An Atheist Looks at PrayerMarch 7, 2007
Hemant Mehta, an avowed atheist, made a lot of headlines a while ago by posting his soul on Ebay. He sold his soul to the highest bidder, promising that he would attend the religious services of whichever religion paid him the most money. For every ten dollars bid, he would attend for one hour. I invite you to read the results of what he found as he spent 50-some hours in many churches in the Chicago area after a Christian outreach organization had the winning bid. His book is called “I Sold My Soul on Ebay” and is a quick read.
Outreach Magazine did an interview with Mehta and asked him to describe his experience with various church groups. He had several conclusions and one of them had to do with prayer. Here is what he said,
Then, there were prayer services where people were asking God for things I figured they could just take care of themselves. You have a problem in your relationship? I think you should talk to the other person and work it out. You don’t like your job? Then work on finding one that suits your passions. I think atheists are a lot more confident than Christians in their own abilities to make things happen.
This has been the atheist/agnostic/deist party line about prayer for a long time: god helps those who help themselves (“god” comes with a little “g” because these groups only acknowledge the idea of a god and not the actuality, which they say cannot be proved). I actually agree most with his last statement “atheists are a lot more confident than Christians in their own abilities to make things happen”. There should be no doubt that this is true. What has bothered almost every other religion is that Christianity exalts the weakness of man and the Strength of God to provide man with help where he is weakest. The Apostle Paul says it in this bald statement: “When I am weak then I am strong. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness”.
Christianity teaches that the strength of man is just an illusion. We are as helpless in the face of uncontrollable circumstances as a blade of grass is toward the approaching brush fire. The illusion of atheism is that it can control much more than it really can. Alcholics Anonymous has learned this so well. Only when the substance-addicted person can say that he is helpless to overcome his addiction without the help of someone outside himself can the recovery really begin.
What I like about Mehta is that he got this; he understood that Christianity teaches that we can be strong, but only when God’s strength is helping us. What I pity about Mehta is that he relies completely on his own strength. This strength amounts to little more than a flower that looks nice for its few short moments on this earth and then fades away. That is not enough meaning for my life. I wonder how it can be enough for his.