I understand why people pray.
I've done a lot of praying myself. It's a natural reaction to appeal to a higher power when a loved one is seriously ill, lives are in danger, or some other unwanted event begs for divine intervention.
But while the motivation for prayer is utterly human, so is prayer itself. Almost certainly there is no God watching over us, listening to pleas for this and that, deciding which to grant and which to ignore.
I'm thankful for this. Because it would be worse if actually there were a God to pray to, a supernatural being like Zeus who threw thunderbolts on those he was angry at, while bestowing gifts on favored humans.
On my car radio I heard a survivor of the horrific Oklahoma tornado destruction say, "I prayed, and prayed, and prayed... for the tornado to head another way."
However, what a strange thing to want -- to have a tornado tear apart another area, instead of where this woman was. This probably wasn't in her mind at the time; it's the natural consequence of her prayer, though.
Kill someone else, not me. What kind of a God would respond to a prayer like that? For sure, no God I want to believe in.
If I believed in God, which I don't, I'd much prefer a naturalistic "god" which plays no favorites, treating all alike. Such an entity would be much more akin to Buddhist and Taoist notions of the cosmos: it is up to us to adapt to unavoidable circumstances, rather than appeal to some divine being to produce a miraculous avoidance of them.
A LA TImes story about how religious people responded to the tornado contains this Bible verse:
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. -- Isaiah 45:7
What a horrible God this Old Testament nightmare is.
Like I said, thank god he doesn't exist. I have no use for a God who kills school children by creating a tornado calamity. If that is God's idea of a good time, God can go to hell. Tragedies aren't made less tragic by invoking God's will.
Let's cry, be thankful, act courageously, be fearful, express gratitude, and engage in all the other human emotions that arise naturally when awful things happen. Leave God out of it.
"In the middle of difficulty, the one thing we know is that God is good," Alan Danielson, the church's senior pastor, told the few dozen attending parishioners.
Actually you don't know that, Pastor Danielson.
What we know after a disaster hits is that most people are good. They rush to help others; they comfort; they support; they embrace; they cry with the pained and smile with the relieved. And these people don't wait for prayers to spur them into action.
They do so naturally. To me, this is truly godlike.