I heard the first news report of the Japanese quake shortly after it happened around 1 AM EST today.
I knew what would follow that report, and it was exactly what, in fact, followed: On Facebook, lots of posts saying, "Pray for Japan!" and on Twitter, tweet after tweet, "#PrayforJapan."
I want to ask my friends who sent those, why would I pray? Why would you pray?
Every one of you who encouraged me to "pray for Japan" believes in a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful.
So, your God knew before the beginning of time that the earthquake and resulting tsunami would occur and unleash devastation and massive suffering. If you deny that, then your God isn't all-knowing, is he?
And since he is all-powerful, he could have stopped it. He could have planned a scenario other than the disaster that unfolded earlier today. If you deny that, then your God isn't all-powerful now, is he?
But your God either caused the earthquake and tsunami, or at best, simply let it happen. Your God, by his action and/or inaction, is ultimately responsible for the disaster. That makes your God a sadist. An abuser. A cruel, immoral monster. And this is the God you pray to? This is the God you're always describing as "loving"? (Perhaps you and/or your God have a definition of "loving" that is completely incomprehensible to me.)
And what is it you hope to accomplish by praying?
Doesn't your God already know people are suffering? Doesn't your God also already know that your hearts have been touched and saddened by the tragedy? Why do you have to tell him in prayer?
Does he like to hear his "special creation" beg for his help before he'll provide it?
Or does he, like an abusive parent, just prefer to hear you beg for mercy, "Please, stop!"?
Or are your prayers in thanks for your God's not killing more people or causing more suffering? Are you actually saying, "Thank you for not hurting more people or not hurting them worse than you already have"? or "Thank you for sparing me and those that I love"? or perhaps, "Please don't hurt me like you hurt the people in Japan"?
And when you pray for Japan, you'd like your God to do what? Help? Why would your God help now? If your God hadn't wanted the suffering and devastation to occur, he wouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place.
Which brings up back to: if God has always had a plan, can you change it by praying? Isn't the course of history already set? What good do your prayers do?
Those of you praying for miracles, let me know when one occurs. And, no, anything that can be explained by science, or math, or as sheer random coincidence is not a miracle. Unexpectedly finding survivors isn't a miracle. Finding one house still standing, while all the neighboring homes were destroyed, is not a miracle. Someone finding their beloved pet still alive, or their wedding photos in the rubble, is not a miracle.
You know what might be a miracle? If, after you prayed, your God reversed all the damage in Japan. Brought all the dead (human, other animals, and plants) back to life. Healed all the injured. Repaired all the damage done to the environment. Replaced all the buildings and fixed all the other objects that were ruined or damaged. Do you think he will? Do you think he can't? Or isn't your God powerful enough to do big, noticeable, meaningful miracles?
Yes, I understand your sense of helplessness in the wake of such a horrific disaster. Totally. And I understand that you take comfort in prayer. But using prayer to make you feel like you're doing something to help, and your being comforted by prayer, doesn't do a darn practical thing to help those in Japan.
At first, not one of the early Facebook posts or tweets from you "Pray for Japan" posters mentioned doing anything but praying. Some of you still haven't.
Only the atheists who I follow on Twitter, or who are my Facebook friends, immediately suggested doing something that might actually help the people of Japan—making a donation to disaster relief organizations—providing evidence, once, again, of atheist immorality, inability to be compassionate, and shocking lack of ethics.
I know that all of the help that will aid Japan will come from humans. Humans who care. Humans who risk their lives. Humans who give their time and their money. Humans who will find the survivors and dig them out. Humans who will shelter those without homes, who will feed those who can no longer feed themselves. Humans who will give medical care to the injured. Humans who will bury the dead and mourn them. Humans who will provide comfort and support to the suffering. Humans who, using science and technology, will rebuild and repair the damage as much as possible.
Your God won't have a damn thing to do with any of it.
If you actually want to really help Japan, here are some places you can make a donation:
And if you can't donate, please encourage others to do so and pass on those links.