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Christian Charity Grates
Hello all, I picked this particular area of the forum to plant the seed of a recent conversation. I woud like you to discus it and point out flaws in my reasoning. I would also like it to act as a catalyst for a discussion about secular activism.

[quote]Facebook Friend is working for SPEAK today...having 3 jobs and planning a wedding is all fun, fun, fun!

Theory Execution Do you think SPEAK could get more done if, instead of praying and compaigning, they just campaigned?

Facebook Friend Well it all depends on whether you believe in prayer I suppose!

Theory Execution It all depends on whether prayer works beyond the placebo effect. I enjoy the fact that people are motivated to help others, I just wish they approached it in a more rigorous way.

Facebook Friends Aquaintance Theory Execution, what do you feel constitutes this "more rigorous way" of which you speak?

Theory Execution When they get up and talk to and with people regarding the issue and solutions (whether tested or needing testing) to the problems as opposed to what all scientific studies and evidence continues to show is soley speaking to oneself (prayer).

Facebook Friends Aquaintance But that's exactly what SPEAK (and other campaigning/social justice orgs like Tearfund, for example) do, they raise awareness amongst the general public and lobby government on very specific issues related to global poverty and injustice. It's perfectly fair enough if you don't believe in the power of prayer, but it sounds as if you are saying that an emphasis on prayer somehow detracts from or undermines the efforts made in other tangible areas of action, which I personally don't feel is very fair.

It's also worth pointing out that many notable revolutionaries and advocates of justice in the last century firmly believed in a foundation of prayer; of the top of my head, I can think of at least Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Desmond Tutu, and Oscar Romero, and those are only the ones who happened to be under much public scrutiny. Their respective beliefs in action coupled with prayer didn't seem to do much to undermine their efforts in fighting injustice and acting alongside the poor.

Theory Execution
An emphasis on prayer does detract from and does undermine the efforts made with people to bring solutions to issues created by people (and/or natural world). For instance, would someone praying to Lucifer in your company and then them offering help not undermine their position in your eyes? I do not disagree that great things have been done by people on the back of religion (using the inherent social networks of the religions to push for social change) but in the case of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa they said/done some morally reprehensible things precisely because of their fuzzy thinking. Specifically for these two, Gandhi's racism and Theresa's belief that the sick should suffer. And also, the notions of equality of Martin Luther King/Desmund Tutu can be argued to be non-Biblical ideals.

Facebook Friends Aquaintance
On your last point, the discussion thus far has not been over Biblical ideals, but over whether prayer undermines social action. I gather that you disbelieve in prayer and in religion, but I don't think you should be universalising your own experiences. Individual people are different, and I personally know many people who wouldn't be committed to the work they are if it weren't for the inspiration they gain from their faith. That's not at all to say that one needs to be religious to do good - of course there are atheists who are highly motivated to advocate for the poor and to work for justice. However, it is unreasonable to suggest that the actions of those with faith are somehow tarnished or lessened in their effectiveness simply because they are motivated by faith and complemented by prayer. In any case, since you brought up the point of scientific evidence, I would be very intrigued to see some form of standard by which you could measure the "effectiveness" of a religious person involved in campaigning over that of an atheist doing likewise? Alternatively, how about we respect and encourage one another for the positive work we are involved in, instead of trying to take issue over beliefs and incentives?

Theory Execution
I do not universalise my own experience, I mentioned the scientific consensus, which is inherently objective. I do not like people that only do good because they are motivated by faith, it is amoral.

"I would be very intrigued to see some form of standard by which you could measure the "effectiveness" of a religious person involved in campaigning over that of an atheist doing likewise?"

Time. How much time was spent doing something constructive and how much time was spent in prayer? Or money. What percentage of money raised goes to aid and how much money is spent on religious literature or maintenance of religious lectures? It is easy to see that someone who spends 1 hour and
Your reasoning is sound as far as the evaluation of prayer and its effectiveness goes. Where I might fault you is in thinking that a politician would have a leadership role if he didn't cater somewhat to the superstitions of his constituents.

England is better than the US in this but it is still a fact that the majority there are religious and some lip service has to still be given to the fairy tales of the people who believe in them or nothing gets done.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
TE, your logic regarding religion strikes me as very sound. I wonder only about specifically what the organization SPEAK does. Do they feed people after forcing them to listen to a religious service, or do they work among the poor organizing them to act in concert for themselves, or do they organize pray meetings with legislatures where they make a pitch for the under represented. Without knowing exactly what they do it is hard for me to comment on your conversation.

Again I find no fault with your logic, but as a practical matter atheists are a minority, although a quick check on Wikipedia indicates it is much different there then it is in the US. It is how this organization uses religion that remains important. If I knew exactly what that organization does I could make a more thoughtful critique of your conversation.
Hey Seeker, it was more the non-politician activists we were discussing. But yes, I agree politicians will try to keep the largest voting group on their side - which can mean sitting with them through prayer. In the UK however, there is not an overt push for power through profession of religion, generally it is trying to make the public think you are a family person.

JohnH SPEAK is a UK based charity that aims to help the poor through prayer and campaigning.


They produce prayer cards which they pass out, which also have some information regarding a cause worth campaigning for.

They seem to mobilize people to seek action from their governments and when they have this captive audience they motivate them to pray. The old bait and switch tactic.

This maybe a mischaracterization, but it is what I gather from the website.

My basic point was even if they spend 10minutes praying, it can make those they intend to help feel uncomfortable and it wastes 10 minutes. And this is letting alone misery that is likely to be caused in the future (fear of hell, violence against others that do not convert, etc).

Edit: Keep using underline instead of url function
Edited by Theory_Execution on 01/14/2011 03:44
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