" the National Day of World Prayer on-line event. (Which, by the way, according to its Facebook page is scheduled to begin on "Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:00am" and end on "Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 11:30pm". Is that some kind of special God-day that lasts more than 24-hours? Just askin'.)
I don't get the whole concept of prayer to begin with, why God is supposed to care, what effect it's supposed to have, and how and why it's supposed to work, and the idea of many people praying on a special prayer day only adds to the inanity of the pursuit.
The god Jeannie prays to is the Abrahamic God, Yahweh, the same god probably on the receiving end of most of the prayers being sent today.
Yahweh receives, I'm guessing, on a normal day, millions of individual and small-group prayers. He's routinely inundated with prayers, some praising Him, and others making requests from urgent pleas to spare the life of a dying child, to divine assistance on a math quiz, or holy help picking the winning numbers in the Mega Millions lottery--most of which He chooses to ignore, seemingly at whim, but really, He's just sticking with His incredibly mysterious, frequently incomprehensible-to-humans, eternal Plan.
So: Is God going to actually receive more prayers on National Prayer Day than His daily average? And if so, how does He feel about getting prayers today from infrequent prayers, who, much like thoughtless or indifferent children who only call their father on Fathers Day, only pray one special day a year--or when they need money or bailed out of a jam? Is He glad to finally hear from them, or irritated that it takes a specially designated day to get them to call? And how does His reaction to the prayers of those who pray infrequently compare to those who pray all the time? Are there frequent-prayer benefits? Or does God, like a TV-cable company, give special deals only to new or returning customers?
Does God pay more attention to prayers when lots of people are praising Him or sending Him requests at the same time? Are group prayers more effective because they're louder? Or because God is impressed when He receives a large number of prayers on the same day, much like a Congressman who, on a designated day, receives thousands of constituent calls and emails on pending health care legislation (but then, votes whatever way he had previously decided to anyway)? Or is it just that God prefers to get one big prayer, rather than lots of smaller, individual ones?
Is God more impressed by prayers if they're sent on a day when prayer is declared to be a "national" and/or "world," activity or, most awesomely, is a Facebook event with its own Facebook page and as of today, has over 4,000 Facebook users who "like" it?
And if God has a Plan, can God decide to change it in response to prayers? And if He can and does, wouldn't that have been His Plan all along?
The rational mind reels.