Prayers for a Ham Dog

This is a thing that, weirdly, has had to feature on Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/ham-dog-facebook-photo/

I think what’s most disturbing here isn’t the dog; it’s not the belief that the photo shows a burned dog when it clearly doesn’t; and it’s not the obvious mind control to which the dog is subject (assuming the photo wasn’t taken in the picosecond before a massive toothy slobbering NOM).

What bothers me most is the commercial attitude to religion displayed by the person sharing the image: “1 like = 1 prayer; 1 share = 10 prayers”?

I mean, there’re so many theological questions to be asked there. Chief amongst them, of course, is, “What the hell?”

I know it’s the fashion amongst a certain variety of religious person – generally those of an American persuasion, but not exclusively – to treat their faith as something to be displayed publicly. The more flamboyant their piety, the better a believer they are. Hence at any sympathy-generating event there’re people falling over each other to be the praying-est they can possibly be.

You may have guessed I find this a bit distasteful. Generally I’ve found that the louder someone is about their religion the less interested they seem to be in living by it. There are, for example, countless Americans who profess Christianity whilst holding unjust, selfish and even vicious political views – views clearly contrary to the whole point of Jesus’ teachings.

But they say they’re faithful Christians, and they take every opportunity to tell everybody how prayer-y they are, so that’s okay.

Then there’s treating prayers like a cumulative currency. Ten prayers is better than one prayer? Has God got an attention-deficit issue? He has to be reminded multiple times that you’ve asked Him to do something? Or do these people think He’s just stupid? A prayer is a prayer: pray it and leave it with Him. He’ll cope without the repeated nudges, I’m sure.

(And before anyone says, “Yeah, but Catholics get given multiple Hail Marys to do in penance,” that’s quite true. But in that case the repetition is for the Catholic’s benefit, not God’s. It’s to demonstrate repentance and give them chance to reflect on their sin. Kind of like doing lines at school.)

Look, I’m religious. Not personal-gods-and-prayer religious, but religious still – and I get that prayer might be important to you. I have no problem with that. I respect your right to pray. All I ask is that you judge the context. In ritual or prayer meetings, fine: be loud and proud. In times of distress, talk to your god or gods, if doing so helps you.

But if you’re using prayers primarily as a show of pride in your own piety, or worse if you’re using them as a value-exchange system, then you can be assured your prayers as valuable to me as they obviously are to you: not at all.

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