So there’s a Facebook event called “We need 500 000 Pray for the people of Japan”. The mind boggles.
First question: Why only half a million? Why not a whole million, or more? It sounds kind of like the Terry Pratchett concept of a million-to-one chance. I can see the organisers getting pretty upset too: “Oh no, if only we had precisely 500,000 people praying, then the radiation would disappear and there would be fluffy bunnies and everything would be okay”. 500,001 clearly won’t work.
Of course, this event is about as ludicrous as the idea of prayer itself. Who “needs” half a million praying for Japan? Certainly not the Japanese, who need food, water, shelter, heat, electricity, support for the economy, time to grieve for loved ones and destroyed communities, and maybe a time machine to go back and tell everyone to get the hell out of the northeast. Maybe the "we" are spirituo-religious quacks across the world, mostly in the Christian West, feeling the “need” to pretend to themselves they’re helping? I don’t know, like prayer it’s a complete mystery to me.
The event was mentioned by a friend on Facebook who rightly pointed out that it would be far more useful for half a million (or more) people to actually do something for Japan. For example, it’s been longer since the Christchurch earthquake, but the actual response across New Zealand has been phenomenal, and presumably the world too. Japan needs vital assistance and that assistance costs money. Initiate bakesale & charity gig sequence now.
What transpired was an 80+ comment thread on the subject of prayer and “energy” (and, bizarrely, animal welfare. I'm a big fan of animal welfare but when the tsunami hits the radioactive fan, I think humans are the priority). The friend made commendable efforts to explain she didn’t mean to offend anyone, which is fair enough – even when I’m laying into idiots about auras or homeopathy or religious bigotry, I don’t mean to offend anyone, it just happens by accident. (Okay with religious bigots I often mean to offend them, but anyway.) Unfortunately in my view she also backpedalled on the subject of prayer itself, very nearly or actually agreeing that it can be of practical use after all.
Let’s look at prayer simply. If prayer was actually effective – either in making atoms react a certain way for desired overall effect, or simply magicking aid helicopters out of the sky, fuck, I don’t know how these people’s minds work – what if it got into the wrong hands? I’m envisaging al-Qaeda recruiting armies of prayerrorists all “concentrating their energy” on summoning an Atlantic mega-tsnuami to wipe out Western Europe or the entire US Eastern Seaboard. And who is going to prevent prayer being obtained by rogue states like Iran and North Korea? Dear Kim Jong-Il, you’re an idiot – you should’ve been building secret underground cathedral facilities all this time.
And what the fuck is Uri Geller doing right now? He should be on TV and the internet calling on millions around the world, only instead of bending a fucking spoon, getting everyone to do something useful like demand the floodwaters retreat and that the Fukushima nuclear rods settle down in complete contrast to the laws of radioactive physics. Uri, your absence in this crisis exposes you as a selfish twat.
I pointed all this out on Facebook (in shortened comment form of course) – to be honest I think everyone had already had enough of the “discussion”, because the only reply I got was this:
" ' If the mind is open, satellite reception will be good. The mountains you put up should not be there in order to get satellite reception. When there are a lot of philosophical/scientific/rational, right-brain beliefs, there won't be any reception, whatsoever'. "To be honest, that kind of comment doesn’t really deserve a reply – there’s not enough that even pretends to make sense that you can respond to. I’m sure it would be news to medical science that I am only using half of my freaking brain. I also think it’s laughable for people who dribble about “energy”, who clearly know nothing of science, to drop in the metaphor of “satellite reception”, which is wholly reliant on measurable physics.
But, being the stubborn/dogged/arrogant rationalist I am, I simply replied that this renders me invincible against prayer attacks. And thank fuck for that.
Watch out world, the terrorists are praying.
UPDATE Friday 4:45pm
I completely forgot to refer to this morning's Dominion Post headline, which - in keeping with the Dom Post's values in quality journalism - read: "TIME TO PRAY, SAYS NUKE EXPERT". If the subject wasn't bad enough, the flaky quote they somehow derive this headline from is buried halfway through the entire front page article.